Couples Decision to Adopt Changes Lives of Five Siblings
Abbey has a message to share with other children who are waiting to be adopted – “Don’t give up. You will find your forever family.” Abbey found her forever family when she was 11. One of five siblings in the care of Peel Children’s Aid, she wasn’t sure that the day would come where she would be reunited with her siblings and have a home to call her own. That all changed when her parents Diane and George adopted all five children.
“We are always looking for families who are willing to adopt older children and siblings,” says Linda Bezemer, Adoption Worker, Peel CAS. “When I met Diane and George I thought we might have a match for the family of five children between the ages of 8 and 12 that were waiting to be adopted.”
Diane and George had been looking to adopt two or three siblings for about five years. “It was a long process. Along the way we met children who were not a match and it was easy to get discouraged. But then we met Linda and she believed in us and our goal of being parents.”
When Linda first approached Diane and George to consider adopting a family of five George hesitated. “We thought two or three children would be ideal but five seemed pretty daunting at first,” says George. After they had time to think about it they decided that these five children were just the family they had been looking for. “We both come from big families and felt that we would be able to be good parents to these children.”
“The first time we met the girls they baked for us and we had a dance party,” says Diane. “The boys were a little more apprehensive but we started visiting with them every other weekend and quickly developed a good connection with all the kids. Any hesitation about welcoming these children into our family disappeared after we spent time with them.”
When the family moved in together it was a time of change for everyone. The boys – Benjamin, Bryre and Brice – had been living with one foster family and the girls – Abbey and Karlee – had been living with another. “One of the things that was challenging at first was for the children to get used to living together again,” says Diane. “The girls would say they didn’t know the boys could be so annoying.”
The children also had to get used to living in the country. “When we are looking to match children and youth with families we sometimes look outside of Peel for the right match,” says Linda. “Diane and George live outside of Peel in a rural area and the kids have adapted quickly to country life.”
Fishing, catching frogs, sailing, learning to skate and ski have replaced video games and television. “Now the boys tell us that they would rather go outside and play sports than play a video game,” says George. “While it has definitely been an experience to try and gel seven personalities under one roof, at the end of the day seeing them happy and having fun is the most rewarding part of being a parent.”
For Diane, it’s the small things that count. “Just seeing the kids making new friends, enjoying school and trying new activities makes all the laundry seem worthwhile. The siblings can be very sweet to each other and to us, leaving us notes with candy and drawing us pictures.” That’s not to say there haven’t been challenges. “When you adopt an older child, they have already had many life experiences and learned behaviours. As parents, we need to help them understand the importance of making good choices. We try to teach as much as we can, give lots of hugs and be sure to always talk to each other about what we are feeling.”
Like any new parents Diane and George face other challenges like finding time for each other and juggling different parenting styles. “We are learning and at times we have to remember to trust our instincts,” says Diane. “If you are looking to expand your family through adoption, we recommend attending Adoption Resource Exchanges and making connections with adoption resource workers. During the adoption process we heard people say that you end up with children that are right for you and now we know they were right.” And what does Abby have to say? “When I wake up in the morning I finally feel like I belong.”
Fostering, What It Means to Me
When I first came into the care of Peel Children’s Aid I was going through a challenging time in my life and I didn’t really know what to expect. I was placed with a foster family and had to adjust to having stable, structured parenting which was different than I was used to. However it was my foster parents who helped me to truly understand what it meant to be nurtured and cared for. They instilled values in me and taught me the important lessons in life. I always felt like it was my home and they were my family that I could talk to about anything.
I think being a foster caregiver means investing in a child or youth and giving them a reason to go down the right path. Really, if you have the ability to welcome a child into your home and love them then you should consider it. It can really make such a difference. Just look at me – I’m the person I am today because of them.
Kanchan is a third year Sociology student at York University and plans to pursue law or social work to do policy and advocacy work.