Written by: Kimberley Miller, Permanency and Adoption Support Services
What a difference a year makes; from one night to two and from the pouring rain to the hot blazing sun. June 24 to 26, 2016 marked the second annual camping trip for Youth Network Group members and their families, held at Earl Rowe Provincial Park. This gathering was initiated by the Simcoe County Adoption Connections Youth Group last year as a way to bring together Youth with an adoption or permanence experience and their families with others of similar make up. Last year there were 33 people, this year 59.
What was most remarkable to me were the connections that were made; by the youth from three different areas (Simcoe, GTA and London); by the parents and other adult relatives; and between older youth and younger children. It was a wonderful weekend to be a part of and to witness; as older youth took on roles of leadership and responsibility for younger children and teens. The word adoption was rarely used, if ever, throughout the weekend. It was not necessary. It did not matter, and yet it does matter.
There was no one there to ask “Are all these your children?” to a multiracial family. There was no one there to ask “Which child is adopted?” to a family of both biological and adopted children. There was no one to judge when one child stuck to the adults rather than play with the other children. There was no one to ask a child or youth “Why did your real parents give you away?” There was comradery and fun; whether that was the children, youth and young adults playing “Capture the Flag”, “Manhunt” and water balloon games; or whether it was the adults who got a chance to talk, laugh and connect with other parents and enjoy watching their kids be kids. They could be just that. Kids. They did not have to worry about being found out or explaining their story. There was a real and palpable sense of “community” during this weekend.
Each family shared something (chips and dip, frozen raspberries, marshmallows, homemade muffins, Portuguese pastries, vats of Tim Horton’s coffee and let’s not forget the popsicles! Oh those popsicles that were so appreciated by kids and adults alike.)
They, in turn received something too; a sense of being understood and accepted. A relief of not having to explain their child and families dynamics. Some fun and laughter together and individually. Parents have already started wondering about how big it will be next year and plan on coming again. The youth are looking forward to the next event where they can see their old and new friends again and feel that same sense of acceptance and friendship.
A big thanks goes out to all of the organizers of the event, but an even bigger thank you goes out to the leaders of the Youth Networks, who showed real leadership during the weekend and a commitment to connect with kids. You should be very proud of yourselves.
Until next year!
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