Sharing the journey with other families

How Hearts for Adoption got started

By Jamie Giesbrecht

In the spring of 2013 my husband and I finally completed our first adoption. It was a gruelling process that we found confusing and bewildering. At the start, we didn’t know many of the ins and outs of adoption through foster care. We didn’t even know what “CCO” meant (the abbreviation for “continuing custody order”). Prior to asking if we could adopt our foster daughter, whom we had had since birth, we had only fostered three other children. All we really knew was that we loved this precious baby, and wanted her in our family forever. When the adoption went through, we were over the moon! But it was only the beginning.

As parents of two typically developing birth children, and foster parents to only a few prior placements, we were still fairly new to FAS, FASD and the like. Our adoptive daughter was too young for a formal diagnosis through the Complex Developmental Behavioural Conditions Network, but she had a temper like a firecracker and was head banging and making sores on her face and neck. We really didn’t know what to do. We didn’t know others who had been through this; people didn’t understand the journey we were on, or what it was like to live with a child with organic brain damage caused by cocaine and alcohol use during pregnancy. 

Then we met Joel and Gigi Yuen, a couple I had seen a few times out and about in our community – at skating, story time and a few other places. They also happened to go to a new church we were attending. As Joel and Gigi Yuen put it, they have one “home grown” daughter, and two “made in China” adopted children. As we met with them more and more and shared some of our challenges, we realized how much they had been through in their international adoptions. They were dealing with their own special-needs issues in parenting children who had been raised in an orphanage, in one case for years.

We discovered that Joel and Gigi, like us, were looking for a support network – other adoptive families who understood the differences and challenges in raising an adoptive family. So, under the umbrella of Focus on the Family’s Waiting to Belong initiative and the support of our local church, we founded Hearts for Adoption.

Not long after, we met a wonderful family of 11. Frank and Susanne Klassen have four biological children and five adopted children. Their adoptions were also through the Ministry of Children and Family Development, and this brave and amazing family had adopted a sibling group from a formally disrupted adoption. They knew – really knew – what it was like to raise children with emotional baggage and issues to be dealt with.

Our little group grew very close. We watched parenting videos together, proclaimed Adoption Awareness Month at our local city hall, and even met with Minister Stephanie Cadieux in the fall of 2013 to discuss our group’s concern over issues with adoptions of Canadian children through the MCFD. (Minister Cadieux met with us after our group faxed over 75 letters of concern to her office regarding long wait times for children in foster care to gain permanency, and the low rate of adoption for Canadian foster children, among other issues.)

Our group has continued to grow in a beautiful way. We support families who need information, who are interested in adopting, who are interested in helping adoptive families; we support families who require financial support for therapy and medical travel for adopted children; we support foster families; and we have also helped teens aging out of foster care through a mentorship role. Basically, if a foster or adoptive family in our area has a need, we are there to see what we can do to meet that need. 

Sometimes it’s just meeting with someone to listen, or to share the benefits and challenges of adoption. Other times it’s speaking to a church or other group interested in helping one of the 153 million orphans worldwide, including 30,000 children currently waiting in the Canadian foster care system for a forever home. We strive to advocate always, and support continually.

A great idea came up this fall. Frank and Susanne Klassen work at a local camp facility, Blueberry Bible Camp, taking care of maintenance and food services. We thought, What if we did a camp for foster and adoptive families – a place to have fun together, and to learn? Well, the idea took off right away, and before we knew it, an entire weekend came together. We have secured some amazing speakers, therapists and counsellors for the weekend of October 3-5, 2014, at Blueberry Bible Camp, located 40 minutes outside Fort St. John. If you’re in the area, consider joining us for a weekend away!

The Hearts for Adoption group has been an incredible blessing for our family. We recently applied to adopt again, and we have now fostered 14 children, some of them with serious special needs issues. We have realized the difference connection and community makes, and how healthy it is to find and meet with people who know and understand your journey.

Whatever stage you are at in your travels, we would love for you to join us. Or, if you have any questions, do contact us. And please, if you have no support for your family and no options for support in your area, call or email us. Call 250.787.7559 or 250.785.9155 or email heartsforadoption@hotmail.com. We would love to help you start your own support group. You and your children deserve to feel the love and support of other people travelling on this very special road – the adoption and fostering adventure. 

Jamie Giesbrecht is a foster mom, adoptive mom, and homeschool mom to four children under the age of six in northern BC. She and her husband have a small hobby farm, and love to spend time hunting, fishing, camping, horseback riding and exploring the Yukon and Northwest Territories with their children.