Posts Tagged ‘ adoption ’

Marie – A Christmas Story

Marie was almost certain that she had never been in this neighbourhood before; nonetheless, the feel of this place was comfortingly familiar.  In truth, the streets were very similar to the ones that she had played along when she was growing up.  Perhaps that was why she wasn’t feeling that twinge of vulnerability that females walking alone at night often experience.   Moreover, it was an exceptionally dark night, but one contrasted with the light emanating from the closely arranged bungalows, most decorated with the colourful arrays of Christmas lights that befit this time of year.

Marie was alone on the street.  The children that might have expected to be present there, during the few hours of winter daylight available in this northern town, were likely busy getting ready for bed.  They would be donning pajamas, pulling up plates of cookies and milk for final snacks.  Many would have become suddenly and suspiciously quiet in hopeful anticipation that their distracted parents might unwittingly extend “bed time”, perhaps by temporarily forgetting they even had children.

Marie smiled a little as she visualized these activities, occurring just beyond the warm glow of the decorated front room windows.  She walked along the alternately shoveled and snowy walks and noticed how still and close the air was this night; typical of the charged atmosphere that often cradled the quiet interlude between two storms.  The still and frozen mist hung closely around her and, for some reason, she found the mildly claustrophobic effect calming.  Perhaps the air had found harmony with her mood or maybe, like the evening itself, she had somehow become resolved to a storm that, although near, was yet to arrive.

The Christmas lights shone and twinkled silently but the sounds of her footfall on the frozen concrete, ice and snow of the sidewalk amplified in the thickened air.  Marie’s one hand rested deep in the pocket of her coat, clutching the envelope on which her destination’s address was written.  In her other hand she held a brightly coloured gift bag by its twisted paper handles.  She had journeyed close enough to begin earnestly scanning the addresses of each house as the numbers, like a countdown, began to align with the paper in her pocket.  Her heart began to race slightly ahead of her steps.

Marie was a pretty young woman in her mid-twenties.   She was taller than most of her friends with long auburn hair and vibrant blue eyes.  Men noticed her but she was seldom aware of this and, despite the attention she commanded with her good looks and easy disposition, she had engaged in only a few serious relationships.  Marie had never considered herself “lucky in love” preferring her own company and a good book to the noisy and congested confines of the clubs that her girlfriends had long ago stopped trying to pull her into.  It was hard to believe that it was only two Christmas’s ago when she had met the tall and handsome Joe in a meeting that had seemed positively serendipitous.  The two had collided while attempting to pass each other in the laundry room doorway.  The contents of their respective baskets spilled causing their clothes to intermingle indiscreetly on the floor; his items still newly warm from the dryer while her unwashed items exuded a potent combination of pheromones and soft, faint perfume.

Amongst nervous apologies, complicated by their curious but mutual inability to make direct eye contact, Marie and Joe found themselves kneeling close to one another, their clumsy and darting hands inadvertently brushing the other’s sparking a series of invisible but significant biological pyrotechnics as they tried to separate the mingled items while their nervous and frenetic movements only served to further confuse and blend their respective laundry. Marie tactically snatched up a pair of her more indulgent underwear when, at one point, she noticed his uncertain hands hover, and then hesitate, above the lacy item.  She instinctively grabbed and drew the lingerie to her chest, concealing the tiny panties in both hands while looking directly into Joe’s eyes for the first time.  She momentarily had the look of someone who, while standing guiltily in a prisoner’s dock, had suddenly blurted out some kind of confession.  Inevitably, this moment culminated into an intense and passionate relationship.

Within a few months Joe’s unfortunately heavy emotional baggage, combined with a cocktail of commitment issues, was steadily chipping away at what Marie had fervently believed was the perfect “chance-laundry-room-meeting-happily-ever-after” scenario.  Equally unfortunate was that Marie’s commitment to the relationship had become all too tangible in terms of her quietly swelling belly. Despite remaining frustratingly devoted to his own independence, thankfully, Joe was understanding and supportive when she told him about the baby.   The event had been as close to a modern day “immaculate conception” as you could get, apparently the fault of some unknown failure of their meticulously administered birth control.

She was pleased as she withdrew the envelope and confirmed the address. The house was nice.  It was bright and cheerful with an attractive array of lights framing the dormers above the garage as well as the large picture frame front window.  Lights flashed unrelentingly on a mature spruce while an illuminated outline of a reindeer was caught, stop-motion, sprinting across the snowy lawn.  Despite the welcoming nature of the property, Marie felt as though some invisible force-field stood silent guard between the edge of the recently shoveled driveway and the sidewalk. As sure as she had been about accepting the invitation, she was now desperate to re-think this.  Marie considered the implications of simply stealing up and leaving the gift on the doorstep.

From the very first moment that Marie suspected she had conceived, she had sworn an oath that all of her decisions would reflect the best interests of this child.  She had resolved to have the baby, choose wonderful parents and then dutifully step aside.  Marie had convinced herself that having either no, or limited, contact with her baby was the right thing to do.  She also realized, however, that many cowardly decisions were often couched in honourable pretense.  Was it possible that her conscious decision to limit contact with this child was not as altruistic and unselfish as she had first led herself to believe?  Was the distance she had already maintained really intended for the ultimate benefit of her first born and his adoptive parents, or did it simply serve as hollow justification that allowed her to escape the many feelings that she was afraid could never be reconciled?  Marie had struggled to find balance in this admittedly difficult situation.  She had held the baby boy shortly after his birth but less than she would have liked, concerned that indulging her maternal love for him could potentially wreak havoc on them both.  She also knew that the boy’s adopted mother walked the same fine line, politely providing the requisite little notes and pictures while always remaining just a little wary about the possibility that, like some random bit of anti-matter, Marie could somehow cause her newly fulfilled domestic universe to implode.  If she walked away now, would it really be the “right” thing to do, or would she simply be succumbing to her own fears?

Marie stood a very long moment in front of the house wondering what to do when she suddenly felt a deliberate and impatient tug at her sleeve.

“What’s in there?” The little boy asked pointing directly at the gift bag with a mittened hand that matched the comically swollen proportions of his snow suit.  Marie was relieved for the distraction as she looked down at a little boy who had seemingly appeared out of nowhere.  The boy was perhaps 4 or maybe 5 years old.  It was really very difficult to tell much about him given the manner in which the miniature snow suit bulged around the tiny frame and even more so because the boy’s mouth and nose were completely concealed by a plaid scarf that had been tied tightly around the back of the snowsuit’s furry-edged hood. The child’s breath had condensed and then frozen on the scarf creating a crusty icicled outline of his nose and mouth.  Marie reflected that the snow suit, including the garish scarf, which she concluded could never have been in fashion anywhere but the Scottish Highlands (and maybe not even there), bore an uncanny resemblance to winter clothing that her own mother had “packaged” her in when she had been about the same age.  “Does this stuff never go out of fashion?” she thought to herself.  It was as though one of Marie’s old winter outfits had somehow been reclaimed from a family garage sale.

All Marie could really discern of the boy was that he was about two and a half feet tall and had distinctive and compelling blue eyes.  Marie thought that his eyes were probably accentuated by the fact that, beyond the scarf, they were his only visible facial feature.  Marie couldn’t help but feel that she recognized those eyes and was struck by the idea that she might have met or, may possibly even know, someone related to the boy.

“What’s in there?  The little boy asked again, once again clumsily poking the gift bag with the distended mitten.

“Hey!”  She replied, “What are you doing out here?  You all by yourself?”

“No.  Of course not!”  The little boy giggled while at the same time rolling his expressive eyes as though to suggest that Marie had just asked the most ridiculous question in the entire universe.  Marie looked around and saw what appeared to be a snowman under construction nearby and realized that the winter darkness really belied the relatively early hour.  Still, the little boy did appear to be alone in the street with no obvious parent or playmate in sight.  And it was getting late.  Marie decided to pursue the matter of the boy’s welfare further.

“Which is your house?” She asked to which the boy answered with a wave of his arm that was made decidedly more imprecise by the bulk of the snowsuit.  Unfortunately the gesture could have applied to one of a half dozen homes that fell within the arc made by the small arm.

“What’s in there?”  The boy repeated insistently.

“It’s a gift.”  Marie responded.

“Ohhhh.”  The boy replied, his most optimistic suspicions having now been happily confirmed.

“Who’s it for?”  Marie suspected that she knew where this conversation was heading.

“It’s for a little boy.” She replied.

“Ahhhhh…”  The little boy was clearly intrigued at the possibilities.  “Is it for your brother?”

“No.”

“Who’s it for then?”  He clearly wasn’t giving up on this.  Marie sighed.

“It’s for…it’s for my S-Son.”  A lump had suddenly formed in her throat.  She had choked on the words.  She suddenly realized she had never spoken them before.

“It’s for my Son.”  She repeated more clearly.

“Is it a toy?”

“No.  It’s not a toy”

“Oh.”  The boy’s reply, accentuated with his expressive eyes, clearly indicating both disappointment and an imminent loss of any further interest in the brightly decorated bag.

“You cumin’ in?”  The boy reached up offering Marie the opportunity to take his heavily insulated hand.

“You know these people?”  Marie asked surprised.  She was certain that the young couple that she had chosen to parent her baby had been otherwise childless.

“Of course I do!” The little boy’s muffled giggle obvious beneath the icy scarf.

Before Marie had much of a chance to think about it, the little boy was leading her up the walk towards the wreathed door.  It was all a bit strange Marie thought but, accompanied by the little boy, she suddenly felt better about approaching the house.

As he stood beside her at the door he suddenly tugged on her again and locked his beautiful blue eyes on hers.  In a voice that was suddenly mature and clear beyond his years the boy said, “Thanks for not giving up.  Please, don’t give up now.  You have no idea how much you are needed and how much you are already loved.”

Marie’s mouth fell open.  “What…What did you say?”  But suddenly the door swung open and Marie was momentarily engulfed in a tsunami of warmth and light that poured out from within the house.

“Marie!”  The young woman smiled warmly while extending both her hands in a gesture of sincere welcome.

“Yes…Hello…” Was all Marie could manage, the impact of the little boy’s words still resonating.

“The little boy…”

“Yes.  Of course.  He’s right here.”  Marie could see the woman’s husband walking in from the living room with a one-year-old boy in his arms.  The little boy hugged his father while staring intently over his shoulder at Marie.

“Oh.  He’s beautifullllll.” Marie cooed.  She was suddenly and totally distracted as she looked at her little boy.  Marie could immediately see the faces of her parents as well as many of her relatives reflected in the boy’s handsome features.

“But this boy…”  Marie looked down to see that the little boy who had almost dragged her up the walk and engaged her in such precocious conversation only moments before, was now gone.

“Where’d he go?”

The woman moved past Marie and looked out onto the empty street.  “What did he look like?”

“I couldn’t see him very well in his snowsuit.  He was about 4 years old or so.  He was playing outside…right out here.”

“Well.  I wouldn’t worry.  He’s probably visiting in the neighbourhood.  I’m sure that he’s safe at home now.”

Marie was slow to respond, her gaze now locked onto the familiar and distinctive blue eyes of her son.  An understanding of the Christmas miracle that had just occurred was welling up inside her.

“Yes.  Yes.  He’s safe at home.”

The little boy smiled at her.

JMP / EP

Origin of the term “step-child”

Is the word “Step” in relation to families a “…rose by any other name…?”

Step-
Old English. steop-, with connotations of “loss,” in combinations like steopcild “orphan,” related to astiepan, bestiepan “to bereave, to deprive of parents or children,” from P.Gmc. *steupa- “bereft” (cf. O.Fris. stiap-, O.N. stjup-, Swed. styv-, M.L.G. stef-, Du. stief-, O.H.G. stiof-, Ger. stief-), lit. “pushed out,” from PIE *steup-, from base *(s)teu- (see steep (adj.)). Etymologically, a stepfather or stepmother is one who becomes father or mother to an orphan, but the notion of orphanage faded in 20c. For sense evolution, cf. L. privignus “stepson,” related to privus “deprived.”

http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_the_origin_of_the_word_%27stepchild%27

In my previous blog contribution I considered the origins of the word “family”.  I  concluded that the concept of family as a nuclear, genetically-linked group is a relatively modern concept emerging sometime in the 17th century and culminating in such pop-cultural jargon as “family values”, an undefined but politically-charged term emerging sometime during the political campaigning of the 1960’s.

 

Although there have been several notable attempts to provide a better name for “modern” families, “Step” continues to be the prefix of choice.  Unfortunately it doesn’t mean “take a step in the right direction” as though it were a part of a larger and progressive process.  Unfortunately, although ancient in origin, the concepts of sad and deprived children, as demonstrated by the etymology, are all too often reflected in today’s reconstituted families.

 

Just in case you think I’m spending way too much time worrying about the ideas behind these adoption-related words, apparently I’m not the only other person thinking about this stuff:

 

http://voices.yahoo.com/the-origin-word-step-blended-families-and-7708888.html?cat=25

 

Family … What’s ‘blood’ got to do with it?

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.

family
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.

Raising funds for Kaley to keep her family together!

Raising funds for Kayla to keep her family together!

Dear Friends and Families,
 
I have a client whose husband passed away tragically before we could finish the paperwork for their step-parent adoption.
 
The parents of her deceased husband are trying to take one of the children away from her (she has a 4 year old son that she is a stepparent to and a 5 month son). The paternal grandparents are taking her to Court to try and get custody of the 4 yr old. My client, Kaley, was a stay-at-home mom and does not have the money for a lawyer. We are raising money to help pay for these costs. Please consider donating by going to our website and clicking the “donate” button.
http://www.smallmiraclesadoption.com/index.html?r=20120620123228

 

Help us to help Kaley keep her family together during this dreadful time in their lives!

This article is about Kaley’s husband:

http://www.albertapolicereport.com/2012/05/28/missing-camrose-boaters-named-bodies-recovered/

Marie – A Christmas Story

Marie was almost certain that she had never been in this neighbourhood before; nonetheless, the feel of this place was comfortingly familiar.  In truth, the streets were very similar to the ones that she had played along when she was growing up.  Perhaps that was why she wasn’t feeling that twinge of vulnerability that females walking alone at night often experience.   Moreover, it was an exceptionally dark night, but one contrasted with the light emanating from the closely arranged bungalows, most decorated with the colourful arrays of Christmas lights that befit this time of year.

Marie was alone on the street.  The children that might have expected to be present there, during the few hours of winter daylight available in this northern town, were likely busy getting ready for bed.  They would be donning pajamas, pulling up plates of cookies and milk for final snacks.  Many would have become suddenly and suspiciously quiet in hopeful anticipation that their distracted parents might unwittingly extend “bed time”, perhaps by temporarily forgetting they even had children.

Marie smiled a little as she visualized these activities, occurring just beyond the warm glow of the decorated front room windows.  She walked along the alternately shoveled and snowy walks and noticed how still and close the air was this night; typical of the charged atmosphere that often cradled the quiet interlude between two storms.  The still and frozen mist hung closely around her and, for some reason, she found the mildly claustrophobic effect calming.  Perhaps the air had found harmony with her mood or maybe, like the evening itself, she had somehow become resolved to a storm that, although near, was yet to arrive.

The Christmas lights shone and twinkled silently but the sounds of her footfall on the frozen concrete, ice and snow of the sidewalk amplified in the thickened air.  Marie’s one hand rested deep in the pocket of her coat, clutching the envelope on which her destination’s address was written.  In her other hand she held a brightly coloured gift bag by its twisted paper handles.  She had journeyed close enough to begin earnestly scanning the addresses of each house as the numbers, like a countdown, began to align with the paper in her pocket.  Her heart began to race slightly ahead of her steps.

Marie was a pretty young woman in her mid-twenties.   She was taller than most of her friends with long auburn hair and vibrant blue eyes.  Men noticed her but she was seldom aware of this and, despite the attention she commanded with her good looks and easy disposition, she had engaged in only a few serious relationships.  Marie had never considered herself “lucky in love” preferring her own company and a good book to the noisy and congested confines of the clubs that her girlfriends had long ago stopped trying to pull her into.  It was hard to believe that it was only two Christmas’s ago when she had met the tall and handsome Joe in a meeting that had seemed positively serendipitous.  The two had collided while attempting to pass each other in the laundry room doorway.  The contents of their respective baskets spilled causing their clothes to intermingle indiscreetly on the floor; his items still newly warm from the dryer while her unwashed items exuded a potent combination of pheromones and soft, faint perfume.

Amongst nervous apologies, complicated by their curious but mutual inability to make direct eye contact, Marie and Joe found themselves kneeling close to one another, their clumsy and darting hands inadvertently brushing the other’s sparking a series of invisible but significant biological pyrotechnics as they tried to separate the mingled items while their nervous and frenetic movements only served to further confuse and blend their respective laundry. Marie tactically snatched up a pair of her more indulgent underwear when, at one point, she noticed his uncertain hands hover, and then hesitate, above the lacy item.  She instinctively grabbed and drew the lingerie to her chest, concealing the tiny panties in both hands while looking directly into Joe’s eyes for the first time.  She momentarily had the look of someone who, while standing guiltily in a prisoner’s dock, had suddenly blurted out some kind of confession.  Inevitably, this moment culminated into an intense and passionate relationship.

Within a few months Joe’s unfortunately heavy emotional baggage, combined with a cocktail of commitment issues, was steadily chipping away at what Marie had fervently believed was the perfect “chance-laundry-room-meeting-happily-ever-after” scenario.  Equally unfortunate was that Marie’s commitment to the relationship had become all too tangible in terms of her quietly swelling belly. Despite remaining frustratingly devoted to his own independence, thankfully, Joe was understanding and supportive when she told him about the baby.   The event had been as close to a modern day “immaculate conception” as you could get, apparently the fault of some unknown failure of their meticulously administered birth control.

She was pleased as she withdrew the envelope and confirmed the address. The house was nice.  It was bright and cheerful with an attractive array of lights framing the dormers above the garage as well as the large picture frame front window.  Lights flashed unrelentingly on a mature spruce while an illuminated outline of a reindeer was caught, stop-motion, sprinting across the snowy lawn.  Despite the welcoming nature of the property, Marie felt as though some invisible force-field stood silent guard between the edge of the recently shoveled driveway and the sidewalk. As sure as she had been about accepting the invitation, she was now desperate to re-think this.  Marie considered the implications of simply stealing up and leaving the gift on the doorstep.

From the very first moment that Marie suspected she had conceived, she had sworn an oath that all of her decisions would reflect the best interests of this child.  She had resolved to have the baby, choose wonderful parents and then dutifully step aside.  Marie had convinced herself that having either no, or limited, contact with her baby was the right thing to do.  She also realized, however, that many cowardly decisions were often couched in honourable pretense.  Was it possible that her conscious decision to limit contact with this child was not as altruistic and unselfish as she had first led herself to believe?  Was the distance she had already maintained really intended for the ultimate benefit of her first born and his adoptive parents, or did it simply serve as hollow justification that allowed her to escape the many feelings that she was afraid could never be reconciled?  Marie had struggled to find balance in this admittedly difficult situation.  She had held the baby boy shortly after his birth but less than she would have liked, concerned that indulging her maternal love for him could potentially wreak havoc on them both.  She also knew that the boy’s adopted mother walked the same fine line, politely providing the requisite little notes and pictures while always remaining just a little wary about the possibility that, like some random bit of anti-matter, Marie could somehow cause her newly fulfilled domestic universe to implode.  If she walked away now, would it really be the “right” thing to do, or would she simply be succumbing to her own fears?

Marie stood a very long moment in front of the house wondering what to do when she suddenly felt a deliberate and impatient tug at her sleeve.

“What’s in there?” The little boy asked pointing directly at the gift bag with a mittened hand that matched the comically swollen proportions of his snow suit.  Marie was relieved for the distraction as she looked down at a little boy who had seemingly appeared out of nowhere.  The boy was perhaps 4 or maybe 5 years old.  It was really very difficult to tell much about him given the manner in which the miniature snow suit bulged around the tiny frame and even more so because the boy’s mouth and nose were completely concealed by a plaid scarf that had been tied tightly around the back of the snowsuit’s furry-edged hood. The child’s breath had condensed and then frozen on the scarf creating a crusty icicled outline of his nose and mouth.  Marie reflected that the snow suit, including the garish scarf, which she concluded could never have been in fashion anywhere but the Scottish Highlands (and maybe not even there), bore an uncanny resemblance to winter clothing that her own mother had “packaged” her in when she had been about the same age.  “Does this stuff never go out of fashion?” she thought to herself.  It was as though one of Marie’s old winter outfits had somehow been reclaimed from a family garage sale.

All Marie could really discern of the boy was that he was about two and a half feet tall and had distinctive and compelling blue eyes.  Marie thought that his eyes were probably accentuated by the fact that, beyond the scarf, they were his only visible facial feature.  Marie couldn’t help but feel that she recognized those eyes and was struck by the idea that she might have met or, may possibly even know, someone related to the boy.

“What’s in there?  The little boy asked again, once again clumsily poking the gift bag with the distended mitten.

“Hey!”  She replied, “What are you doing out here?  You all by yourself?”

“No.  Of course not!”  The little boy giggled while at the same time rolling his expressive eyes as though to suggest that Marie had just asked the most ridiculous question in the entire universe.  Marie looked around and saw what appeared to be a snowman under construction nearby and realized that the winter darkness really belied the relatively early hour.  Still, the little boy did appear to be alone in the street with no obvious parent or playmate in sight.  And it was getting late.  Marie decided to pursue the matter of the boy’s welfare further.

“Which is your house?” She asked to which the boy answered with a wave of his arm that was made decidedly more imprecise by the bulk of the snowsuit.  Unfortunately the gesture could have applied to one of a half dozen homes that fell within the arc made by the small arm.

“What’s in there?”  The boy repeated insistently.

“It’s a gift.”  Marie responded.

“Ohhhh.”  The boy replied, his most optimistic suspicions having now been happily confirmed.

“Who’s it for?”  Marie suspected that she knew where this conversation was heading.

“It’s for a little boy.” She replied.

“Ahhhhh…”  The little boy was clearly intrigued at the possibilities.  “Is it for your brother?”

“No.”

“Who’s it for then?”  He clearly wasn’t giving up on this.  Marie sighed.

“It’s for…it’s for my S-Son.”  A lump had suddenly formed in her throat.  She had choked on the words.  She suddenly realized she had never spoken them before.

“It’s for my Son.”  She repeated more clearly.

“Is it a toy?”

“No.  It’s not a toy”

“Oh.”  The boy’s reply, accentuated with his expressive eyes, clearly indicating both disappointment and an imminent loss of any further interest in the brightly decorated bag.

“You cumin’ in?”  The boy reached up offering Marie the opportunity to take his heavily insulated hand.

“You know these people?”  Marie asked surprised.  She was certain that the young couple that she had chosen to parent her baby had been otherwise childless.

“Of course I do!” The little boy’s muffled giggle obvious beneath the icy scarf.

Before Marie had much of a chance to think about it, the little boy was leading her up the walk towards the wreathed door.  It was all a bit strange Marie thought but, accompanied by the little boy, she suddenly felt better about approaching the house.

As he stood beside her at the door he suddenly tugged on her again and locked his beautiful blue eyes on hers.  In a voice that was suddenly mature and clear beyond his years the boy said, “Thanks for not giving up.  Please, don’t give up now.  You have no idea how much you are needed and how much you are already loved.”

Marie’s mouth fell open.  “What…What did you say?”  But suddenly the door swung open and Marie was momentarily engulfed in a tsunami of warmth and light that poured out from within the house.

“Marie!”  The young woman smiled warmly while extending both her hands in a gesture of sincere welcome.

“Yes…Hello…” Was all Marie could manage, the impact of the little boy’s words still resonating.

“The little boy…”

“Yes.  Of course.  He’s right here.”  Marie could see the woman’s husband walking in from the living room with a one-year-old boy in his arms.  The little boy hugged his father while staring intently over his shoulder at Marie.

“Oh.  He’s beautifullllll.” Marie cooed.  She was suddenly and totally distracted as she looked at her little boy.  Marie could immediately see the faces of her parents as well as many of her relatives reflected in the boy’s handsome features.

“But this boy…”  Marie looked down to see that the little boy who had almost dragged her up the walk and engaged her in such precocious conversation only moments before, was now gone.

“Where’d he go?”

The woman moved past Marie and looked out onto the empty street.  “What did he look like?”

“I couldn’t see him very well in his snowsuit.  He was about 4 years old or so.  He was playing outside…right out here.”

“Well.  I wouldn’t worry.  He’s probably visiting in the neighbourhood.  I’m sure that he’s safe at home now.”

Marie was slow to respond, her gaze now locked onto the familiar and distinctive blue eyes of her son.  An understanding of the Christmas miracle that had just occurred was welling up inside her.

“Yes.  Yes.  He’s safe at home.”

The little boy smiled at her.

JMP / EP

I Love My Job!

I love my job.  Imagine for a moment that you were the person chosen to tell the Red Deer College plumbing instructors that they had just won $30 million dollars in the lottery; well my job is better!

 

Sure there’s all kinds of “Good News” situations in which people receive good news, but even their absolute best news can’t top mine.  You see, I am in the “family” business; I am in the “new family” business, the ever-growing stepfamily and blended family business.

 

Don’t get me wrong, money is great. I think everyone likes, and wants, nice things.  We are all seeking love and approval but, somewhere deep inside each of us, we know that all of this can come and go. No matter how quickly each of us spins our personal treadmills, frets about bills, and worries about not fitting into the clothes we purchased a few months ago, in a primal instinctive way, we all know that the only thing that really matters is our ability to renew ourselves through the endless extension of our interlaced families that stretch back countless generations, and with any hope will extend forward into a possible eternity.

 

Now imagine that you are told that, for whatever reason, you are not able to create family or that your fractured family can not be renewed.  Imagine actually being blocked from that great cosmic cycle of human renewal.  Surely you would welcome even the smallest of miracles!

 

The miracle of renewal that I help bring to people is that of adoption, specifically private placement adoption and stepparent adoption.  Suddenly what did not seem possible, is accomplished.  I get to tell people who have struggled with conception, “Congratulations!  You are now parents.”, or tell stepfamilies that they are no longer “blended” or “combined”  but legally “whole”, for the first time and that they are able to legally share the bond of a common family name. 

 

If you think people are happy when they win the lottery or get that big promotion, think of how the people I work with react when I tell them that their adoption has been granted!

 

A couple of months ago I met a young couple from Northern Alberta. Tania and Steve had just married, were newly pregnant, and Steve announced that he wanted to adopt his bride’s son. After meeting and gathering the pertinent information, I prepared their stepparent adoption and am almost ready to file the adoption application in Court.  I can hardly wait to call them, when the time comes, and let this new dad know that he is the legal father of this little boy and that his son now has the same last name.  Can you imagine the joy and the happiness?

 

Less than two weeks ago, I sat in the living room of Susan and Kathy, an amazing couple who were in the process of resigning themselves to the fact that they would likely never be able to make that leap from being a couple to becoming a family.  Despite their love and commitment, biology prevented them from passing along their quintessential elements, of who they were as individuals and as a couple to children who could, in turn, repeat that transfer to their children. They excitedly shared their story of how they were approached by a pregnant woman (in her early 20’s) and asked if they wanted to adopt her baby.  Well, that baby has been born and this couple are now new parents; and have an open adoption so that the birthmother and the child could know each other. Once the adoption application is filed, and I am notified of the adoption being granted, I am honoured once again to make that wonderful phone call congratulating a new ‘legal’ family!  I love my job, I help create small miracles.

 

Edie Pendleton, BSW RSW

Local Business Women get together to put on Tradeshow

Small Miracles Adoption is participating as a vendor, for the second year in a row, at the Bossy Mama Flaunt!

Support local women, in Edmonton Alberta,Canada, while you shop and taste wine/beer/goodies and watch a fashion show. This all takes place on September 25, 2011 and is the second annual Bossy Mama Flaunt!

To learn more visit http://ow.ly/5UEyo

Admission is free as long as you bring a donation of diapers or monetary in support of Terra Centre for Pregnant and Parenting Teens.

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.

Understanding What’s Happening in Haiti – The Hague Convention

Much has been written recently about international adoptions, most specifically about Haiti, Ethiopia and China. The vast majority of the news has been controversial to say the least. Kathy Williams of Christian Adoption Services recently commented to the CBC that “…now is not the time to start trying to adopt a child from earthquake-ravaged Haiti”. While this is especially true given that Haiti has recently placed a moratorium on all international adoption from their country, it must be understood that international adoption is a minefield at the best of times.

Prior to the more negative news, international adoption received a big “shot in the arm” with the much publicized activities of several high-profile celebrities. The truth is that 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 which came into force May of 1995 and of which Canada is a signatory. The principles underlying the Hague Convention attempt to ensure that intercountry adoptions only occur when such adoptions are in the best interests of the children. The Hague convention also acknowledges and addresses the prevalence of the abduction, sale, and trafficking of children internationally.

Given the provisions of the Hague Convention, it is clear that 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:

  • Determine if the child is “adoptable”
  • Ensure that all of the possibilities for placing the child within the State of origin have been given due consideration
  • Conclude that an intercountry adoption is in the child’s best interest
  • 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 or her birth family
  • Ensure that all the necessary consents are obtained in writing and are witnessed
  • Ensure that the consent of a birthmother is not obtained prior to the birth of the child
  • Ensure that the birthmother has received appropriate counselling
  • Consider the wishes and opinions of the child
  • Ensure that consent has not been induced by payment or compensation of any kind

The convention states that the receiving jurisdiction will:

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

In truth, not all countries are signatories to the Hague Convention. One of the reasons that poorer countries may not be in a position to sign on to the Convention is the requirement that a central authority be established. Meeting this requirement may prove difficult in countries where there is a lack of means or political sophistication to establish such an authority or to otherwise assume the responsibilities dictated by the Convention. Regardless, most signatory countries have pledged to maintain the standards of the Convention even when dealing with jurisdictions who may not have signed on.

As I mentioned in a previous blog, a child in a poor country can quickly become a valuable commodity in circumstances where prospective parents in a wealthy country are anxious to adopt. It is easy to imagine how, in these circumstances, the “best interests of the child” can be eclipsed by profit motive on one side and the personal agenda of adopters on the other.

Problems specific to countries who traditionally originate adoptions include social, cultural and religious barriers that may argue against emigrating their children. Additionally, laws in many countries may be constantly shifting or be otherwise vulnerable due to lack of political stability in those jurisdictions.

Add to all of that the normal difficulties associated to international transactions involving distance, language and time zones and it is easy to see how the cost and complexity of international adoption quickly becomes a significant issue and should not be considered lightly.

The bottom line is that people who really want to contribute to the immediate and long term success of Haiti’s children should probably consider contributing to a charity that has a long term vision for Haiti’s future.