Adoption in Ontario

baby s right foot on person left palmOk. This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. I feel compelled to write about it now because honestly, I have been thinking about it most of my life. I would love to present the ever-controversial topic of adoption and dispel some myths surrounding this serious and life-long decision.

I know so many people say that adoption is not a good idea especially if you have your own children. They shift the dynamic of the home and forever change the members in the family. However, my counter argument to this is simply- children of any sort whether biological, fostered or adopted shift dynamics and change lives. That is what God intended when he created them so why would adopted children be any exception.

I will write this blog in terms of myths and try to dispel them as far as I know how. There will be some specific information that I will be unable to transmit because I am not a professed expert on the topic. Hence, I will abstain from providing any false information and I will try to be as factual as possible.


Myth #1: Adoption is expensive and too long of a process

This may be very true if you would like to adopt internationally or privately. However, in Ontario, “You don’t pay anything to adopt through the CAS. You may even be able to get financial help from the government if you adopt a child through CAS.” This is if you choose, “Public adoption [which] means adopting a child through the Children’s Aid Society (CAS).” In fact, the CAS website clearly states:

Adopting through a Children’s Aid Society is free. It generally takes approximately one year to go through the adoption process. This time period is necessary to find the right match for a child. When we meet with potential families, we are looking for a cultural match, but we also look at the personalities, interests and the needs of a child not just in the short-term, but for their whole life. The matching process is integral to people really understanding what child would fit with them the best.

The cost of adoption depends on a number of variables: the type of adoption you undertake, whether you work with an agency, the province you reside in and any associated travel costs.  It costs very little to adopt through the public child welfare system in Canada.

Range of Adoption Costs

Public (foster care): $0 – $3,000

Licensed Private Agency: $10,000 – $20,000

International: $20,000 – $30,000

Myth #2: Children that are up for adoption are ‘damaged’ or ‘hurt’ and will never recover

I will try to be as objective as possible in replying to this extremely judgmental and painful, albeit common, opinion. Truth is, yes, many of the young wards of CAS have been neglected or dismissed. Adoption.ca states “Loving foster families and ultimately, permanent adoptive families give these children the best chance at successful outcomes and bright futures.” No damage is irreversible. I have worked with children for close to three decades and they were from varying environments with a diverse spectrum of abilities and circumstances. I have even met and taught children who were adopted from Romania where they aren’t touched as infants except to be changed and they become so detached from the world. However, this little girl made it through after 8 years of love and she was thriving beautifully. If you won’t give up on a career or a pursuit of a dream no matter how long it takes, how could you give up on another human being who is little and in need of your love. Be prepared for the damage because no damage is too great for love to handle.

Furthermore, every child is unique. Some have health challenges, some have emotional challenges, some have cognitive challenges. With the right education and preparation, many families embrace the effort to meet the child’s needs. Families need to understand their limits also. Children available through the public system have thorough assessments and are often already receiving helpful services that will continue once they have been adopted.

Myth #3: My children will not be able to accept the adopted child

Here is what the experts say about this:

Whether your biological kid is getting an adoptive sibling or the other way around, you need to prepare the child for an addition to the family. “Talk to your child about how you want to grow your family: ‘I had siblings, and I want you to have them too,'” says Rita Taddonio, a licensed social worker and head clinician at Spence-Chapin, a private, not-for-profit adoption agency in New York. “Kids think everything is about them. You’re making it clear that this is not about your child, so he doesn’t think, ‘I’m not enough.’

“Involve your kid in the preparations by getting him to help decorate the new baby‘s room or pick out toys. If you’re adopting, let your kid attend a family meeting with the social worker and ask any questions he has. Give older kids a role, such as changing diapers or reading books to the new sibling. And make it clear to your child that he’ll still have one-on-one time with you — then plan for it, even if it’s only an hour a week in the beginning, Taddonio says.

Myth #4: Adoption isn’t common

Approximately 1 in 5 Canadians are touched by adoption.

Let this stat sink in.

Myth #5: The birth mother will reclaim the child after I adopt him/her or my child will grow up and seek his/her real family.
Although this is a common fear, it is rooted in your own reluctance to make a commitment. Truth is, once parental rights have been terminated, biological parents cannot regain custody of their children. Also, prior to placing her baby for adoption, a prospective birth mother has the right to change her mind at any time and have her baby returned to her. After the placement, there is a period of time where she can revoke her consent and have the baby returned to her. After that period expires, however, her parental rights to her child are terminated and eventually transferred to the adoptive parents, who will be responsible for raising him/her. The key to preventing a potential birth mother from undergoing a change of heart is to screen her carefully and to make sure she receives sufficient counselling so that she clearly understands her actions and her rights and responsibilities. Remember, too, that until she terminates her rights to her child, she’s not a birth mother. She’s a pregnant woman who’s considering adoption.

grayscale portrait of man woman and child holding hands

 

According to recent longitudinal studies that followed adopted children, searching for one’s birth parents was quite common in adoptions of the past, but not any more. In open adoption today, children — though curious as ever — have less of an interest in meeting their parents. That’s because there’s no burning mystery or dark secret to uncover; they feel secure with themselves and their environment. And in those instance where the do want speak to their birth parents, their adoptive parents will simply pick up the phone and dial the number for them.

 

How you communicate with your adopted child makes all the difference. In open adoption today, a child’s origins are never in doubt. From a very early age, s/he not only knows that the people who are raising him/her are his/her adoptive parents, but in many cases s/he will have a picture or letters from his/her birth parents. All the information is out in the open, should the child be interested in learning more about his/her origins.

Even if they are, encourage them to find their real families when they are older if they choose. They will never forget the love you had for them so it makes it ok. Actually, there is an entire database for them on CAS if they choose called “Finding Your Roots”

Myth #6: I am adopting because I can’t have any(more) children.

Adoption is not a cure for infertility. It’s a way to build a family and share your love with a child whose parents simply weren’t ready or able to become parents. While a child can perhaps soften the pain, disappointment and frustration stemming from infertility, s/he can’t make it disappear. Please don’t place your personal issues, health or otherwise, on the adopted child. You will find that this is too great a burden to bear on the child who has already been through so much. Please be emotionally willing and able to level set your expectations and know that this is a life-long commitment to a human life. There are support groups and networks of families that have adopted that can help you with this.

In essence,  not everything works out the way we’d like it to. Many people, for instance, want to start a family, but for medical reasons are unable to do so. Just because they suffer from infertility, however, doesn’t mean that they can’t — or shouldn’t — become parents. Which is why there’s adoption.

 Myth #7: I am single hence I cannot adopt.

False. A single parent can provide a loving stable home.  Increasing numbers of children live in single parent homes (as the number of two parent homes declines) and thrive beautifully, and increasingly, single parents successfully adopt all the time.

Myth #8: I cannot adopt my foster child.

False. You can and many do. However, if you are seeking a child to be his/her forever home, just skip the fostering and adopt. It will be more challenging if you foster a child, love them like your own then they get adopted and you suffer a great loss.

Myth #9: What should I think about before adopting a child or children?

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Can I provide a child with a secure, nurturing and loving home?
  • Can I make a long-term commitment to a child?
  • Am I ready to take on the responsibilities of supporting and raising a child?
  • Am I willing to participate in a multi-step adoption process?
  • Am I ready to welcome a child into my family?

photography of baby holding the hand of person

If the answer is yes to all of the above questions, then you are ready to learn more about adoption in Ontario and your role as a potential adoptive parent.

Myth #10: People will judge me.

I will tell you this from my heart, people will judge NO MATTER WHAT YOU DECIDE TO DO. Opinions are just that- opinions. They are optional and you don’t have to listen to them. If this is a mission of the heart and you are adopting for the right reasons- mainly to give a child a much needed, loving and stable home and family. Then do it. Stop caring what others think. Do what is calling you.

Here are resources for adoption:

http://www.children.gov.on.ca/htdocs/English/adoption/thinking-of-adopting/index.aspx

https://stepstojustice.ca/steps/1-learn-about-different-types-adoption

http://adoption.ca/home

http://www.torontocas.ca/media/adoption-process

http://www.canadaadopts.com/adopting-in-canada/open-adoption/

http://adoptontario.ca/

I am ready to adopt- what do I need to do?

http://www.torontocas.ca/contact/interested_in_adopting

If you are still hesitating, please watch this:

 

If you can, and if God has written it on your heart, please adopt a child.

My husband and I were gifted with three beautiful children but we will still pray to adopt a child.

God bless you always.

Smartignani

 

 

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I may forget

Last night I woke up suddenly because I was scared. I was scared that time is passing so quickly and that my little babies are growing up too fast. I feared losing time with them and missing them as they are now. This fear sent me into a frenzy as I left the warmth of my bed to go check on my babies. My 6 year-old was sound asleep in her new room because she was “upgraded” from sharing a bunk bed with her sister to a “private suite”. She wanted privacy and she is only 6! I almost bawled when I saw my eldest and first-born curled up in her big bed with a stuffed penguin (whom she still thinks is an owl) held tightly in her embrace. I am not sure why but an overwhelming sense of sadness came over me because I still remembered bringing her home when she was a week old. All 4 lbs 11 oz. and fiesty with some screeching screams and beautiful features. She was perfection as I held her in the crook of my arms. Now she is contemplating big things like what she wants for Christmas and which chapter book she will need to borrow from the library next. She is correcting my French and saying things like “Mommy, I can do it by myself- I am a big girl now!” Oh be still my heart. Be still.

I silently slip out of her room and unlock the door to the second bedroom that holds two more precious pieces of my heart. The middle daughter, filled with affection and sunshine is sleeping in the top bunk and her wild, curly hair has invaded almost the entire pillow. You can barely see her cherubic face as she nestles deeper into her covers. She senses my presence as I longingly stare at her only seeing the baby that stopped breathing three times and almost slipped from my grasp. At that moment, I was just so grateful and thankful that she survived the ordeals faced only at 8 hours old! She is now a spirited little 4 year-old who knows exactly what to do and say to get what she wants. Her sense of humour is outrageous and her thirst for life is out of this world. She is so emotionally in-tuned to her environment and she can sense tension, joy, worry, fear and sadness miles away. She is the only one of the three that melts into my arms and whispers “It’s ok mommy, I love you all day long all the way to heaven and back.” Her sweet voice and demeanour make me so sentimental because I feel like I lost out on some of her babyhood and toddler-hood because I had my third and last baby. He took the attention away from her and I regret not knowing where I spent my time. I don’t even remember her as a toddler because she was so quiet and content.

Then I quietly kneel next to my youngest. At two years of age, he is the prince of my universe. The light at the end of every day and the reason my entire existence becomes wholly meaningful. My son is a ball of energy with intensity much too high for a toddler. He is intelligent, persistent yet obedient. Naturally curious with an incredible fervor for life. To say I adore him is an immense understatement. I hang on to his every word, smile, breath and action. I nuzzle, cuddle, snuggle, tickle, sniff and kiss him every opportunity I get. I make him laugh then I hear him say “Shtop-Shtop mommeee. My face. My body.”

Be still my heart. Be still. When did he make the distinction between us? We were one soul attached at the hip. He used to cry when I would release him and now he is his own entity? He is ordering me to stop kissing him?

I can’t tell you how much I pray that he stays young. That he just stops growing. That time can just stand still. I love all three so much, it hurts. It literally…hurts.

Today when I asked my eldest to hold my hand when we were crossing the parking lot, I felt her tiny palm slip into mine and I almost cried. I realized that her palm won’t stay so tiny one day and that she will be out with friends and away from me. I almost crumbled right there on the spot. How can I just let my heart wander out there in the world without me? How will she survive without my watchful gaze or gentle redirection? (sometimes not so gentle). How will my baby girl just be making decisions that can impact her life and mine?

Be still my heart.

I want to warn you now if you are expecting, nothing hurts more than watching them grow up.

The labour pains, the c-sections, the sicknesses, the NICU, the worry, the guilt, the lack of sleep, the excruciating anxiety of whether you are doing this mothering thing right or not- NOTHING is more painful than blinking only to see your baby a 6-year-old!

I pray that they remain healthy. I pray that I can savour each stage of their lives in turn with as much passion and focus as I have allocated to my career, my marriage and my faith.

I hope that they know when they are grown that I never wanted them to grow- not because I am selfish but because I am much too afraid of letting go.

Thank you for listening. God bless.

Toys you should and should NOT buy for my kids…

Without sounding wholly ungrateful and extremely rude, I want to thank you for buying my children gifts. I do. I want to tell you that everytime you give something to make my little ones smile, even for a fleeting moment, that you have done something special for me. But please… if you want to buy my children something, remember the following- for my sake and the sake of all the parents out there with young children.

  1. If it tinkles, jingles, beeps, whistles, toots, squeaks, honks or hisses- please, I urge you from the bottom of my heart, do not buy it! The sounds it makes, initially, may seem bearable to you but those same sounds are repeatedly and incessantly going off in the house even when the children are not playing with the toy. You so much as step near the damn thing and it sets it off. We received one toy that would consistently bark whenever someone was near- and would unfailingly wake up the baby when he was younger. Needless to say, that toy met its maker well before it was due to.
  2. If it reinforces a gender bias in the extreme- avoid toys that are extreme in any way but especially those that may incorrectly depict femininity and masculinity.  I am not talking action figures and superheroes, those are cool and they give them a chance to imagine a plot. I am talking about Barbies, Monster High Dolls, and other unrealistic images of girls and women in the form of fake plastic. Let’s try and avoid teaching our young girls that you must have a tiny waist and be busty to be pretty. Instead, buy them dolls they can take care of like babies with cool accessories. That teaches them responsibility and it’s good for boys or girls. On that note, girls also like Lego, cars, trucks and train sets. It’s not just for boys, it is how you nurture your children.
  3. If it takes up a considerable amount of space- reconsider please. Parents are quickly running out of room to put their children’s toys away. We almost wish there was a way for our bigger toys to swallow our smaller toys so that there are less toys to clean up because realistically we are the ones cleaning up the toys and not them. Sorry, I ranted. Rant over.
  4. If it is made up of many smaller pieces– don’t. Just don’t. The girls received a toy that needed a day to be constructed with tunnels and slides then you roll beads everywhere to see them spin and twist through endless mazes. I wasn’t sure which was worse, the lengthy set up or the agonizing pain of accidentally stepping on one of those darn beads. Please, just don’t. I still have not forgiven my brother-in-law for buying the girls Nerf guns. I find those damn nerf bullets in every orifice of their playroom and my entire house!
  5. If it is cheaply made- then buy a $10 Toys’R’Us or equivalent gift card instead. Truth is, those dollar store toys are dangerous for young children. My 2-year-old was playing with a wand that someone bought him from the dollar store and it broke and the batteries fell out (small circular ones) and I saw him almost putting one of them in his mouth. Another time, my daughter was playing with a ball from the dollar store that had sparkles inside it then it burst suddenly and the smell of chemicals inside it was horrendous. Please don’t waste your money on cheap, easily broken, lead laden toys for the children. A gift card or a bottle of wine for mom and dad would be much more appreciated!
  6. If it is messy- think of whether you would want my child to play with it in your place. If you will worry that they would get it all over the floors or walls or end up staining your shirt or your bedding, then please do not buy it for our place. Someone bought my kids coloured bubbles once and the grass was stained purple for a week! Please, no markers, no paint, no playdough, no slime, no jelly, no sparkles!!!!!

I didn’t want to be a negative Nelly throughout the whole blog so here are some gifts you SHOULD consider purchasing…in my opinion, that every parent would not mind:

  1. Gift Card to Children’s Place or equivalent: Because our kids wear the hell out of their clothes and they are in perpetual need of new ones. Their sizes change daily so please don’t chance it and try to buy them something yourself.
  2. Books: Educational, quiet, colourful, and can be used over and over again. Best of all, they are quiet. Did I mention books were quiet? Shhhhhhh
  3. Hats, Mittens, Scarves, Gloves: I can’t begin to tell you how appreciative I am every time we are getting ready at the door that we have extra gloves, mitts, hats, scarves and ear muffs. We live in a cold place so we need a seemingly infinite supply of such things. Just saying.
  4. Gift Cards to McDonald’s or Dairy Queen or somewhere where there is ice-cream: and the gift card comes up again. When you give a family with young children a gift card to a restaurant or treat, you are gifting them with the precious gift of time with their children (I said gift way too many times) but know this- we appreciate it and it gets us out of hiding and into daylight where we will risk taking our little rebellious army and do something together for a change already!!
  5. A movie or tickets to a movie: Either works because it requires them to sit quietly and just watch something while I try to reconnect the million broken pieces of my life or clean my closet or dust between the stove and the counter. If you can take them to see a movie- even better!
  6. A subscription to a magazine or children’s club of like this or this or one of these. Chirp magazine or National Geographic for kids are the best! They are fun, educational and quiet. Ahem, best part of that last statement for a parent? Yes. The quiet part.

Sometimes the best gift of all is coming over and sitting on the ground with the children and playing with them or baking cookies with them. They just like to spend time with you. You are the best present of all.

This blog was not only intended for those of you who are seeking to buy toys for your friend’s kids. I am also going to give an honourable mention to a little tradition we call, Loot Bags.

One question- why? 

Why are we spending an inordinate amount of time and money on giving away toys and ‘stuff’ to children who were invited to give your child toys for their birthday? I think loot bags is a silly tradition because no one shops for expensive toys for loot bags. We almost always come home with tiny whistles, bubbles, markers/crayons, colouring books and some form of candy or sweets. Please stop this silly tradition. Our kids don’t need to be given something everytime they breathe. You already gave them great food, playtime, and cake. Let’s stop at the cake. Really. Parents- let’s revive something called “Being at the party is a reward all on its own”

So whether you are a “well-meaning” friend or another “mom of an army” like me or “super dad”- please remember that above all else, parents always look at three things to assess the value of a toy and its potential existential duration within the child’s grasp/memory:

1. Safety (watch out for small bits and pieces that can swallowed)

2. Usability (will it last and does it need to last)

3. Educational Value (is it making my child brighter or dumber)

And there you have it. I hope this helps any of you in determining what is a good gift for a child and what is not.

A good rule to remember is “Would I buy that for myself if I was kid and I could see/play/hear/use it everyday?”

Thank you and to all a Merry Christmas and an exceptional 2018!

From me and the Fam to you and yours.

Smartignani

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