By Brandi Kennedy
In communities all over North America and beyond, thousands of families are celebrating Adoption Month.
When I was a child growing up in the foster care system and living with various family, I often stood out as the kid who wasn’t living with my parents. Most of my friends had a Mom and Dad, siblings, and pets to go home to and there was a stigma attached to being a child without a “normal” family.
This was back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Thankfully, we as a culture have embraced diversity. Our families no longer look all the same. More and more Grandparents are raising Grandkids, foster families are loving kids in need of temporary care, kids are living with Aunties and Uncles. And adoption isn’t something we are afraid to talk about anymore or have it remain a family secret.
Sometimes when we hear the word adoption or adopt, the first thing we think of is animal shelters or highways. I’m going to talk about actual people who are needing to be adopted, and explain a bit about how adoption is typically done in B.C.
British Columbia continues to have approximately 700 children in foster care who are ready to look at permanent options, including adoption. Canada has approximately 30,000, and the last number I saw for the United States was 400,000. These children are not typically newborns or infants. They have been placed in foster care through no fault of their own. The majority of children in need of forever homes are school aged, needing cultural matches, or have medical needs that vary from mild behaviour issues to neurological conditions like Autism or Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.
These children and young people are needing #FamilyThatFits — people who are willing to build their families in a way that is not “traditional”, people who are willing to learn about trauma and do the work to build attachment with kids who might have experienced abuse or neglect.
Even people who adopt newborns are required to learn about trauma and attachment- because it affects all children who experience parent loss. Recent trends have shown that every year, approximately 450 children in BC “Age Out” – turn 19 and become adults — without ever being adopted. Adopting through this program is perfect for people who work full-time, empty nesters, or people in general who are open to bonding with a school-aged child and experiencing many “firsts” beyond their first steps and first words. Singles, people who rent their homes, LGBTQ2S+, and gender diverse people are welcome to apply to adopt.
Of the children in permanent care, nearly half are Indigenous. More than ever, Indigenous applicants are needed to provide safe, culturally appropriate forever homes. As we learn more about Canada’s sordid past and why we are moving forward in a spirit of truthful reconciliation, we acknowledge how important it is to protect a child’s culture and sense of identity. Could you be part of this changing world?
There are many, many more children in other countries who are waiting in orphanages. B.C. has two agencies which currently handle the domestic infant (babies born in B.C. in which a voluntary plan is made to have them placed for adoption) and the International Programs (where the agency works with representatives in the child’s country of origin to ensure children are safely placed within Hague Convention guidelines). International programs usually have more restrictions on age or relationship status of prospective parents.
I also would like to acknowledge step-parents who choose to adopt their partner’s children, sometimes after they have become adults, to make their parent/child relationship “official.” This process is surprisingly easy and provides that kid or adult a sense of belonging when sharing a last name is important to them.
If someone does not feel called to adopt, they can still help vulnerable children and families. From donating your last year’s winter gear to Women’s Resource, giving respite to foster parents or parents of children with a complex diagnosis, volunteering as mentor through one of many local non-profits, sponsoring a family at holiday time, or participating in a program that helps provide for orphans overseas in developing countries; everything helps. It truly does take a village to raise a child and orphans are, in my opinion, everyone’s child.
Any other year, adoptive families would be gathering at skating events, campouts, bowling parties, or chasing giant soccer balls at the Field House. We would be sharing pizza and cake and enjoying a few laughs together. We would be packing the City Council Chambers to get our proclamation certificates. This year with Covid, we are celebrating in our own homes over virtual platforms — having family events over Zoom and exchanging coffee dates with phone calls has been a way we have all adapted. The adoption community remains as close and connected as ever and I want to wish all of my fellow adoptive parents and waiting parents a very Happy Adoption Month.
Brandi Kennedy is a Family Support Worker, Adoptive Families Association of BC
For any questions about adoption, feel free to email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org