Jane Ann Mintenko, an adoption worker with the Ministry of Children and Family Development, will never forget sitting in a restaurant in North Vancouver this year and spotting the young woman who, back in 1993, had been the very first baby she ever matched with an adoptive family.
“It was a very memorable match because the adoptive family brought the 10-day-old baby girl into their home on New Year’s Eve,” she said.
She was able to recognize the young woman years later because the girl’s adoptive mom had connected with Jane Ann on Facebook, where she shared pictures of the now 24-year-old.
“When I introduced myself that night, she knew me right away. She told me that her mom had talked about me over the years.”
It’s now been 24 years and in that time, Jane Ann, along with her husband, Bob, adopted their son Kaiden as a five-month-old baby. He is now 15.
“Being a parent can be a lot harder than you’ve ever anticipated, especially in the teen years,” she says. But the full-on immersion of adopting, and being an adoption worker, has increased her insight into the process. “I’ve learned that one of the most important things is to advocate, for yourself and for the child.”
“Seeing families find their way to each other is still one of the best parts of my job. The change in kids, once they know a family is permanent, is something that’s hard to explain. There’s an actual physical difference. They just look happier and more settled.”
“Adoption isn’t about finding children for families,” she says. “The ministry is looking for permanent homes for the children in their care. And the emphasis is on the children, not the families seeking a child – a subtle but important distinction.”
She thinks about a child who was matched with a family that had been awaiting the right connection for four years. Originally they wanted a healthy newborn. Eventually they were matched with a baby girl who had significant risk factors. “Many people would have opted out. This family never did. They advocated for her, hung in there, and never gave up. She just graduated high school with her Dogwood Diploma in June. I’m in awe of the resilience of some families who stick by their children no matter what. That’s the definition of commitment.”
Since Jane Ann first began adoption work, children’s health issues have become more complex. “The knowledge we have related to trauma is still developing,” she says. “We have to look through a trauma-informed lens when we think about whether the prospective adoptive families and the child or children are a good fit.”
Jane Ann believes unrealistic expectations are the biggest stumbling block to matching kids with families. There are a few myths that need dispelling. The first one, she says, is that love is enough. “You can’t come into this thinking you’re going to save a child and all will be well when you’re dealing with human beings who have been through loss and have a variety of issues related to trauma, trust and attachment. And there still seems to be a lot of misinformation about who’s eligible. Some people think, ‘Oh, I’m single, Oh, I’m too old’.”
In fact, any one person or two people jointly can apply as long as they are 19 years of age or older and have lived in B.C. a minimum of six months. Those are the initial criteria. There is no cost to adoptive parents to go through the adoption process with the ministry.
A thorough screening process includes criminal record checks, personal references, medical references, mandatory education offered either in person or online, and a home study. Even with all that, “We can’t look into crystal balls and predict which families are going to work, and, unfortunately, those rare instances when the matching process fails.”
Every so often, Jane Ann will flip through the brag book of photos she keeps of all the families she’s matched, wondering about all those she has yet to hear from and how their lives have changed.
For more information:
To learn more about adoption, visit: www.gov.bc.ca/adoptbckids