Ministry of Children and Family Development
When Duncan’s 17-year-old Jade thinks about her 2004 adoption, she remembers her nearly six-year-old self being relatively unfazed.
The little girl loved watching Disney movies and assumed her adoption would be like one of the grand adventures played out on the silver screen. At the time, Jade and her three-year-old brother, Evan, had spent the majority of their young lives in British Columbia’s foster care system and their new mom, Heather, made the decision to adopt the siblings through the Ministry of Children and Family Development as a single parent.
“I had some people in my social circle who had adopted through the ministry,” Heather recalls. “I also thought I had the skills to parent children who might not have had the easiest beginnings — there were so many kids out there who needed homes and families.”
While Heather had worked for years with children with special needs, making the transition to parenting around the clock with her own kids proved challenging. It took both children and their mom time to adjust to their new family.
“I initially called her ‘new mommy’ and then Heather,” says Jade. “It was about two months before I began to call her mom. Evan embraced change faster than I did. I was around 11 when I fully accepted that Heather was my mom.”
Heather and Jade caution people considering adoption not to subscribe to the notions of a picture perfect Disney fantasy. An articulate, intelligent and introspective young woman who is described by her mom as playful, Jade says trauma experienced early in her life has impacted her ability to make emotional connections. And, like many adopted children, Jade also wonders what could have happened had her birth parents been able to care for her.
“I was given a new chance in life — a bridge to new physical, metaphorical, mental and emotional places that I might not have otherwise experienced. However, people also need to recognize and respect that building a family through adoption is built on the loss of a child’s birth family,” says Jade. “Many adopted kids feel divided loyalties and are torn between two completely different families.”
Her mom, Heather, agrees, urging prospective adoptive parents to do their homework prior to adopting.
“Love is so important but it isn’t enough. You must also understand the implications of trauma and loss and be able to open your heart to the birth family as well as the children you are adopting,” she says. “Speak about adoption and birth families openly with your kids in a way that is unbiased and holds the birth families up, because that’s where these kids come from.”
As a non-aboriginal adoptive parent of aboriginal children, Heather has always honoured Jade and Evan’s heritage by exposing them as much as possible to their birth family, celebrating cultural traditions, and involving the children in aboriginal programs in their community. When she adopted, she remained just as committed to respecting and understanding the differences between parenting a young child or baby versus an older child.
“It takes time to build bonds, develop attachments, and create your own family culture. It doesn’t happen overnight,” she explains. “Older kids may only have a small amount of life experience, but your life hasn’t been part of their experience yet.”
Through their adoption journey, Heather, Jade and Evan have learned, and bonded and grown together as a family.
It’s an experience that Heather describes as entirely their own.
“Adoption is such a subjective experience; you really can’t compare one family to another,” she says.
“I consider myself incredibly lucky. As with any family there have been challenges, but I have two amazing, healthy kids.”
Every child deserves a place at the family table.
If you are 19 years or older, a resident of British Columbia, and interested in adopting one of B.C.’s 1,000 waiting children in care, please call 1-877-ADOPT-07 or visit: www.1000familiesbc.com/
Learn more about adoption from the following sources:
• Adoptive Families Association of BC: www.bcadoption.com
• B.C. Federation of Foster Parent Associations: www.bcfosterparents.ca/
• Federation of BC Youth in Care Networks: http://fbcyicn.ca/
• Contact the Adoption Reunion Registry toll-free at 1-877-387-3660
or visit: www.mcf.gov.bc.ca/adoption/reunion/index.htm
• This year’s provincial budget for adoption services is $27.7 million, up $1.1 million from last year.
• Currently, there are approximately 1,000 B.C. children in care waiting to be adopted.
• Potential adoptive parents come from diverse backgrounds and have a range of life experiences. Any B.C. resident 19 and over who is interested in providing a loving, nurturing home may be eligible to adopt.
• Over the past 10 years, an annual average of approximately 270 children have been adopted in British Columbia.
• Approximately 42 per cent of adopted children are adopted by their foster family.
• Many of the children and youths still waiting for adoption are school age. They may be siblings who need to stay together. Some may have special placement needs due to difficult early childhood experiences, prenatal exposure to alcohol or drugs, learning delays or other developmental challenges.
• In September 2015, Grand Chief Ed John was appointed senior advisor on Aboriginal child welfare to the Minister of Children and Family Development. His role is to assist in finding forever families for a
greater number of Aboriginal youth in care through adoption, guardianship or other options.
• For a list of Adoption Awareness Month events taking place in communities throughout B.C., visit: https://www.bcadoption.com/all-events