Holding My Breath

Does adoption ever feel like it’s actually happening, until it does? My file has been active again for a few months now and I finally (FINALLY!!), after three years, have a match! For the past few weeks since I’ve known about it, I feel like I’ve been holding my breath… not quite believing that this is actually happening.

I’m going through the motions… gathering information, asking questions, talking to the schools, transforming the guest room… but all the while my head is spinning in a thousand different directions and it hasn’t really “sunk in” yet. I have this fear that the second I finally exhale, someone will tell me this whole thing was just a sick joke and it will feel like a punch in the gut.

Sometimes I manage to break down my walls and allow myself to feel excited, but most days I feel like I’m going to throw up. It sounds a little like pregnancy, no?

Posted By: Sarah

My Amazing Summer Experience Providing Respite Care

“God laughs when we make plans.” That’s a saying that’s been going through my head a lot over these past several months. Thankfully, I’m somewhat of an eternal optimist and I believe that when one door closes, even temporarily, another one opens; and opened, it did!

I’ve been dabbling in respite care since the spring, and in June I was given an opportunity to house a teenage girl for the summer. I must admit, I was hesitant at first having only done respite on weekends in the past. An entire summer was a lot of parenting to take on, and teenagers… well, teenagers.

As it turns out, we both made it through the summer without any permanent scars, and a little bit wiser. We had our challenges; opportunities for consequences and growth on both our parts, but in the end we were better for it. I’m actually not sure who learned more this summer, her or me, but I’m betting on the latter. I seem to recall telling my home study writer while discussing my adoption age range that “teenage girls have problems I haven’t even figured out yet!”, so I thought that parenting a seventeen year old girl was way out of my league!

She and I had conversations about everything from curfew and chores to boys, parties and alcohol to graduation and university. I gained a lot of confidence in myself as a parent; I eventually stopped second guessing myself when making decisions and learned that it was okay if she didn’t like all of the rules or some of her chores. We had a few tough talks, but far more positive ones. We spent a lot of evenings curled up, talking about all the tough stuff in life. I gave some (pretty decent) guidance when she asked for it, and just listened when she needed to vent. We also had a lot of fun together. We tried out colouring as a form of stress relief, she got to know my family during our regular family dinners, I watched numerous fashion shows as she tried on everything in her closet, and we capped the weekends off by curling up in my bed for “Bachelor TV Sunday’s”. We now share some inside jokes, like her obsession with chocolate Lucky Charms cereal and one of the Bachelor participant’s use of the phrase “straight Kentucky crazy”.

This morning, when we were packing her things, she asked me to come to her graduation next year, and I could barely hold in how touched I was. We shared a lot of tears and hugs as we said our goodbye’s, and if I’m being honest, I’ve shed more than a few since she left. (God bless foster parents, I don’t know how they do it!)

This experience has been one in a lifetime. I’m so grateful that it was presented to me and that I didn’t turn it down out of fear. I’m ending my summer with a far bigger heart, and she’s ending her’s with one more person in her corner. I can’t wait to see her next week for Bachelor TV Sunday!

Posted by: Sarah

Are you following me on Twitter? @sarw1985

Putting My Dreams on Temporary Hold

The adoption process is almost guaranteed to be frustrating, but sometimes it can be downright heartbreaking. There are families who dream of adopting and put their heart and soul into the process only to have their home study rejected for various, sometimes uncontrollable reasons. There are families who Foster to Adopt and although they expect the possibility that the child won’t remain with them, end up heartbroken anyway. Then there are those families who wait for what seems like forever before they find a match; the process for them is excruciating, never knowing at what moment their lives will change forever.

Adoption can be trying for everyone, and that’s why I’ve tried so hard to stay positive since losing my job last year and putting my adoption plans “on hold”, but I’ve not always been successful in remaining optimistic. Adoption is something I’m very passionate about, and it hasn’t been easy to talk about it, to visit my friends with kids or to focus on my volunteer work with FACES. There have been periods where I’ve had to block it out completely because it made me sad to even think about. I’ve had to shift focus to my other responsibilities and ambitions. I’ve spent more time reading and writing and hanging out with my family, which has actually been incredibly good for the soul.

Despite how difficult the last few months have been emotionally, I am still looking forward to getting back on track with my adoption plans very soon, and also allowing myself to take a break from it all in the meantime.

Posted by: Sarah

Are you following me on Twitter? @sarw1985

“Mom, I’m in the Principal’s office.”

“Mom, I’m in the Principal’s office.”

This is how our week started.

The week continued with our quirky comedian tying a child to a tree and leaving him there, getting into several fights at school, puking up his breakfast on the table because he didn’t like the food and bouncing on his mattress so hard, wooden slats underneath broke through.  Our feisty butterfly has been screaming all day, every day for the last 10 days, except for taking the time to bathe herself in toilet bowl cleaner, pick holes in her clothes and create artwork on her wall with spit and blood from a nosebleed.  Our sensitive diva has decided that she no longer needs to sleep, do homework or brush her hair and has perfected stomping up and down the stairs to the tune of ‘I hate you’, returning only to let me know that I have made her scratch herself because I am so mean.  It has been a truly tough and terrifying week.

Through the adventures of the week though, we have seen some incredible things.

One afternoon after an impressive rage, my son was curled up on his bed, wrapped in blankets and we talked.  We talked about all the things he has been terrified to say out loud.  We talked about how a substitute teacher yelled at him.  How he didn’t know the substitute teacher and he didn’t know that his regular teacher wouldn’t be there that day.  We talked about how much it upset him, and how worried he was because he wasn’t sure what to expect from this new person.  He talked about how he didn’t understand why she had yelled at him, and that all the kids stared at him because she yelled.  We talked about how angry and scared that had made him feel.  He helped me understand that this happened on the same day that he decided to tie another child to a tree and wanted to fight the other kids on the playground.  The trauma in my son’s life has surfaced again…

My son also talked about his fears of moving into a new grade, with a new teacher.  My quirky little comedian starts every day ready to earn a smiley face from school to show me at home.  This smiley face means that he worked hard at school that day and used his amazing little heart in how he treated the kids and teachers around him.  As he’s explaining to me that he will be too old next year to earn that smiley face, he is wrapping himself tighter into his blankets, trembling, and trying to hide that he’s crying even as he is sobbing too hard to catch his breath.  My heart was breaking for him.  I could feel him melt into a hug, and then lean back and look at me like a huge weight had been lifted from him.  He has been a different kid since that conversation.

Our feisty little butterfly and I discovered something new this week.  As she is busy screaming, shrieking and howling, she will pause to hear what I have to say – as long as I’m not actually talking to her.  I played “I wonder”.  I started talking to myself, in a voice just barely loud enough for her to hear.  I “wondered” if she knew how much I missed her giggles.  I “wondered” if she knew how much I was looking forward to a big squishy hug.  I “wondered” if maybe she was feeling sad and lonely.  I “wondered” if she had forgotten how special and loved she is.  I “wondered” if maybe she was too angry right now to think about anything else.  I “wondered” for about half an hour, and she listened to every word.  She would hold herself tight and cry softly when I talked about being scared or sad.  She would turn her head to the sound of my voice when I mentioned the things I love most about her.  She would wait patiently to hear what I would say next, her little body leaning forward to make sure she didn’t miss anything.  It was amazing.

After I had run through all the things I could think of, I called to her and asked if she was ready to go back to her previous activity.  She hopped up, smiled brightly and asked who I was talking to earlier.  I told her that I was playing a game on my own, and asked if she had heard anything.  She looked at me very seriously, and told me that she didn’t hear a single thing.  Two minutes later, she worked up a big giggle and then told me that she thought maybe I might have been missing her giggles…  🙂  Things have turned around completely for us since then!

Our sensitive diva has been struggling lately.  Really struggling.  Every conversation turns into a battle.  Every request is a fight.  Every chore that she swears is complete, has been shoved into a corner.  After our most recent encounter with chores, I had left her in her room to complete the task she swore she had already done.  Once the door was closed, the name-calling and screaming began.  I walked back in the room, sat down on the floor and said that it sounded like there were some things that she would like to tell me.  I didn’t realize it then, but that was an incredible understatement…

We talked about the names she would like to call me, the words that she thought that if said, the police would come and take her away.  We talked about how she would like to hurt me, and hurt herself.  We talked about the bad dreams – that one night robbers were going to come into our house, ask me where the kids are and then take them away.  We talked about her friend’s family, dealing with divorce.  And then we talked about her birth family.  Her special memories of them, her scary memories, the fear she has because she’s forgetting them.  We talked about how hard it is to say goodbye.  We talked about ways to connect with her birth family.  We talked about writing a memory book so she could keep them close to her.  We talked about anger, sadness, loss and love.  She sat, curled in my lap and holding my arms tightly around her and sobbed.  My beautiful sensitive little diva has been keeping so many things inside.  With Mother’s Day arriving this weekend, my sensitive daughter has helped me realize what a special place in my heart her birth mom has too…  Even though I don’t know her, she is very much a part of my daughter, and for that, I’m grateful.

It’s been an amazing week.  It’s been a heartbreaking week.  It’s been a week that my beautiful, fragile and resilient children let their guards down enough to let me in, a little closer than ever before.  I am so thankful for that.  I can’t imagine a better gift than getting to love them, and to walk this part of their journey with them…  That being said, I’m looking forward to a boring, routine kind of week, next week!  🙂

Happy Mother’s Day to all the Moms out there!  I’m thinking of you all.

 Posted by: Cara

ReMoved: A Touching Video Reflecting a Child’s Journey

This video requires no introduction; but you should probably have the tissues ready. (Click the image below to view the video on YouTube.)

(Click to view the video)
(Click to view the video)

“We made ReMoved with the desire that it would be used to serve in bringing awareness, encourage, and be useful in foster parent training, and raising up foster parents. If you would like to use the film for any of these reasons, the answer is yes.” -Nathanael Matanick, Director

Making the Right Choice About Potential Matches Despite Everyone Else’s Opinion

As I go through the matching process I am constantly reminding myself to take outside opinions with a grain of salt. It’s not the easiest thing to do, especially when those opinions are coming from the people closest to me.

Not many have come right out and told me I’m crazy for considering certain things, but I can sense their hesitancy. It comes from a place of love and worry (for me), so I don’t take it personally, and I do consider their points, but at the end of the day I know myself better than anyone and I’m confident I’ll make the right decision.

Someone with more sense than me might adopt children with less severe needs or choose to take on only a single child, but I have always been of the opinion that if someone has to do it, why not me? That’s not to say that I will take the hard road simply because it is hard, only that I won’t close any doors before they have even opened.

It frustrates me about myself when I see I’m not taking the road that demands more of me. Judith Light

Posted by: Sarah
Are you following me on Twitter? @sarw1985

Guest Contributor: In the Beginning: The Supporting Cast (to be a Grandparent)

This post is from a guest contributor who plays a very important role in her family… the role of a grandmother!

I am having such a blast as a grandmother! All the perks of parenthood, without the responsibility. I am in my third childhood (the second, of course, occurring with my own children) and relish the opportunity to play and be silly once again with my grandchildren. Their innocence and ‘joie de vie’ is energizing. I have been reacquainted with Uno and Sorry, playgrounds and giant bubbles. Together, we have constructed Marshmallow Shooters, and assembled S’mores in celebration of summer. Every season brings its own pleasures and opportunities to play. Fall and leaf battles. Winter and snow painting and snowman building. Spring and puddle jumping. What is not to love?! And when my energy dwindles (long before the grandkids’ does), I take great pleasure in stepping aside and observing Pappa teasing the grandkids and our children parent and play with their kids. It is an amazing and privileged role I get to play as grandmother…

We have both biological and adopted grandchildren. They are all precious to us. We do not make distinctions – no need to – there is plenty of love to go ’round. Nevertheless, it would be dishonest of me and most naïve to suggest to you that there are no differences in the ways in which we grandparent each.

Particularly at the outset, the journey begins quite differently. This is not something I would have anticipated initially. Adopted or biological – they are all kids – right?! Just love them all, big hugs and kisses, lots of sugar treats, spoil them like crazy (a grandparent’s prerogative :), and then send them home to Mommy and Daddy, end of story. Sound right? Well, not quite. (I must confess I am not the ‘spoiling’ type, with any of our grandchildren. A few treats here and there – certainly. More important, though, Pappa and I prefer to spoil our grandkids with love and affection, with time and experiences, rather than with too many treats or things. We are (and always were) just too darn pragmatic!)

The hugs and cuddles are a very natural beginning for a biological grandchild. Along with Mom and Dad, the bonding for us began long before baby was born. It was a natural greeting into the real world.

For our adopted grandchildren, however, because they were no longer babies when they entered our family, the rules were quite different. Fortunately for us, our own daughter and son-in-law took the time to educate us prior to the arrival of their adopted children. They offered us reading material. They provided a list of things they wanted us to know as we embarked on this adoption journey together. This education had many benefits and should not be understated here. Because of it, we did not take it personally when they opted out of family events for the first while; they explained to us that they needed time to bond as a family unit, prior to introducing other family members into their circle. While we missed our own children hugely and were beyond excited to celebrate this incredible event with them (the creation of a family), we were able to step back because we could appreciate that developing this primary bond with Mom and Dad was of utmost importance to our grandchildren and would only come ‘in time’. Attachment is a huge challenge, not one often discussed or appreciated and we had to be patient – not my strong suit! Was it tough to be on ‘the outside’ in the early phase? So incredibly tough. But thanks to our kids (daughter and son-in-law), the conversation had begun.

When Pappa and I finally met our grandchildren, it was love at first sight! (Can I gush for a moment here to tell you how precious they are? 🙂 We were desperate to pick them up in our arms, give them big squishy hugs and tell them how lucky we were to meet them. Instead, we had to check all our instincts to cuddle and nurture at the door. We could love them, certainly, but we were cautioned to move slowly and follow Mom and Dad’s prompts. Good advice, I promise, as our primary role is and should be to support Mom and Dad. However, that is translated into specifics: we refrained from physical contact for the most part. We held back instead of rushing to a grandchild’s rescue when he/she scraped a knee or bumped a toe. We even deferred from offering a drink or snack when our grandchildren were hungry. Pretty tricky! And completely counter-intuitive!! Nevertheless, we understood the reasoning behind the request to ‘step back’ and allow Mommy and Daddy to move in to provide those basic needs, that comfort and sympathy; these children needed to learn to lean on Mom and Dad – to trust that Mom and Dad would be there for them. It can be a huge hurdle/challenge for an adopted child to learn to trust those around them to take care of them; they have spent critical developmental years learning that they can depend on none, other than themselves. Hence, initially, instead of being a hands-on grandparents, jumping in with both feet, Pappa and I hovered around the periphery of this blossoming family, becoming the ‘cheering section’ and celebrating all the small, but monumental milestones of our grandchildren – as when a child sought out Mom or Dad of their own accord when they were hurt, as when a child stepped between his/her parents to hold both Mom and Dad’s hands.

The exciting news is that we have moved past those first tenuous meetings as the bonds in this new ‘forever family’ strengthen. Pappa and I continue to work hard to follow Mommy and Daddy’s lead, but there are now ample opportunities to engage with our grandchildren, to love and nurture them. And as I watch and play with these amazing grandchildren, I register how far they have come in their own journey. There is new confidence emerging alongside their sense of belonging. There is a sense of humor revealing itself as they remember how to play. They are children first and foremost-the path to creating those family bonds is just different for an adoptive family.

I am so grateful that our children had the wisdom and the courage to advise us as to how we could best support them in their role as adoptive parents, even when, at times, it must have been extremely hard to do so… I feel even more blessed that the dialogue is ongoing, for it is because of that dialogue that we are able to work together, parents and grandparents together, to ultimately provide what is best for our children/grandchildren and to celebrate ‘family’.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have a game of Uno to play… 🙂

The Many Faces of Adoption

When you start researching ways to adopt, the terminology can be quite confusing, especially if the information you’re gathering is not Alberta-based. If you’re looking to adopt a child, there are really just *three types of adoption.

They are, in language we can all understand:

1) Government Adoption: Adoption of (typically older) children in government care (foster care). Facilitated by Alberta Adoption Services / Child and Family Services

2) Infant Adoption: Adoption of an infant through a private agency (when a birth mother surrenders her child). This is often referred to as “private adoption”

3) International Adoption: Adoption of children (typically infants) from outside of Canada. This is facilitated through a private agency

The phrase “domestic adoption” can refer to both government and infant adoptions; it simply means that you are adopting from home and not internationally.

*Some agencies also handle adult adoptions, adoptions of step-children, and “private direct adoption” (when a birth parent places a child in the care of someone they know) These types of adoption have not been included in this article.

Adoption Frustration: The Timeline

I think the most common frustration we have as parents who’ve pursued adoption through Child and Family Services is that nothing happens as quickly as you think it will. Knowledge is key however, so I’ll share a bit of what I’ve learned to help you prepare for your own journey.

From the time you submit your application to the time you are approved; your file will change hands several times. Each time it does, someone new has to take the time to review it and contact you. In my case, it took six months to receive initial contact and an average of three weeks to be contacted by each new worker thereafter. Your start to finish timeline will vary throughout the province, but in the Calgary area it is currently taking a year or more from submission to approval.

Here are a few examples of unforeseen things that held up my application:

1) It took six months to receive the first phone call after submitting my application. This was due to a staffing issue.

2) When I finally received the initial contact from the intake worker, I had to delay our first meeting as I was preparing to move into my new home. My house was mostly in boxes and of course, they want to meet in your home. I delayed this meeting a little over a month, until I took possession of my new home and had a couple of weeks to unpack.

3) It was late November when I finally had my first meeting with the intake worker. The next step was to attend the several days of parental training, however there is no training scheduled for December so I had to wait until January. That was another month long delay.

A tip for keeping things on track:

While I personally didn’t have any issues with the paperwork side of things, I’ve met with many people who have. I’ve heard stories of paperwork being lost, placed in the wrong person’s file, or not being received by Child and Family Services. These things happen, so do yourself a favour by having all of the paperwork filled out and submitted right away, and make sure to keep copies of it handy (in your email, on a flash drive, etc.) so it can be quickly rectified if something goes missing.

Also, your Criminal Record Check is only valid for six months, so find out from your worker when yours expires and make sure to allow enough processing time when submitting a new one.

Posted by: Sarah
Are you following me on Twitter? @sarw1985