Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thriving in Plain Sight: the Visible Adoptive Families

If you scratch the surface of current adoption literature, blogs, and publications, you'll discover lots of opinions and suggestions for visible families. You can debate, offer support, lend a mentoring hand, or just show your adoptive love for transracial adoptive families in a variety of ways. 

This is great news - every little bit of positive progression helps us offer our children a bit of extra self-love and reprieve from the stares and inappropriate questions they never asked for and don't deserve.

Many of our children are reminded every day that everyone knows (and many wonder aloud about how it was) that they became a part of their family through adoption.

Visible adoptive families are becoming more common, just as transracial/multiracial families are in general. The stares are still here, but the tools to manage them and celebrate diversity are growing stronger. 

Things weren't always that way - at least in my world of white privilege. When several of my siblings were growing up as visibly different in our mostly Caucasian family, I didn't know how to answer the questions or respond to the double-takes.

Pre-adoption, I was blonde-haired Cindy Brady in our family of six kids, two parents, one overfed German Shepherd, and a five ton Buick station wagon. (Yes, it counted as a family member. It weighed more than a herd of elephants and had attitude.)

Enter younger siblings. Welcome unwelcome questions from strangers. I was fourteen when my parents adopted for the fourth time. (They said it was the last time... but they said that a lot!)

I took my newest sister out on the town a lot. Mostly to the mall with my friends or to the park, or swimming.

A few months went by and I ran into an old friend at the park. "Wow, I heard you had a baby. Let me see her.... Oh! So her dad's Indian? Cool."

I looked at my friend like she had three heads. Torn between defensive pride for my sister and distraught by the rumour, I had no idea what to say other than the truth. "She's my sister. She's adopted."

My friend (herself Indian) replied, "Oh. Why'd your parents adopt an Indian baby? Weren't there any white ones?"

I had NO prepared answer for that, only a reaction. "They adopted her because they wanted a baby. And... you're an idiot."

Probably not the most eloquent response, but it was an honest 14 year old reaction. Adoption wasn't new to me. My parents are serial adopters who somehow ended up with 12 kids when they finally decided their quiver was full.

Managing stupid questions? That was new. Thankfully, it's all part of the training for today's transracial adoptive families. Kudos to all those who work to celebrate, support, educate, and nurture the visible adoptive family.

And to my friend from the park who asked me a question all those years ago.... sorry for calling you an idiot. If you're reading this, yes there were white babies. You can apply to adopt one if you'd like! And if you do, I can help you prepare to deal with all the unwelcome questions you'll inevitably encounter.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Happy Adoption Awareness Month! Have You Been to Wendy's Yet?

As you might know, Wendy's Restaurant is a BIG supporter of adoption. Their founder, Dave Thomas, was an adoptee. To help support and promote adoption, he created the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. 

Although Dave passed on in 2002, his work continues. Canada embraced his legacy with the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption Canada. We've welcomed Wendy's adoption programs in four provinces and collectively served 240 children nation wide.

Here at AFABC, we have two full-time child-specific recruiters who operate under the Wendy's Wonderful Kids program. Their work includes finding connections and permanent homes for some of BC's waiting children.

November is Adoption Awareness Month, and Wendy's helps celebrate. This year, they are selling 2011 calendars for $5.00 at Canadian restaurants. Each month features a different piece of artwork created by children from across Canada. Two pieces were designed by BC children, and all the artists features were adopted (or are waiting to be adopted) through the assistance of the WWK programs.

If you haven't done so already, visit your local Wendy's and pick up a calendar in support of Adoption Awareness month.

To learn more about the Dave Thomas Foundation of Canada, visit click here.

To learn more about adopting through the Wendy's Wonderful Kids program, visit the AFABC website or contact our adoption recruitment workers:

Anne Melcombe (Fraser Region)


Kirsty Stormer (Vancouver/Coastal Region)

Happy Adoption Awareness Month! Now go get your calendar (and a frosty).

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Oh Brother! Openness.. with siblings

I attended a webinar today documenting the status of adoptive families in the US. In 2007, researchers surveyed over 2000 families, and their findings were presented today courtesy of The US Department of Health and Human Services . Statistics were graphed, often divided by type of adoption: from foster care, international, or private adoption. (BC's equivalent would be domestic adoption facilitated through a licensed agency.)

Although not representative of BC families, the US equivalent is close enough that we can expect some parallels between our attitudes, expectations, and trends surrounding adoption.

On that note, I learned a few things that surprised me...

1) 71% of adopted children adopted through any program (foster care, private, or internationally) have at least one known birth sibling. Of these, only 29% were adopted along with their biological sibling. The remaining 71% of known siblings were either not available for adoption, available but not adopted by the child's adoptive parents, or there was no reason provided by the adoptive parents.

Let's recap: more than 7/10 adopted children have at least one birth sibling.
Of these, less than 3/10 of children with siblings were adopted by the same family.

That's a lot of kids growing up in different homes! My son falls into this category. So do several of my five siblings through adoption. It's not unusual, not unexpected. Any number of circumstances can prevent children from being raised together. Children may become available at different times, sometimes an adoption plan is made for only one or some of their children, half siblings may be adopted or raised by a family member that is related to only one of the children, the needs of a child may supersede their right to grow up with sibs, etc, etc.

My initial reaction was "Oh well, at least with openness agreements, many of these kids will grow up knowing their birth siblings.... won't they?"

Sadly, that's not always the case....

The percentage of US families who had openness with birth relative(s) AFTER that adoption:
Foster Care Adoptions: 39%
Private Adoptions: 68%
International: 6%
... this breakdown is for ALL adoptions, inclusive of children with or without known birth siblings.

Now... based on the number of adoptions per pathway versus the overall number of US adoptions, less than 42% of US adopted children had openness with at least one birth relative.

Clearly, some kids are not connected to their siblings (or any birth relative for that matter!) - particularly if they were adopted internationally or through foster care.

I understand the fear some adoptive parents have about openness with birth parents or adult relatives. What if there are safety factors? What if there are control or parenting issues? What about solidifying my role as parent of my adopted child? What about practical challenges, like distance between the families? What about personality clashes? What if there just aren't enough hours in the day? What if I adopted my child from half a world away? What if the information was just not available? What if I want openness, but the birth family does not?

All reasonable questions. All understandable fears. Clearly, openness is not an option for EVERY family, and not in the best interest of EVERY child. But when there are siblings growing up apart from one another, many arguments against openness seem to hold less weight.

What I have difficulty understanding is families who have the option of having a safe level of openness between siblings.... but choose not to nurture these relationships. I couldn't excluding my son from knowing his brother. At the same time, I'm heartbroken for my son, knowing he has a second sibling that we are not - at this time, at least - privileged to know.

Talking to adult adoptees, many have shared how much they hope for a relationship with siblings. The presumed desire to know one's birth parent is sometimes less pronounced than the desire to know one's brothers or sisters. What if we had an opportunity to give our children a relationship with their siblings during the time it should happen naturally... during their childhood? 

As scary as openness seemed, explaining to my son that we had the option of knowing his brother but chose not to? That seemed infinitely scarier, and impossible to explain.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Thank You for Thinking I'm Abusive. No, Really - Thank You!

We were back at our favourite hang-out: Children's Hospital ER. This was our first visit due to allegedly detrimental parenting. I say allegedly because I vehemently maintain we did NOT cause (nor fail to prevent) the reason for our visit.

Noah did was most pre-schoolers will do at some point; fall down and bonk his head. More accurately, his face was involved, but the results were scary enough to warrant another pilgrimage to our favourite Emergency Room.

I'd come in late from a baby shower, and Noah heard my key in the door. He instantly sprang to consciousness. I tossed my heels in the closet, hung my coat up and donned my mommy cape. Then I went to tuck him in. 

After a brief cuddle I told him to hop into bed. Which he attempted. Except that he slipped on the body pillow we stash next to his bed (lest he fall out and hit his head - oh the irony!) and he did a perfect face plant onto the wooden bed frame.

I knew it was bad because he didn't cry. He just held his breath for a few seconds before letting out a pitiful howl. I fumbled for the light switch and expected to see blood everywhere or a dangling eyeball.

But I didn't see anything gory. Luckily, the screaming began and I carried Noah out in the kitchen for a full assessment. We could see the bruise forming, and thought we'd lucked out... but then we got The Announcement:

"Mommy! I'm going to BARF!" Which, in true Noah style, he promptly did. Everywhere. And then we noticed the dozens of burst capillaries all over his face.

So... off we went to Children's. Are we neurotic, overly cautious parents? Perhaps. But when your child bumps his face and then barfs, the natural worry is that he's suffered a concussion. I wasn't about to start taking chances with our little man. (He was fine, actually. But we're glad we got him checked out.)

On the drive in, it crossed my mind that perhaps the staff would suspect us of hitting Noah or somehow causing his injury. That fear was confirmed in subtle ways. 

I was asked six or seven times (by various hospital staff) how the accident occurred. They asked verification questions that slightly altered my story to check and see if there were any inconsistencies. They even went so far as to ask Noah directly to explain how he got hurt. Thankfully, he's articulate and capable of accurate recollection. (He even quoted me directly, duplicating my tone of voice with my specific instructions about how exactly I'd like him to get to bed.)

I was really glad for this vigilance. They didn't have to bother, did they? With two hours waits and children much sicker than our son, it would have been easy to process him as fast as possible and move on to the next sick or injured child. 

They could have bought into the myth that normal looking, middle class people don't hurt their kids. (That's something only drug addicted persons, or the mentally ill are capable of, isn't it? And all of them are poor or appear so, aren't they?) But the well-trained hospital staff know better, thankfully. Everyone is a suspect, and that's how it should be. 

Our single-child household looked fairly comfortable in the waiting room. We didn't scream "neglect" or "abuse" (unless dragging your child out in his PJs at 2 am is considered abusive). I still had my dress clothes on from my night out, and Kevin looked presentable, even though I wondered aloud why he wore shorts and a t-shirt in November.  

I was glad the cop in the waiting room didn't give us a break, either. She was there for another purpose - she already had her notepad out when we arrived. But she kept an eye on us that night as soon as she saw us walk in with our toddler and his bruised face.

I'm so thankful for her wordless accusation. In the adoption world, there are countless resilient children who started out in life suffering from abuse and neglect. Most came to be adopted thanks to the care and concern of teachers, social workers, neighbours, extended family - and yes, medical staff and emergency responders who keep an accusatory eye out for the little ones they spend their life caring for.  

Thank you for thinking I'm abusive. Honestly, thank you. It reassures me you are looking out for all this city's children, That warms my heart even while you're determining if I even have one.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Jumping Jelly Beans & Mexican Vacations.... Just Your Average Baby Shower

Typical baby shower graphic. Please note the presence of a pregnant belly,
and the absence of copy of approved homestudy/openness agreement/
and guests including adoptive parents, judges, social workers, foster parents, etc...

Last night I had the priviledge of attending a "celebrity baby shower" in downtown Vancouver. I won tickets from The Beat to attend a baby shower for their pregnant morning show host Nira Arora.

It ended up being a feel good, charity diaper drive event held at Absolute Spa in the Century Hotel. Guests got spoiled - free spa treatments, make-up sessions, and tons of fun party games were promised. The icing on the baby cake was a trip for four to Mexico. (Sadly, I did not win. I call conspiracy, but that's another story.)

When I won the event tickets, I called up a good girl friend - one that is terrified of parenthood and has no immediate, or longterm plans for motherhood. Perfect. We could talk about school or work or vacations if the baby stuff became too much for either of us.

I was a bit trepidacious because I hadn't been to a baby shower in a couple of years. In fact, one of the lasts one I attended was my own. Just over two years ago we celebrated our brand new, seven-month-old bundle of joy.

I wondered how much obvious disparity I'd feel between my own shower and the one offered for this expectant mom. Would the games, as usual, focus overtly on the pregnancy? When showers are hosted prior to the child's birth or adoption, it's hard NOT to put the emphasis on the parent-to-be.

I knew I'd be talking to other women - many of them mothers, some of them expecting, and honestly didn't want to have to explain to total strangers (or on-air personalities) that the reason I had no serious strech marks or opinions on VBacs or breast-feeding bras or belly bands was because it never applied to me.

Don't get me wrong, I adore pregnant bellies and newborn nieces and nephews and am just as excited to hear a friend's pregnancy announcement as I am to hear that a child has come home through adoption. The problem is, I have adoption on the brain, and events which highlight the differences between biological and adoptive parenting don't ease the adopt-o-cephalus I'm experiencing.

You see, I've been to showers where attendees must guess the number of linked toilet paper sheets required to circumnavigate the pregnant belly. I've been asked to contribute to a pie chart of pregnancy cravings. I've lent my wedding band to a party host who dangled my ring over an expanding belly, and feigned interest as she chanted something in pig Latin and rolled my eyes quietly as she announced, "She's having a boy! No, a girl! Um... well, one or the other for sure!"

I've played "pin the baby on pregnant lady" or, worse "pin the sperm on the egg". I've even heard of parents who've been asked bring baby photos of themselves and their children. The purpose? For other guests to match up mother-to-child. (Um, excuse me, if we're guessing based on looks the adoptive family is NOT going to win this round! Or maybe they will, if the point is to stump the entire crowd.)

I've heard guests exchange whispered horror stories of their own deliveries - "LOOK at her. She's as big as a house. Hope she's having an epidural."

I would like an epidural, please.

What happened last night ... was actually surprising. There were games, like match the celebrity to their children... but guess what? At least 1/3 of that list included adoptive families. There was focus on mom and baby bump, of course, but nothing that offended the highly critical eye of this adoption advocate.

Darn it, I actually had a good time! I even took home a spa gift bag for generating the longest list of baby items in a five minute period. 65 items, thank you very much - and none of them were specific to biological parenting!

So while I did not win the trip to Mexico (I'm still waiting for a jelly bean re-count, Beat executives!) I had a REALLY great time at a baby shower. Although I doubt it was planned this way, it was perfectly respectful of all types of parenting. I even got a free foot massage to finish the night.

Hmm. I might not need that epidural after all.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

3 Months Later...

When I last posted, I was itching with ire towards our local hospital. That was 3 months ago, and we haven't seen the emergency room (or the ill-educated admitting clerk) since.

What I'd love to post about now are all the adoption-related adventures we went on during our summer vacation... but those adventures didn't happen. Our adventures were just basic, outrageous family shenanigans. 

At first, I hesitated to document them here. I told myself, "This is an adoption blog. People come here to read about my family's life, our challenges, our struggles, and hopefully, our joys."

What I wasn't thinking was the importance of including the non-adoption related pieces that make our family tick. And that's my point today. Adoption is a piece of our family's story. It's our origin, it's our past, it's hopefully our future, and it's my life's work. But outside the job I'm passionate about, and the people I'm fiercely in love with who have been touched by adoption, we're just regular (okay, I admit it, STRANGE and WEIRD but close to normal!) people. 

So I can share my stories of crazy rainstorms in Ireland, and barfing on the side of a superhighway. And barfing while waiting in line at the Eiffel Tower. And badly translated ingredient lists (who knew there were two words for peanut in French?) on our shopping adventures in Paris.

I can let you in on the fun and not worry that "hey, this story doesn't help my audience figure out this part of the adoption puzzle!" It helps because it reassures us that families are families.... even when they involve individuals as silly as me and my loved ones.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

How to Get Your Blood Boiling with a Simple Fever

A few weeks ago, Noah and I were back in the ER. He'd spiked a fever of 104F (about 40 C for you properly-educated Canadians) after tylenol, so we brought him in to get checked out.

The registration clerk took down our particulars and sent us over to see the triage nurse. She was fantastic - giving Noah bubbles to play with (i.e. eat) and engaging him while she collected his medical history.

Inevitably, the question of his early days and prenatal history came up, and I filled the nurse in on relevant parts of our adoption story. 

We were sent back to the clerk to have a few more details added. At that point she asked for a contact number. 

"Can I have his mother's full name, address and phone number?"

"Yes, I'm Sarah Reid, and my address and phone number are the same as what I've given you already."

She stared blankly at me for a few minutes. "It says here he's adopted. I need the contact info for his MOTHER. That's the policy. We need to contact her if something comes up later on." She smiled (at least, I think it was a smile).

It was a good thing for her I had a roasting toddler in my arms, because it shielded my outrage a little. "Noah has a birth mother. And I am his mother through adoption. Put my name down as the contact." (I carried on silently "before I reach across that desk and give you a personal info session on adoption and roles and what NOT to say to a stressed out mom in an emergency room.")

"Well, I know, but the form says I need his... you know, his real mother's information..." she started faltering. "But maybe you don't know it."

That was it. "Hi. I'm Sarah. This is my son Noah. I'm checking him into your hospital. You need a contact person, preferrably his mother. Hurray! That's me." 

I then spelled my name for her and waited for the low-wattage lightbulb above her head to turn on.... it never did.  

I went back to the waiting room and sat amongst the bleeding and the barfing and wondered briefly how many other adoptive families this woman had offended. Then I took care of my son

On my to-do list: draft a form letter for medical professionals about the roles and responsibilities of adoptive, foster and birth parents, and mail 20 copies to my local hospital, attention admitting department.

Monday, July 19, 2010

'Despicable Me' Review

We had a GREAT time at the movies last week. 'Despicable Me' was anything but despicable. The plot was ridiculous enough to satisfy kids and adults alike, with enough physical comedy and scripted humour to satisfy both young and old in the audience.

The mommy in me was on high alert, of course. Admittedly, the adoption piece COULD have been more authentic. Here's what stood out for me:

1) No homestudy. No social workers at all!!! Just a syrupy-sweet, stab-you-in-the-back orphanage director. Turns out she's a mono-linguist who melts at being called a donkey by a Russian-accented villain speaking Spanish to her English-only ears. 

2) Insufficient background check. I needed 3 references (or was it four??) plus a criminal records check, and a physical from my doctor... nope. The villain (hero?) in this story only needed talented minions who could overtake the orphanage's computer system and plump up his past accomplishments.   

.. and what I loved:

1) Attachment/boundary testing/true teenage behaviour realistically portrayed "You'll NEVER be my Dad" (from the eldest of the three girls).

But this is Hollywood, and a kid's movie -- about stealing the moon. So honestly, did I expect literalism on the adoption front? No, of course not! 

Aside from the adoption side of the story, it really was a great little movie. You'll enjoy it if you have kids (or if you want kids, or like kids.... I hope you do if you're reading my blog. Unless you're reading this to reinforce your dislike of children, and if that's why you're here, shame on you!) 

In any case, go see it. My little man giggled so hard and so often that he started a ripple effect during the quiet moments. (If you're wondering what those little yellow guys are at the top of the page, those are the villain's minions: the source of my son's constant giggles). Just hearing those giggles was worth the ticket price.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

'Despicable Me' Preview

You've devoted your life to plotting increasingly despicable schemes. You rule an army of pint sized "minions". You disarm your fellow coffee shop patrons with a futuristic freeze gun, all to avoid the dreaded Starbucks line. You've stolen the Statue of Liberty, although it's merely the Vegas replica.

At this stage of your life, what's left to conquer? What is an evil villain to do? Are there any mountains left unclimbed? Yes! There's so much more to life. So you plot to steal the moon... and conquer parenthood at the same time. (If you're going to be despicable and paternal, you might as well do them together.)   

'Despicable Me' opens in theatres tomorrow evening. Who wouldn't love to watch a cartoon starring Steve Carell with an unconvincing Russian accent? Count me in, please!

Sometime this weekend, I'm heading back to the theatre with my two year old. We'll be reviewing 'Despicable Me', and deciding if it does adoption justice ( - as much as a cartoon about moon stealing and celebrated villany can, that is!) 

The film opens tomorrow night, and I'm heading in optimistically, hoping this time Hollywood gets the adoption piece right. Already there are a few red flags: the commercials refer to the girls as being "inherited", while the film's website labels them "orphans" (which could be accurate, dependent on their history).

Given the storyline, I'm willing to offer the film the opportunity to redeem itself.  What I love most about this movie, is that this time, the evil villain is the one adopting children. That's a lovely role reversal! (Usually it's the saintly unsuspecting parents who acquire demon children through adoption....)

I'm also quite pleased at the family's demographics. A single father, permitted to adopt a sibling group of three sisters? Wow, how delightfully progressive!

I wonder who did his homestudy, though.... honestly, if your current business venture is to steal the moon, are you really going to offer a safe, secure, permanent home to three young girls? (On a side note, do evil villains qualify for PAA? It might impact my future career options if they do...) 

I'm looking forward to a light-hearted adoption story. Stay tuned to read if I'm over the moon for 'Despicable Me'.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Hurray! (And Uh-Oh). He's Getting it!

A few weeks back, I made the wonderful discovery that children under the age of 3 are free at the movie theater. (I'm quite sure it's because children 2 and under generally aren't capable of sitting through an entire film.)

But we tried Noah out, hoping he'd do well since it was dark and the screen was enormous. And, well, because we had popcorn to bribe him with.

He did awesome!! Most movies these days are 3-D (or at least digital 3-D) and he even managed the required glasses (albeit upside down) for most of the show. 

Last night we tried again, and I took him and my brother-in-law to see Toy Story 3. (Which, by the way, made me CRY!!! Something happened to my hormones when I became a mother.... so watch out, prospective parents!)

Noah and I were chatting about the movie this morning, particularly about a scene where an injured stuffed animal from a daycare found a new owner. (Details changed slightly for those intending to watch the movie & hate spoilers.)

"Wemember, Mommy? The stuffy found a new daddy?" I smiled at him and said "Yes he did, love!" 

He thought about it for a few minutes, came back and announced excitedly "MOMMY! That stuffy... he got adotted!"

"Yes, he did get adopted, Noah! Isn't that wonderful?" I had to smile a little to myself. He's starting to get it! (Hurray!... and uh-oh). I'd better brush up on my answers to the tougher questions that are just ahead.

Happy adoption day, stuffy!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Canada's Citizenship Flaw... Oops, I mean LAW

Disclaimer alert: I am not an adoption lawyer. I am not working for (or against) Immigration Canada. I am not an international adoptive parent, although I have the great pleasure of working with and offering support to many wonderful families built through international adoption.

This is my humble summary of a much-discussed amendment to Canada's Immigration laws, and what that means for adoptive parents, their children, and even GRANDchildren, should the current laws remain in effect.

(Disclaimer over, thank you.)

For inter-country families, one piece of the incredibly complex adoption puzzle is determining how your child will arrive on Canadian soil. Your choices seem simple: as a Canadian citizen, or as a permanent resident. 

There wasn't always a choice. Prior to December 2007, Canadians who adopted from overseas (or across the border) used to bring their children home exclusively as permanent residents. Now, if they meet certain criteria and the adoption is completed in the home country, many families have the option of applying for direct Canadian citizenship for their adopted children.

At first glance, this seems ideal.

However, an amendment (which came into effect in April 2009) to Canada's new citizenship law , stipulated that the direct citizenship route would be open to children adopted internationally ONLY if

a) at least one of their adoptive parents were born in Canada
b) at least one parent became Canadian through the naturalization process. (Meaning, they were permanent residents of Canada who then became citizens.)

The goal of the amendment was to prevent the 'handing down' of Canadian citizenship to multiple generations of Canadians who may not have lived much (if any) of their lives on Canadian soil. But the law doesn't make sense for children who are born abroad to Canadians, or adopted abroad by Canadians who then raise these children here in Canada. 

You might be asking "what impact does this have for me and my adopted child?" A huge one!

From Immigration Canada's website (emphasis added by yours truly):

Children adopted outside Canada who take the direct route to citizenship will be treated just like any child born outside Canada to a Canadian parent. This means that if that adopted person has, or adopts, a child outside Canada, their child will not be Canadian at birth or eligible for a citizenship grant using the direct route, unless the other parent was born or naturalized in Canada.

Children adopted outside Canada who come to the country as permanent residents and obtain citizenship through a regular grant are subject to the same rules as anyone born or naturalized in Canada. This means that any children they have outside Canada would automatically acquire Canadian citizenship, and their children adopted outside Canada would be eligible for a grant of citizenship through the direct route, without having to first become permanent residents.

Wait... let's run through this again.

Cindy is Canadian, born in Canada. She adopts her daughter Lily from China and chooses the direct citizenship route. Lily is a Canadian citizen. She lived in Canada from age 2 until 25, when she moves abroad. While overseas, Lily gives birth or adopts a child... let's call him Jack. Little Jack is not granted Canadian citizenship directly, unless his father happens to be Canadian by birth or naturalization. Unfortunately, Jack's father is not Canadian.

So Cindy is Canadian. Her daughter Lily is Canadian. But baby Jack is not Canadian, unless he becomes one through the permanent residency route.

So... what does that mean if Jack is born in a country where citizenship is not awarded simply because the child is born within that country's borders?

Little Jack could be stateless. Seem unlikely? Think again.... it's already happened. Although there is no adoption thread in her story, Rachel Chandler was born in Beijing to a Canadian father and a Chinese mother. She was denied Canadian citizenship, and her parents could pay a fine for having their daughter out of wedlock in order for Rachel to be granted Chinese citizenship, but why should they?

Sadly, Immigration Canada advised the Chandlers to look elsewhere for citizenship, or apply for a permanent residency permit for their daughter. (In this case, Immigration Canada suggested Ireland, as Rachel's paternal grandfather was born there.) See this article from the Vancouver Sun on Rachel's case. 

While this may be old news to some families, it may be brand new to many, especially if you are just thinking about adoption or don't get paid to pay attention to citizenship laws and how that relates to adoption for Canadian families.

What do you think.... does the law create a two-tiered citizenship policy for our nation? How am I to explain the discrepancy to our adopted children, when it doesn't make sense to me as an adult?  

Monday, June 14, 2010

Part Two: Would you Adopt Me? Anyone?

First off, thanks Mom, for being one of only two people who offered to adopt me. Only one problem: I'm not so sure they would let you... given that you're already my legal parent. And to answer your question, Mom, no, I wasn't plotting your demise!! Nor was I fantasizing about you & dad's untimely disappearance, or imagining an unexpected end to your parental rights.

Thanks, Mom, for being one of two people out there who volunteered to hop in Michael J Fox's DeLoreon and return to 1993 to adopt me. (Seriously, who would turn down the opportunity to visit the 90's again? Oh... wait... perhaps that's why I had so little interest.)

I did have one other offer - from a friend in Ontario who said she would take me, but not all of my siblings because she didn't have enough bedrooms. Which is great, except that BC legislation discourages inter-provincial placements except for relatives or those with pre-existing relationships. And I think she might have been in grade two in 1993... so that wouldn't have worked anyways.

The reason I profiled myself was quite simple: I wanted to illustrate a point, one that many adoptive parents are asked to consider on the first day of their Adoption Education Program. There's a flyer out there called "Special Needs Touch Us All" and it's accurately titled: it helps us understand that every one of us, even the perfect ones, have flaws and quirks and a challenge or two.

I think I'd probably adopt myself, but I'd need a lot of support and counselling, and honestly, the sibling factor might have scared me away. I grew up with more siblings than toes on my feet, but I'm not sure I'm cut out to lead a mega-family. At least... not yet.

Last I checked, the largest sibling group that's waiting for a family in BC has 5 children in it. And yes, there are families out there who have adopted large sibling groups. I know of one family who doubled their number of kids in one fell swoop; bringing home 4 little ones to complement the 4 biological children they had already.

I'm not asking you all to adopt me. (I tried that the other day, and it failed miserably.) I'm also not asking you to descend en masse upon your nearest MCFD office and demand paperwork to apply for that sibling group of five. (It would be nice... but, nope, not asking you.... unless you feel the calling!)

All I'm asking is that you think about special placement needs as a chapter in a child's life book, and not as the title to their story. That's not to say I'm minimizing or ignoring legitimate diagnoses or circumstances. It just means, look at the needs, learn about them, and then look at the GOOD stuff our kids have to offer. And weigh the risks and benefits... and follow your head AND your heart.

Remember, you have special placement needs, too... and you're loved and loveable. You already mean the world to someone. If you let them, these kids might mean the world to you, and you to them. 

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Would You Adopt Me?

I often wonder if anyone would have adopted me if I had been a 'waiting child'. I wonder if my special placement needs would have been too much for any prospective parent to consider. I wonder how many people would have clicked on my pseudonym and quickly decided that "Sally" had too much baggage, or FAR too many siblings, or more medical needs then they were equipped to manage.

So, I thought I'd try it out..... Let's pretend we're back in oh... 1993. That's a mostly good year. Lots of important things happened. The Canadiens won the cup, and the Blue Jays won the World Series. The US elected Clinton, Whitney Houston pledged "I Will Always Love You" and we said goodbye to "Cheers" and hello to "Frasier, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, and Beavis and Butthead" (I said MOSTLY good year, didn't I?)

It's also the year I turned 12. So... would you have wanted to adopt my twelve year old self? Heck, would I have wanted to? Let's find out:

Sally, born in November, 1981, is a happy 12 year old girl. This blond haired blue eyed tomgirl loves books and chocolate ice cream. Her favourite colour is neon green. Sally is finishing grade six and excels at reading and writing. She struggles with PE, where she frequently fails to hit the volleyball and conveniently forgets to bring her gym shoes. Sally can be a behavioural challenge during square dancing season, and needs frequent reminders that participation is mandatory. Sally is quite messy by nature, and needs constant reminders to clean her room. 

Sally is part of a large sibling group. Six of her siblings (brothers age 2, 3, 7(twins), 17, and a sister, age 15) are also available for adoption.  The hope is for Sally to be placed with at least one of her siblings. 

Sally has type one diabetes, and requires multiple daily injections, a strict diet, and frequent visits with her healthcare team. She needs a family committed to maintaining this area of her health. 

Sally's adoptive parents must be willing to have openness with all nine of Sally's siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. 

So.... what do you think? Would you adopt me?

Monday, June 7, 2010

New Waiting Child Profiles... Woo hoo!!!

For some waiting parents, the day the adoption profiles are updated is a little bit like receiving an early birthday present. For people new to adoption, it can be the lightbulb moment when a prospective mom or dad finally says "Hey! He's the one... now, how do we bring him home?"

There are close to two hundred waiting children who are profiled online (and close to 1,000 registered in total across the province). Every few months, a handful more are added to the MCFD's online  Waiting Child Bulletin.

On days like these, you get to read about waiting kids who are brand new to the profile page. If you're an approved waiting parent who can't wait to sink their (figurative) teeth into their newest family member, it's a bit like that first bite of chocolate birthday cake after a 364 day wait. (Some of us could do without the extra candle... but the cake is just as delicious as the year before!)

Here at the office, I sit back and smile and count the phone calls and emails that come in to the Waiting Child Hotline. Inevitably, there are more than usual in the days following the new additions.

It's a bit wonderful, actually.... knowing there are fledgling prospective parents out there, some of whom just needed a little nudge to make the call or send the email to find out just what adoption might look like for their family.

Sometimes all it takes is a connection (even if it's short-lived) with a certain child's profile, and those numbers are dialed or that email is sent... and before you know it, you're on your way.

I'm so glad so many of you have taken that nudge to heart. If you've seen a profile, or have been thinking about adoption, or aren't quite sure if adopting a Waiting Child is for you.... why not check it out for yourself?

No, we're not unveiling a photolisting. We're not hosting a meet and greet.... but we are inviting you to a Waiting Child Information Session.

If you live in the Vancouver or Fraser districts, there are a handful (very small handful!) of spots remaining in our June 24th session. For folks living in Abbotsford (and beyond!), register here for the June 16th session in your neck of the woods.  

The best part of the two hour session? (Besides meeting one of the funnest social workers around, and learning all the steps and hearing about the kids?) I'll be there.... and as usual, I'm bringing chocolate. 

So you can have your cake an eat it, too.... and best of all, you might just find a waiting child or two that would be perfect for your family. 

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Happy Welcome Home Day, Noah!

Happy Welcome Home Day, Noah!

I can't believe it's been two years since you officially joined our family. (You were in our hearts for much longer, little man!) Looking back, it's been an amazing experience... and we're still just getting started!

I can't believe how little you were (and we all thought you were so big!) You've gotten so big and learned so much and taught us so much in two short years.

Enjoy your cake today, even if you don't quite understand why you're getting it. (You're so much like your mother; never question chocolate, just devour it!) 

Happy Welcome Home Day, son! Mommy & Daddy love you more than you will ever know.

Monday, May 31, 2010

"It Must Be Genetic", Except that it Isn't

So my husband has always had difficulty keeping bugs, flies, bees, sand, (you name it!) out of his eyes and lungs. As a young man, it was exponentially worse than it is right now. Things would make their way into his eyes in the most unlikely ways.

One time he was riding his motorcycle (complete with full face helmet, vents CLOSED), when a bug somehow flew up under his chinstrap and got trapped in the helmet. The insect got mad and somehow buzzed its way into Kevin's eye. 

Another time he was out rollerblading and a bug (perhaps a small moth? We're not really sure) made it way into Kevin's mouth, down his windpipe, and into his lungs. I asked if he was rollerblading with his mouth open, and all I got was a filthy look. Apparently not.

The worst event happened out of the blue - quite literally, in fact. Kevin was walking up the driveway of our friends' house when a housefly flew directly into his eye. 

Yup. A housefly. After the attack, Kevin made his way to the front door, rang the bell, and waited for his friend to answer. I wasn't there to witness this one, but as the story goes, Kevin stumbled to the closest mirror, and tried desperately to remove the offending fly from his eye.

You'd think removing a housefly would be easy. It's not exactly tiny. But, no luck. The little bugger crawled up Kevin's eyeball and hid out way back in his eye socket. Kevin panicked. He could FEEL the fly squirming around in there, but could no longer SEE it and could definitely not reach it by himself.

I got a phone call about five minutes later from my friend Amanda. She was laughing hysterically and could barely spit out "Don't WORRY, but we're taking Kevin to the hospital!" I was momentarily panicked until she explained it was due to yet another fly-in-the-eye.

At the emergency room, the clerk at the registration desk laughed so hard she fell off her chair. The triage nurse accused him of abusing the medical system, but Kevin insisted on being seen.

Sparing you the gross details, suffice it to say it took an extra long q-tip and a very compassionate (although equally amused) emergency room doctor to remove the housefly from Kevin's eye.

You might be wondering... what on earth does this have to do with adoption? Actually, plenty. You see, it seems our son has somehow -- inexplicably -- inherited his father's predisposition for getting stuff caught in his eye. 

Kevin started it, of course. We were playing volleyball at Spanish Banks yesterday afternoon, with Noah merrily digging in the sand beside the courts. After a particularly nice dive, Kevin's hand flew up to his face... the culprit, this time, was a nice dose of sand in the eye.

The game was paused while Kevin went off in search of more water to rinse the offending grains out of his eye. Declining help (removing objects from his eye is routine business, you see), Noah and I stayed and played quietly in the sand. I looked up for one second before Noah let out a piercing howl.

"MOMMY! I got SAND in mine eye!" he cried. So, off to the car we went where I watched my two boys struggle at the same time with sand in their respective eyes.

"It must be genetic," someone laughed when we returned, eyes cleared, to the court. I laughed. Yup. It must be... except that it isn't!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Summer Events in Vancouver/Coastal

AFABC is hosting and joining in a number of free family events in your community this summer. Join us at the following celebrations! For events hosted by AFABC, RSVP to Michelle McBratney at or by phone at 604-320-7330 ext. 105.

East Side Pride
Saturday, June 26th
11am at Grandview Park, Vancouver
This is a free community event. RSVP not required, just look for AFABC at the event!

North Shore Auto Mall Family Day
Sunday, August 8th (please note date correction!)
12pm - 4pm
This is a free community event. RSVP not required, just look for AFABC at the event!

AFABC Sunshine Coast BBQ
Saturday, July 24th
Roberts Creek

1:30pm - 3:30pm
Register online at

Contact to Michelle McBratney at or by phone at 604-320-7330 ext. 105

MCFD & AFABC Fraser/Vancouver Summer Picnic
Sunday August 22nd, 2010
Queen's Park, New Westminster

11am - 2pm
Register online at:

AFABC Squamish End-of Summer Picnic
Saturday, September 11th
Time & location TBD.

Hope to see you all there!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Adoption in Your Cartoons

Growing up, I didn't think too much about the portrayal of adoption in the tv shows I watched. Adoption wasn't even on my radar until I was six and the first two of my five siblings were welcomed home.

I do, however, recall my devotion to the kids' show Punky Brewster. Although I raised an eyebrow at the fact that she was being raised by an elderly man instead of a young mom and/or dad....what puzzled me most was why she insisted on mismatched socks and shoes.

As incredulous as her story was (a young girl who starts out surviving on her own in an abandoned apartment), it did have some good adoption lessons. Her best friend was being raised by her grandmother (showing another thriving type of non-nuclear family). Punky did well under the grumpy yet loving eye of her elderly foster father. And it was presented in a way that it didn't seem impossible or strange... it was just this little girl's story. At least, in the way my childhood memory recalls it it was perfectly normal.

Now that I'm twenty something years older and a mom myself, I'm looking carefully at the programs my son is watching. And not just for the usual reasons (violence, language, etc.). I want to make sure his life and our family is respected along with every other kind. So imagine my surprise when a cartoon about dinosaurs would set a really positive example of adoption.

Noah loves dinosaurs. He also loves trains. Television programmers know these are two pretty common denominators for little people.... so PBS came out with a program called Dinosaur Train.

Noah watches it while we're getting ready in the morning, so I don't typically sit down with him and enjoy the preschool programming from start to finish. I couldn't help but notice that a pteranodon mother (think winged dinosaur) happened to be raising four children; three little pteranodons and a bright orange T-rex named Buddy. 

Eventually I got the chance to figure out how this happened. According to the introduction, a T-rex egg mysteriously found its way into a pteranodon nest, and the mother (though surprised at her offspring) immediately accepted him for who he was an raised him as if she gave birth... er, laid him like her other three children.

It's nice to see a positive representation of adoption.... even though the producers failed to address the obvious: would a baby T-rex really be able to resist devouring his siblings? Ah, well, that's the magic of television for you! 

Sunday, May 9, 2010

To Noah's Birth Mom on Mother's Day

I never got the chance to thank you for the little boy we share. For the trust your heart had that strangers could love your son with the same intensity that you do. Thank you for giving him all that he needed to get started in this beautiful world. Noah came to us brimming with love, and I know it was from you. I know you would be very proud of him today.

I wish there was a way for you to meet him, to see his smile, the way his face lights up and his eyes sparkle. The little dimple in his chin. The brilliance of his hazel eyes. They are the same colour as his big brother's... we're told he got them from you. I wonder if he has your laugh, your sense of humour, your personality.

I hope you know that the son we share is loved beyond measure. That he knows his story; that somewhere, his birth mother is thinking about him, and loving him. We're here, too. Thinking about you today and wishing you love and peace, wherever you might be. 

Happy Mother's Day.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Actual News Headline: "Adopted Daughter Charged with Killing Mom"

Well, this is not the headline an adoptive mother wants to see. This is not the headline an adoptive mother wants her CHILDREN to see. This is not the headline anyone touched by adoption wants to see. This type of headline simply shouldn't be.

The story itself is tragic - a middle aged woman was arrested and charged in the killing of her elderly mother. A terrible, sordid allegation. I just don't see why the adoption detail needed to be included. It certainly does nothing to help the case of BC's Waiting kids (who, by the way, are not killers in the making!)

When I first saw the story, I sat down and wrote a thoughtful but direct email to the story's editor (see below).

Then I googled the name of the accused, to see how many other headlines popped up. Every.single.article. included the fact that she was adopted. How disappointing. 

I'm only glad my son is too young to understand this article - it gives me time to notify the editor of every newspaper that ran the story's irrelevant detail a chance to think about their word choice (oh dear, you can tell I'm parenting a toddler, can't you?) before he's old enough to understand.

An excerpt from the little note I sent to the local paper. If the headline bothers you, feel free to modify my letter and send it along as your own:
Dear Editor,

As an adoptive mother, and sibling to five through the miracle of adoption, I find it upsetting that you needed to include the fact that Vancouver's latest accused murderer committed her crime against her adoptive mother.

Were you taken in by the Hollywood myth of the recent flop horror movie "Orphan"? Do you believe that children who join their families through adoption have a predisposed tendency to kill their parents? Or are you simply trying to illustrate that a good woman - the widow of a police constable - fell victim to the violent rage (allegedly, of course) of her daughter, and, oh, and by the way, it was perpetrated by the child she adopted?

It's estimated that one in three Canadians are touched by adoption - meaning they, or someone they know dearly, came to their family through this ancient custom. Ever year, BC families welcome over 600 children into their homes. 50 or so are adopted at birth through licensed agencies. About 300 come internationally, from countries like China, or Haiti, or simply across the border from the US. And 300 are adopted from foster care through BC's Waiting Child program.

Perhaps you haven't heard any successful adoption stories. Or perhaps you have, but don't know that adoption is part of the story. I have six examples in my immediate family alone, all welcomed through foster care adoption. Newspaper headlines like yours, however, with their negative undertones about adoption, don't help the situation for BC's Waiting kids. Each year, 300 are adopted, but there are 700 more who wait... sometimes never getting that chance at a forever family.

If you'd like to learn the real story about adoption, or perhaps do an article on one of the many success stories (kids who DON'T grow up to murder their parents, for instance), it's worth a visit to, and Perhaps you can turn at least one person's mind towards believing in adoption. Who knows, it might even be your own.


Sarah Reid

Mother to a 2.5 year old, 36 pounds of curly haired bliss & sister to five.. all welcomed joyfully through adoption.


Thursday, May 6, 2010

"ARE" (No, Not a Pirate Noise, an Adoption Event)

A few of us from AFABC attended an Adoption Resource Exchange today. About 15 kids (or siblings groups) were profiled, and over a hundred prospective parents joined in. AFABC was there to support our families who were in attendance (and of course provide our legendary chocolate cookies).

You might be wondering "What's an Adoption Resource Exchange?" -- not too long ago, I wondered that, too! It's basically a matching event for prospective adoptive parents who have completed their homestudies and are waiting to be matched. They come together along with their adoption workers, to hear from guardianship workers about some of the children in care who are looking for families. There's time for networking with other families and with social workers, and plenty of time to ask questions about the kids who are being profiled.

It's a pretty powerful event for all involved. It's one thing to read a description of a waiting child on the MCFD website; it's another thing entirely to watch a video recording of the same child and have the privilege of watching them shine. 

There's only one way into an ARE, and that's to be invited by your social worker. And if your social worker doesn't invite you, ask them to!!! The ARE is open to both MCFD and Agency families, provided your complete, up-to-date homestudy is Ministry-approved and you are waiting for a match.

Some families attend and discover that several of the kids or siblings groups being profiled meet their family's criteria. That's wonderful! Others attend and find that none of the children are a match. That's okay, too. I like to remind families that even if you *don't* find a match from attending an ARE, you've still had the opportunity to witness what BC's Waiting Children are all about.

Equally important is the opportunity to have your family's profile handed directly to Ministry guardianship workers - the professionals who will have arguably the biggest role in determining which family is right for each child on their caseload. A few guardianship workers who were *not* profiling children attended just for the opportunity to meet prospective parents. That's a pretty stellar thing for a social worker to do; taking a whole day out of their work week solely to meet with prospective parents.

If you missed out on today's ARE and would like to attend, the next one will be sometime this fall. Put the bug in your social worker's ear that you'd like an invite.... and I'll look forward to seeing you at the next one!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The "Perfect Child" Myth

Experts warn prospective parents that in adoption, there is no "perfect child". They tell you that adoption is based on grief & loss (which it is) and we have to "give up" our expectations of the fictional idealized birth child. You know the one I'm talking about; the heaven-sent cherub with perfectly sculptured features, the brilliance of Einstein, the poetry of Shakespeare, and your family nose or laugh or your partner's eyes. What they don't always tell you is that the "perfect child" doesn't exist, even in birth families.

We're further warned that being adopted means coming with the dreaded "Special Placement Needs". That they might need help in certain areas, or supports, or different life plans. Or come with a sibling, or need extra time to attach. Oh, the horror. (please note my sarcasm) 

When I heard that speech, I remember thinking distinctly "That's GARBAGE. Why would I want to pass on my family nose!?!?" That's not to say we haven't dreamed of having a biological child. Most people do. It just means that choosing adoption didn't feel like such a shift from what we envisioned in the first place. In fact, when we welcomed our son home, we sat smugly and thought "Well, if adoption isn't about receiving the perfect child, somebody out there missed the memo!"  

In time we learned -- like all parents do, that our child indeed was not perfect. But he was perfect for US and our family. He's hilarious and witty and charming and naughty and spirited and... well, perfection.

When I talk to prospective parents who are grieving their infertility, I try and help them be open to the idea that - after they'd worked through their grief and were ready - adoption didn't have to feel like a consolation prize. Some families - mine included, planned to adopt before we ever entertained the idea of a biological family. Our son saw to that himself, when he claimed me as his mother and stole my heart over two years ago.

I guess I'll never understand the myth of the "perfect child" when I look at my little one and know unquestionably that he was meant to be our son. For those of you who are waiting, or wondering, or just plain bewildered about the possibility, consider these wise words:

"We get the kids we deserve." - which is a lovely left-handed compliment. It basically means, no one is perfect, but somewhere out there, is the "almost" perfect person who's been waiting for someone just like you. 

Friday, April 16, 2010

God Help Us. He Can Open the Deadbolt.

We knew this day was coming - the day when our bright-eyed little man would finally be tall enough and dexterous enough to manipulate the deadbolt on our front door. We live in an apartment -- which buys us few seconds before he can get to the elevator. If he gets that far alone he could easily adventure himself onto other floors or arrive in the lobby with easy access to the street. (He has no problem pushing the right buttons... on elevators and mothers alike!)

Anyways, a few days ago, he mastered the deadbolt task. He had a look of pure delight on his face when the lock released and he found himself free! Noah ran gleefully into the hallway, exclaiming "I Get out! I be naughty! Hurray!"

Yesterday, however, he went too far. I dared to use the restroom last night, and in my absence, Noah crashed the baby gate we use to keep the master bedroom 'off limits'. In thirty seconds, he'd helped himself to a small key and was swiftly headed towards the front door.

He didn't realized I had been watching him in silence since my return to hawk-like supervision. So I just stood behind him and followed him.

He opened the deadbolt.
He let out a maniacal laugh. (I only wish I was kidding.)
He opened the door and looked left and right. 
"Hello? Where is everybody?" he chirped.

Then he bolted. I followed, and watched him sprint towards the end of the hallway. 

Key in hand, he stood on his tiptoes and popped the key into the lock of our neighbour's apartment. "I go visit Gloria!" he said to himself. 

"Uh, not tonight, Noah." I said, raining on his parade. He looked a little sheepish but was deliciously unrepentant. "I find a key, I go visit! I LOCK MOMMY OUT!"

Was that... a threat? Dear God, he can open the deadbolt. In theory, he could leave me stranded in the hallway.

I love my two year old... but today we're going to the hardware store for a chain lock that he CAN'T reach to let himself out. And we're hiding our keys so he can't break into the neighbour's apartment!


Saturday, April 3, 2010

You Got a Friend in Me ~ (Either that, or in the Chihuahua)

Noah has a new favourite movie -- the Disney/Pixar classic Toy Story. I quite like it, too, since I remember watching it with my youngest siblings when THEY were Noah's age. It's a cute little movie, and my son's already singing "You got a friend in me" to people and pets and plant life alike.

Noah's not sure yet if he's in camp Woody or camp Buzz, but he has picked up on certain plot elements. He then applies them to his own life, which is rather unsettling (and reinforces our commitment to NOT let him watch Rambo until he's 25, despite his constant pleading.)

Yesterday morning when I popped him in the bath, he inspected the bottom of his foot. "Whatcha doing, Noah?" I asked. "Mommy or daddy writed der name on me? Hmm? Hmm?" Oh dear. Perhaps we should have, like Andy did to Buzz and Woody in his new movie. This wasn't in the adoption education training I took.... but I grabbed a bath crayon anyways. I got as far as drawing an orange "M" on the sole of my son's foot before the tickle factor spoiled my plans to "claim" Noah by marking him as mine. 

Despite getting off on the right foot, my love of Toy Story would turn to loathing later that afternoon. "Mommy, you gotta moving buddy?" Noah asked. (In Toy Story, all the toys choose a 'moving buddy' in an effort to keep everyone accounted for when the human family moves.) I thought "oh, how sweet." I smiled at my son and said "Noah, we're not moving, but if we do someday, do you want to be my moving buddy?"

He thought about it for a moment and shook his head "No, DADDY's my moving buddy." Fair enough, I thought. But I challenged his loyalty anyways... "Who's gonna be mommy's moving buddy then?"

And Noah pondered my question thoughtfully. "Mommy, you can have SANCHO." Which would be fine, except that Sancho is our neighbour's four pound chihuahua. Gee. Thanks, Noah.