Tuesday, 28 October 2014

one step forward two steps back

Our social worker called me at work today.

We had a meeting planned for tomorrow with her and a guardianship worker to discuss a possible match. That meeting has been cancelled because while the guardianship worker had a couple weeks vacation, another social worker found a family who they feel is better suited to this child. So with one day's notice, we're off the table and back to square one.

I wonder if they make more money than we do. I wonder if they have a big backyard. Horses? A tire swing? A mom who is tall enough to hug a growing child?

Obviously this was not meant to be and we know that. We aren't really sad because we had so little information, there is nothing to really be sad about. But no matter how realistic I am and no matter how many proposals come and go a little part of me will always think "what if..." for each of them.
I like to think they will all live somewhere that looks like this and obviously I just can't compete!

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

How tall is a ten year old?

Our social worker is back from sabbatical. She came over and saw our place and didn't even ask about the fire extinguisher! She hasn't seen us in a couple years but remembered us enough to recognise that my dear husband has grown a beard in the interim. She is down to earth and sensible and.... sorry, I'm gushing. We're just happy to have someone talk with us, answer our questions with honesty and listen to our concerns without judgement.

We talked about the special needs we feel equipped to handle and that we're willing to wait as long as necessary to be the 'right' family for someone, not just the most convenient. She made a note that we feel unable to handle a lot of "big behaviours" (I like this term). She didn't make us feel like we were being too picky. She said she appreciated our honesty.

Then she told us that another social worker had read our profile and thought we might be a good family for a ten year old boy on her case load. Ten is the "top" of our accepted age range. Ten is not what we had pictured when we started thinking about adoption. Ten is an age that we decided on later, after we'd come to terms with the idea that adoption does not replace birth children. Ten is an age that we decided to go up to when we were in a healthy and informed state of mind.

So we've said yes, we want to know more because all we know right now is his age and gender and a few things that I won't share here for privacy's sake. So we'll meet with social workers again in a few weeks and I guess it will be a little bit like a job interview and a little like a first date. I will jokingly but not jokingly ask if he is taller than me (you never know...). We will wonder how he would feel about a Dad who is a dancer. After the meeting we might say no, this isn't right for us or the social worker might say no, this isn't right for him and we'll never even know this boy's name.

And yet, we'll now be connected by a spidersilk-like thread because there was a chance that we're a family.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

We took the summer off

Last time you read this we had been told about a couple of Caucasian boys in a very short email.

Following that message, our Government Social Worker emailed us back and asked why we were even requesting a proposal when our home study hadn't been "signed off" yet.

First of all, we didn't request a proposal. We requested information on two girls on the public adoption bulletin following the advice of our Private Social Worker. Second, it was the Government Social Worker who suggested that we find out more about the boys, not us.

I didn't know how to answer this so I called the Private Social Worker who emailed the Government Social worker explaining that we had done nothing wrong. Soon after we signed off on our home study which would be sent to the Government Social Worker and we were to hear from the office within a week with confirmation. Well guess what. We never received confirmation; we never heard from any social workers through the whole summer.

But we're not complaining. We didn't try to contact them either. We took the summer off of "adoption". We went on vacation, we read books, we dreamt dreams, we welcomed our beautiful new God-son, we spent time with family and friends and we didn't try to contact any social workers. We needed some space. Sometimes we have to step back to gain a little perspective.

In mid-September our previous Government worker (the one who had been away on sabbatical) emailed to ask if either of us smoked (even though we've told them multiple times on multiple forms that neither of us smoke). She had some other questions for us as well so we've scheduled a meeting for her to come and see our home this week.

At this point, there is nothing really exciting about this step. We feel that no matter what we say, no one will listen. No matter what questions we ask, no one will answer them. We will have a meeting, show our underwhelming apartment:

"Yes, we know it's not toddler proofed, we will toddler proof if we adopt a toddler"

"No, we aren't planning on buying a house"

"Yes, we will buy a fire extinguisher" (my baking soda trick isn't good enough for the ministry) 

"Yes, if we adopt two siblings, they would share a room (just like millions of kids all over the world)"

Then nothing will happen for many months or too much will happen all at once.

I keep asking myself why we ever got involved in this whole thing. We're happy. We love each other and make a good family, just the two of us. But that is exactly why we're here; we are happy, we have a strong, loving family and we can offer that to someone who needs it. What better way to give thanks for what we have than to share it?

Friday, 6 June 2014

everyone needs an advocate

When I last left off (my last post) we were waiting to hear from the MW about the girls on the adoption bulletin- not with any real expectation but just wanting to know if this was something we could pursue.

 Last night (26 days after first asking about the girls) I got an email from MW saying that she sent an email to their social worker but didn't hear back. She was able tell me that the girls live at the opposite end of our province. She then said that she was looking for a home for two boys around the same ages but the only other descriptor she gave me was that they are Caucasian. I don't know what she is basing this potential match on as she has never met us and hasn't yet seen our home study. The fact that they are Caucasian doesn't really matter to us- we are more concerned about their special needs and their interests and how we would be prepared to meet those special needs and interests. This email also seemed to imply that if we wanted more information then we had to act fast as she is trying to match children to other couples as well. 

This is the kind of stuff they don't prepare you for in the Adoption Education Program.They make it sound pretty straight forward: your social worker meets with you, does the home study and will eventually propose children based on the information they have about your family. At any point along the way you can ask your worker questions or ask about profiles of waiting children. 

Instead we have had a home study done by a private worker who we will never see again once our home study is approved and we are being proposed (well not quite proposed... "softly proposed"?) children by someone who doesn't know much about us. The communication breakdown between ministry offices is absurd (we have heard this from other adoptive parents as well) and the communication between the office and families is lacking as well. They also tell you that they do not try to find children for couples- they try to match children with the family who will best suit the needs of the child. I mean, permanency is obviously the end goal (however it is arrived at) but all parties are better off if the match makes sense.

Ok... I have typed out all my frustration and it feels better.

Now I have to remember a few things:

1. I have to believe that everyone is doing the best they can with what they are given. 
2. This is a learning experience wherein we grow stronger by learning how to find advice, support and advocacy and also how to be support and advocate for our family. 
3. Sharing my frustrations is not about shaming or blaming anyone. I share because a) it is cathartic and b) it is important that folks understand just how difficult this system is to navigate. Hopefully some of us will take this information and use our votes and our voices to try and improve the situation for families (birth, foster and adoptive), for social workers and other ministry staff.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

postmaster says undeliverable

With our home study complete and our profile almost done, our home study social worker from the private agency (we'll call her Private Worker- PW) suggested that we follow up on a sibling group that we saw on the on-line adoption bulletin (a website with profiles of "waiting kids"). With an understanding that the on-line bulletin is often very out of date, we tried to email our adoption social worker (we'll call her Ministry Worker- MW- because she works for the government ministry*). Now I will share with you what it is like communicating with an over-worked, under-funded system.

May 12- Send an email to MW. Email gets bounced back (twice) as the email address I was given for this worker is wrong. Try calling the number I was given to reach her. She now works "upstairs". Am given a new number. By some fluke I actually get through. I explain that we wanted to know if certain sibling group was still available and that the email address I had wasn't working. She says that the wrong email was given out to everyone, gives me current address and tells me to email then hangs up. I resend the email.

May 13- Never received confirmation that new email address worked. I send another email asking for confirmation of receipt.

May 15- Receive an email saying, "Are you First Nations?". I email back saying that we are not but explaining that I've completed the course required to potentially adopt First Nations children. We receive a reply saying that she will ask about these children.

May 22- I email to ask if there is any more information.

June 4- Still no reply. I write this because I don't know whether to keep badgering this woman or not and I feel like venting about the whole communication issue.

For contrast, when I email PW I usually get a detailed reply within an hour (sometimes within minutes). If she can't answer a question right away, she emails and tells me that she's looking into it. Sometimes she even calls me on the phone to clarify!

Can we get some money put into the Ministry of Children and Families please? I know that it is important to pay for fancy government ads about how awesome natural gas is and how I should be training to work in the trades but maybe we could also hire an extra social worker or two and get some permanency plans in place for a few kids.

*To my lovely, American readers- a government ministry has nothing to do with religion. It's just our fancy Canadian (British) term for a government department. I just wanted to clear that up for ya'll :)

Thursday, 15 May 2014

studying us pt 2

Unbelievably, our home study visits are all done. Our home study social worker was contracted from a private agency to work with us and after she writes up our profile, we won't be working with her any more. We will really miss her humour and enthusiasm and especially her prompt replies to any of our questions. We are now back to dealing with the government office swamp where questions are left to rot in inboxes. It's not the fault of the government social workers, I'm sure they are doing their best with what they have. It's just that after working with a cushy private agency, we've seen how smooth it can be!

Now, I promised some tips. Here are the two most important from my perspective:

Tip # 1
Have your relationship all figured out and be on the same page with everything.
We have a great marriage (yeah, I went there). We talk about everything and can't keep secrets from each other (even birthday presents). This may make us sound annoying but it was great for the home study. We never had to "do home work" because we are already very comfortable with each others needs and values. There wasn't a questions that we weren't prepared to answer. So tip number one is to talk with your spouse about everything in the world before you start the home study. It's worth it because you get to hear praise on how solid and awesome your relationship is which feels pretty great.

Tip # 2
Background: When I was 18 I was diagnosed with OCD (with a specific phobia of vomiting) and anxiety disorder. The OCD started off mild but got to the point that it was affecting my work and social life. I went to the doctor and asked to be referred to a specialist. I went once a week to a psychiatrist for about a year and learned a lot about my brain and how it had been affected by trauma and anxiety. I worked really hard and haven't needed psychiatric care ever since. My OCD 'symptoms' have been gone for years and if they were to ever pop up again, I know how to recognise them and seek help.
My doctor recommended that I not disclose this on my adoption application. He thought that I was in good mental health now and was worried about red tape. I convinced him that I wanted to be honest about my past and was not worried or embarrassed by it. I naively thought that having dealt with anxiety myself, it might make me a good candidate for parenting an anxious child.
The government workers contacted my psychiatrist (who I have not seen in about 7 years). Dr. C said that I when I left I was doing well but she couldn't attest to my current mental health because it has been so long since I saw her last. I must now have a written assessment completed for the sum of $175. This is not covered by healthcare or my extended medical. Even though my doctor has already signed off on my current health and our home study worker assessed me and has recommended that it is not necessary as I am stable, mature and self-aware they still want a letter from the psychiatrist I saw 7 years ago.
Moral of this story? I still believe in honesty. So my advice would be to call up any old specialists and ask them about assessments etc and get these done before the home study. Right now our profile is in limbo while the social workers figure out whether my potential crazy is worth a $175 signature on a piece of paper.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Studying Us

Every homestudy is going to be a little different. It depends on your situation, whether or not your adoption is being done through a public or private agency and whether or not your adoption will be domestic or international.

Even though we will be adopting children from foster care, our homestudy is being done by a private agency contracted by the provincial government. The social worker who has been assigned to study us is great. She understands our sometimes sarcastic tone (which is a blessing as we might jokingly say something that would be a red flag to a social worker without a sense of humour!).

We had heard so much about how invasive a homestudy would be and how uncomfortable a lot of the questions would make us. This has not been the case at all. In fact, there are probably times when we've offered more information than she wanted to hear. We are very open people who are not embarrassed easily, which is one reason why we think we will be decent adoptive parents.

Stay tuned for some tips on how to make sure that your homestudy is a positive experience. Tips that have nothing to do with memorising a list of questions or cleaning behind the fridge (they don't even check behind your fridge! You could easily hide all your rusty razor blades and meth back there are no one would be the wiser!).

Our homestudy is almost done. There are a few loose ends to tie up, a couple more meetings and then we get to look over the report on our family that will be provided to the government and will eventually be seen by the guardianship worker of our future kids. One day...

Thursday, 30 January 2014

almost to the day

Our first meeting with a social worker (in our home) should take place in a couple weeks. Almost two years to the date of our original application.

I am not really afraid of a home study. I am not ashamed of any part of my life. I am completely comfortable talking to anyone about anything.

It might be a good opportunity to donate at least two car loads full of clothes that don't even fit anymore. It might also be a good time to clean out some of the cupboards where band-aid boxes and hair gel bottles get stuffed into the darkness so I don't have to see them out on the bathroom counter.

Two years ago we felt excited and nervous. One year ago we felt frustrated.

Right now? Right now I feel a little tender. I feel like I need to re-read the attachment books. I feel like I need to get into this again because after two years of nothing at all, life goes on.

We will eventually complete a home study. Then we will start the waiting process all over again. Life will go on. In two years I will re-read the attachment books.

The thing is, no matter how long we wait, we will never, ever be prepared for what is to come. Some day we will bring new people home and I will feel the greatest joy, deepest sadness and like the most inadequate person in the world. On that day the wait will have been,  all at once too long and too short.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

spoke too soon

I did a little poking and prodding today, emailing social workers and whatnot.
When we got home this evening, a new social worker (number 5?) had left a message on our answering machine. She wants to discuss the first steps of our home study. Adam cried. I hugged him.
One step closer.

Since 2012

My advice? If you think you want to adopt "some day" get your application in yesterday.


We decided to start this journey in February of 2012. We are now coming up on February 2014. We still haven't started a homestudy. We have been moved around between 3 different social workers. We will be meeting a fourth (hopefully) soon.

Paper work has been misplaced at the office or by the postal system or left too long by us because we had research to do. Social workers have had files that were more important than ours. Social workers have gone on stress leave. Social workers have gone on extended personal leave. We're not adopting teens or children with severe special needs so our file gets pushed down the list every time someone willing to take on those kids sends in an application.

Our file is now being moved from the government office to a private adoption agency (contracted by the government). They were supposed to receive our file a month ago so they could start our homestudy. We haven't heard from them and when I asked, they couldn't find our name in their system. So back to contacting the government office to make sure the information actually made it to the agency. I will remind you, we're not trying to adopt from another country or even another province. It's just that this system is completely overburdened and a little broken.

So if you're the praying type, please pray for those who work to care for children. Pray for new adoptive parents. Pray for foster parents. Pray for the birth parents. Pray for the government to put resources into a system that may not seem lucrative in the short term but will have an immeasurable affect on lives in the long term. If you're not the praying type, send your happy vibes and good wishes. This whole mess needs a little infusion of love and positivity.