B.C. effort aims to boost adoptions as rates fall amid growing need

Margaret and Wes Treleaven’s five kids know they’re adopted and they all have unique backgrounds. While the kids joke about the benefits of having a big family — “If you get in trouble, you can blame someone else,” quipped 11-year-old Jazzy — the Saanich couple says adopting them has been one of the greatest joys of their lives.

Margaret Treleaven and her kids, ranging in age from 10 to 18, were among several adoptive families at the legislature Monday, as the province launched a new public-awareness campaign to increase the adoption rate, which has fallen in the last five years. More than 1,000 children and teens are now in need of a family.

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The initiative includes an interactive website with personal adoption stories and a “build-a-family” app that takes cues from the stick-figure family decals people place on their cars.

Margaret Treleaven, who adopted the children over the last 11 years, after her biological sons had grown up, said she hopes the campaign encourages other families to come forward. “A lot of people still have some misconceptions and negative ideas of what it means to adopt a child," said Treleaven, 53, who has also taken in a foster child. “I think the more information we can get out there that adoptive families are pretty much like any other family … [the more] people will be willing to step up and add to their family.”

Mary Caros of the Adoptive Families Association of B.C. said many of the children waiting to be adopted are older than 12, many are First Nations children who require cultural accommodations and some kids are with their siblings.

“This campaign recognizes that every child deserves a permanent home,” said Minister of Children and Family Development Stephanie Cadieux.

The social-media campaign, which coincides with Adoption Awareness Month in November, acts on a recommendation from Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, the provincial representative for children and youth. In June, Turpel-Lafond issued a report called Finding Forever Families that criticized the government for failing to make adoption a priority, saying the number of adoptions in B.C. had dropped in each of the past five years.

In 2012-13, only 205 of more than 1,300 eligible children were adopted, compared to 323 adoptions in 2007-8, the report said. The number of newly approved adoptive homes also dropped over the same period, to 213 in 2012-13 from 336 in 2008-09.

Margaret Treleaven said she would like to see more government funding to support adoptive families because financial constraints sometimes hold people back.

There is considerably more financial support for foster parents in B.C. than for adoptive parents.

Turpel-Lafond also said support for adoptive parents — for things such as special counselling, tutoring or therapy — is not always readily available.

In October, Turpel-Lafond estimated the government cut $100 million from the Ministry of Children and Family Development’s budget from 2008 to 2013.

Doug Donaldson, the B.C. NDP’s children and family development critic, said the adoption-awareness initiative is “a bit of an empty campaign” if it doesn’t come with any funding or added supports for adoptive families.

“I think the government needs to do better than a social-media campaign — they need to add financial support,” Donaldson said. “It’s difficult to improve services on a shrinking budget.”

The government promised to expand the adoption campaign in 2015/16 to address more of Turpel-Lafond’s recommendations, but did not discuss specific plans.

To find out more about adoption in B.C., call 1-877-ADOPT-07 or go to 1000familiesbc.com.

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ON THE JOYS OF ADOPTING

In promoting B.C’s new public awareness campaign for adoption, Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon shared her personal story. She and her first husband, Lawrence Guichon, had both imagined raising a brood of kids on their Merritt-area ranch. “Well, the years passed and we faced reality and began the adoption process,” she said.

“It's impossible to describe the joy and happiness that filled our hearts when we went to the office and met our 10-day-old daughter,” Guichon said. The couple adopted three more children over the years. Three of her four children have connected with their biological families.

Guichon remembers when her eldest daughter was six years old, she started a sentence with, “When I was in your tummy.” Guichon said she explained that “although I had never carried her in my tummy, I carried her in my heart for many years.”

In 2003, Lawrence Guichon was killed in a motorcycle accident near the family ranch.

“To say I would have not endured without my children is not overstating the case,” she said.

 

kderosa@timescolonist.com

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