We discovered Bella and Bubaloo quite like Wifey and I discovered one another. Through the internet.
In September 2005, one week after our wedding to be exact, we went to an adoption information session at the Children’s Aid Society (CAS). We’d heard that only a small number of children became available for adoption each year in our city and it would take 3-4 years to be placed with a child. We were eager to have our names placed on the list for timing purposes – we would be ready to have a child when one became available for us.
The session confirmed for us that in Ottawa approximately 80 children are up for adoption each year. People wanting children under the age of three need not apply. Older children with varying needs were the hardest to place.
We approached the worker after the session and laid out our adoption scenario. Older child. Special needs were okay. Behavioural issues were also okay. She told us that we could be matched with a child and placed before Christmas, a mere four months away. Shocked and overwhelmed, we ran from the room without placing our names on the list.
Our adoption plans were temporarily shelved.
The following spring, my biological clock began to tick furiously and I once again hopped on the family starting train. This time, Wifey and I had series of long, serious conversations about adoption.
I began to read book upon book on adopted children and the issues we could anticipate as adoptive parents. I found little published on public adoption and adoption of older children. It was then I turned to the internet to scour for blogs. The ones I liked, I read from beginning to end.
It was during my travels on the virtual highway that I stumbled upon an adoption website that actually allowed you to view children and read profiles of those waiting to be placed. With a single click, AdoptOntario quickly became my favourite site and I checked on it with feverish frequency. I could tell from the counter indicating the number of posted profiles when more children were added and when ones finally found a home.
I celebrated for a child when their profile was taken down and it saddened me when more children were placed for adoption.
AdoptOntario was a last resort for many of these kids because they were hard to place and efforts in their own communities hadn’t been successful. Sibling groups. Global delays. Severe disabilities. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Effect. Non-white children (as agencies often were holding out for a racial/cultural match).
Then one day “Rachel” and “Brad” appeared. Call it a gut feeling. Call it intuition. Call it mother’s instinct. I knew we had found our children.
In that moment of finding “Rachel” and “Brad” our lives changed. The mentally mapped life we had envisioned instantaneously changed from one child to two. Everything that we had imagined was turned on its head. Our plans of adopting a boy and birthing a girl flew out the window. Suddenly, we were compelled to adopt two and we had to redesign the blueprints of our architected life maps.
We expressed our interest in adopting “Rachel” and “Brad” through AdoptOntario. The children featured on the AdoptOntario website could be living anywhere in the province.
My phone conversation with the coordinator was quite enlightening. She requested the name of our social worker. I responded, “We don’t have a social worker at this time.” She asked if we could forward our homestudy. I asked, “What homestudy?”
It turns out that Ottawa was piloting a new intake model. Instead of sending all prospective adoptive parents through the intensive screening and homestudy process, they’d pre-screen prospective parents and send them through a training about fostering/adoption before determining their eligibility and putting them forth to complete a homestudy.
Adoption agencies across the province were apparently holing an abundance of parents they were unable to match with children. They were the wrong kind of parents for the kinds of children with varying needs that would be in the care of the CAS. Unrealistic expectations. Wanting babies or very young children. Not wanting children with special needs. Not understanding or wanting to erase the myriad of issues that adopted children face.
In lieu of having none of the prerequisites prospective parents normally came with, we were mailed a huge package of forms to complete. We completed the paperwork after an abundance of lesbian processing and really had to ask hard questions of ourselves that revealed some not-so-great things that we had to come to terms with.
Why would we be willing to adopt a child who was HIV-positive or deaf, but not a child who suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome or was blind? Why did we not want a child affected by global delays or of significantly impacted intelligence?
In choosing adoption we encountered ugly truths that we needed to reconcile within ourselves. Unlike biological parents, we did have a choice in the basic make up of our children. We got to pick and choose from a checklist of traits and issues that would be used to help match our family with children. It’s like genetic screening from a pool of children. Pick a desired age. Pick a desired personality. Weed out all that is not desirable to you.
We received a call from AdoptOntario shortly after submitting our paperwork to pass along the name and contact information of the children’s adoption social worker. We had passed our first test.
The social worker’s name was P. She worked with the Ottawa CAS. From anywhere in the province, we had chosen children living right in our own backyard. Coincidence #1.
We called P. and requested a meeting. Two weeks later, we met with her for the first time.
As spring had turned into early summer, we still noticed water seeping into our basement from the western side of the house. Having been apprised of the minor issue during the house inspection the previous fall, we’d already attempted the first level fix. Worst case scenario, we were told, we’d have to tear up the driveway near the house and pay around $4,000 to have the exterior wall waterproofed. We opted to explore the second level fix – to locate where the water was coming in and have only that section waterproofed.
Now that we were getting serious on the child front, we didn’t want to have the possibility of any environmental issues in the basement as a potential threat to their health.
I set up a series of consultations with foundation companies. The first one was scheduled to take place the day after our meeting with P.
In the two weeks before the meeting took place with P. we cautiously spoke about the adoption with random people. Namely, those of our acquaintances who were current and former foster or adoptive parents. We spoke in hypotheticals. We didn’t dare utter any of these hypotheticals with our families or closest friends.
It was during one of these aforementioned conversations, that Coincidence #2 was revealed. It only served to further solidify my belief that these were our children.
Wifey was chatting with colleague N., a current foster parent and decided to disclose that we were looking at a child-specific adoption. Wifey related the events to date and the colleague asked for more information on the kids.
As Wifey racked her brain to recall details from their profiles, N. began to prompt her on these details. N. knew as much about these kids as Wifey did. That’s because N.’s foster kids were the ones we were interested in adopting.
TO BE CONTINUED…