When most people hear the word “adoption,” they think two things: “babies” and “doesn’t apply to me.” But it’s the things people don’t usually think about that are more important.
November is Adoption Awareness Month and the Adoptive Families Association of BC (AFABC) has some thoughts about what most of us usually don’t think about adoption.
For example, most people don’t think, “Of course, adoption applies to me. Gramps was adopted, Aunt Jean was a birth mom and didn’t Sean at work mention that his sister and her husband are adopting?”
Most people don’t think that older children are just as adoptable as babies. In fact, only 10–15% of BC’s 1000 children registered for adoption are babies. Twenty percent are sibling groups. Thirty percent are teens.
Another thing most people don’t think about adoption is, “If only more of our tax dollars went to finding adoptive families for children who need them — especially the teens.”
Now there’s something that people really don’t think about — more ways to spend tax dollars. But when it comes to adoption, and especially teen adoption, they should. Research shows that teens who are discharged from care at 19 without finding permanent families are significantly less likely than other teens to finish high school and go on to post-secondary education, and are at significantly higher risk of unplanned pregnancy, substance abuse, homelessness, and criminal involvement — all of which cost more tax dollars to deal with than it would just to find families for them.
But do teens even want to be adopted? Yes, when teens are made aware that adoption is still an option, they often want it, very much.
Aren’t teens too old to fit in with adoptive families? No. It takes time for them to learn to trust that their adoptive parents are in it for life, but they do figure it out.
Wouldn’t teens rather just go into independent living? No. Most teens want all the things that other kids their age have — all the things a family can provide.
Take April, a 19-year-old who had lived in foster care for seven years when she was finally matched with an adoptive family by AFABC’s Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program. At 16, April was distrustful of others and had few plans for the future.
After only three years of receiving her adoptive mom’s unconditional love, April’s life has changed dramatically. She’s now a second-year SFU student, hopes to become a social worker and is confident enough to speak publicly about her experience, as she does in a moving story on our website and did on air recently for CBC Almanac.
What can adoptive families do that will have such a transformative impact on a teen’s life? They can:
-Give high fives when their teen gets good grades and consequences when they stay out too late.
-Encourage their teen to attend post-secondary and be there to applaud when they graduate.
-Supply old dishes for their young adult’s first apartment and weekend access to the washing machine.
-Teach their young adult how to change a tire on their first car and give them a ride home after a roadside breakdown.
-Share turkey, stuffing and gravy around a holiday table and a cake with candles on their birthday.
-Lend an ear when a new job isn’t going well and a shoulder to cry on when a relationship falls apart.
-Watch with pride as their adopted child stands at the altar and give them a break from a crying newborn when they’re sleep deprived.
In other words, adoptive families can provide all the small, daily things we all need from our families — all the things that make a day worth getting through and a future worth planning for.
What does it take to adopt a teen? It takes patience to convince a kid who has never been able to count on anyone that they will be able to count on you. It takes an open heart to welcome a child with emotional baggage into your home. It takes an open mind to get through moments with a 17-year-old that your biological kids might have worked through when they were 14. It takes a sense of humour to explain to people exactly what your relationship with this daughter or son is.
It takes a lot. But it also gives a lot. Like the moment your adopted son first calls you “mom” or “dad.” Or the day your adopted daughter finally says, “I love you.” Or the point when your adopted child asks if you’ll help them find a way to mentor other kids in care so that they, too, will realize how great it is to have a family and how important it is for them not to give up hope.
To find out if your family has a space that you didn’t even know needed to be filled, call the Adoptive Families Association of BC at 604-320-7330, toll-free 1-877-BCADOPT-07, visit www.bcadopt.com or email [email protected].
If you’re not quite ready to think about adopting, simply go to www.ethicalbean.com to find out how the coffee you buy this month can help the AFABC build strong families across BC, one child at a time.