Words Can Hurt

Believe it or not, the world of adoption has a language of its own.  People who have adopted, or have been adopted, are often quick to correct an improper or negative term or phrase. I was recently reminded of this as I was exploring some marketing avenues for my adoption consulting business. The person I was speaking with worked in the advertising and marketing section of a local magazine. After I had introduced my company and myself, the following brief conversation ensued:

“So you help people get babies then?”

“No, I provide education and consultation services to families who are exploring adoption in Alberta.”

The person asked, “So you don’t work with the girls who give up the babies?”

Moving swiftly into “education mode” I politely replied, “No, I do not work with people who are looking to place a child for adoption.”

This recent conversation reminded me that people who have not yet been personally connected to adoption should learn and understand positive adoption language.

The reason why this is so important is that certain words have a serious negative connotation and can be down-right rude or demeaning to someone who has been involved in adoption.

Please take a minute to read through the following terms (perhaps one day they will be useful to you):

Negative Terminology                           Positive and Preferred

1) Gave up for adoption                             Placed for adoption

2) Real parent / Natural parent              Birthparent / Biological parent

(How can someone be a “real” or non- real parent? How can someone be a “natural” or non-natural parent?)

3) “Adoptive” parent                                    Parent

(Is it really necessary to create this distinction?  By adding “adoptive” it makes the relationship sound like a consolation prize!)

4) Her/His “adopted” child                        Her/His “child”

(The same applies here.  Why create this distinction at all?  Under what circumstances would this be necessary or appropriate?)

5) Keep a child                                                 Chose to parent

6) A “foreign” adoption                               An “international” adoption

7) To “track down” bio-parents                To search for biological parents

Eight) Unwanted child                                           A child placed for adoption

It is my hope that, after reading through the above terms, you will understand that there is justifiable sensitivity among adoptees and their parents to some of the common language and expressions that people use when differentiating adoptive relationships from those that are biological.  After all, you never know who is listening or for that matter, who might be adopted.

Adult Adoption in Alberta, Canada

Adult adoption in Alberta:

Under the Adult Adoption Act, which came into effect January 1, 1995, a person over the age of 18 can be adopted. The person adopting must be a resident of Alberta and the adoptee must be a Canadian citizen (or lawfully admitted to Canada).

Who would adopt an adult?

The most common adult adoptee is a person who was raised by a step-parent and who wishes to formalize the relationship. Parents who have raised a child as foster parents, but were not able to formally adopt in earlier years, and who wish to now adopt the adult can also do so. Adult adoptees who have reconnected with their birth-family and would like to formalize their relationship can also do so.

How can a person adopt an adult?

Small Miracles Adoption offers services to Albertans by completing and filing the adoption application for you. Queen’s Printer also offers a “Self-Help Kit”, in which the adopting person(s) can purchase and complete on their own.

For more information on Adult, Step-Parent and Private Placement adoptions visit our website:

Adoption survey for Albertans.

If you have ever considered adopting, in the province of Alberta, please complete our confidential survey by clicking onto this link:

Click here to take survey

Thank you for your participation. Your input is instrumental in Small Miracles Adoption (SMA) providing the best possible adoption consulting service in Edmonton, Alberta.

The Modern Family

Sometimes I get “writer’s block”. This seems fundamentally unfair to me because I don’t consider myself to be a writer. I think it is especially cruel for a person to succumb to an affliction for which they don’t technically qualify. I have been blocked like this before and what I find is that research often helps. Exploring the etymology of a word that I consider “key” is especially helpful. As a social worker, working in the unique area of step-parent and adult adoption, I am moved to write about the modern phenomenon of blended families which, statistically, are becoming a norm in Western culture. It occurred to me that the obvious key word is “family”. Given their use and context all words have power, but I believe that an elite group of words exists whose power is somehow fused into their jumble of consonants and vowels in a way that makes them distinctly potent. “Family” is one such word. It occurred to me that rediscovering the concept of “family”, within the very history of the word, should prove a very effective means of laying siege to my writer’s block. Armed with this approach, I assailed the etymology sites available on the Internet.

c.1400, “servants of a household,” from L. familia “household,” including relatives and servants, from famulus “servant,” of unknown origin. The classical L. sense recorded in Eng. from 1545; the main modern sense of “those connected by blood” (whether living together or not) is first attested 1667. Replaced O.E. hiwscipe. Buzzword family values first recorded 1966. Phrase in a family way “pregnant” is from 1796. Family circle is 1809; family man, one devoted to wife and children, is 1856 (earlier it meant “thief,” 1788, from family in slang sense of “the fraternity of thieves”). (http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?l=f&p=2)

The above definition is typical of what my research revealed and which, at first glance, did not afford the epiphany that I had so desperately hoped for. “Household” from the Latin familia seemed absolutely sterile, completely devoid of any of the inspirational adjectives I had expectantly anticipated. The fact that the word’s meaning included, “relatives and servants” was troubling given the direction that I wanted to go with this topic. Things got worse! “Servant” from the Latin “famulus”? I had really been hoping for something more like, “Latin for a group of people who love, respect and would throw themselves in front of a run-a-way chariot for one another”. As the etymology traced the word “family” through history, I was further assaulted with, “the main modern sense of “those connected by blood” (whether living together or not) as first attested 1667”. It occurred to me that, “the main modern sense” was very much pointing in exactly the opposite direction to the one that I had wanted to go. Dejected, I logged off.

Over the next few days, the concepts revealed within the etymology continued to ferment in my subconscious. In my heart, the word “family” was no less powerful than it had been before I clicked onto my computer. It occurred to me that something had truly been revealed but, within my modern context, I was failing to grasp it.

I found the reference in the etymological definition to “family values” and its description as a “buzzword” to be very revealing. I would have thought that the phrase would have had a far more meaningful and pedigreed origin as opposed to the buzzy expression originating in the middle 1960’s that, admittedly, didn’t have any actual list of identifiable values associated to it. I had never stopped to think about it until now. It was clear that the fusion of two elite words like “family” and “values” were socially irresistible and sufficiently powerful to exist without requiring any factual or intellectual foundation. Although the idea itself was without substance, it proved sufficiently compelling that its repetition, particularly among political and religious groups, had eventually elevated it to the status of a generally accepted concept.

This has caused me to wonder whether or not the Ancients had it right all along, and that our modern concepts of “family” are far more subjective, limiting, and ultimately superficial than those intended by the creators of the word. The Ancients had been unrestrictive and inclusive in their approach to the concept of family, making no reference to any connection by “blood” or lineage. Their definition reflects their acknowledgement that belonging to the “familia” simply meant being a member of the household.

Perhaps, the ancient definition of family is more in harmony with the modern blended family than we, as a society, are prepared to admit.

Fundraiser for Cancer on June 4, 2010

Small Miracles Adoption is raising money for Cancer: The Ride to Conquer Cancer is a 200 km cycle in the mountains. PLEASE consider donating to rider #141986-9 at www.conquercancer.ca

****Small Miracles & Shining Star Presents a Pub Night/Silent Auction/50-50 & Raffle to raise money for Cancer****

When: Friday, June 4, 2010 at 7:00pm
Where: Finnagan’s Bar Bistro & Billiards located at 13560 Fort Road, Edmonton, AB

Come out, have a great time, bid on some amazing big ticket items, and try your luck with the raffle or the 50/50 draw all in the name of raising money for the Ride to Conquer Cancer 2010.

Each ticket is $10, which include a free hi-ball or 12oz draft (one ticket per person). Limited number of tickets. Please email ASAP smallmiraclesadoption@gmail.com to purchase your ticket.

The Ride to Conquer Cancer

Small Miracles Adoption is raising money for Cancer and is participating in The Ride to Conquer Cancer, which is a 200 km cycle in the Alberta Rockies!

We NEED to raise a minimum of $2500 as part of our commitment to finding a cure for cancer. PLEASE consider donating as much as you can afford (tax receipts will be provided by the Cancer Foundation) by donating to rider #141986-9 at http://www.conquercancer.ca

Thank you for your support!

The Map

In anticipation of Valentine’s Day, I have decided to give my faithful followers on Facebook, Twitter and my blog, a break from the comment and opinion articles that I have traditionally posted. Part 1 of the below story was submitted to me by an adopted person who wishes to remain anonymous. While they steadfastly maintain that the work is fiction, I know for a fact that it is based, at least partly, on actual events. I was moved by this story and although I acknowledge that everybody’s adoption experience is truly unique, I have decided that it is worthy of being featured as I believe that many adoptees will identify with the young female protagonist.

Please be sure to submit your comments so that I know if there is sufficient merit or interest in the story to justify printing the remaining parts.

The Map
Part 1:

It wasn’t all that unusual to find the teen sprawled out on the living room floor in front of the newspaper. Like most young teens, when Laura spent time with the newspaper it was an either acutely focused, or a completely random, activity. Laura routinely followed her horoscope and still enjoyed the comics, but she scanned most of the rest of the daily paper with little more than detached curiosity. Laura wasn’t as much curious about the actual content as she was confused about why anybody would find many of the sections of any interest whatsoever. The daily stock market quotations, with their microscopic printing and strange hieroglyphics, were of a particular concern to Laura. They seemed as confusing and inconsequential as the odd ciphers associated to the team standings and horse race handicapping that adorned the sports pages. From the perspective of a 14-year-old, the entire classified section was a particular wasteland and the obituaries seemed exceptionally morbid if not in conspicuous poor taste. Laura had long ago decided to leave explicit instructions not to have her death advertised to the world with some grainy photo and soppy poem in the local paper. Her only comfort was the fact that the majority of people featured in the obits were extremely old (many of them apparently over 40) and by virtue of their age were probably already exempt from humiliation.

The one exception, however, was the Personals. Laura found the Personals extremely interesting. There was something oddly compelling about an entire part of the very public newspaper dedicated to stuff that was, in many cases, of a pretty personal nature. Some people (mostly men) publicly announcing that they were no longer responsible for the debts of other people (mostly women); people who had found stuff; people who had lost stuff; people hoping to identify someone who had seen their traffic accident; people looking for other people or pets that they had apparently lost and men and women looking to find someone to love. It was all exceptionally fascinating.

For Laura there was no better newspaper in the whole year than the one published today. Today was Valentine’s Day. There would be special features about love, romance, chocolates and flowers. The personals would be bursting with advertisements paid for by people dedicating their undying Valentine’s Day love for one another and there would be at least one proposal of marriage. If that wasn’t exciting enough, Valentine’s Day just also happened to be Laura’s birthday and that gave today’s newspaper even more potential. The horoscope would have a special “If today is your birthday” entry that would offer special insight into her character as well as predictions for the coming year. But Laura had another reason for particularly anticipating today’s newspaper.

Each day the personals would contain at least one advertisement, generally from a birthmother, desperately attempting to reunite with a child given up for adoption years earlier. The ads inevitably targeted the day of their child’s birth as though some secret pact or understanding existed between birthmother and child that would cause them to automatically seek out one another on that particular day. Laura imagined that this was the same kind of magic that might simultaneously draw lost lovers back to the place where they first met. These were romantic and powerful notions for many young people who, like Laura, happened to be adopted.

Laura had first noticed these poignant entries in the Personals years before and for the last few years had scanned the ads on her Valentine’s Day birthday, wondering if someone she had never really known might someday come looking for her.

And it wasn’t as though Laura really needed ‘finding’. She hadn’t discussed this with her parents because she feared that it might throw some treacherous switch that afterwards couldn’t be unthrown. Despite her young age, Laura innately appreciated the very special relationship that she had with her Mom and Dad. She never doubted the love and support she received from her family and feared that any attempt to pursue her biological parents might be misconstrued as treachery by her family. This is something that Laura couldn’t, and wouldn’t risk, but oh how the curiosity burned and the strange longing to know more about herself persisted. Over the years, Laura had learned to contain the swelling adoption angst that was accompanying her journey into adulthood, but it was growing nonetheless.

Laura was glad that she wasn’t one of those people who, once grown up, suddenly discovered that they were adopted. Her parents had always been very candid with both her and her sister anytime the “stork” questions arose. Perhaps her parents had been wise enough to formulate this approach on their own or maybe it had all been part of the counselling and preparation they received as adopting parents; it really didn’t matter. Although Laura had always known that she was adopted, somehow, quietly, she also understood that the distinction between herself, her cousins, the kids at school and seemingly everybody else, was significant. Perhaps this significance had been heightened along the way by many small adoption epiphanies that always seemed to present themselves as troubling contradictions. It was okay, for instance, to be adopted but it wasn’t good to tell anybody about it. Being adopted, Laura was told, was “private” and best not discussed outside of the family. Neither was it ever considered good form to correct anybody when they commented on how much you looked like one parent or the other even in circumstances where the person commenting appeared to be trying a little too hard to identify similarities.

At first “bastard” was definitely a “swear” and then somehow it got downgraded to the status of a “bad word” by her parents. Like most questionable language, the actual meaning began to take shape on the playground and eventually the full formal definition of “bastard” followed with Laura’s study of religion, English History and Shakespeare. For a while Laura’s parents’ rather dubious rationalization about how their traditional status as husband and wife somehow cancelled out the otherwise negative connotations of Laura’s post-conception status. Unfortunately, by age 12, her parent’s benign, but faulty, logic had been significantly eroded by her own growing common sense and advancing maturity. Although she had never said anything to anybody, and regardless of the context, the word “bastard” stung her each and every time she encountered it.

“Birthmother seeking female child born February 14, 1963 in Chatham Ontario. Birth name NOLL — Please phone 401-637-9585”.

Laura was disappointed. It was the only ad of its kind. On other days there had been as many as three and sometimes four ads like this. It seemed to Laura that the fact that it was Valentine’s Day should have somehow generated a lot more mothers looking for their lost babies. The truth was that Laura didn’t even know where Chatham was. She had always thought of herself as being born in Agincourt, Ontario as that coincided with their family’s first house. She remembered being oddly irritated when her birth certificate had arrived indicating a birth place of “Kent County”. She immediately complained to her Mom, believing this to be an error, and went on at length about the fact that this sort of administrative mistake likely never occurred on official documents related to non-adopted people.

Reluctant to abandon her only “lead”, at least until her next birthday, following dinner Laura made her way out to her Dad’s 1970 Ford Custom 500 sedan and rummaged through the cavernous glove compartment ultimately recovering their torn, dog-eared and hopelessly origami-folded Esso map of Ontario. Laura couldn’t understand why her Dad didn’t just get another complimentary map from the man who pumped their gas at the local station and wondered if perhaps he hadn’t developed some misplaced ghosts-of-vacations-past nostalgia concerning the map. She had noticed that adults could be very strange that way at times.

At first Laura couldn’t find Chatham but she was able to get it’s coordinates from the table at the bottom of the map and while sitting in the passenger front seat of the Ford managed to track coordinates D – 8 to that peninsular part of Ontario that jutted down towards Detroit, Michigan on the American side. Laura stared a while at the irregular shaped little yellow splotch that represented Chatham, Ontario with its spider web of black and red lines representing the various roads and highways that connected it to other apparently more significant places like London, Sarnia, and Windsor. As Laura had expected, there was no magic in the old map. Chatham, Ontario was a place as meaningless and irrelevant to her as Inuvik or Cairo and staring at the map did not stir in her any latent recollection or awakening revelation. Regardless, Laura continued to study the map only distantly aware that something was tugging insistently at the edge of her consciousness. On some other level, she had perceived something interesting and her eye was now searching to regain it without knowing exactly what it was that she had seen. Among the many ubiquitous lines dissecting themselves on entirely different layers of the map, there was a thin faint line encompassing Chatham. Laura traced the area with her eyes until they finally locked on almost microscopic italic text that whispered “Kent County”.

It would be fair to say that Laura completely understood the significance of what she saw on the map while at the same time failing to grasp any meaning in it at all. It was as though the two sides of her brain were locked in some kind of duel to the death with neither gaining any clear advantage. Anybody walking by would have witnessed a girl quietly sitting in a car with a distinct look of abject confusion and puzzlement registered on her young face. Over time, however, a knot began expanding in Laura’s stomach and her conflicted mind began surrendering to a new emotion. If words had been assigned to Laura’s new feeling it would have been a mantra consisting of the following words in endless repetition: “Be careful what you wish for…Be careful what you wish for…Be careful…”

End of Part 1.

How Practical Are Women’s Alternatives To Abortion?

Regardless of your political leanings, views on feminism, or your religious beliefs, when you work in adoption you cannot help but to view abortion as lost opportunities to build families. When you work each day with amazing, capable couples who long for children, the number of pregnancies that are terminated seems particularly difficult to reconcile. Please do not misunderstand, I do not take a position on the legal, moral, religious or medical implications of abortion or contraception. As a woman, and as a social worker, I understand that these issues are difficult and complex on both an individual and a social level. I would like to believe that my mind is open and that I have a generous perspective on these delicate issues.

The most recent statistics that I can find on therapeutic abortions, in Alberta, comes from the Stats Canada Therapeutic Abortion Survey results for 2006 (Reported 24 Aug 2009). Although based on clinic and hospital self-reporting, and the fact that the report doesn’t include late-stage abortions referred to U.S. doctors, the Alberta numbers are considered relatively accurate at 11, 936. This means that about 50 abortions occur in Alberta clinics and hospitals every working day of the year.

Currently there are about 180 – 200 couples registered with Alberta’s 4 remaining private not-for-profit adoption agencies that are waiting to adopt a child. Usually, a couple would expect to wait an average of 18 months and up to 3 years before they are selected by a birthparent (in open adoption). To put this in perspective, in just 8 working days in Alberta, the number of babies aborted could reduce the adoptive parent’s waiting list to zero. In Alberta, last year, the adoption agencies placed just under 100 children with families. This represents two days worth of abortions.

I think it is vitally important that we create real choices for women. In terms of unplanned, unsupported pregnancies, women have three basic choices: keep their babies despite the hardships, terminate the pregnancy, or follow through with the pregnancy and then place the baby for adoption.

Of these three options, why does abortion appear to be the disproportionate choice? If our society is truly sincere about providing equal choices for women then it also needs to support and promote the choices equally. As a society, are we doing enough to encourage and support women to keep their babies when, without direct assistance, that choice is effectively not available to them? Why, for example, would we fund abortion through our health insurance plan but leave adopting parents without financial support or subsidy for their adoption expenses?

Depending on your point of view, abortion may or may not be a legitimate choice for women. Regardless, the disproportionate number that choose abortion has to make you wonder if society has rendered the alternatives practical.

Baptists charged in Haiti & Laura Silsby

Dear Readers:

I have attached a link to an article that I found very interesting. The author has received information concerning previous business practices associated to Laura Silsby. This article portrays Ms. Silsby as a savvy business woman with an interesting history with respect to her other business ventures. I caution that the author’s source is anonymous and you should consider this before coming to any conclusions. I am certain, however, that you will find this article as intriguing as I did.


Understand the Hague Convention

Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in respect of Intercountry Adoption:

There are often compelling social, as well as psychological, reasons for not removing children from their families, cultures and nations of birth. These principles are well-established in the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in respect of Intercountry Adoption, and of which Canada is a signatory. The principles underlying the Hague attempt to ensure that intercountry adoptions only occur when adoptions are in the best interests of the children. The Hague also acknowledges and addresses the prevalence of the abduction, sale, and trafficking of children internationally. Given the provisions of the Hague, children only become legitimately available for International Adoption under the most extreme circumstances. The Convention dictates that before an adoption can proceed, the originating jurisdiction must:

1. Determine if the child is “adoptable”
2. Ensure that all of the possibilities for placing the child within the State/Country of origin have been given due consideration
3. Conclude that an intercountry adoption is in the child’s best interest
4. Ensure that persons legally required to consent to the adoption have been counselled and informed of the effects of their consent, in particular whether or not an adoption will result in the termination of the legal relationship between the child and his/her birthfamily
5. Ensure that all the necessary consents are obtained in writing and are witnessed
6. Ensure that the consent of a birthmother is not obtained prior to the birth of the child
7. Ensure that the birthmother has received appropriate counselling
8. Consider the wishes and opinions of the child
9. Ensure that consent has not been induced by payment or compensation of any kind

The convention states that the receiving jurisdiction will:

1. Ensure that prospective adoptive parents are eligible and suited to adopt
2. Ensure that the prospective adoptive parents have been counselled
3. Determine that the child is or will be authorized to enter and reside permanently in that jurisdiction

Not all countries are part of the Hague Convention. Poorer countries may not be in a position to sign onto the Hague because they are not able to meet the requirement of having a central authority. Meeting this requirement may prove difficult in countries where there is a lack of means or political sophistication to establish such an authority. Regardless, most signatory countries have pledged to maintain the standards of the Hague even those who have not signed.

Please keep in mind that the laws change (sometimes weekly) in other countries so if international adoption is truly in your, and the child’s best interests, be responsible by staying informed; it is your responsibility to be educated on adoption.