On June 28th, friends and supporters of the Adoption Council of Ontario gathered together in a space graciously donated by KMPG to reflect on the year’s achievements. This included celebrating an organization that has grown so much from its small but ambitious beginnings 30 years ago. We also took the time to reflect on what the past 30 years has meant to us.
We asked - What’s Does ACO’s 30th mean to you?
- “Investment in the most critical foundation of society – FAMILY in whatever form “family” takes”
- “Hope that all kids will have a forever family.”
- “Support, hope, advocacy.”
- “A day when everyone can go ‘home for the holidays’”
- “Innovative adoption support + personal growth!”
Never Too Late for a Family
“Let’s say that 19, 20, or 25 is not too late for a family,” – Aviva Zukerman Schure.
Our special presentation for the evening focused on the importance of finding permanency for all children and youth, regardless of age. More than 60% of the 6000 children and youth in foster care are over 12, and often permanency planning for them does not include finding and building important lifelong connections. This doesn’t always have to look like ‘adoption’. Sometimes these connections can be made with key adults in the child’s life or through informal and/or moral adoption.
Aviva, who adopted her daughter at the age of 16, kicked off the presentation. Speaking about the importance of family connections into adulthood. What she has found is that adoption worked for her family, but after listening to young people for years about their experiences, this sort of arrangement might not work for all.
Chloe, who recently graduated from Queens University continued the presentation with Having the Ability to Beat the Odds Without a Forever Family Doesn’t Mean I Don’t Deserve One. Regardless of ‘success’, everyone deserves to have at least one supporting adult figure who loves them unconditionally. Chloe eloquently spoke about graduating university and creating her own support network. However achieving that success didn’t change the impact of not having a ‘home for the holidays’ or someone to rely on.
Through moral adoption, Wendy found this connection. When they made an adoption plan for her sister, she was ‘lucky’ that the new family wanted her to join them a year later. Wendy considers her placement to be the result of things ‘just working out’ and not intentional planning that kept her best interest at heart. She says that Luck is Not Enough for the future of 6000 children and youth in Ontario’s foster care system.
When an adoption placement happens, this is not the end. For Ashley, the importance of post-adoption support is paramount to the success of the family permanency lasting. In her presentation Adoption is Not a Fairy Tale Ending, Ashley spoke about how people will think that because someone has been adopted, they need no further support. But that’s not true. Mental health challenges and trauma that is experienced pre-placement does not magically go away because of adoption.
Why is all of this important? Brad movingly spoke from his heart about how permanency through adoption has affected his life. His family is there for him, through thick and thin. In the good times and the bad. At the end of the day, he has someone to come home to and talk to. Adopted from a young age, he knows that his experience could have been very different if he had grown up in the foster care system.
Family can and should look different for the children and youth we seek permanency for. Each of these young people is unique and to meet their needs, something we promised to do when they were apprehended from their families of origin, it’s time to rethink permanence.
Because everyone deserves a family.
We also honoured some amazing supporters with awards. Without the support of our sponsors, donors, and volunteers, we would not be able to continue doing this important work.
The Pat Fenton Award for outstanding volunteer commitment was given to Lori DeWitte for the work she has done in supporting us in our development of Trauma & Loss: Creating a School of Well-Being, a workshop for educators. She also supports many families in her community on their adoption journey. Lori defines the purpose of the Pat Fenton Award “to honour an ACO volunteer who has gone above and beyond in helping ACO develop programs for families and youth”.
“I wanted to express my appreciation for the recognition I received [at the AGM]. It was an absolute surprise.
ACO has a special place in my heart as it was through the support of the Education Days that I attended for years that helped me to parent Nicholas and be a better teacher and administrator. It has also provided me with opportunities to meet some very special people who have become very important in my life.
Again, many thanks. My award is coming to school with me!
Looking forward to ACT training in a few weeks.
Have a great summer!"
- Lori DeWitte
The Corporate Support Award was presented to Solar Power Network (SPN). SPN has been our corporate sponsor for the past 5 years. They have also supported and encouraged ACO to push forward in our work. SPN supported our first Journey Home Bus Tour; brought together partners in a faith-based community and supported meetings with youth programs and other community groups with like-minded goals for supporting youth and families. Unfortunately they were not able to attend the event, but we look forward to having a special ‘tea party’ with them in the near future.
The Foundation Support Award was presented to the Zukerman Family Foundation, a foundation that supports innovative programs that build on partnerships to ensure sustainable and evidence-based programs. This foundation supported ACO with an annual gift designated to a specific program. Pathways to Permanence 2 was launched with their support, enabling us bring this amazing program to over 500 Ontario adoptive and kinship families since 2015.
The Youth Advocacy Award was presented to Ashley Ash. Ashley has been a member of the ACO Youth Network since its first meeting in 2011. The Network is funded by the Circle for Children Foundation, the first foundation to provide funding to post-adoption support in Ontario. Ashley has worked diligently since her first youth meeting to support the development of our Youth Network while also writing and speaking about the importance of family for Ontario Crown Wards. Ashley currently works at the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth as a Youth Amplifier and is in her 4th year of a Social Work program at Ryerson University. Ashley plans to become a child advocate when she completes her university education in social work and law.
As we celebrate 30 years, we are so grateful to our community for your support and commitment for your work towards a community where all children have a family forever.
Celebrate 30 years with us!
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