As COVID-19 began to impact more and more families and schools were closing in the spring, it became clear to us that families needed support.
Initially, we heard that some families were enjoying spending time together at home, they were doing more family activities such as baking, cooking, playing games, playing outside and going for walks. However, as time went on, we decided that we would offer kid’s sessions to our Pathways families as a way to offer parents a break. We recruited some of our experienced Pathways childcare providers to see if they were interested in assisting us. They were very eager to organize activities and games virtually for the kids. We organized groups of kids based on their age: 3-7 years, 8-11 years and 12-15 years. We also organized youth sessions for youth aged 16 and older which are co-lead by a child and youth worker who is also an adoptee. The groups were available to kids and youth across Ontario.
These groups became a hit and parents were thrilled with the breaks. Some parents commented on the social skills that their kids were developing, while others expressed a deep appreciation for the sessions especially in areas of the province where services were very limited.
We had kids from all over the province join us. They were excited to learn about those that lived in the far north and often saw bears, to those that lived in cities and longed to see wildlife.
We began offering the kid sessions monthly in the spring, and once we saw they were being welcomed by families, we decided that we would offer them weekly during July and August as a kind of daytime camp-like experience. These sessions quickly became a hit! Kid’s joined us from their parents ‘car on road trips, from the comfort of their living rooms and we even had a few join us from their campsite! Kids from all across our province attend including areas such as Sioux Lookout, Toronto, Hamilton, London, St.Mary;s, Barrie, Bracebridge, Markham, Ottawa, Kingston, Mississauga, Sault Ste Marie and even Massey to name a few. It is always interesting to learn about new places!
Our awesome childcare staff designed and created weekly activities based on kids interests and ages. A community was beginning to grow for everyone involved. At the same time our 16+ youth groups continued to grow as well and they decided they wanted to meet twice a month. Again, we saw youth from all over Ontario join us for the virtual games and activities and we watched this community grow as well. While we do not talk adoption, all of these kids are connected through their adoption journey. In these groups the kids interact with each other and if they want to talk about adoption, it is a safe space to do so. We have had kids talk about their birth parents, shared their life book, pictures of the day they joined their families and even gifts from birth mom. Everyone is respectful of each other and no one asks questions that are intrusive.
Thanks to some special community donations, we have been fortunate to be able to continue with our kid sessions beyond our Covid flexibility funding. During the Spring and Summer we had between 5 and 10 kids join in the weekly sessions. When Halloween looked like it may be cancelled this year for some areas of the province, we offered some special Halloween sessions and 24 kids from across the province attended for that single day!
As November is Adoption Awareness month, we were able to offer many educational sessions to those in the adoption galaxy. As a special offering, we invited adoptive children and youth aged 8 to 25 to join us for a special meet up with older adult adoptees. We created a safe, private space for them to meet virtually while we all enjoyed a pizza dinner. No one really knew what to expect and the response was amazing! Kids had the opportunity to ask questions from those that have been on this journey for longer periods. They felt comfortable to share their stories and ask questions all without being judged. It truly was a remarkable evening.
Our 16+ youth participated as well and have even offered to have the older adult adoptees join them for one of their interactive trivia game nights. Here as well, kids from London, Ottawa, Orillia, Bradford, Mississauga, Innisfil, Toronto, St. Mary’s, Brampton and Lindsay have joined in the fun. We typically have between 8-12 youth join us for an evening of fun and games and our email distribution list is over 20 at this time. As with the other groups, we continue to see these numbers grow. Many of the older youth create trivia games and send them ahead in order to play.
We are hoping to be able to offer these sessions on an ongoing basis. The kids were eager to assist us in creating a voice recording talking about the importance of adoptive kids hangout sessions and why they attend the sessions. One of the youth created a great poster advertising the youth hangout.
Many of them have said that they feel less isolated, that these groups normalize their adoption journey and if they need or want to talk adoption, they know there is a group of people that get them! As one of the youth said “it’s their family of friends.”
What started out as a break from Covid, has grown into so much more. There is a strong connection for the kids. It doesn’t matter where you live in the province, these kids are able to enjoy a safe, fun, and interactive session with leaders that are committed to their successes. This community that is being built is one that adoptive kids and youth benefit greatly from. As one of our youth said, “only those that are adopted know what it is like to be adopted.” How wonderful to be able to provide this space for them!