I wanted to write a bit about the logistics and time line of our adoption process, specifically for those who may be from Alberta or Calgary and thinking about adoption through the foster care system because when we started the process, it was very difficult to find this kind of information. But also, the process differs so much across the world and I find that interesting. Please share your experiences in the comments!
You might want to grab a snack…it’s a bit of a longer post!
It all started with a 4 page application form that felt so inadequate for what we were about to do. But, we mailed it off and around October we received a package back with some information on training dates, more paper work and a checklist of things we needed to do such as medicals, police checks and other legal documents to submit.
We attended our mandatory training, which here only consists of a one day workshop on Aboriginal kids in care and the legalities of adopting an Aboriginal child and two weekends of FASD, trauma, supports, etc. Our training was, to put it nicely, less than inspiring. We found the information was more like misinformation…but that’s another topic. They did mention that they were revamping the training and it would be longer as well, I’m not sure if that has happened.
It was about this time as well that we had completed and submitted all of our required documents (medicals, checks, etc.) that had been sent out in October. We were assigned a social worker, who was and is, lovely. We met with her just once for a casual chat and then were qued for a home study.
We met with our home study writer several times beginning at the end of May and through June. Meeting were usually 2-3 hours long and covered absolutely everything. I actually really enjoyed this process as it forced me to think about my parents and how they raised me, traditions I had as a kid that I wanted to have for Jonathan etc. But it was pretty intrusive as well and weird to talk about myself so much.
At the end of July we got our official stamp of approval that we were approved to be parents and we were ready to be matched.
Our social worker came for a visit to review a list (10 or so pages of checklists) of disabilities, characteristics and behaviours that we would be willing, or not, to deal with in an adopted child. We had to fill out several of these throughout the process but this was make it or break it, clear black and white answers where as before it was more rating them on a scale from 1-5 and fence sitting on several issues.
In Alberta these checklists are entered into a data base that does part of the matching against children in care. There is back and forth between all the social workers on the side as well, but it is always sent to Edmonton through this data base as well. Final approval before parents are told they are officially matched comes from somebody somewhere in Edmonton.
At this meeting as well, we talked a little more about a particular boy, Jonathan, that we knew of who was in care and we had mentioned at our first meeting (you can read how we found out about him here.) At this point our SWer had some doubts because of some information she had about Jonathan but needed to check things out more. Regardless we were high on their list for matching.
We got a phone call a couple weeks after the meeting I mentioned above and were told that we had in fact been matched with Jonathan! There was however some legal glitches so we’d have to wait 32 days for an already scheduled court date to happen to know if we could proceed. T.o.r.t.u.r.e.
Everything went fine in court and our Information Sharing (or Infoshare) was set for October 19th. More waiting and more torture. I can’t tell you how agonizing it was knowing he was in care when he could be home with us. Hearing about the things he was doing when I wanted to be doing those things with him was really really hard. I hated this period in the process. All the waiting for the first 10 months was easy, but the last bit was the most difficult hands down.
Infoshare is a big meeting with the child’s social worker, our social worker and usually includes foster parents as well and any other professionals, teachers, doctors etc. that has knowledge of the child. The idea is to give us all information necessary and important in order for us to decide if the child is a match for us and our family.
At our meeting we met Jonathan’s amazing foster mom and got to take a picture home with us. It was a three hour meeting and we were also able to go observe him in his preschool and that the teachers and specialists were available to chat that afternoon. We raced down to the school where we watched from an observation window and were able to ask questions to the teachers. Smitten I was.
Our meeting was on a Friday and our social worker made us think about it over the weekend before she would take our YES! I emailed her first thing Monday morning and a transition plan was put in place.
We gave the foster mom an album with pictures of us, Anthony, the house, the cats, his room etc. And she began talking to him about moving and having a mom and dad.
On October 29th at 5pm we walked into his foster moms house and he called me mom. I nearly fell over. In fact I remember having a seat for a moment in the front hall trying to take it all in.
We transitioned Jonathan over a weeks time to our house playing it by ear with visits to his foster mom, taking him out, coming to our house for longer and longer periods of time. Things were so great that 7 days after meeting him, he slept at our house and all went well so we moved him in! Our official date of adoption was November 9th.
We kept Jonathan home from school for a week and Gord also took a week off of work so we could settle in and figure each other out:)
And we’ve been figuring each other out every since!
Some other adoption details:
Here in Alberta (and I’m certain all of Canada) we get 9.5 months off of work for an adoption (1 year for the birth of a child…sigh).
We also get (in Alberta) free counseling for any and all family members including play therapy if needed, some financial support, and access to funding and resources (although this varies based on the child) due to disabilities until they are 18 years old (called Family Support for Children with Disabilities or FSCD). This funding includes respite money, behavioural support, medical support and things above and beyond caring for a child who does not have a disability. However, FSCD can’t happen until the adoption is granted.
It takes about one year for the adoption to be finalized through the courts legally, or for the adoption to be granted, at which point we get a birth certificate in the mail with our names on it and also have the opportunity to be involved with the Adoption Registry – a system to send anonymous cards, letters, photos to the birth parents as long as they as well sign up.
At this time we are also transferred to a new SW under the umbrella Supports for Permanency. This is, from what I know so far as we aren’t here yet, similar to FSCD but under the adoption umbrella. It’s a negotiated contract we sign yearly around support for Jonathan. For example, the insurance for his cochlear implants is crazy expensive and we will be asking for them to cover the cost of this. How easy or difficult it is to get things on your contract I don’t know at this point.
I feel pretty lucky, piecing together others experiences in other countries that I’ve read, the process seems much more intense and nerve wracking here. Also the amount of support post adoption seems to be phenomenal. I have heard some stories about the reality of how Supports for Permanency actually plays out, but from where we stand now things look pretty good.
So that’s it! Here we are; schools out, summer is in full swing…the journey continues!