Three couples who have taken this route are happily raising families.
The transition to parenthood is often fraught with lifestyle adjustments that seem daunting. Dave and Rita Simcoe,* however, eagerly awaited those changes for almost a decade.
After years of trying to conceive, including three failed attempts at artificial insemination, the Simcoes decided to pursue adoption. Biological brothers Chris*, 4, and Jake*, 3, joined the family two years later. For the first time in their lives, David and Rita, both 39 at the time, tucked their sons into bed and kissed them goodnight. It was an experience they say they will never forget.
Though the road to adoption may seem long and onerous, the Simcoes are part of a wide network of Canadians who are happily raising a family because of it. “There’s never been a moment when it didn’t feel right,” says Dave. “Our boys are our boys, and that’s it.”
The first decision for anyone who chooses to adopt a child – whether married or single – is which avenue of adoption to take. Do you want to adopt through a Children’s Aid Society (CAS) or through the private system?
International adoption is another option.
Public adoptions arranged through the CAS are free, whereas private adoptions can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000.
Both public and private adoptions (including international adoptions) follow a similar process for parents to be, including training (called PRIDE), home study, and more (see sidebar for more details).
“It’s important to be clear about why you want to create a family through adoption, and what your expectations for your family are,” says Ricarda Renner, the regional adoption manager for the Kawartha-Haliburton Children’s Aid Society and Highland Shores Children’s Aid Society.
“The mandatory training program for all persons wanting to adopt in Ontario helps people answer these questions. It also provides families with an opportunity to plan carefully and realistically for the child they want to adopt,” says Renner.
The Simcoes chose to adopt through CAS. Of the 78,000 children currently in Canada’s child welfare system, approximately 30,000 are legally eligible for adoption, according to the Adoption Council of Canada. The majority of these children are over six years old.
While many families request infants and toddlers, there is a need for parents who want to adopt sibling groups and older children, as the Simcoes did. These types of adoption applications get priority, says Renner.
Once a child has been selected as a potential match for your family, visits are arranged so you can get to know each other. These visits can sometimes be hard, says Rita. She vividly remembers Jake lingering at the door of his foster home, his bottom lip trembling, pleading with the Simcoes to come back. “It was heart-breaking,” she recalls. But then came the amazing day when Dave, Rita, Jake and Chris made the drive home as a family.
Three years later, the Simcoes adopted the boy’s newest sibling, Michael,* growing their family even more.
Curious about origins
The CAS supports the continuation of relationships that are meaningful and beneficial to the child, says Renner. “The degree of openness ranges from an exchange of letters or photos to direct contact and is determined through the adoption process.”
Adoption workers and agencies provide families with as much medical and family history as they have and encourage parents to share this information with their children. While the Simcoe boys, now ages 17, 16, and 10, are aware of the basics – that their birth parents loved them, but were unable to parent them – they are currently more interested in sports than discovering their birth origins.
Other adopted kids express a deep desire to learn about their history. Wanda and Paul Van Bakel were taken aback at first when they discovered that adopted daughter, Ashleigh, 12, had contacted her birth mother through Facebook. But Wanda says she understands Ashleigh’s need to connect with her birth mother and encourages this open relationship.
Like the Simcoes, the Van Bakels adopted Ashleigh through the CAS. Five years after making the initial phone call they were selected to be the adoptive parents of an unborn child. Wanda was able to attend an ultrasound with her daughter’s birth mom. “I was thrilled,” she says. “But it was also tough – she was giving us the greatest gift anyone’s ever given us, but she was giving up a piece of herself, and that can never be easy.”
Ashleigh’s first month in the Van Bakel home brought excitement and joy, but her parents couldn’t relax quite yet. That’s because up until the 28th day, the birth mother is legally able to change her mind and take the child back. When the 28th day passed, and the adoption was finalized, the Van Bakels were filled with relief and delight.
Less than two years later, Wanda gave birth to a daughter, Claire. Not long after, they also adopted Ashleigh’s sibling, Emilee. Paul and Wanda were now the parents of three girls, when just a few years earlier the prospect of having one child had seemed like a dream.
When Kim and Mike Kalton* decided to adopt, Kim was in her early 30s, and her husband in his early 40s. Unwilling to risk the potential for long wait times, they decided to adopt internationally.
In Canada, around 2,000 children are adopted internationally each year, according to Citizenship and Immigration Canada. The average cost ranges from $35,000 to $45,000.
It was a year before the Kaltons got the go-ahead to travel to China to pick up their daughter, Sarah.* Jet-lagged and tired, they were crammed into a hallway with 16 other couples all waiting to meet their new child. What was it like for Kim to cradle Sarah in her arms for the first time? “Like any new mom you’re counting fingers and toes and checking them out,” remembers Kim.
About a year after adopting Sarah, the Kaltons went to China a second time and brought home adopted daughter Vanessa.* While ecstatic to be their mom, Kim knows there are cultural losses for the girls. “We’re not Chinese, we don’t speak Mandarin.” Her daughters, now ages 10 and 9, are curious about their home country, and “as parents we are open to whatever path life takes them on.”
To her surprise, Kim then became pregnant with Murray* (now 7). Kim is aware of how conspicuous her family may look to outsiders with two, dark-haired daughters from China, and a blond-haired, blue-eyed son. But it doesn’t impact either parents or children. “This is our family,” she says simply.
Key to success
Successful adoptions share a common thread, says Renner. “The adoptive parents have a desire to meet the changing needs of their child. Utilizing their energy, enthusiasm and love, they want to build a joyful relationship with the child they are parenting.”
Reflecting on the role adoption has played in her life, Kim Kalton says, “We don’t look at our kids as our adoptive kids and our biological kids, they’re just our kids. They’re these people in our lives who we, as parents, get to help shape. I can’t imagine what life would have been like if I hadn’t pursued this opportunity.”
The Adoption Process
Anyone in Ontario looking to adopt must complete a 27 to 30 hour pre-service training course – PRIDE – to ensure they understand all the adoption options.
Next a home study is conducted. It looks at such things as family history, current family dynamic, and motivations to adopt. The home study also includes interviews with everyone living in the household, a home tour to assess safety for children, and extensive discussion about the child you envision fitting into your family.
Adoptive applicants must also provide a full medical, a police check, and depending on the chosen route, reference letters from employers, friends and family. Once this stage is complete, you will be matched with a child who best suits your family. The wait time varies depending on family requests.
For more information on adoptions through Children’s Aid Societies, visit www.oacas.org