Kids Need Families and Families Need Support

Adoption Myth #5

"Older children can't be or don't want to be adopted."

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Adoption Blog

Older Youth Adoption: A Youth Perspective | Guest Blogger

AshleyI am one of the 5% of almost 7,000 children and youth in our foster care system who was adopted between the ages of 13-18. I met my mother, Elaine when I was 12, the adoption was finalized a year later and I officially was part of my forever family. You often hear the term “forever family”.  It may sound strange, but to me, it encompasses everything an adoptive family is and should be. A foster family is simply not a ‘forever family’.

I remember the emotions I felt when I was going in and out of the eight foster homes I was in previous to my adoption. Whether or not you are included in the family vacation this year, how you are introduced differently than the birth children or simple things like not knowing whether you would be welcome during holiday parties, these are the things that many older children in foster care experience. I often felt that foster parents brushed off and diminished my feelings.  I tried to convince myself that I was lucky enough to be somewhere other than the home I was born into.

The challenge becomes one of the child and adoptive parent, taking two previous separate lives and making one together.

I look back now and see that I was lucky, but I deserved more. I was worthy of love despite my older age. I wasn’t “difficult” or “unruly” in fact I was quite the opposite, overly pleasing and attentive of others needs because I tried extravagantly to prove to others that I was likable despite my situation.

My mother, Elaine, is my best friend and I am so happy for the forces of the universe that ‘matched’ us. My mother has my back no matter what situation I am in. Last September I remember packing my bedroom away as I prepared to move to my University residence. I stood in my almost empty room crying while holding a pack of hangers. My friend reminded me that I had a lot of unhappy moves and this was first time I could really know I was going to return home – this is what a ‘forever home’ is. I learned that I could come home whenever and be welcomed. I also learned that I was missed when I wasn’t home.

One of my most reassuring moments was when I was worried about getting into the University program I desperately wanted to be in. When I was put on a waiting list I was devastated and my intelligence and personal worth. I called my mother, who listened to me cry, calmed me down and reminded me that no matter what happened she had a plan. I would be okay because she would be by my side.

You can’t imagine the feeling I had in that moment. Even though my path may not go in a straight line, I had my mother to pick me up, brush me off and steer me into the right lane. For the first time in my life I felt worry and strain leave me and my whole body sighed with relief. That is what you are giving an older child when you adopt them, the immeasurable security of having someone you can rely on forever.

It may seem daunting, to think of being a parent to a youth. Older children have a backstory that is usually not so easy to forget and will be triggered at times. The challenge becomes one of the child and adoptive parent, taking two previous separate lives and making one together.

The stigma behind older child adoptions needs to stop.

It’s true our lives weren’t as consistent or stable as other children but this can be a positive. I have seen the bad things, I have lived the bad things but I am not dark inside or angry because of it. I move forward and I continue with hope because I have a parent who ‘has my back’.

I won’t lie, the process is hard and challenging at times but it will be worth it. Every day I am amazed that I got to be one of the few who made it out of the child welfare system okay. I have unwavering assistance in all areas of my life and above all a Family to rely on.

The clock is ticking for older youth in the child welfare system. Adoption will change their life and it will change yours too.


Ashley, 18 is a part of the ACO's Youth Network. This fall she will be returning to University to pursue her Social Work degree. Ashley's writing has received national recognition by the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Student Nonfiction Writing Contest. We would like to thank her for her contribution. If you would like to be a guest blogger, please contact us at info@adoption.on.ca.


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Posted: July 27, 2015 at 10:40 AM
By: Wendy Hayes
(2) Comment/s | Categories: Adoptees Adoption Awareness Month Guest Blogger Youth Network
The Clock is Ticking!

In Ontario almost 7,000 children and youth are Crown Wards.  We know that everyone of these children needs to leave the foster care system with a family before they turn 18. 

More than 5,000 of our Crown Wards are over the age of 12. These are the young people most at risk of aging out without a forever family. Only 5% of children and youth adopted were ages 13-18.7

7 OACAS 2013-2014 Child Welfare Service Survey which represents 40 of the 44 member agencies

We know that the outcomes for Youth who age out of foster care are not good.  Research and experience have repeatedly reminded us:

  • Fewer than 50% will complete high school.1
  • Fewer than 3% will earn a college/university degree.1

Based on research in other jurisdictions, we can also assume that:

  • Within the first two years of leaving care 25% will become homeless and 25% will become incarcerated.2
  • More than 50% will have a psychiatric diagnosis.2
  • 25% to 33% will suffer from PTSD.2
  • 60% of the young women leaving care will have had a child within four years and that child is twice as likely to end up in care.2

1 OACAS
2 Camillia Network; Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption; Evan B. Donaldson Institute for Adoption 2012

IF we truly believe that Every KID DESERVES A FAMILY – every day and all year long, then the month of July, half way through our 2014 Adoption Awareness month campaign, is as good a time as any to re-commit to the actions that will make this slogan a reality.

What can you do?

Have a sense of urgency about how truly important it is to get children out of temporary foster care and into families that can make the lifetime commitment they need most. 

If you are a family or adoption worker are you:

  • Doing EVERYTHING possible to work with community programs to support a safe return of a child to birth parents?
  • Exploring all of the possible kinship family options?
  • Working with family members to learn everything possible about a child’s history from the perspective of lived experiences as well as family social and medical histories that can guide you in planning for children? 
  • Talking with the child to explain what has happened in their life and what might happen in the future?
  • Working with your community medical, education and mental health programs to get the early assessments that will guide the best planning for the child while they are in foster care?
  • Taking the time to learn about new research and education that will help you make timely but informed decisions for a child in care. (click to ACT page)

If you are a CAS manager or government program manager are you:

  • Examining your policies, guidelines and procedures to ensure that they are fully focused on the importance of timely permanency for waiting children?
  • Updating antiquated rules and guidelines that don’t reflect the reality of permanency planning today such as:
    1. You can’t adopt out of birth order
    2. Every child needs a traditional two-parent family
    3. Adoptive families should be able to manage the children they adopt without ongoing support
    4. Siblings can be separated if they are young and don’t remember each other
    5. Adoptive parents are not willing to adopt children if openness is required.
    6. Only a family in the same community can be considered for an older child who has established connections.
    7. Families don’t really want to adopt children with special needs
  • Working with all of the programs and resources available to your agency – AdoptOntario; MCYS Provincial and Regional Adoption Resource Exchange; Targeted and Permanency Funding Subsidy programs and guidelines; Approved Private Adoption Practitioners and Adoption Licencees

If you are a parent who is considering adoption have you:

If none of the above categories describe you- you can still be part of the solution. Consider:

  • Joining the ACO to Invest in Building Families - as a donor, sponsor or member. 
  • Being an advocate for waiting children by learning more about adoption and permanency planning for waiting children and youth.
  • Spreading the word on social media – you can find plenty of resources on ACO’s Facebook & Twitter.

7,000 children is a lot of children and if more people take the time to understand the issues and be a voice for waiting children – ACTION will happen.  

Every year in Ontario about 1,000 youth leave foster care without a family. Every day the clock is ticking for every child who is not living with a permanent family. Adoption can be the answer for children who cannot return to the family they were born into. 

We also know that the journey can be fraught with hurdles, barriers and curves in the road. As a province we must all commit to working together to reduce the barriers, support families with the challenges and build partnerships for permanency that will ensure that every child and youth has a FAMILY – to grow up and grow old in.  

The Clock is ticking – click here to take the TIME to learn more.

Related: Older Youth Adoption: A Youth Perspective | Guest Blogger


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Posted: July 17, 2015 at 09:44 AM
By: Wendy Hayes
(0) Comment/s | Categories: AdoptOntario Adoption Awareness Month Adoption Support
Happy Pride!

This weekend Toronto will be host to the colourful and exciting Pride Parade celebrating the diversity of the LBGT community.  We want to take advantage of the buzz around this event to shout out our praise for the many LBGT individuals and families who are also members of adoptive families.  YES – LGBT parents can adopt! Attracting different kinds of families, who bring unique strengths and experiences to their parenting journey, helps us to build a strong adoption community, capable of meeting the diverse needs of the children in our care systems. 

If you are interested in learning more about LBGT adoption, here is a resource that is worth a read:

https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/factsheets/faq-lgbt/

You can also sign up for a How to Adopt webinar and we can walk you through the initial outreach and preparation for adoption planning. Check out our events page to find an upcoming session.

Pride celebrations give us the opportunity to raise awareness about the many youth in our foster care system who identify as LBGT. These youth need our support and understanding in dealing with emotional and identity issues along with the challenges of life in foster care and possibly moving to adoption. 

“The National Network of Runaway and Youth Services has estimated that 20-40 percent of youth who become homeless each year are LGBT. And of the more than 100,000 youth ages 12- 18 who are in foster care, an estimated 10 percent are LGBT.” (Every Child, Rita Soronen)

We believe that all children deserve permanency. Our programs and services are open and ready to help youth and their families – foster and adoption – in a safe and inclusive environment.   

Our very own Joanne Hoffman, Permanency and Adoption Support Worker, will be walking in the Pride parade this weekend with the OASW group. If you see her in the crowd be sure to say hello!

Happy Pride Toronto! Be sure to give us a shout about any Pride events you are participating in: 

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Posted: June 26, 2015 at 06:00 AM
By: Wendy Hayes
(0) Comment/s | Categories: AdoptOntario Adoption Support Events How To Adopt Youth Network
Children and Youth in Care Day 2015

May 14th is Children and Youth in Care Day. Did you know that the province of Ontario is the legal guardian of more than 7000 Children and Youth in the province?

Invest in Building FamiliesOn my 21st birthday, instead of a card, I received what is called a “Letter of Termination” from my legal guardian. It informed me that I could no longer count on the support of my Children’s Aid, and had to try and manage without them. On that day I was also lucky enough to be standing in my home, with my family. Though I knew then I would be okay and I knew I had someone to turn to in that moment, I still got a little choked up. 

I thought about the over 7000 still in care who would one day receive this letter on their birthday, after already having been told they can no longer live in their foster or group home by the age of 19. They might not be standing next to anyone. I asked myself, who would buy them their birthday cake that year?

My sister and I were adopted when she was three, and I was fifteen. At first, it wasn’t the plan that I would be adopted, in fact I was told that at that time that I might not even had been able to keep my relationship with my sister. Luckily, the family that decided to adopt her wanted to keep me in her life, wanted me to become a part of their lives. This permanency in my life has led me to have more confidence and stability. I haven’t had to try and get an education while worrying how my sister is doing, or if I would have enough money for rent the next month. I was lucky enough to have a sense of security.

Those who age out of care are not as lucky. Back in 2011/2012, as I and my peers sifted through personal stories and experiences of those who know life in the system and tried to organize it into the My REAL Lifebook report we came up with six reoccurring themes. They are:

  • We are Vulnerable
  • We are Isolated
  • We are left out of our Lives
  • No one is really there for us
  • Care in unpredictable
  • Care ends and we struggle.

“I already had my family taken away once, and it was probably the hardest thing in my life. I didn’t know where else to turn or what I was going to do, and when I turn 21, it’s all going to happen again.”
Excerpt from the My REAL Lifebook Report, Brandon, 20, Youth in Care 

This is what a lack of stability and permanency looks like, for 7000 of Ontario’s children and youth who have been removed from their homes by a system which promised them that they would find somewhere better, somewhere safer. 

We learned that aging out was about the events leading up to it. Events that have a profound effect on who you are and your life and require the support of ongoing unconditional commitment to work through. Some people, like myself will find this through adoption.

You may have noticed that I have used the word luck several times. It’s because it’s a word I have heard a lot. How lucky, that my family wanted me. How lucky that I got to keep a relationship with my sister. How lucky I am that it worked out this way. For most, it does not work out that way.

I do not believe that this is untrue, I think luck did play a part. I just don’t think it’s what we should be relying on when we talk about the future of over 7000 children and youth in care.  Supporting the Adoption Council of Ontario means relying less on luck and more on action. It means keeping the promise that was made to us when we were removed from our homes. So please, invest in building permanency, invest in building family.

 

 

“We are, after all, YOUR children, Ontario.”
Excerpt from the My REAL Lifebook Report, Justine, 25, Former Youth in Care

Written By: Wendy Hayes

Posted: May 14, 2015 at 07:32 AM
By: Wendy Hayes
(0) Comment/s | Categories: Events Youth Network
Open For Discussion: Adoption Training for Professionals and Families

The first recorded adoption story is of Baby Moses. Because his mother couldn't keep him safe and care for him she put him in a basket and floated him down the river knowing the Pharaoh’s sister would be bathing along the way. As she had hoped, the sister found the baby and ‘adopted’ him.  

Do you also know that this is the first story of an Open Adoption? Moses’s mother attended the Queen’s court and became her son’s nurse.

I knew very little about openness adoption. It was explained very well through different points of view.
-Mental Health Professional

Research and experience tell us that openness (ongoing contact) between birth and adoptive families is good for everyone – especially for children.  In Ontario, our legislation tells us that openness should be considered whenever a child being placed for adoption has made or maintained connections with foster and birth family while in the foster care system.  

Useful to hear specific examples of how challenging situations have been managed and that openness can still work in these situations 
-Children’s Lawyer

But building openness plans is not always easy. It can be challenging to know how to orchestrate a plan - a lot of decisions about the structure, logistics and boundaries of plan have to be made while adults also learn to communicate with each other, build new relationships and anticipate how they will manage changes that will need to be made over the years. 

On Friday May 1st more than 200 Ontario adoption professionals and adoptive families met together to talk in depth about this topic – sharing perspectives and experiences about all aspects of planning for openness in adoption.

The training was a good variety of perspectives regarding openness. It was well planned for me well received to push my thinking in the area of openness.
-Adoption Worker

At the end of the day we all committed to continue our learning by sharing resources and materials on this topic including a number of great resources already available. Please have a look at our resources and share with us your resources, experiences and questions about Open Adoption. 

Posted: May 6, 2015 at 09:16 AM
By: Wendy Hayes
(0) Comment/s | Categories: ACO Education Day Events

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