Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sibling Lessons from My Four Year Old

Our family recently adopted a kitten. Bella is spunky, snuggly, and at times, appropriately naughty. She's a good match for our son!

When we went to pick her up, we had to choose between her and several other cats. We wanted a short to medium-haired kitten with a snuggly, laid-back personality. Our mission was to adopt just ONE animal.

I advocate for sibling adoption on a daily basis in the HUMAN world, so I felt entitled to ignore that practice when it came to feline family members.

Unfortunately, I stand corrected - because my four year old watches. And listens. And remembers EVERYTHING.

Last week, Noah was asking about Bella and what she did all day long while we were at work and school. "Well, she plays. And sleeps. And eats her food and drinks water."

Noah looked horrified. "But who does she PLAY WITH?" he demanded. What an excellent question, I thought. "Well, she plays with her toys and she plays by herself."

His mind flashed back to the day we adopted the kitten. "Bella has a BROTHER Mommy. We should have brought HIM home, too! He was black and white and didn't like cuddles, but he liked you! They could have played TOGETHER!"

My child, who often refuses to follow the simplest request, had a photographic memory of our cat's litter mate and every aspect of its personality. I started to feel guilty about splitting up the "sibling set". He was right... how could we split them up?

That's when my pre-schooler looked me in the eye and said "Haven't you learned ANYTHING from me and J, Mommy?" (he demanded, referring to his older brother who lives with his adoptive family.) I had to think about that for a while.... he recognized the injustice of growing up apart from his brother. Noah knows most brothers and sisters live together - animals included.

Noah is righteously indignant that we consciously decided NOT to adopt our kitten's brother. Now I feel like a failure as a cat 'parent'! I suppose it's because deep down I'm really a dog person.... and I'm sorry, Noah, if having just one kitten is hard on you.

Thank you for teaching me, son, and yet again putting life into perspective!

Adoptions Slumber Down Under

When I was researching Aboriginal adoption in Canada, I came across some research papers and reports from Australia. Our histories of unjust practices involving Aboriginal adoption are sadly parallel. I wanted to see what solutions Australia was implementing to ensure history did not repeat itself. What I learned was partly reassuring - they, too, introduced cultural planning into current adoption practices. But when I scratched the surface, I was shocked to discover just how RARE adoptions are in Australia.

Many countries are seeing significant drops in adoption numbers, Canada and the US included. So I shouldn't have been shocked to read that last year Australia also reported its lowest number of adoptions on record. Ever.

If you had to wager a guess, how many adoptions do you think a nation of 22.7 million people would have? Keep in mind that Canada had almost 2,000 international adoptions alone last year, with our population of 34.5 million. BC usually averages 700 adoptions per year (international, local, and foster child adoptions combined).

Would you be surprised to learn the Australian number for TOTAL adoptions was only 384? 

Half joined their families through international adoption, and the majority of local adoptions involved step-parent, relative, or the adoption of children who already knew their adoptive parent(s). The rest - 49 children (the size of two kindergarten classes) - accounted for every adoption of local Australian children by parents previously unknown to them.  

49 kids! I've heard of individual FAMILIES with close to that many adoptive offspring. So why are the numbers so low? Or.... am I asking the wrong question. Are Canadian numbers simply HIGH compared to our commonwealth cousins? What do you think? Are we doing enough for kids in care? How can we do even better?
The Australian - Lowest Adoption Numbers on Record