We have learned so much in the last 11 months. When I started the process, I do not think I realized how many children in need are in the system, nor how amazingly hard the job of a social worker truly is. My friend Marjorie works for Youth Protection and I had dated a guy who also worked in the system, so I felt like my eyes had been open to the reality of it all… but being in it, having to tread carefully the waters of the system, working along side these people for the well being of OUR foster child… wow! It’s a whole new world.
Did you know that there are over 400 kids awaiting to be evaluated by a social worker?! In Montreal, there is a desperate need for anglophone foster families and that is even without counting those 400 kids still waiting to be seen. I can’t even imagine… I can’t imagine being one of those kids… nor being one of those social workers, having to leave work behind at the end of a day… We have had more than a couple of social workers assigned to our case and some, we see as family. We chat weekly and when needed we email and we text… they respond… We forget that we are only ONE kid in their daily caseload!!
As our court date got closer – and we saw all the work, red tape and careful treading that had to happen behind the scenes – we truly felt the weight of our choice to foster. Some days are easy. Some not. Some days, we are simply mommy and papa; enjoying the kisses, laughter, eye rolls and routines. Other days, we are foster mom and foster dad; filling in the paper work, wondering if we have the right to sign on that dotted line, travel across borders or get the baby a haircut. We knew that court would bring us one step closer to our initial goal of opting for the foster-to-adopt program. First, majority. Then, adoption. That’s what the Banques Mixtes program is all about. However, in our case, baby is Inuit and adoptions are quasi impossible. Despite us slowly giving up on the notion of adoption, our court day would potentially be a weight off our shoulders. It would be a confirmation that we would get to parent this child until he turned eighteen. We knew this day was going to come (it was postponed preciously due to covid) and we anticipated it.
At the same time, there is a fine line to be walked with the biological parents and from the start, I found it difficult. Not because THEY are difficult – we are quite lucky as they are very cooperative – but because I was scared. Scared that this little being would be taken away from us. Scared that they would never trust us. Scared that our foster son would grow up not understanding why/how he ended up with us. Then, over the next eleven months, I also found it difficult because my feelings towards them and their involvement with baby evolved and I started seeing them as part of an extended family. One that I could not truly help. One that I watched from the outside 20 minutes every week. One that is still so unknown to me but that I feel empathy towards. It’s so hard to come to terms with such conflicting feelings. You want the kid to yourself, yet you also don’t want the bio parents to go… They are good people who love their son, but may not have all the knowledge, abilities or ressources to raise him. We don’t know why he was taken away, but what we do know is that baby enjoys his weekly visits with them and they enjoy being around him. If a healthy relationship can be maintained, why would we not want to foster that?! Many times during this process, we had to remind ourselves of this — that is what allows us to accept them into our lives. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not always easy to think this way, but we have grown to see that our son is blessed with one big family of 4 loving parents. We sincerely hope that this will continue in the future, but who knows what will happen next. We were told that many bio parents lose interest once majority placement is given to a foster family. Knowing that their child will officially be raised by another family until they turn 18 does rub some in the wrong way. What will happen to us; to this relationship that we have fostered over the last 11 months?
We were about to find out since TODAY (April 19th 2022) is that day!
Just a few days short of his second birthday and celebrating 11 months of him in our lives, we are sitting in the grey hallways of the youth tribunal awaiting our fate. Will we get a longterm placement? Will it be contested? Will the bio parents get court mandated visits or will they agree that we continue with the format that we have now? Will they trust that we want what is best for our son and that involves building a healthy relationship with them? So many questions… so many unknowns… Blame the nerves, we arrived over an hour in advance! As we sat there, we wondered if today was going to change anything or everything? What was about to happen to our lives? To our family?
Our foster son’s social worker arrived about 30 minutes later and informed us that the biological parents were not going to contest a majority placement, so this would be a fast court process. This should have been a stress reliever, but until the judge pronounced that court was adjourned with a favorable judgement towards us, I would not breathe easy. Then, the bio parents arrived. What is usually easy conversation with them, was now uncomfortable. I don’t know what I expected… It was totally understandable. These loving parents were signing their child away to us. I nervously tried small talk, but I quickly realised that I was just making the situation worst. Alex and I had written a letter for them, telling them how having them in our foster child’s life would only reinforce his self-love and future identity, but when does one give such a letter to a parent about to lose their child… my heart broke.
For the past few months, Alex and I have been part of a group for parents of indigenous foster children. One lesson was about grief; how we may not realize it, but that when we got our foster son at the age of 13 months, he had already lived through the sensory loss of the voice, smell, foods that came with being born from bio mom AND that of being in his first emergency foster family. Familiar voices, tastes, smells, eyes and touch – the only things he knew and depended on – all taken away from him, moulding his sense of security and his ability to live with grief. I would have never thought about that… As we learned about today’s realities of children in the foster system (especially indigenous) but also of their future hurdles, we came to realize that our court day today could also become another moment of grief for our foster son. If, after this judgement, bio mom and dad slowly disappeared, baby could face hardships when it came to his self-worth and identity. That scared us. Eleven months ago, we looked forward to this day. Today, it’s mixed emotions – joy and relief to have him in our care until he turns 18, but also compassion and sadness for the bio parents and worry of the unknown that is to come…
It took less than an hour. The judge ruled in our favour! Relief, excitement, joy were all felt! Yet, I was still partially heartbroken for them. When the judge called them honorable for not contesting the ruling, we agreed wholeheartedly. They must have felt like the whole world was against them, yet at the same time, congratulating them for putting their child first. If the situation was so stressful for us, imagine what it was to them. We had to remember that our foster son is at the centre of this story and that we all only want what is best for him. Us. The judge. The social workers. His biological parents. We hope they still trust us and see us as a set of loving parents just wanting OUR child to thrive. We will continue to build our relationship with them and learn how to work symbiotically together. Hopefully, they feel the same way.
So many said that a child does not have to biologically be yours for you to feel like a mom. I can confirm! As much as I know that Anaana (“mom” in Inuktitut) will always be bio mom, I will be mommy and will help him become the little man he is meant to become.
As we left the grey hallways of the youth tribunal, we cried. Of joy. Of stress. Of heartbreak. Of love. We picked up baby from daycare and celebrated. We are officially a family for the next 16 years! What’s next? Adoption? Tutorship? Status quo? We don’t know. We don’t want to worry about it. We just want to laugh at his imitations of Alex, roll our eyes at his terrible twos, see him come back happy from parental visits, vent as we wash soup off the walls and enjoy having baby with us.
Who I have become in the last 11 months!? I don’t even recognise myself! I guess that is what becoming a mom does to you…
TO BE CONTINUED…