TORONTO — Benita Friedlander of Jewish Family & Child urges prospective parents to look outside the box when it comes to adoption.
The agency has a number of children who are in its fostering program, she said, and although the agency’s aim is to return them, when possible, to their parents, they do want some permanency for them.
“We don’t like to see kids [in long-term] care going from foster family to foster family. There is always the chance that the birth family will regain control and parent again, but sometimes we seek adoptive parents for these kids. A long-term foster family is a good choice,” said Friedlander, who is JF&CS’ adoption co-ordinator.
“We desperately need foster families, and sometimes the option of adoption becomes available.”
Those considering adoption have to be approved, she said, which includes a home study and 27 hours of mandatory training. “Once they’re approved, they join the agency’s list, and wait for a match.
“The more [open-minded the prospective] parents are, the better the chance is for a match. That is where long-term fostering comes in.”
John and Lisa (not their real names) have been fostering a three-year-old boy since July who they’re “pretty sure” will be up for adoption.
“We were on the list for adoption, and then this opportunity came up. We were [given the opportunity] to foster the child and were told it was probably long term. There was a small chance that he would not stay, but we were willing to take the chance,” says Lisa, who stays at home to care for the boy.
They took this route because they didn’t want to go through fertility treatments. “We had full intentions of adopting a child, and then he became available. We try not to think about the adoption until it actually happens,” she said.
It has totally changed their lives, said John. “It’s his house now. Most people have nine months to prepare for a baby. We had two hours. We came and met him, and took him home. We wouldn’t change it for anything.”
Another couple with two adopted children say they picked up one of their sons at his bris.
“He was with a foster family at the time, and the foster father held the baby at the bris. The baby was then passed from the foster father to the adoptive parents. It was very moving. There wasn’t a dry eye in the place,” the adoptive mother said.
She said they’re still involved with the foster family. “Foster parents and adoptive parents need to work together for the transition period, because babies get attached to the foster families.”
Friedlander said JF&CS runs an adoption support program for people who have recently adopted a child. “Adoption is a kind of invisible minority. It’s not really spoken about.”
Both the children who are adopted and their adoptive parents have suffered a loss, said Friedlander. “Kids going through foster homes experience loss when they’re moved from their birth family and then from their foster family.
“The birth parents also suffer loss, because by and large, they couldn’t conceive. They feel a loss when they realize they can’t have children. Families in the support group are facing the same issues. They often forge a connection, especially families with kids of the same age,” she said.
Adopted kids shouldn’t feel ashamed, and they shouldn’t feel proud, Friedlander said. “It’s just life, and some lives are different from others.”