APABC: Defining Parent Support in British Columbia
by Karen Madeiros
During the 22 years that the Adoptive Parents Association of British Columbia (APABC) has existed, the organization has evolved from a small adoption support group, to an incorporated, government-funded service provider that benefits adoptive families and would-be adopters throughout the province. Below Karen Madeiros, APABC's executive director, explains how the group started and what services it now offers. To contact the APABC, call 604-588-7300, send a fax to 604-588-1388, or send an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Twenty-two years ago, a group of adoption pioneers sat around a kitchen table and formed the first adoption support group of its kind in British Columbia. Helen Mark, who still works at the Adoptive Parents Association, was at that table. When she adopted her son, now 22, from Vietnam in the 1970s, she said "there was little information on adoption, and intercountry adoption was practically unheard of. There was no way to communicate with other parents and the Ministry was generally too busy to link up families hungry for contact."
After bugging the Ministry enough times, Helen was eventually hooked up with several other adoptive mothers. "We were all looking for each other," said Helen. "We were all looking for like-minded people."
In 1977, with the help of six other women, they formed the Adoptive Parents Group (APG) of British Columbia. The newly formed group immediately set up information meetings and started a monthly newsletter that contained events, photos of waiting children, and personal stories. The APG’s goals were to disseminate information, connect families, and promote adoption as a healthy way to build families.
In 1981, the fledgling group incorporated as the Adoptive Parents Association of British Columbia (APABC). APABC's first board broadened the group's objectives by including a goal of developing a working relationship with the Ministry.
In 1989, the government provided this opportunity through a core funding program for family support organizations. APABC received funding under the program, and 10 years later our contract with the Ministry for Children and Families (MCF) still includes key program areas such as: pre- and post-adoption services, an information resource centre, and support services for adoptive families in crisis.
This first contract allowed us to move off the kitchen table and into offices, hire staff, purchase equipment, and establish a 1-800 number. Now we have seven staff members, more than 30 chapter and affiliated groups across the province, and a bimonthly magazine.
We provide information over the phone, fax, and e-mail, and through our Focus on Adoption magazine. Each 32-page Focus contains adoption stories, adoption news, intercountry updates, medical information, parenting tips, book and video reviews, and support group and community event listings. Our web site also lists upcoming events and general adoption information (www.bcadoption.com).
The APABC has produced two videos on intercountry adoption: International Adoption: Building a Family and International Adoption: What You Need to Know, and recently completed a booklet titled Raising Healthy Multiracial Adoptive Families.
We educate prospective adopters through regular adoption orientations led by staff members with volunteer panelists. For adoptive parents, we sponsor workshops hosted by local adoption and diversity experts on openness, special needs, and transracial issues. We also host a yearly adoption conference with other adoption organizations and adoption circle members representing a variety of viewpoints. Every year we invite at least one international adoption expert to speak. Sharon Kaplan and Dee Paddock have both presented workshops in British Columbia.
The APABC has chapters and contacts across the province. As well, a diverse cross-section of affiliated groups represent a variety of family forms including single parents and special needs adopters. Families with children of African heritage and children adopted from various countrie—including China, Romania, Guatemala, Peru, Thailand, Korea, and Russia—are also represented.
Families count on the APABC for informal support, help with accessing resources, and referral information during difficult pre- and post-adoption times. Emotional support workers and trained staff are available over the telephone and in person. Volunteer buddy parents are also available for families who feel isolated. Besides receiving support, families in crisis count on us for referral information that can quickly help them find adoption-sensitive professionals in the area.
Throughout our 22-year history, the APABC has helped the MCF find homes for waiting children. We have featured waiting children in our magazine, promoted adoption of waiting children during our education sessions, distributed information to families interested in special needs adoption, and supported families as they make their way through the process.
Approximately 1,000 children are waiting for families in our province of three million people. All are in the care of the MCF, which at present is responsible for recruiting, educating, and selecting families for waiting children as well as placing the children with adoptive families. Our public system, like many others in Canada and in the U.S., has adoption programs and adoption social workers who are under resourced and over worked.
Late last year MCF provided short-term funding for adoption initiatives aimed at recruiting and studying families, and preparing and placing children. It is a small step forward but a step forward nonetheless. The APABC has a small role in the current project and we are hopeful that we will play a larger role over the next year.
The Adoptive Parents Association of British Columbia is a unique and valuable resource for pre- and post-adoptive families. Our greatest support and financial partner is the Ministry for Children and Families in British Columbia, and our greatest resources are our families, staff, and volunteers. Together we share a common vision that all children deserve a forever family in a timely manner.