How Family Diversity Is Changing The Face Of Adoption

The stigma surrounding adoption may still exist. But Mike Wedmann is confident that the shift away from a traditional nuclear family will soon become the new 'normal'

November was Adoption Awareness Month, but I still believe we have a long way to go when it comes to bringing awareness of it to the general public. It’s now been over five years since I first dipped my toe into the adoption waters. A commonly heard motto or slogan in the adoption world is that “families are formed in many different ways.” The more I think about it, the more truth I find in that statement.

There are still people who cannot get past anything other than The Waltons style of nuclear family. But in reality, families today are more likely to resemble Modern Family. And I believe the family unit is stronger than it’s ever been.

When I was a kid, I didn’t know a lot about adoption. But as the product of immigrants, I had no blood family in Canada other than my parents and my sister. For the most part, I only knew my Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles from photographs and the occasional very expensive long distance phone call. We didn’t Skype or FaceTime back in the day, but as kids we improvised. My parents best friends, our neighbours, became the Aunt and Uncle, or as we referred to them, Tante and Onkel. And the old lady that had the house next to the school bus stop and baked fresh cupcakes every other day with sprinkles became our stand in Grandma…and she did a stellar job. When I was late coming home from the school bus, my mother knew whose kitchen table I would be visiting. None of these people felt like imposters because they weren’t. They freely gave their time and love. Sure, there was no blood connection, but they more than earned the titles we gave them as kids. The result was that as a kid I felt wanted and loved and a part of something.

Forty years later, we still see this type of family as we continue to be a country of immigrants. But now we see even more variations. As marriages fail and new marriages start, families blend. We now commonly have step moms and step dads. Canada finally legalized same-sex marriage over a decade ago, so we often see homes with two dads or two moms. Mixed race families, mixed religion families, and no religion families are everywhere. How do I know? Because I see them every day doing what families do. I see them while doing my job, when I do an in-home consult and I see two dads helping the kids with homework, at the community center when I see the white Dad dressing his Asian son after swim practice and the two moms at the elementary school Christmas pageant. What makes me truly happy, is that my eight -year-old son thinks every one of these family formulations is perfectly 'normal'. Perhaps our hope should be renewed with this up and coming generation.

In our own family, after our son was born, my wife and I thought long and hard about adopting our second child. We had some insight as my wife is adopted. But once we decided to pursue adoption, the learning curve about the system was still steep. The integration into our family was swift and almost seamless. If only the adoption process had been even half as speedy. I was reminded of this a few weeks ago when we trekked north to visit my parents and sister. As all the family gathered with cousins and more, our kids were in the thick of it and the concept of adoption was just not an issue. The love flows equally and evenly, no questions or doubts.

Perhaps the real awareness or education should be directed to our legislators and agencies that seem to still rate adoptive parents as second rate, second choice or substitutes for the real thing.  To become a parent the conventional way, all you really need is operational 'plumbing'. In our case, we were already parents, had kept our child alive and healthy for five years, yet we were still required to go through years of rigorous checks and tests to be approved as adoptive parents.

To be blunt, the system often seems to be more about the government practicing CYA (Cover Your Ass) than about what’s good for the child. I don’t mean to put adoptive parents on a pedestal, but we often have all the odds stacked against us. All the legwork and most of the financial costs are laid at the feet of the adoptive parents, with no guarantee of a child at the end of it all.  

Perhaps if we want to find more homes quickly for the kids out there that need and want “forever families” we should put more resources into cutting red tape for adoptive parents and less resources on warehousing kids. As we’ve seen from the various examples I’ve provided and plenty more, it doesn’t really matter how the families are formed—so long as it’s allowed to happen. If it’s really about putting the kids first, then let’s get on with it.

 

 

 

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