I sat in the waiting room of the Ministry of Children and Family Development today. We had a meeting with our adoption social worker. There was a woman beside me whom I’ve never met and will never see again, but she was so familiar.
It was none of my business and perhaps I should have politely tuned her out as she spoke to the receptionist. But I didn’t. The person she was supposed to be meeting with was running late, but come hell or high water she was determined to wait.
“I don’t care how long I have to wait or what it takes. I want my daughter back.”
She wasn’t belligerent or aggressive. She didn’t raise her voice or make threats. But she was fierce. She had a primal energy. And I knew that we were kindred. Because I am a Mama Bear too.
In my mind I imagined a gritty backstory. Traumatized by her drug dealer/pimp/corrupt cop boyfriend, she is fighting her way back with the help of a inspirational social worker. I picture an Aboriginal Robin Williams/Sydney Poitier at her side instilling a never-say-die attitude in her. The music swells as she sees her beloved child again, but alas, there is the evil ex-lover and his scuzzy lawyer. I hold my breath and suddenly Wylie Coyote drops an anvil on the bad guys. Cue the laugh track. Now roll credits, as they all ride off into the sunset.
But this is real life. There are rarely bad guys dressed in black and good guys in white hats. Just screwed up people trying to prevent the even more screwed up people from hurting the innocent.
I don’t know this mom’s story, but I can only assume that it must be a tragic one to end up in the waiting room of the MCFD. When child protective services are involved, no one escapes unscathed. Not the biological parents whose lives were already out of control. Not the professionals who have to make impossible decisions and navigate an unwieldy beauracracy. Not foster families who open their homes and their hearts to someone else’s pain. And certainly not the children who find themselves at the mercy of a system which can’t help but damage the very ones it was designed to protect.
I can’t help but feel like some sort of scavenger. If things work out as we hope, we will be wading into someone’s very worst nightmare to find our own happily ever after. I know it is possible; in fact, it is what makes adoption such a beautiful thing. But it is a beauty born out of loss and pain.
I worry about that mama bear. I hope the system can do right by her, and by her daughter, whatever “right” may be in this particular case. Chances are, the damage is already done. There are no carefree happy endings in the foster care system.
So here’s me, looking for a bittersweet ever after.