Daniel and I had been adoptive and foster parents for roughly 3 years before we decided to expand our family once again. Mathieu was 3, Robby was 2 and Alaina had just turned 1 years old. We didn’t have any other foster placements at the time so we figured it was a good time to begin. We pondered between a regular Ministry adoption, like the one we did with Mathieu, or a concurrent adoption.
Concurrent adoption was a new program in BC that has since gone in and out of existence. Aspects of the program are wonderful, while other aspects can be challenging. The great thing about this type of adoption is that the child can then maintain the attachment they have with their foster parents once they are placed for adoption, rather than being moved to a new adoptive home. How it works, is when a child who is coming into foster care is believed to eventually be placed for adoption, they are then placed in a concurrent foster home rather than a regular foster home.
The first goal of foster care is always to reunite children with family, but in some instances it is known right away that is not possible. Some examples might include the death of parents, no extended family members, a parent who has already lost custody of several children in a row, or a parent who has expressed that they do not wish to or cannot parent. There are no guarantees, however, that the child will become available for adoption. Sometimes the child does return home, and sometimes extended family members are found, but in the end if a child can avoid the trauma of moving from home to home, it is a great program in my opinion.
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With concurrent adoption in mind, we phoned up our social worker on a Friday in February and told her we wanted to be placed on the concurrent list. She informed us we would have to do an updated adoption home study and she would phone us the following week to set things up. We were so excited to begin another potential adoption journey!
(I will add an important note here: I do not think concurrent adoption is ideal for anyone who does not already have kids or who is not already a foster parent. Concurrent placements are always first and foremost, foster placements. The goal is always reunification, and even when it isn’t, there are so many unknown factors. It can create a lot of trauma for parents who have no children, who suddenly form an attachment with one, only to see them leave. It also requires many factors associated with fostering, such as visits and meetings, that are not normally associated with adoption. I recommend this route to those that are already foster parents)
On Monday morning, 3 days after I had phoned our social worker, a fostering placement social worker called. She asked if we were a concurrent home, to which I replied yes, and she said she had a child for concurrent placement that needed a family. She had just been born 3 weeks before and was still in the hospital. Talk about fast turnaround! Before we knew it I was headed to the hospital to meet the tiny new addition to our family!
Her name was Chloe and she was 3 weeks old. She was in the hospital due to having Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, which is something that can occur when there is prenatal exposure to drugs or alcohol. She would likely have to stay one more week before she came home. She was just adorable and settled into her new life with us quite quickly.
Chloe went CCO quite soon, and by the time she was a few months old she was already available for adoption.
Her file got transferred to a guardianship worker who would facilitate the official adoption process. When Chloe was roughly 13 months old the worker came over with my resource worker to discuss Chloe’s adoption. After some casual chit chat we started to discuss the details.
“So I have 3 home studies of families that I think would be great fits for Chloe. I would love for you to look them over and give your input on which family she would do well in.”
I suddenly realized I wasn’t breathing. What did she mean 3 families for Chloe? We were her family! We had been told this was a concurrent placement. No extended family was available. Why were they looking for other families? As tears trickled down my cheeks the worker began to explain.
“We feel that Chloe will do better in a home that shares her cultural background, so we have chosen 3 black families.”
Now I want to take a moment and say, I completely understand the importance of cultural matches in adoption and the benefits they have. BUT I am a very strong advocate for attachment and avoiding trauma for children when possible. Chloe had been with us since the day she left the hospital. She called us mom and dad. She knew no other parents other than us. We were her family.
They soon left and my heart hurt more than I can ever remember my heart hurting before. How could this be? How could we lose our little Chloe? I began to weep.
I decided to fight. I couldn’t let this go. I phoned the social worker the next day and explained my concerns and why I felt it was in Chloe’s best interest to remain with us. She stuck to her guns but said she would bring it up to her supervisor. We found out a week later that the supervisor was willing to meet with us to discuss it further.
We walked into the office of the supervisor and the social worker. It was immediately apparent the supervisor had something against us. It didn’t take long to find out what. Rather that discussing the cultural concerns, the social worker briefly mentioned their concern of us having 4 kids. We had parented 4 children previously through fostering, and had no doubt in our ability to parent 4 children (HA! They should see us now!). We told them we could attain ample letters to prove our ability to parent 4 children and anything else they would require. This would be the first time we realized how much bias there is against large families. Then the supervisor began speaking and it all became clear. She started talking about Chloe growing up, and what would happen if she said F*** the church. She actually swore in the meeting, in a professional setting, discussing the future of our child. It became apparent very quickly that her concerns were based on the fact that we are Christian.
We calmly responded to her concerns, and defended ourselves against her very inaccurate accusations. We left the meeting confused, shocked, and unsure of how to move forward.
As I lay in my bed later that night, I couldn’t help shake the feeling that I needed to do more. I got up and went to my computer and wrote the social worker one last e-mail. In it I poured out our heart. I described our love for Chloe, our ability to parent large families, and our ability to embrace her culture. I hit send, not knowing if the letter would matter or if it would accomplish anything, but at least I had given it once last shot. The social worker responded the next day, thanked me for the e-mail, and said she would give us her decision soon. We waited what felt like an eternity to hear back from her. It was close to two weeks before we heard back. I was in a library when she called. She told me they had decided that we could provide an appropriate home and that they would proceed with us adopting Chloe. My heart was overjoyed. I wanted to scream right there in the middle of the library! The relief swept over me and I began to cry. Chloe would remain with us.
Later on, when I inquired about the concurrent process and why other families had been pursued, I discovered that Chloe has never actually been a part of the concurrent program, hence the confusion of a program that starts and stops. Original placement workers had been misinformed. Furthermore, I discovered that even if it had been concurrent, the guardianship worker always has the decision to choose someone else as the adoptive family. So there are no guarantees with concurrent.
Thank the Lord we were chosen, though, and soon after were able to adopt Chloe. Today she is 8 years old and our spunky, girly Chlo-Mo. Although she too ended up with FASD as some of my other children, academically she is doing well and can likely go on to university when she is older. She loves knitting, dance, cheer, coloring and singing. She can usually be found listening to the latest tunes and dancing away. She loves playing with her friends, and is a great helper to mom and dad. I cannot say how thankful we are that Chloe’s adoption went through and that she is able to be a part of our family. We love her to bits and are so happy to call her daughter.
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