By Stephanie Cadieux
Minister of Children and Family Development and
Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, B.C.'s Representative for Children and Youth
VICTORIA - November is Adoption Awareness Month in British Columbia and we are looking for 1,000 families willing to step up and help improve the lives of some of B.C.'s most-vulnerable young people.
Over the past five years, nearly 1,300 children and youth in B.C. have found loving homes through adoption. Unfortunately, more than 1,000 children in continuing care of the government are still waiting and hoping for the stability and care of an adoptive family.
Why so many? Part of the problem seems to be a matter of perspective. Too often when people think of adoption, they imagine a healthy infant being united with a traditional two-parent family. While this scenario occasionally rings true, it does not reflect the demographic diversity of our province, nor does it consider the particular life circumstances of those children in care whose needs are greatest.
The reality is that many of the young people in care who are waiting for adoption are school-age. They may be siblings who need to stay together. Some may have special placement needs due to difficult early childhood experiences, prenatal exposure to alcohol or drugs, learning delays or other developmental challenges.
These are children and teens in foster care who cannot live with their birth families and are waiting for a forever home. They've come into government care for a variety of reasons - sometimes they have been abused or neglected in their birth home, their parents may have passed away without naming a guardian, or, in some cases, their families were unable to provide proper care and instead looked to adoption as the best option. Whatever their personal circumstances, these waiting kids need families who will love them, encourage them, give them a sense of belonging and provide them with opportunities for a better life.
Just like children in care, potential adoptive parents come from diverse backgrounds, have a range of life experiences and do not necessarily represent traditional family structures. Anyone 19 years of age and over, who is interested in providing a loving, nurturing home, may be eligible to adopt.
As identified in the Representative's June 2014 report, Finding Forever Families: A Review of the Provincial Adoption System, more than 60% of all children in continuing care of the B.C. government are Aboriginal and certainly more can and must be done to ensure that adoptive homes are found for these waiting children. Aboriginal children have a right to stay connected to their culture and family and we encourage Aboriginal adoptive parents to come forward. To that end, the Ministry of Children and Family Development strives to place young people with families who are sensitive to and respectful of their ethnic and cultural heritage. That's why adoptive families who reflect B.C.'s cultural diversity and adoptive parents who are willing and able to maintain life-long connections with their adoptive child's cultural community are in high demand.
In the month of November, British Columbians will have the chance to participate in a social media campaign launched by B.C.'s Representative for Children and Youth, the Ministry of Children and Family Development and the Adoptive Families Association of BC to help raise awareness and recruit the next wave of caring and supportive individuals and couples interested in growing their family through adoption.
Every child and teen deserves the support of a permanent family. That means seeing parents who are there for them; knowing there's someone to turn to when they need it most; having a place they can always call home and a family that is behind them when it's time to leave home. Right now, too many young British Columbians do not have these supports.
Help us reach our goal of finding 1,000 adoptive families for B.C. kids in need. Don't miss out on the love a child can bring to your life. If you are thinking about growing your family, find out more about adopting a waiting child. Call 1 877 ADOPT-07.
By Stephanie Cadieux