by Krista Lamb, Communications Specialist
May 27th, 2013
When Jemma and Anthony decided to adopt, they pictured a young child and had settled on the idea of one no older than six. Fate intervened, however, and at the Adoption Resource Exchange (a twice yearly opportunity for agencies across Ontario to show approved adoptive parents children who are available) they saw a video made by 17-year-old Lisa.
Anthony turned to his wife and saw tears streaming down her face as they watched. Lisa wasn’t at all what they were looking for, but Jemma felt a powerful connection. They decided to talk to CCAS about the teen and discovered her amazing story – she had asked to be removed from an abusive home at 14 and she struggled with learning challenges. However, she was determined to find a family to adopt her – despite the fact that older youth adoptions are less common. Lisa knew that her chances for success in life would be much better with a loving family by her side.
Last year, after much talk between the two of them and several meetings and home visits with Lisa, the couple decided to move forward with adoption. Adopting a teenager, especially one who was about to turn 18 (an event that happened just recently), isn’t the norm. But so far that decision has proven to be a positive one. “When you say you adopted, people expect it’s a young child, then I say “18” and they’re surprised,” says Jemma, but after the initial shock they’ve found the response is entirely positive and accepting.
Since moving in with the family, Lisa has proven just how important the love and support of a permanent, stable connection can be – she is a thriving young woman, improving her grades, taking on new challenges like karate classes and church groups, making new friends and proving to be a loving and devoted daughter. Not that there haven’t been challenges – as Anthony points out, they are just learning to be a family – they are still building trust and how to express their feelings. Lisa has had to adapt to the structure and rules the family has put into place.
Jemma agrees, “We told Lisa from the start, ‘we’ll mess up, you’ll mess up, we’ll all mess up, but we’ll get there.’” They all understand that this relationship will take time to grow and develop and they credit the support they have received from CCAS in helping them all understand how best to manage issues.
For Lisa, this has been an overwhelming process sometimes, but she is excited for the future. “I feel like it’s the right fit,” she says, “but I’m still learning what a family is.”
Jemma and Anthony both believe that adopting an older child is worth considering. “Open your heart, open your home and give it a shot,” says Jemma. “It’s scary, – our lives will never be the same – but it’s so rewarding and fulfilling.” Anthony concurs, noting that despite initial concerns about adopting a teenager, he is thrilled to see Lisa overcoming challenges and blossoming in their care.
All three express happiness for the decision they’ve made. “We’ve made this connection to become a family and the only regret we have is that we don’t have even more time with her,” says Anthony. “We wish we’ve been there to protect her even earlier.”’