Spare room of shattered dreams

A few years ago, after we were fed up with getting nowhere on the Ethiopian waiting-but-not-really-waiting list, we decided to try and pursue local adoption.

We chose local adoption over Permanent Care because for a number of reasons. Firstly, it was important for us to legally be parents rather than “guardians” to our child. It also meant something to us that our child would have been relinquished by his/ her parents rather than removed. Finally we also could see ourselves spending periods of time overseas due to work commitments and didn’t know how this would fit in with access visits and DHS regulations.

Now, in hindsight, I can’t be sure if this was the right decision to make – after all, as we heard last week, Permanent Care can definitely be a beautiful and healing option for all involved. In fact, had we pursued Permanent Care we probably would have a family by now, but we weren’t to know that back then. As with every stage along this journey you just have to keep knocking on doors until one finally opens. Unfortunately so far we have just had a lot slammed in our faces.

So anyway, I digress. A few years ago we decided to pursue local adoption. Actually we first went to an information session about it back in 2008 but then decided to knock on the intercountry and IVF doors until our knuckles bled. After attending an information and training session you write a life story that covers the most personal and deepest aspects of your life – from your childhood, to your finances, to your relationship and fertility, and even your sex life. We spent ages trying to make our Life Story stand out from the crowd of crappy word documents. We sent it in to DHS in July 2011 along with references from family and friends.

A blurred up sample of some of our Life Story xo

A blurred up sample of some of our Life Story xo

Then we waited.

A year went by and then we received a phone call saying that they would like to begin our assessment. We were overjoyed and hopeful and nervous for the first time in years! We scrubbed our house from top-to-bottom and prepared for the first interview. We were interviewed twice as a couple and once individually. It was nerve-wracking and exciting and deeply intrusive but we didn’t care. Something was finally happening and we felt closer than ever before.

Before the final safety inspection on our house Mr. Lady Breaks went around affixing safety locks to every cupboard and corner in our house. He put together the Boori cot my mum had bought us during our IVF days. We called together some family and neighbours to lay some soil in the backyard of our newly built house. We wanted to show: WE ARE READY. WE WERE BORN READY.

After this our lovely social worker wrote up her report on us and recommended us for adoption. We sat with her before a panel of DHS staff who grilled us on everything from our intentions to our religion. A few hours later we received the call to say we had been officially approved for local adoption! It was September 2012.

Our social worker said that our chances were quite good. After all we were young, probably one of the youngest couples waiting, and our file stood out. It could actually happen before the end of the year even. I was so distracted. I couldn’t focus on the thesis I was supposed to be writing, or on my work. My heart leapt at every phone call.

Unfortunately our social worker moved on from her role and we were handballed to someone else whom we didn’t know at all. We didn’t feel like she “got” us, and we certainly aren’t a priority. I think I have received about two touch-base phone calls over the past year. Not to demonise her at all – these social workers have so much to balance and so little time that facilitating adoptions often gets the last priority. Making sure that kids are safe is of course always going to come first.

So here we are… We were removed from the intercountry list when we were approved for local adoption, and I guess now I’m just waiting for this door to slam shut like all the others. Mid-way through next year we will have to get reassessed because our approval is only valid for two years.

Last weekend Mr. Lady Breaks dismantled the cot and hid all of our baby items away in a cupboard. Even though we could in theory get a phone call any day, reality begs to differ, and it’s too painful to have a shattered dream set up in your spare room.

Instead, Mr. Lady Breaks is setting up an art space for me – a place where I can start dream again. Thank you Mr. Lady Breaks, I couldn’t have walked this without you.

xo

What’s Wrong With Adoption in Australia?

I’m so overwhelmed by everyone’s feedback following my last post. It’s astounding to me that so many of you are actually making the time to read my ranty rants amongst your busy lives. It’s just so touching – I can’t really describe how supported it makes me feel. Thank you.

tumblr_mdwdfpeiIj1qe0wclo1_500

As promised I am sticking to the topic of adoption this week as it is National Adoption Awareness Week here in Australia.

It would seem that I am quite a slow learner because I bothered to read the comments left on yesterday’s Herald Sun article featuring Deborra-Lee Furness. There is just so much negativity around adoption! I mean I definitely think an honest dialogue about adoption is absolutely necessary, but it just has to be constructive – adoption is not blanket “good” or blanket “bad”. Just as there are some biological families that don’t get it right, there are adoptive parents that don’t either, but this doesn’t make the whole concept wrong or evil.

The reality is that adoption always involves suffering. For an adoption to occur, there has to have been some form of breakage or separation first. This is, of course, not an ideal situation at all, but as we know we don’t live in an ideal world. Adoption, in my humble opinion, can be a beautiful pathway towards restoring what was lost, like healing a wound though the scar may remain. It’s for this reason I believe it should be embraced and celebrated.

To be honest I’ve re-written parts of this post so many times now, trying to balance directing my thoughts at the (very vocal) anti-adoption lobby, and just sharing my own honest feelings and experience. It’s hard because the whole topic is so complex; what goes for local adoption may not be relevant to intercountry and so on. But at the end of the day I think to most people it’s pretty obvious – every child deserves to grow up in a family.

In fact a rule of thumb is that for every three months a child resides in an orphanage, they lose one month of development. It is well documented that institutionalisation is detrimental to the physical, social, and psychological well-being of children. I am planning to talk more about my time in orphanages and my passion for family reunification and community-based solutions to orphan care later, but the bottom line is that we should be ensuring that children grow up within families. Adoption is one way to make this happen.

Except… The Australian government doesn’t seem too keen on this. Last year there was less than 150 inter-country adoptions for the whole of Australia, despite thousands of hopeful couples. This is not because there are no orphans in the world, but rather because we have an outdated and clunky system designed to discourage adoption at every turn, even local adoption.

Believe it or not, but you can’t be on both local and inter-country adoption lists at once, even though the process is likely to take years. And, in Victoria at least, you can’t do any reproductive treatments while waiting to adopt. All in all it makes for a very frustrating and heartbreaking situation where both children and potential parents miss out. There just has to be change soon.

Thank you Deborra-Lee and Hugh for your advocacy work 🙂

As Deborra-Lee says in the article: “The system is broken here. There are children who need families and we need a system that works.” It’s my hope that by sharing my personal journey, a greater awareness of the need for reform is gained.

x