Last week, news came out that hundreds of adoptions in Ontario are on hold while a judge reviews cases where a flawed drug test may have led to hundreds of children being taken into the care of the Children’s Aid Society (CAS). If you or anyone you know has experience with adoption, you know exactly what the implications of this news are.
My husband and I adopted both our children through Children’s Aid, and my first thought, selfishly, was for the hundreds of hopeful, waiting families who have probably met, bonded and started becoming a family with these children. What does this mean for them?
Like many tragedies, there is no shortage of victims. The children themselves are, once again and through no fault of their own, being denied permanent, loving homes. And the birth parents… how many had their children taken away due to faulty drug tests? How many were further and erroneously vilified? But it’s the adoptive families I can’t stop thinking about.
Each “public” adoption includes a period of transition that lasts several weeks. We started with short visits in the foster home then moved to longer, “unsupervised” outings in the community and eventually multiple night sleepovers in our home. If the families affected by the Motherisk tests are following a similar path, they are now facing the possibility that the children they have met and started planning a life with might not actually become theirs.
My oldest daughter became “mine” the first minute I heard her voice. We’d already met with the social worker, seen photos, and survived a gut-wrenching panel interview before being told we were the lucky ones chosen to become her parents. Two days after the interview, when a number with the area code of her foster home showed up on my phone, I assumed they were calling to work out the details of the visit schedule. When I answered I heard a tiny, happy voice say “Hi mommy” and instantly everything changed.
We met her three days later and four weeks after that, as I returned her to her foster home for one last night, she sobbed uncontrollably for more than an hour. In four short weeks we’d fallen completely in love, and as awful as it was to drive away watching her little face twisted in pain, her arms reaching out the window, I knew her fear of being separated from us meant she was ready to be ours.
With our second daughter, the “she’s mine” moment came completely unexpectedly. We were visiting our oldest daughter’s foster parents when I peeked into the room off the kitchen, trying to catch a glimpse of the new little girl they were fostering.
Before that moment I was a happy mother of one with no plans for more children. Our oldest was the centre of our universe and we loved spoiling her with our time and attention. Becoming her parents had, in some ways been the easiest and most natural thing we’d ever done. But in other ways it was the hardest, especially for my husband who struggled for months to gain the trust of a little girl who’d had very little experience with positive male figures. We’d also just sold our five bedroom house and purchased a two-bedroom bungalow (because…. one kid). But when I opened that door I saw a sleeping little girl, sweaty from the heat of her afternoon nap, lips moving as though the bottle at her side was still in her mouth. And that moment, the moment I first laid eyes on her, my world shifted completely and irreversibly for the second time in two years.
I didn’t know her name or why she was in foster care. I didn’t know if she was there temporarily, or if she was a crown ward (meaning eligible for adoption). I just knew she was meant to be mine. I called my husband from the car and we were off and running. A year and a half later, she was ours.
After each initial lightning bolt moment, we went on to meet, love and bond with our children even before they came to live with us. The thought of having that process halted without warning or the promise of a positive resolution is absolutely inconceivable to me.
Behind every adoptive couple, family or single man or woman, is an army of family and friends who’ve been cheering them on, probably for years. They’ve shared heartbreaks, disappointments and hope. They’ve been on the roller coaster – make that Tilt A Whirl – of adoption for God knows how long and this match was supposed to be it, what everyone was waiting for. It was supposed to be the end of nights lying awake wondering if it would ever happen, the end of filling out forms and waiting for months with no word or reply, the end of checking email five, six, seven times an hour waiting for the pregnant teenager in Gander, Newfoundland to message back after she contacted you on the adoption website.
When we were adopting, life pretty much ground to a halt. As someone who plans EVERYTHING I struggled with not only wanting a child but also not feeling like I could move the many other areas of my life forward. Vacations weren’t planned because “we might have a baby.” Opportunities for new jobs were dismissed because “I might be going on parental leave.” So when you are presented with a child and you excitedly say “yes yes yes of course we are interested!!” and then you endure the interview and the waiting before finally being told you’re the lucky parents you think the uncertainty and the heart break are over. You know they will eventually be replaced by a different kind of heart break (ie. “why is she up at 6 am AGAIN”) but the worst kind, the not-knowing if you’re ever going to be a mom kind – is over. And then you meet her and within days you cannot imagine your life without her. You cannot imagine anyone else tucking her in or drying her tears or peeling her orange.
And now these families are faced with the possibility that it might all go away.
I’m not religious but tonight I will be praying for them.
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