Dawn and Ray's Story
For us, the decision to adopt was easy. (The process, on the other hand . . . well, more on that later!) Adoption had always been part of our reality. I had a brother who was given up for adoption (and we’ve recently been reunited, with amazing results.) Ray once found a newborn on the side of a creek, who also went on to an adoptive family. And, due to a medical condition, I knew my own path to motherhood would be through adoption.
When we were thinking of growing our family, we were told by my mother, a social worker with MCFD, to go through the ministry. I knew there was a particular need for families that could provide a culturally connected home for Aboriginal children, something that we, as a First Nations family, could provide.
Then, the process. Each home study was like going through my own labour, only our first adoption took nearly four years! By the time our first child, Holden, joined our family, I was sure I’d never go through it again. But as many parents know: never say never. When I heard about Gracie, through my job as a social worker with the ministry, Ray and I were soon going through the process again. By the time her sister Mya was born a couple of years later, we were pros – not just with the home studies, but the transition as well. (We adopted Holden as a newborn, and Maya at just a few months old, but Gracie had been in three placements in her 16 months and all that disruption can take its toll.)
We have always felt strongly about surrounding children with people who love them, including (and especially) their birth families. My children have always known that we are their adoptive mom and dad, and that they have birth parents, with whom we have different degrees of openness, depending on their comfort levels (adoption is a life-changing experience for everyone involved and some, like Holden’s birth mother, may find openness to be re-traumatizing.) They’ve also been adopted into my First Nations community, have Indian names and are connected to this culture.
In addition to culturally appropriate care, many adoptive children come with special needs. If and when you get to the point where MCFD is preparing you for what to expect, and bombarding you with the potential challenges, remember that behind the labels and diagnoses are unique and exceptional children.
All three of our children also have special needs that would, on paper, qualify them for the highest level of foster care. And yet, each and every challenge we have faced as their parents has been far outweighed by having been brought together with these amazing kindred spirits to make a family. It may sound like a cliché, but I mean this in all truth and sincerity: they have, through their own strengths and learning, given us far more than we could ever give to them.