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.