When Joyce (not her real name) received news that the process of becoming an adoptive parent was finally complete, she felt a great sense of fulfilment as she walked out of the offices of the Children's Authority of Trinidad and Tobago. Outside, her sister was waiting to record her tears. On the day she would meet her daughter for the first time, she was so overwhelmed that she was unable to drive herself to the visit in Port-of-Spain.
“The nervous feeling lasted from the day they contacted me, saying we think we have a match for you to the day I was going to meet the case worker and the prospective adoptee (child),” she told the Sunday Guardian recently.
It was solid support from her family members, church and the staff of the Authority that steadied her throughout the process of realising the dream she had held since her youth. She is grateful for their continued support even until today.
Years before, Joyce had started visiting children's homes as part of the youth activities of her church. She cultivated a deep caring and longing to bring joy to the lives of the children she met.
“The idea came from my mother, who has since passed, who used to do the same thing at the church. So it was one of our things. It was even from that young age that you felt a tug at the heart strings when you looked at the number of children that were there. We would go at various times and see sometimes on some of them, the sadness when you're leaving and them wanting to come with you.
“It really never left me. I spoke to my mum and some of the members of the church and made a decision that whether or not I had children of my own, it was something that I would look at.”
Joyce said even if she did not adopt, she made a promise to give back to children's homes in some way.
“Not necessarily material, but just to sit, chat, bring some cheer to children. They looked well-taken care of in the homes, but I think one factor missing was what we were able to bring to them on some of those visits,” she said.
Joyce, who does not have other children, visited the Adoption Board through the Ministry of Social Development and received a number of brochures and information.
“They told me I could take my time, read up on it and come back. I did take time. I spoke with other people who had gone through the process. Some people weren't forthcoming because of, appreciatively, the length of the process,” she recalled.
Eventually, she decided to adopt. Back at the Adoption Board, she received more in-depth information, filled out an application form and presented particular required documents. Although the process was lengthy, Joyce said the Board had made her aware and during interviews, ensured that she fully understood what she was about to undertake.
There were background and reference checks. After being informed by a committee that she had been approved as a prospective adoptive parent, she was given a number on a waiting list. It would be eight years before Joyce would be called in to meet the child she would be granted permission to adopt. During that time, the Adoption Board had been replaced by the Children's Authority of Trinidad and Tobago and the transition most likely affected her case. Other issues like availability of children to adopt and being able to be matched with a suitable child also impacted the waiting period.
Throughout her wait, the Authority kept in close contact, making sure she still had an interest and informing of any changes in the process.
Becoming a mother has come with challenges, Joyce admitted, but she has taken time off from work to help both her daughter and herself to adjust. Prayer and being exposed to family members with children have also helped.
“There were a lot of changes. From just being able to get up and go or not feeling like getting up on a particular day, to now having this child. But I always tell people it's possible through a lot of prayer. When I made up my mind to do it, my mother before she passed, told me: this is going to be a big change in your life and if you know you're not prepared to make some drastic changes, I want you to think carefully about this.”
Initially, Joyce had been concerned about her marital status and age restrictions when she applied, but the Authority which was established in 2015, advised that these would not prevent someone from adopting.
“I think people put those restrictions on themselves too; how you live your life, would you have children later on, at what age, how it would affect this child you have now adopted, if you adopt first and then bear a child. All these were taken into account by me and further discussed by the Children's Authority when we met.”
She said having completed her studies and having had opportunities to travel abroad, she became more adamant about making room in her life for a child.
“I've never regretted it one day,” she said.
From her own experience and situations she has witnessed, Joyce felt that, at times, people in this country tended to be condescending to women who adopt.
“I have been on the end of it, not a lot because I did what I did for me and the child; to offer her, God willing, a better life. But I had a friend and it was really, really tough. I guess society looks at you as a woman not being able to fulfil part of what women should be able to do naturally and therefore, as somebody used the word, you resort to adoption. That is not a good position in which to put someone.”
Joyce plans to talk with her daughter about her adoption at an appropriate age, earlier rather than later, she stressed. She wants to ensure that her daughter gets the information from her, rather than from the wrong sources.
As to family traditions she has shared with her daughter thus far, Joyce said that she came from a family who enjoys gatherings and she, herself, was always planning special moments with her daughter.
“Christmas morning was always something special for me. My family loves Christmas, so she (my daughter) loves it now. We get matching pyjamas, have Christmas breakfast. On Christmas night, it's a Christmas movie.
“Things like birthdays, I try to make them special. Mondays, first days of school I try to make them special. She loves to have movie nights when we have popcorn and watch a movie. With regards to family, there are a lot of family occasions, COVID has constricted us, but we do it virtually. Tonight is my sister's birthday, so we're doing it virtually.”
Joyce, who has already taken her daughter to Tobago, plans to team up with a friend who also has a daughter, to explore other countries with her child once the pandemic is over.
She had some strong advice for those considering whether adoption was the best choice for them.
“If you're thinking of adopting, think long and hard; not just for yourself, but about the child who has to benefit from this adoption because they are probably in the situation not because of what they did. If you're hoping to offer them something better, make sure you know that your life is going to change, and should...drastically to accommodate this child.
“Be sure that you are willing to give a lot of yourself. Make sure you have a good support system so you don't start to question yourself about your decision to adopt. If you have a good support system, you can talk through it, pray through it and once you have made that decision make them as happy as you can and in that, you are going to feel a real sense of satisfaction,” she said.
She also urged that prospective adoptive parents forget what they had no influence over, like what people would think and be confident in their decision.
To reach the Children's Authority
The Children's Authority can be reached at 627-0748; website: www.ttchildren.org
Foster Care: ext.40988; Adoption: ext. 40023 to 40025; Facebook: Children's Authority of Trinidad &Tobago; Instagram: Children's Authority of T&T.
People desperately in need of alternative care for their children or those wishing to adopt can also contact the Authority on Hotline: 996 or 800-2014, or email email@example.com