National Volunteer Week is April 10 – 16th. The Adoption Council of Ontario has many volunteers that we rely on for important work to happen in Ontario’s adoption community. We are thankful all year round, but we would like to take some time this month to remind our volunteer community how much we appreciate all of their contributions.
Meet Bev, Search and Reunion Expert – 2015 Pat Fenton Volunteer of the Year Award Winner
Beverly Nettleton has dedicated over 400 hours in 2 years as a volunteer with the ACO. She has made a difference by helping adoptees and birth parents by supporting their journey of search and reunion.
Bev started her work in this area with Toronto CAS, running groups for birthparents and adoptees. Later with helping former Crown Ward’s search for relatives. Though her main job was providing non-identifying histories to any of the parties involved in an adoption, Bev was instrumental in connecting birth families and adoptees after receiving letters at the agency and knowing both parties.
Despite fears and worries that permeate ‘closed adoption’ reunions, Bev notes that meeting birth family members often help strengthen relationships within the adoptive family.
When Bev retired from her CAS job, she came directly to ACO to help out. “I really like the ACO’s philosophy on adoption…so it just seemed like a really good spot to be.” One of her primary responsibilities is running ACO’s Search and Reunion group that meets on a monthly basis. She also works one-on-one with adoptees and birth parents giving them advice and guidance through a journey that can be daunting and confusing at times.
“It [is] just so gratifying,” Bev says describing what it was like when ‘strangers who are related’ finally get to meet someone that ‘looks like them’. A lot of people began searching because they wanted access to medical histories, however it was often about much more than that.
Despite fears and worries that permeate ‘closed adoption’ reunions, Bev notes that meeting birth family members often help strengthen relationships within the adoptive family. As an adoptive parent, Bev understands the fears of having your child meet their birth family but she also strongly believes that everybody has a right to know their background. “Personality-wise, quirks, all that stuff,” nurture definitely brings a family formed through adoption together, but nature also plays a role in who people are. “When you see two people [related by blood] who meet, the similarities are generally, phenomenal”.
Social media platforms like Facebook, have added another layer to the area of search and reunion that has both opportunities and challenges. Helping people manage their expectations during this process is a big part of Bev’s work with ACO.
“I just think people who can, should [give back]. If you have the opportunity to do something for other people I think it’s really important to do that. With the financial aspects [of] so many organizations…without volunteers, how do you keep going? ” Bev says.
We know that without Bev, and all the volunteers at the ACO, we would not be able to provide the much needed work that is being done in the adoption community.
Every week’ and every day, ACO benefits from the hard work and dedication of volunteers, like Bev, who give us the gift of their time, expertise and tireless support.
A REALLY BIG THANKS to Bev and all of our volunteers.
Today is World Autism Awareness Day! Some of the children and youth who are awaiting adoption in the province of Ontario live with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), but what does that mean? ASD is like many diagnoses, it is a spectrum and looks different for every individual. Popular movies such as “My name is Khan”, “I am Sam”, and “The Other Sister” show people living with ASD on various ‘positions’ of the spectrum, from mild to more severe.
So what does it mean to parent a child/youth living with ASD?
Remember, living with Autism affects everyone differently. It is important to look past the diagnosis to learn about the uniqueness of the individual. Like all of us, children and youth presenting with needs because of their diagnosis have unique talents, interest, and hobbies that make them exceptional.
Let us take a look at some key elements to consider when hearing about a child or youth with ASD.
Autism is a spectrum. This means that some children may just need some visual reminders in to complete tasks and some children may need further interventions and supports. Characteristics of the spectrum vary significantly from person to person. When you are learning about a child ask the questions about what is needed day to day to support them in being successful.
With support, children and youth living with autism can form meaningful friendships. This can take time and their friendships can look different as they have unique ways of communicating.
With the right supports, the stability of a loving home, access to resources and being taught tools and techniques many children living with Autism can become successful and independent adults. As prospective adoptive parents you can help a child in reaching their fullest potential.
Many children and youth living with ASD have very unique gifts and talents. Some can memorize maps, or solve and any mathematical equations. Others are very creative and artistic.
Learn More: AdoptOntario's Understanding Autsim
If you are considering parenting a child with this need visit the Understanding Special Needssection on the AdoptOntario website. You can also do further reading on many other special needs to open your heart and mind to parenting a child with special needs.
AdoptOntario's Understanding Autism Video
Did you know?
There are many famous and successful celebrities and business people that are on the ASD spectrum. To learn more click here.
Share with us!
Do you parent a child/youth living with ASD?
Are you an individual living with ASD?
Are you considering adopting a child/youth living with ASD?
We want to learn more about your experiences. Leave a comment below or on Facebook. You can also tweet us at @ontarioadopts #UnderstandingAutism
Tomorrow is World Autism Awareness Day! What is your experience of Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Today as we celebrate the first day of spring, we also start the countdown to FunWalk 2016! We’re getting ‘suited up’ for this year’s event. Last year we raised over $50,000 of much needed funds in support of the evidence based, cutting edge work of the Adoption Council of Ontario!
But FunWalk is more than just a fundraiser, it’s a family event with SUPER sized fun.
Kids (and parents) this year come dressed as your favourite super hero, villian – or create your own costume (towel capes totally count) and show off your costume for a chance to win a prize!
So save the date (Sunday September 18th) and be sure to keep an eye out for monthly updates and sneak peeks of exciting prizes.
Registration opens in June!
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Almost every parent has experienced this, but as adoptive parents, it can happen more often, especially after a transition, seeing their birth family, or a trigger that sometimes we don't always know about or understand.
Regression is when a child has abilities, acts a certain way but then loses their abilities or starts to act younger than their biological age.
My children, who have lived with us for seven months, transitioned into our house beautifully, their skills increased and they became the happiest children. They usually meet their birth family once every other month. But then something happened, I don't know what. My children are three, with a limited vocabulary, so they couldn’t tell me what happened, but they regressed.
I have learned to be patient, watch and observe my children, let them be my guide as to what they are ready to relearn...
It was heartbreaking to watch them lose some of their new found skills, their independence, and the ability to enjoy their sibling by playing with them. They cried, threw temper tantrums, stopped trying to use the potty, whined, and hit each other. All I could ask is what happened? Why were my usually happy children behaving this way? Was it the terrible two's or had something triggered, and if so what?
I stopped took a deep breath, and remembered what my mom said. When her father died, her mom lived in a fog for the first year, going to work, coming home and not really remembering anything that she did. My mom told me we give adults the time to grieve, but with children we expect them to carry on, continue to learn skills, continue to go to activities and behave like they are supposed to yet, they have so much going on in their little heads, so much to process.
I have learned to be patient, watch and observe my children, let them be my guide as to what they are ready to relearn, talk about, or if they need cuddles and kisses, and some tumble play. I may be that parent who is ‘feeding into a temper tantrum’, but our children come with a history that we don't always know about and sometimes, they just need cuddles.
So don't stress if your child has regressed. They are working through something, and they can't deal with it and continue to grow at the same time. They will eventually catch up again, and then probably regress. It’s one step forward, one step back.
When my children began to play with each other again, it was the sweetest moment, and I was so proud of them. I watched them from a far, almost crying because I knew whatever they working through in their heads had somehow been figured out. I knew they could do it!
Learn more about regressive behavior, why it happens, and how to manage it in the AdoptOntarioUnderstanding Special Needs sections:
The ACO was thrilled and very grateful that the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services funded six offerings of the Pathways training program from January to March 2016. Pathways to Permanence 2 is an 8-week specialized training program for adoptive and kinship parents and customary care caregivers who are parenting children who have trauma and loss as part of their history. The ACO acquired the exclusive Ontario rights to this amazing training program in 2015 and has 22 skilled professionals from across the province trained in delivering it.
The Winter sessions were offered in Barrie, Hamilton, Kanata, London, Richmond Hill and Thunder Bay. The response to the announcement of the six inaugural offerings was phenomenal! Each session "sold out" very quickly. Within two weeks of opening registrations all but one location was filled and the remaining one reached capacity shortly thereafter. Clearly the course is filling a large gap in need for our families
Currently over 100 Ontario families are participating in the Winter Pathways training program. Though the 8-week courses are not yet complete, here's what Ontario families are saying so far about the Pathways training and what they are finding most relevant:
This training lessens the guilt as we understand more about our kids. When we understand our child's behaviours, we don't blame them. We can be their allies instead of wondering why they are acting a certain way. I can look at my child without feeling guilty.
Sometimes I feel judged by others. Now I'm learning skills and reasons for the behaviours. Maybe what I did was okay.
I now have more empathy for my child.
We have been wondering if we are the right parents for our child. Now, I see other peoples struggles too and I feel like we are the right parents. We just need to look at things differently and parent differently.
I can't believe it, but this stuff works! I have been trying some new techniques and it really does work.
We are not alone - others are going through similar things.
Appreciated the overview of what it means to be adopted for us, our children and their birth parents.
That is it ok to allow time to grieve both for us and our children.
The discussion on traditional parenting vs developmental parent vs empathetic "buckets" parenting.
Just how everyone "gets it".
From Richmond Hill:
We are not the only ones having a hard time.
Understanding the connection between loss/grieving and behaviour.
Loss and Grief and the Seven Core Issues.
The videos and exercises.
Understanding of permanence.
Video showing adopted kids' memories and children's point of view.
Loved this class - showed us some of the "how to's"
Nice to learn we are not alone. Class discussions and insight shared by the group.
Food and babysitting much appreciated!
Strategies (were most relevant) - thank you!
Good session! Very interactive - solid learning!
Group discussion and activity about decoding behaviours (was most relevant).
Best week so far!
From Thunder Bay
Having the diverse group of people/experiences/families, group discussions.
Feeling not alone.
The feelings of how adoption affects youth from the video.
...we have not yet dealt with a lot (of the issues) from the video but in the future we will be more prepared to deal with things that come up.
Very excited about learning with my partner.
Awesome! Just so much content to squeeze in.
I feel I am going to enjoy learning more about adoption. Good group!
Once the six trainings are complete we will be compiling overall evaluation results with the assistance of the University of Toronto's Faculty of Social Work who are working with us on the evaluation of Pathways' effectiveness in Ontario.
What's Next for Pathways 2?
We are very excited to launch the next series of offerings for the Spring of 2016. We will be offering the Pathways course in Bracebridge, Brampton, Brantford, Kingston, Kitchener, Peterborough, Sarnia and Toronto beginning in April. Registration for these offerings is now available on our event listing.
We're also including a very brief survey to find out where you'd like Pathways to come next and what time of the day and week works best for you. You can do the survey here.
We plan to offer Pathways in a couple of areas including Northern Ontario in the summer months and then offer a larger number again in the Fall. We generally offer the program on weeknights or on Saturdays but are experimenting this Spring with a course in Toronto by offering it during a weekday time in response to feedback from families. We intend to offer an evening course in the GTA region again, likely in the Fall.
And finally, as an important note, the ACO's vision and PACT training initiative also involves the training of child welfare and mental health professionals to become more "adoption and permanency competent". At the same time as launching Pathways for parents, we have also launched a training program for professionals. It 's called the "ACT" training program - ACT:an Adoption and Permanency Curriculum for Child Welfare and Mental Health Professionals. We are gradually rolling it out across the province as well. We want families to have specialized training and understanding, but we also recognize that the professionals that they deal with also need specialized training and understanding. Only then will our children and families be best served.
So, take the Pathways training and encourage the professionals you deal with to get trained through ACT as well!!
The Adoption Council of Ontario is a not-for-profit providing outreach, support and education to all adoptees, adoptive parents, potential adoptive parents, birth families, and adoption professionals in Ontario. We deal with public adoption, private adoption, international adoption and relative adoption. Since 1987, we have been working towards a provincial community where all children have families forever.
We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Ontario Trillium Foundation. The Ontario Trillium Foundation is an agency of the government of Ontario.