Written by: Wendy Hayes and Ashley Ash (shown respectively below), young people who have experienced adoption from the child welfare system.
In Ontario, as many as 1000 adoptions happen for kids from the care system every year. Though adoption often improves the potential outcomes for young people through providing permanency and stability, the trauma we experienced in our lives before adoption, and any mental health challenges or special needs we live with, don’t magically “go away” when our adoptions are finalized.
For Ashley, adopted at 12 by a single mother who had already adopted a younger daughter internationally, the work didn’t even begin until she was adopted. “I felt so many conflicting emotions at the time, happy to be leaving my foster home and the system, excitement about having a new family and grief over the life I was turning away from.”
...it is essential to children leaving care that mental health supports are in place.
The biggest surprise for Ashley
was that she could not indefinitely close that chapter of her life, the trauma she had faced when she was younger continued to affect her in her new home. Ashley began to attend therapy to help her work through the impact her first 12 years had on her.
“I was lucky to have a mother who could afford therapy but not every family can and it is essential to children leaving care that mental health supports are in place.”
The trauma we go through is not easily reparable. It takes time to transition into a new family and a new life. Support is needed. New adoptive parents need education to understand that things like crying during the holidays, anxiety over starting at a new school and other triggers can still remain long after we leave the system. They need ongoing support in helping their children manage these emotions and learning to heal.
The scars we carry around from our old lives are not visible but they remain, and they have a lasting effect on us. Adoption is a unique process for each family and while at times challenging, it is ultimately a beautiful one
Tomorrow, May 14th, is Children and Youth in Care Day, a provincial day to bring Ontario’s attention to the children and youth in care. On this day, we urge that you to not forget the young people who have experienced adoption. Remember the challenges they face, remember the challenges their parents face.
Most of all, consider those who have not had successful placements and are moved back into the foster care system, or become homeless.
Consider The Family Effect:
Support The Family Effect, Invest in Building Families.
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