Being a parent is hard.
You're raising another human being, trying your best to pass on your morals, values and way of life all the while trying to let them discover and learn on their own. As with all characterbuilding explorations and experiences, mistakes are made. Tempers can flare and arguments are an inevitable part of being human. But you put up with it all because you love them. They're your children. Your blood. Your parental instincts will not tell you otherwise. But if they weren't your kid, hoo-ee, you would have shown them the door long ago. .. right? But what if they weren't? What if you didn't give birth to them? What if you did what so few capable families choose to do?
What if you adopted? Adoptive and adopting parents alike in North Vancouver now have a support group they can access in September called the North Vancouver Waiting Parents Group.
Robin and Roberta Woolmer have organized the group, as they are two parents waiting on their next child. But this time it's not about waiting for Roberta to give birth, it's about waiting for the government to approve them as suitable to adopt a teenager stuck in the system.
"Not too many people want to adopt a teenager," Robin Woolmer said. "And when those kids turn 19 I think the ministry gives them $1,000 and cuts them loose. A lot of those kids end up on the street or up in jail. If they're female, a lot of them end up single moms."
This is why they felt obligated to do something - because they could.
"We just felt that we had the capacity to make a difference with at least one of them," he said.
So just a few months ago they decided as a family they would adopt and soon found they were going to be in a long and arduous process. But being one of the few people who are choosing to adopt, and one of even fewer who are looking to adopt a teenager, the Woolmers have been facing all sorts of problems: doubts, fears, stress of the process.
"Unless you're involved in the process nobody really knows what you're going through," he said. "I would talk to my friends and they're like, 'What the hell do you want to do that for?' That was not the feedback I was looking for."
So they went looking for people just like them and discovered the Vancouver Waiting Parents Group.
They meet about once a month, according to BC Adoption's support coordinator Randy Simpson, and offer everything from an ear to listen to mentorship.
"I'm an adoptive parent myself and I can tell you eight years ago my husband and myself found (the group) really helpful," Simpson said. "Sometimes it's for people who got exciting things to report or the struggles they've faced. There's people who have completed everything and are just waiting. And when you're a year in and waiting it can be frustrating, or sad, and people want to offer support.
"It can be gruelling," he added. "I can speak from experience."
The Woolmers attended the Vancouver group meetings, but after awhile they thought if there are these many families waiting to adopt in Vancouver, surely there are those in the North Shore too.
As a trial run they decided to put on a meeting in July where two other families attended.
It was small, but it showed Woolmer that there was a need in the community for this kind of support, and just by attending a few meetings he has already had a good deal of help.
"What I'm learning is that there are resources available to help people once they've decided to adopt," he said. "And those resources can be in terms of social workers or psychologists, and also just other people who are going through the process."
The North Vancouver Waiting Parents Group will host their first official meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 17 at the Lynn Valley Library from 7 to 8:30 p.m. For more information or to register email Robin and Roberta Woolmer at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Randy Simpson at email@example.com or call 604-320-7330 x105.
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