Yesterday Nic and I drove into Toronto to attend the "Adoption Resource Exchange Conference" hosted by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services. It is a semi-annual event that helps locate and match adoptive families with Ontario children available for adoption within the Children's Aid Society. Only people who have completed their homestudy are eligible to adopt, but we thought it would be a great learning experience and give us an idea of what to expect when we attended the next one in October.
The Conference was held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, which is basically at the base of the CN Tower. We registered when we arrived, and they gave us both bracelets, as well as a welcome package. The first place we decided to check out was the theatre where they were playing videos of the children available for adoption.
Our welcome package contained a list of all the children (name, age, gender, and CAS office). We were both a bit surprised to discover that in all of Ontario the CAS has only 163 children available for adoption. I imagine there are far more children in the foster care system itself, but that CAS is still working with those children's birth families.
In the short time we were at the conference (a little over two hours) we saw at least 300 people come and go. Who knows how many people were there throughout the day. You would think the children available would have a good chance of being adopted with that large a turn out. When I took a look at the signup sheet there were people on it from Sudbury and Thunder Bay. Our drive in to Toronto seemed like a small amount to travel in comparison.
There were a wide range of children available. The youngest was 10 months and the oldest 16 years. The videos showed the children playing and doing some of their favourite activities. The videographers would ask the older children questions so you could learn more about their interests. There was also a narrator who gave a background on the child, as well as information on their personality, health, development, and home/parent desired (by the child and/or CAS).
The videos were amazing! You really got a sense of the child and an idea of their situation. Most of the children under 2 years old had major health issues, and/or disabilities. Some of the older children (2-6) were also suffering from mild developmental delays, but many were showing great improvement. There were many children ages 5-10 who were diagnosed with ADHD. Which made me realize that I really need to find out more about the condition, and how mild, versus severe cases effect behaviour and health.
We were happy to see a number of sibling groups that CAS was only willing to place together. There were some that they were willing to separate (which was so sad), but not generally. These children seemed, for the most part, to have minimal, to no health and developmental issues.
Nic and I were both surprised to find ourselves really drawn to a couple of sibling groups. Our favourites were two girls aged 5 and 3. The older child has some mild developmental issues, but nothing we thought we could not handle. This sparked a very long discussion, over our late lunch, about what we are willing to "accept" in a child. We have been told many times, that this will change throughout the adoption process. Were they ever right!
One of the main reasons we moved on to considering private adoption was because Nic really wanted a child under two. Surprise, surprise that may not be the case. On my end of things I was surprised at how okay I was with the idea of adopting two children. There was even a sibling group of three children that I thought were really amazing. Obviously three kids is not in the cards for us (where would I put them all), but it was great to know that our minds are a bit more open than either of us thought.
After watching an hour of videos, they took a break and Nic and I went to visit all of the individual CAS booths and look around. From our local area the only division that had children available for adoption is Hastings. They had four children available (two 7 year olds, one 8 year old, and a 2 year old). We chatted with the ladies at the booth for awhile. They actually said that a child currently in their care, is in the process of being placed with a Prince Edward County family. We asked some questions about the rumoured amalgamation between the Hastings, Quinte and Prince Edward County CAS divisions. She said that it will be going through, and that April 2012 is the deadline for the transition to be completed. Each area will still have a local office, but they will all work together. She confirmed that neither of the other divisions currently have any children available for adoption.
We also spent some time and went through a binder containing all the children's profiles. We knew we would not see all the videos so thought this would be a good way to check out all the children. We then visited the booths of the divisions who had children we were interested in to find out more information.
We treated this day as information gathering only. We did take home a couple profiles to discuss further, but since we do not have our homestudy complete, even if we wanted to look further into a child, it would not be possible at this time. When we go in October that will be an option. In our welcome package there was a green form titled "Child Response Form". If you were interested in any of the children, you completed the form and returned it to the child's agency. This would get your adoption ball rolling. I will tell you, Nic and I saw allot of green forms being filled out.
Overall the day was a wonderful success for us. Not only did we broaden our horizons, but we learned allot, and had fun. Nic had worried that the day would be really emotional for me. It was emotional, but not sad. It actually solidified for me that there is a child (or children) out there for us. It was great to know that if private does not work out, there are children in the CAS system that would make amazing additions to our family. We understand that there are different obstacles and challenges with children that have been in the system. We are planning on doing some research, to find out more about the specific delays and disorders we found most common. There are so many degrees of each issue, we want to determine what we think we can, and can't handle.
On my agenda for today is to compose an e-mail to our practitioner. It has been two and a half weeks since the home inspection was cancelled. I want to tell her about yesterday and to see if she got my package with all our information. Fingers crossed she can give me an idea of when she might be able to start back up with us.