We started off with statistics for our county. With a population of 450, 000, our county had 451 children in foster care at the end of last year (March 2011-March 2012). A good portion of those kids may be in care only temporarily until they can return home, or until a relative can provide a home for them. The rest may be in care until a plan for a permanent home can be worked out. The total number of adoptions (which is the stat we were really interested in) was 28.
We talked about the reasons that a family may not be able to care for a child, resulting in the child or children being placed with the CAS, and we talked about the importance of permanence for a child. The CAS really strives to minimize the number of moves a child goes through, and tries to keep siblings together as much as possible. The legislation surrounding child welfare in Ontario says that children under the age of 6 should only be in care for a total of 12 months before a permanent care plan (ie. adoption) is acted on. As soon as a child comes into care, several options are planned for that child, all dependent on the participation of the child’s biological family. Of course, the legal system can slow things down, but the intent is there to make sure the child is not bouncing back and forth from home to home.
We also discussed Authoritative/Optimal Parenting, the style of parenting that the CAS endorses. Basically it’s the parenting style that most parents would probably agree with, involving consistency, love and nurturing, communication, building the child up, recognizing strengths and setting firm limits. We also talked about having a daily schedule, while allowing flexibility to accommodate occasional changes. All very much common sense.
We discussed the importance of teamwork, something that we spent a great deal of time on. After thinking on it for a couple of days, I realized that CAS workers must encounter A LOT of resistance from biological parents (understandably so), and that they must also get the same resistance from resource families — foster families, adoptive families, and so on. Our instructors spent time talking about the knowledge and skills that each member of a child’s “team” — their social worker, doctors, therapists, teachers, bio parents, foster parents, and adoptive family — bring to the table, and how important it is to respect and hear each member as different issues or situations come up.
As potential adoptive parents, for us this would mean staying connected with our child’s foster parents for advice and help with our child’s schedule, likes, dislikes, routines, temperament, etc. It would also mean maintaining some degree of openness with our child’s birth parents, from communicating through non-identifying letters/emails and pictures, to having regular visits and sharing birthdays, etc with them. As a side note, any degree of openness is completely up to the adoptive parents to determine, based on what they believe the best interests of the child to be.
Our homework consists of detailing our family tree and looking for patterns in naming, birth or marriage dates, in marital relationships, and in reasons for deaths. I believe the intent is to demonstrate the importance of knowing your history and your place in it. It shows how crucial it is for a child to have a way of hanging onto their family history and heritage, even if it’s not picture-perfect.
We also found out that we’d be getting our social worker’s name in the next two weeks! That’s exciting, because then we’ll be able to touch base, and get things rolling for our Home Study! Can’t wait 🙂