Adoption Resource Exchange (ARE) events happen all over Canada and the US, one or more times each year. The purpose of each ARE is to network and share information between Children’s Aid Society offices about the children they have available for adoption. Each Society tries to place the children that come into their care, within their own community. Ideally a child will be close to his or her foster parents, friends and possibly birth family so that they can maintain those contacts. However, if no suitable family can be found within a Society’s area for that child, they will look for a family in another area. That’s where the ARE comes in. Social workers bring information, pictures and videos of the children that are “harder to place” within their own area. AdoptReady parents can look at the child’s profile, ask questions directly of the social worker and/or adoption worker, and then leave their own profile along with an “Expression of Interest” (EOI) form with the worker. The workers can then sort through the EOI’s they receive for each child, request Home Studies of the families they think would be a good match, and then set up information-sharing meetings with the family and proceed from there.
To be quite honest, I registered us for the event thinking it would be a good experience for us and nothing more. From what we had heard, the children that were “harder to place” were severely disabled, had serious medical or behavioural issues, or would require care for the rest of their lives. We couldn’t have been more wrong!
What we saw were pictures of 149 children that were very healthy, very able-bodied, and pretty well-behaved. There were no tiny babies — because of legalities, the birth families of apprehended children have about a year to change what’s not working and bring their children back home from foster care. That means that even if a child is apprehended from the hospital at birth, they will more than likely be at least 1 before they are made a crown ward and are available for adoption. We did see one little one that was made a crown ward quite quickly after birth, but that seems to be the exception. Most of the children seemed to be between 2 and 12, with a few on either end of that spectrum. And, most of the children had siblings that they needed to be placed with. That means that their worker would only consider families that were willing to take the entire sibling group. I’m guessing that’s why most of these kids hadn’t found families yet — people aren’t as anxious to take 2, 3 or 4 at one time.
We did leave EOI forms and our own family profile with 3 different CAS offices. 1 for an only child that fits what we were looking for to a T, and two for sibling groups. Because of the size of our home, we may not be considered at all for the sibling groups, in which case I would be really disappointed. One sibling group in particular seems perfect for us, and I’m hoping we’ll hear back from their workers. However, the rest of my family isn’t necessarily on board with doubling the number of children in our house for some reason ;-). It would mean that we would need a bigger house sooner rather than later. Since we live in a newer housing development, it would be quite straight-forward to buy a bigger house in our own neighbourhood just down the street. Still, we’re not sure if that would be okay with the CAS. Generally they want there to be fewer interruptions in every day life rather than more. And moving is definitely a big deal.
However, even though we left EOI’s with these CAS offices, it is completely up to the children’s workers to decide whether we’d be a good match or not. We may never hear back from them. Or they may ask for our Home Study, look at it, and put us at the bottom of the list. So, while it feels good to put ourselves out there and feel like we have a bit of control over which children we’re considered for, we are still at the mercy of the workers themselves.
From my understanding, if a worker does think we’d be a good match, we’ll go into several meetings for information-sharing, looking at medical records, school records, genetic histories, social histories, learning more about apprehension and the birth family, discussing openness recommendations, etc. If everything looked good and everyone was in agreement, we would start transitioning, first by meeting the child(ren), possibly without them knowing why. If that went well, a series of visits would begin, each increasing in length from a couple of hours, to a weekend at our house, until move-in day! We might be doing fun outings with the child(ren) during those visits, or we might be taking over their care at their foster home — waking them up, getting them dressed, feeding them, etc. through their usual routine. I’ve heard that the rule of thumb for transitioning is one week for every year of age. A one year old would need about a week of visits until they’re ready to move in, whereas a 5 year old would need 5 weeks of visits. Distance, work schedules and school schedules are all considered during this process and it’s individual to each child.
Once a child is place in our home (on adoption placement), we would be considered their parents. However, it won’t become official until they’ve lived with us for at least 6 months. And then, depending on how backed up the courts are at the time, we’ll be able to go to court and witness the adoption finalization. One of our PRIDE instructors pointed out that we don’t even need to be there for this, as the CAS workers take care of all of that. But I think I’d prefer for our family to be there and celebrate together. Besides, I’ve heard that sometimes the judges will bring gifts for the newly adopted child!
It’s a long and tedious process, but it’s worth it in the end. A friend recently teased me about taking the easy way out to “having another baby”. It’s less physically painful, trust me (I’ve done 3 natural births with NO pain meds!). But I’m not sure if it’s the easy way out. Still, the possibility of being a family for a family-less child is worth the red tape, training, back & forth uncertainty, and yes, even the waiting!