Children and Youth in Care Day is this Sunday, May 14th.
Did you know that the province of Ontario is the legal guardian of more than 6000 Children and Youth in the province?
Adoption is what sometimes happens when a child in foster care cannot go home to their birth family. It gives a child the opportunity to have committed family to grow up and grow old in. Adoption is a lifelong, intergenerational process that actually unites the birth families, adoptees, and adoptive families forever.
We celebrate adoption in our society, including kin and customary care adoption, for the opportunities it provides for a child especially in comparison to the challenges youth face when leaving foster care without the support of a safe and loving family.
And while adoption can lead to great joy and it also brings tremendous pain. At the heart of adoption is the reason a child needs to be adopted, to begin with, a traumatic experience.
As professionals and parents, it’s easy to assume that we know best when it comes to making decisions for these children. We do it out of love, out of a desire to protect, but we also bring our own personal biases and preconceived ideas of their experiences. We bring our own feelings to the relationship.
We often hear comments like “this child just needs to forget their birth family and move on”, “this child does not know they have sibling so why rock the boat now”, and “this child has so many other issues that the adoptive family will need to deal with let’s not overwhelm them with too much information about the birth family, or worse, a requirement to maintain a connection with a birth family member’ (we call this Openness).”
We need to think about the lifelong impact of decisions we make.
A story of a young person who was adopted:
“Everyone told me I was lucky. And I was, being able to stay with my sibling, finding an adoptive family that wanted me, a teen. But because all anyone could focus on was the positive, complex issues caused by the adoption, which would have a lasting effect on my mental health and my relationship with my adoptive parents, were overlooked.
I internalized all this positivity to the point where I could not understand or process the anger, pain and confusion I was feeling as a result. It’s done irreparable damage to my relationship with my adoptive parents and my sibling. All this was a summation of decisions that were made about our placements. Decisions that I assume were made in our best interest, but ultimately without taking the time to talk to me and to understand the scope of their impact. Why? Because ‘adoption is good’.
Maybe if someone had taken that time with me, we could have anticipated these challenges and be prepared to face them as a family.”
-Young person with experience in foster care and adoption.
We all want what’s best for these children and youth. Today on Children and Youth in Care Day, let’s consider how we can make sure we’re truly keeping them at the center, even if it seems ‘harder’. Ultimately, doing the work now will help everyone navigate the challenges presented in the long run.
Here are some key ways we can do that;
- Digging deep to know the details of a child’s story
- Giving families the education and tools they need to help a child integrate their story ongoing
- Finding ways to ensure openness with their birth family after adoption
- Providing the space for children and youth to express their thoughts, wishes and experiences, honestly taking them into consideration, even if we don’t agree with them.
This blog was inspired by the film Truth or Consequences. Learn more here.
Where did Children and Youth in Care Day come from?
Establishing a day to keep the conversation about child welfare going was part of several recommendations by the My REAL Lifebook report created by the Our Voice Our Turn team at the Office of the Provincial Advocate. This unique report was written and created by young people in and from child welfare care. Learn more here.
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