Our Road To Adoption

The ups and downs of one family’s journey to expanding their family through adoption

In my younger days, as a bachelor, it seemed a common goal was to avoid becoming a dad. Fast forward 20 years and my how times change. I “settled down” a little later than some; I was well into my thirties, with my wife not far behind, when we finally decided to tie the knot and began getting serious about starting a family.

For most of my family and friends it seemed pretty easy to have kids. For us, not so much… I have learned that age, among other things, works against fertility. After a few years and with some expensive medical help we did get pregnant and I became a dad to a healthy boy, now aged seven. 

The clock has kept ticking through it all, and now in my mid 40’s was I prepared to become a Dad again? Fortunately I enjoy pretty good health and feel younger than my age, but kids take a lot of energy. I am sure many parents face this dilemma… and as with many things we deal with it, if and when it happens. But how did this get us to go down the adoption road?

Both my wife and I come from families where we grew up with siblings. And both of us always felt that we had room, on many levels, for another child to complete our family. The question became how to best achieve this, given the first time around was challenging, to say the least. An alternative was adoption. My wife felt she had something extra to add to this equation as she is also adopted. She was less than a year old when she was adopted and raised by her parents, with her brother, also adopted.

If you watch a “Made for TV Movie of the Week” or listen to talking heads on the radio, you might think adoption is similar to going to the Pet Shelter and picking out your choice. The truth is far removed from that storybook tale.  

What I have learned is that many people have incredible misconceptions about how adoption occurs and what is involved. Our introduction into the current adoption process was less than inspiring. If it is something you are contemplating, buckle up. The road is often long and bumpy…

For us, a first step was a call to our local Children’s Aid Society to inquire. 

The reception was abrupt and blunt. I don’t know if the tough first call is intended to separate the tire kickers from the very serious, but the information and tone was discouraging. In a nutshell we were told the process was long, with a lot of work, including an extensive “home study” and PRIDE training (Parent Resources for Information, Development and Education). There was also no guarantee of success.

We learned, despite public perception that babies are waiting in great abundance to be adopted, that in our area there were far more adoption ready parents than available children. We also learned that because we already had a child, our journey would be tougher. We would only be permitted to adopt a child that was a minimum 18 months younger than our first child. With my son only 3 at the time it certainly limited our ability to adopt. We were limited to babies or very young toddlers… which we were told were rare or non-existent in the public system.

We also learned that in the public system many children are part of sibling groups and or have serious health problems and or disabilities.

I also had no idea that religion still played a significant role in public adoption. Catholic, Jewish, Native, Children’s Aid Societies are very selective and try to match kids with parents of the same religion and culture where ever possible. Plus, family members such as Aunts and Uncles were at the top of the list. It was also news to me that we could only register with one Children’s Aid and it had to be in the same jurisdiction that we reside.  

So why not go private? International or Domestic? What about all those stories of kids from China, Eastern Europe and Russia just waiting for a family? 

This may be a good option for some families but we did not have the time and resources for that process.  International adoptions come with additional challenges, risks, as well as costs that can easily exceed $50K. It meant dealing with two countries legal systems, potentially sketchy medical information, extensive international travel and more. Private domestic adoptions would likely run a minimum $25K and had their own potential pitfalls, including the mother backing out of the agreement after the birth. The result being no child, heartbreak and $25K in resources gone.

So I suspect at this point you can understand that this is far more complicated and wrought with potential pitfalls and heartbreak than first anticipated.

And yet we opted to give it a shot anyway. I guess hope really does spring eternal. We wrote the cheques, and did the work. The paperwork was staggering for the Home Study. I do find it interesting that to adopt a child your life is turned upside down and scrutinized, yet to have a child “naturally” only working plumbing is required. From my perspective it is a humbling experience.

The hardest part was yet to come, the part I wish on no one—the waiting and waiting and waiting.

We did what we thought were all the “must do” things. We attended conferences; we met with Children’s Aid. We attended the semi-annual Adoption Resource Exchange (ARE) where all Ontario Children’s Aid agencies gather and share info on all children they have available for adoption. And still nothing.

After 2 years waiting our documents began to expire—the medicals, the Police background checks etc. We almost let it lapse at that point but a call from our CAS worker somehow prompted us to take one more shot and we renewed the necessary paperwork.

As hope dwindled we began to let go of “baby stuff” we had been storing for years. Some things went to friends with youngsters; some things went to the curb. Fortunately, we kept a few of the bigger ticket items like the stroller, as out of the blue in mid-December 2014 my Blackberry rang. The phone call would be life changing; there was a match, a ten-month-old baby girl. The next two weeks were a whirlwind of meetings and big decisions, then on New Year’s Eve she came home for keeps.

Our road to adoption has had a happy turn. I know the outcomes vary with every family. This is our story, and I am grateful we took the chance and opened our hearts to the possibility.

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