Merissa Giesbrecht and her husband Jason never imagined that their path to finally having the family they had dreamed about would arrive through a distant relative.
While November is Adoption Awareness month, a time to recognize adoptive parents and the more than 750 children in B.C. who are seeking a permanent home through adoption, it is also a good time to learn about other options for creating long-term, loving relationships for children and youth. Permanent guardianship is one of those options.
The Giesbrechts met years earlier in a community theatre performance, where a chaste on-stage peck on the cheek led to their real-life romance. As a little girl, Merissa imagined growing up, getting married and having children of her own. But like a growing number of people, she discovered that when it comes to pregnancy, there are no guarantees.
At first, physicians would give stock answers to her concerns about not being able to conceive. “You’re young, you’re healthy, it’s only a matter of time,” they would say. Excruciating months of dashed hopes turned into years, exploratory surgery revealed no definitive answers and the couple began to accept that having a baby wasn’t to be.
“I really wanted to experience pregnancy and I know I’m not alone in experiencing this,” Merissa said. She had never previously considered fostering or adoption.
Then one day, the couple heard about a relative who had a baby that had been taken into foster care. Through a series of conversations, the Giesbrechts came to understand that because their relative was not able to care for the baby and never would be, they had the opportunity to love and care for this tiny extended family member. A permanent transfer of custody of a child from a parent to another person was the route that worked best for their unique circumstances.
What followed was a whirlwind of paperwork, home studies with social workers learning about their lifestyle and a lot of road trips.
As part of a planned transition, the Giesbrechts began making the long trip from Port Edward, near Prince Rupert, to Quesnel — a 12-hour drive away. They did the journey every two weeks so they could bond with the baby girl who had been born to Jason’s cousin.
Merissa described the moment, months later, when they were able to bring her home. “Not long into the long drive back home, I looked over at my husband and burst into tears. So much had to happen for her to come into our lives.”
Now, their focus is all about the little girl’s future. “That need I had to mother has been satisfied completely,” Merissa said. And when the subject comes up, Merissa tells the now three-year-old child about her “tummy mummy,” or biological mom, because she wants to be sure “she’ll always know where she came from.”
As permanent guardians, the Giesbrechts receive a monthly payment to cover the child’s basic care needs – a payment that increased as of April 2019 as part of a broader rate hike for caregivers. Merissa said they are lucky to be in a financial position to put some of that money into a Registered Education Savings Plan.
Now, at the end of each day when they tuck the young girl into bed, they reflect on how seemingly impossible dreams can come true, in their own time and in the most unpredictable ways.
Adoptive Families Association of BC: http://www.bcadoption.com/
Read about the adoption process and about other ways, such as permanent guardianship, to care for children and youth: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content?id=42491D44ABE342CEB5DE10C46E78BAF7
A backgrounder follows.