Just the right words

Just the right words

On this Father’s day I am hoping I will find just the right synergy of words and sentences to impact your thinking, your willingness to write a cheque or possibly change your life trajectory and that of a fatherless child. I dream of that perfect fusion of words that expresses my deep rooted feelings about children without fathers and unabating desire to nullify enduring ideologies, laws and practices that affect little ones who must grow up without one. My lifes work taught me that having a loving involved committed father is one of a child’s greatest blessings and one of every child’s greatest needs.

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary a father is ‘he who begets a child, nearest male ancestor, any lineal ancestor’. In common usage it refers to the male biological reproductive assistant or sperm donor that is a co conspirator with a woman in the creation of a living human being. It can be used to connote the role of a male adult who is legally responsible for nurturing a child’s intellectual, emotional, physical, social and spiritual life. Dad is a frequently used synonym.

A father in ancient times as evidenced in the Bible had supreme rights over a child in Hebrew families, just as in Roman ones. He had power of life and death over his child as in the stories of Isaac( Genesis 22) Jephthah’s daughter( Judges 11:34)and the sacrifice of children to Molech(Leviticus 8:21) Father’s were to be respected, loved and revered from earliest times.(Exodus 20:12).The ideal father’s character traits formulated from the Old Testament and expanded in the New Testament include loving, commanding, guiding, encouraging, nourishing, punishing, empathizing, and providing for the needs and requests of the child, among so many others. According to Psalms 27:10 a father is along with a mother ‘the last human friend to desert his child.’

Unfortunately there are millions of children in the world whose biological fathers are unable to achieve this ideal for their son or daughter. Some never even know they helped create a child. Some lack the ability to control the number of children they have. Some lack resources to provide what is needed for their child to grow up healthy and happy. Some try their best. Others never even attempt the challenge.

Estimates of the number of orphans or children without fathers and mothers are difficult to determine with accuracy.  Definitions vary. Data collection is complex. Many children who should be included are not counted at all. UNICEF estimates about 15.3 million worldwide. Adoption.com site sets the number at 140 million. Asia is estimated to have about 52 million and the majority worldwide are over 5 years of age. Millions more live on the street, are in forced labour, recruited as child soldiers or trafficked in the sex trade according to an article entitled ‘Global Orphan Crisis- Facts and Statistics.’Stats Canada estimated in 2016 that about 30,000 children were available for adoption in Canada. And yet while Canadians line up in droves ready to adopt a child, in 2009 there were only 2,127 international adoptions and the numbers have been consistently dropping rapidly since then. Kathleen Harris reports for CBC   in 2017, 793 international adoptions in Canada, down from 1379 in 2012.The Adoption Council of Ontario 2011 Report states there were about 500 families who applied for international adoptions that year and about 100 children adopted privately. The Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies reported 767 completed adoptions in 2016-2017 in the public sector.

So why are there so many children without fathers across the world and at the same time all kinds of willing competent human beings in developed countries like Canada who want to be dads? Why are they not matched up? Exact information is jumbled and hard to accurately record. I know some of the following factors are at play:

Rules and regulations abound everywhere and costs get exorbitant, often approaching $50,000 to adopt a child from Russia a few years ago, for example. Efforts to solve adoption problems such as The Hague Convention while well intentioned have resulted in stricter rules, and increased reinforcement of prejudices against persons with profiles which include single applicants, handicapped applicants, gay or lesbian applicants, or those with previous or managed mental health problems for example. Capable applicants face a most difficult challenge in international adoption, forced to climb over huge piles of paperwork and require a ton of money. Many countries have been suspended such as Georgia, Guatemala, Liberia, Nepal, Rwanda and Benin. Reasons may include politics, corruption, racist policies, cultural practices, religious ideologies, too many levels of bureaucratic overlay and restrictions, misguided concerns about children becoming estranged from culture and language and ignorance of the crucial fact that the highest need of any  child is a competent committed family to name but a few. Some feel that adoption should be a last resort and focus on unrecoverable losses like biological family connections, language, history, culture and broken roots, not realizing the absence of a lifetime committed father and mother catapults a child’s chance of growing up healthy, and happy with a shot at a decent life to the deepest darkest hole in the earth imaginable. Incredible numbers of our most vulnerable and marginalized human beings on our planet suffer tragic repercussions of childhood without a permanent lifetime family.

Where would the likes of our current popular Prime Minister Justin Trudeau be without the wisdom and guidance of his charismatic father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau? Where would the likes of Ben Mulroney, well known Canadian television journalist and his sister Caroline, a successful lawyer and credible contender for the leadership of the Ontario Conservative Party, be without the unconditional love and involvement of their brilliant father, former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney? Where would the likes of internationally watched talent show winner of ‘The Voice’, Maelynn Jarmon, be without the support and encouragement of her devoted father who was seen each week in the audience absolutely glowing with pride and joy at his beautiful accomplished daughter? Where would any on these folk be if they were raised by a poverty stricken, single uneducated teenage mother with several siblings possibly, in a slummy project in a subsidized housing project without a father?

I worked in adoption for over 30 years and raised 3 adopted children, all of whom got to average which was my single deep seated, dedicated goal for them. They are all now adults, healthy and bright, have an education, and know how to give and receive love.  In their mid twenties after connecting with birth family, one told me I was and always would be her real mother. The second told me she thanked God every day her birth mother made an adoption plan because she grew up in a loving home with a dad and a mom, a brother and a sister, had a stable life with loads of friends and every possible opportunity in a wonderful childhood. The third phoned me from the 401 after attending his biological father’s funeral and said, “Thank you, thank you, thank you for adopting me. If I had known what I was to find in my birth family I would never had brought my wife and child to the funeral….Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

A few stories of my clients are worthy of sharing, too. I never kept track but estimate that I likely helped over a thousand children find a committed, lifetime father and mother of their own. I tried my best, working on behalf of such children into my seventies. I forever thought ‘Just one more case’ but sadly had to realize my shot at it was over and accept I failed to ‘fix it’  for so many sweet innocents.

A 30 something professional couple in Ottawa took a year off work to backpack around the world. They stopped in Ghana, of a few days and stayed for 3 months. They found a newborn black boy child close to death and decided to help at his modest orphanage and nurse him back to health every day. They fell in love with Jo-Jo and told the world he would be their son. They tried to move heaven and earth with my help for years to honour their promise to Jo-Jo, to no avail. After years of trying and a hell of a lot of paperwork and money, they simply stopped trying. We lost contact but I understood the family planned to send money to a nurse they trusted every month for Jo-Jo. That is all I know, but chances of him having a decent shot at life seem depressingly bleak.

A 40 something family in the west end of our city with a biological daughter hosted a Chernobyl child every summer for years. They came to love her and decided to offer her a chance at a decent life as their daughter. Along with me they tried every possible route to make their dream for the girl come true. After many years of effort, paperwork, and lots of wasted money, they reluctantly ceased trying. Her fate was likely like a lot of children without a father in that part of the world: out of ‘Care’ as a teenager, no educational opportunity, no family, holed up with others in the same boat, eking out a living possibly in the drug world, the sex trade, or low level work if they are lucky.

I travelled a lot in my time and every country I visited usually included a visit to an orphanage offering to assist in establishing an adoption program with Ontario as a full volunteer. In Peru I visited one where about a dozen toddlers, were housed in a darkened  room not much bigger than the living room in a 1200 square foot Nepean home, with one extremely tired looking caregiver and two or three filthy worn out stuffed toys on the floor. The sweet, brown skinned children stood motionless before me, stared up in my face with gigantic dark longing eyes, begging answer to their unspoken plea,

 “What about me? Will you be my mom? I haven't a chance in hades of a decent life without a family of my own. After the orphanage, a life of abject poverty, no education, living by thievery likely awaits!”

The response of the caregiver to my hopeful suggestion was” We do not support international adoption.”

In some countries leaders would prefer these kinds of youngsters to grow up to eat off of garbage piles, be loaned out for the weekend to men with money, and to look forward to a life by 12 years old in the sex trade, or on the streets, rather than be adopted by competent, screened white families in a developed country, like Canada.

In Ontario adoption of a Crown Ward is possible but also a long hard road for prospective adoptive parents, who need to understand the most difficult journey they embark on. They must be perseverant to the death, to be successful. That being said, I never dealt with any family in my career who stuck with it, denying themselves any momentary thought of ever quitting the process, who were unable to adopt a child from somewhere, who needed them as a mom and dad. But it ain’t easy folks!

My favourite success story is that of a 30 something year old couple living in Ottawa. When I met them in 2001, they presented as Joe and Jane Average Canadian adoptive applicants, with average incomes, average educations, average jobs in the financial industry, and hopeful of becoming parents through adoption. However, they proved to be anything but average!

Child number one arrived as a toddler from Ukraine. A brother for him arrived from Ukraine two years later. When they invited me to a barbecue not long after that I knew another child was on their mind. Life happened and child number three did not materialize before the family moved out West. Several years later I got a letter reading,

‘Are you sitting down? We are trying to adopt a sibling group of 3!”

The sibling group of 3 found a father and mother with this couple. I received annual updates and photos for years and assumed they were ‘done’. Three years later, they heard of a young teenager who had been adopted from Ukraine and was living in Canada. Sadly, her circumstances resulted in her needing a family. They contacted the social service worker involved and said they wanted to adopt the girl. The worker asked, ‘Don’t you want to know about her?’

The couple asked her back, ‘Does she have horns?’

The worker answered, ‘Of course not!’

The couple replied, ‘That is all we need to know. We want to offer her a dad and a mom!’

This family extraordinaire is so incredible! I love every hair on their heads! I had no family ever any better! Great selfless hearts, great all encompassing compassion, great unconditional commitment and love unparalleled for children who needed a father and a mother. Every one of their children now has a great shot at a decent life in Canada as the sons and daughters of these most generous human beings!

I began this article with just a little dream. I dreamt I might find just the right words to change the chance of a decent life for some of the fatherless children of the world. I thought I might just touch the heart of a father on this Father’s day in June, who is living in the most wonderful country in the world.

I wonder if any father reading this can consider ‘Maybe I can do just one more.’ If not, maybe a father could write a cheque to help another father ‘do just one more’. Maybe fathers out there who are stationed in life in a position of power or influence could focus their work efforts on societal or political changes that might assist children without fathers and mothers get a family of their own. Could they help make it happen quickly, cheaply and easily, fully encouraged and supported in every religion, every culture, every racial group, every ethnic group, every country, every province, and in every Canadian city and town?

I have my fingers crossed and my toes double crossed. I am wishing on all the stars twinkling in the heavens above the earth, that I found just the right words to get every man thinking and acting in a way that might result in every boy and girl having a father. May I have found just the right words so that every precious child might one day be able to say on a Sunday in June, ‘Happy Father’s Day’ to a dad of his own.