Tag Archives: foster care

Unpacking: Two Years Ago Today

The tag on the back says “12 mos” – a measure of size and not age. I shake out the blue and white checked pants before folding them, tangible proof that our almost two-year-old is much smaller than most his age. Tiny shirts, pants, footie pajamas and an impressive array of cute onesies emerge from cloth shopping bags, filling the mostly empty drawers. I move the size 2 outfits we’d purchased to the closet. The weight and height measurements we had gleaned from medical files did nothing to prepare us for the Lilliputian dimensions of our brand new toddler.

Brand new to us, that is. Up until now he’d been an abstraction, the idea of a son sketched out in black and white via e-mails and social workers’ reports. He had seemed to come to life in daydreams fueled by my own fervent desires and charitable impulses. Caught up in my excitement, his big sisters painted this very room themselves; a sloppy, but affectionate gesture. Jungle green smeared over princess pink walls. Lions, tigers, bears and a miniature Webkinz elephant were rescued from stuffed animal purgatory to serve as both decoration and entertainment.

He came with his own stuffed animals too. Clothes, toys, soothers, a neon mobile that plays nature sounds and lull-a-byes at the press of a button; I’m told he prefers falling asleep to Bach each night (classy). He has a favourite blanket, book, game, food, way of being woken each morning and, no doubt, a thousand other things I didn’t even think to ask about. In real life, we have more questions than answers. I have no idea if he’ll like his room.

When I brought my daughters home, these same drawers were bursting with clothes. From day one I was the acknowledged expert on who they were and what they needed. It wasn’t that complicated; newborn infants are more potential than established personality. But almost two-year-olds don’t fit neatly into the boxes my imagination had constructed. He came with his own things. He came with his own identity.

A worn blue T-shirt, obviously a favourite, clutched in my hand, it finally occurs to me that, in all their wisdom, the Government of Canada, under the auspices of the Ministry of Child and Family Development, has seen fit to give us an actual person.

First steps in the door bringing our new son home forever!

First steps in the door, bringing our new son home forever!

So here’s us, two years after first bringing home boy. We’ve learned a lot and we still have a lot to learn. It’s been a wild ride! It never ceases to amaze me that they gave us a real, live person. For Keeps!

We love, love, love this little guy. Happy FOR KEEPS Day to us!

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Snapshots of Adoption

Life is moving at warp speed these days. I should probably be running alongside, trying to keep up, instead of blogging. I should probably be doing the dishes or installing child proof latches on our valuables (by valuables I mean 23 Wiggles DVDs and 14 lbs of scrapbooking supplies I may never use again). I should probably try to catch up on sleep. I should probably be siphoning gas from our neighbours’ cars (driving 2-3 hours per day, often in two separate cars, is pricey).

But instead, I’m going to introduce you to the cast of a little show I like to call “Adoption Transition: Awkward is an Understatement.”

First up, Stranger Mommy

Not my favourite role, I’ll be honest, but a necessary part of the process. My son’s initial reaction to me was the same as to any stranger in his life. For a shy little boy with stranger anxiety, this means a few smiles and tolerating the briefest of touches. He doesn’t mind me, but he doesn’t welcome me either.

This is actually a good sign. He is very securely attached to his foster mom and caregiver. One day he will transfer that complete trust and reliance to me, which is infinitely easier than creating attachment where none has been before.

This is a test. I am not Mommy to meet my needs, but his.

The Other Women

Fortunately, I’m not the only one who feels this way. The other women in his life (foster mom, foster-sister and caregiver) are going against all their natural instincts: backing off so we can step in; spending time away so we can grow closer; letting him go so he can be part of our family. It is no small sacrifice, and they are grieving.

People who work in foster care have a bad rap. Some rightly so. But there are many others who are better than saints. Better because they are flesh and blood people who struggle and hurt and do their best and sign up to do it over and over again. All so children like my son can have what they need.

The Other Other Women

Three big sisters. An embarrassment of riches for any boy. They are getting a bit sick of playing the bit parts. The dialogue is repetitive “When do we get to see him? It’s not fair. You get to see him all the time… She took my iPod! It was just lying there. Moooooooom!”

The past 2 Saturdays have been spent with foster family, having a great time, sad to leave… B has decided her brother is okay, which is good since he is fascinated by her. L is angling for the role of second Mommy. C completely overlooked a TRAMPOLINE she was so focused on playing with her new brother. Now that’s love!

Reluctant Snuggler

Which brings us to the real star of our show – my son. He is charming. He is ridiculously cute. And he knows it. He can handle an adoring public, but he likes to stick close to home base.

Suddenly, we are changing the rules on him. And he’s not impressed, but he is beginning to rally.

Our first night alone got off to a rocky start: screaming and reaching for the door, then crying in heartbreak. But we both calmed down after about 15 minutes. He let me comfort him and there was some definite snuggle-age. We played and read books and sang songs until bedtime. After a brief protest, he cuddled with me and his bottle. And I rocked my boy to sleep in my arms! I can’t say that enough – I rocked him to sleep in my arms! And in fact I rocked this sleeping boy in my arms, long past him falling asleep.

The Daddy

Our final cast member is the hero of our story. On his second visit, his son went up to him, lifted up his arms and proceeded to snuggle with his new Daddy. That’s right, on day two! He still flinches away from me, but he LOVES his Daddy.

He runs to him when we arrive. He chooses him above everyone else. He climbs all over him. He plays “hockey” with the mini-sticks. He recruits him to swing him around in a big, green Rubbermaid. He rubs his scruffy face with his hands. Yesterday, he found a hairy belly under Daddy’s t-shirt and found that endlessly fascinating. This is the only Daddy he has ever known.

There are moments when I’m slightly envious, but altogether, I am thrilled! Glen was worried about bonding. He wondered if he would love this child the same as the others. He wondered if this child would love him.

When will he learn that I am ALWAYS right? 😉

So here’s me, at the end of our second week “visiting” S at his foster home. On Saturday, the whole family is coming to our house. The next two weeks, he will come home for increasing visits: 2 hours, 4, 7, overnight, 2 nights… until he comes home for good.

P.S. Sandra and John – I’m totally kidding about the siphoning gas thing, especially since I know you’re reading this. A dark parking lot where no one knows me is much more my style.


Happy Endings

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.


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