Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Crash Course on Sri Lanka's People

Sri Lanka has a little bit of everything: sandy beaches on the coast, fertile plain and tropical forest all around, and high lands in the center.
With a population of 19 millions, its density is quite high, at about 300 people per sq. km. Most people live in the countryside.
Roughly 72% of the population is of Sinhalese descent. Their language is Sinhala and most of these people are Buddhists.
The Tamil minority, which accounts for 20% of the people, are mainly descendants of South Indians migrants who arrived on the island thousands of years ago. Most of them live in the North East of the country. They  speak Tamil, which is now recognized as an official language. They are mostly Hindus.
The Burghers are descendant of the white settlers who married sinhalese. They are only 1% of the population and live mostly in the biggest cities. Most are Christians.
There is also a Moorish and a Malay population. Those people are mainly Muslims.
I find it striking that such a small country can have so much cultural and religious variety!
Luckily for us, most educated people speak english.
We don't know yet what ethnicity our child is going to be. I am guessing either Sinhalese or Tamil, as they are a large majority. Also, I believe the Burghers are richer and are less likely to make adoption plans for their babies...
It seems like one thing brings all these people together: Cricket! It's almost a religion down there! Sri Lanka won the world cup in 1996.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Second Home Study Visit

Our Social Worker just left... The second visit was at our place. Since I had found the first interview so uncomfortable, I was awefully stressed out about having her come to our house.
We had tidied up the house. And when I say "tidied up", I mean even the contents of our drawers had been examined... We had made sure that no medication was accessible from a child's perspective, double checked that our smoke detectors worked and opened up our windows for fresh air.

And it went really well!
In fact, she didn't even fully tour the house! She did not open any drawer or cupboard, and we did not have to function the smoke detectors for her. She asked if we had them, asked about the baby's room and accepted a cup of coffee while she quizzed us on our families, our marriage and the town we live in. Most of her questions were already covered in the Self-Report, so it wasn't painful at all. This time, I didn't feel challenged. She even complimented us on our home.

We had researched all the questions she had brought up last time that we did not have answers for. I was glad we did, because she checked!

She brought up a few more interesting questions for us to research. We have to find out if our town offers ressources for parents and kids (from mom and baby swimming lessons to counselling for teenagers). One important thing she made us think about is that we have to check with our insurance company if our child is covered after we have officially adopted him/her but before we come back to Canada. And we have to get a fire extinguisher.

I'm relieved it went so well... It's not that I worried she was going to fail us, but I didn't want to go through the same kind of discomfort I had experienced last time.

Next step: our last interview, on November 2. This one is in Calgary.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

More About the Sri Lanka Process

We are slowly getting into the technicalities of the Sri Lanka process, as the end of the Alberta process is in sight.
Once our Home Study is all good and approved, it becomes a part of our Dossier. Our agency in Ontario will help us put together our Dossier. It will contain a bunch of documents, some of which we already have (Birth Certificates, Police Checks, etc).
Before being sent to SL, every single page of every document in the Dossier has to be notarized. Luckily, English is widely used in Sri Lanka for business. Our Dossier has to be sent in English, so all we will need to have translated is our Birth Certificates (from French and Spanish).
When this is done, our Dossier is sent to Sri Lanka. There is a little detail our agency has to figure out here... The province of Alberta requires that the Dossier be sent to them and that they forward it to the Sri Lankan authorities. My agent told me that the Sri Lankan authorities want to receive it via the Consulate. I am not sure yet what the path will be for our file to make it to the country, she is checking into that.
Once the Dossier is in Sri Lanka, it is in a black box... We won’t know what’s happening until they assign a child to us. In the meantime, an agent over in Sri Lanka will go to orphanages to liaise with the authorities.
And then, one day, our agent in Alberta will get a referral for us. Hopefully this is sooner rather than later! We were told to expect up to 2 years wait.
They will call us and make our day. I mean... our year!
We will review the proposal and have a doctor look at the referral pictures. If the doctor recommends more medical tests, our agent in Sri Lanka will take the child to a doctor over there. If we do accept the child, then we will enter the next stage of the process: the adoption and immigration.
I expect we will have to wait a long, painful 3 months before being able to travel to meet our child. There is only one trip required. Both parents have to be at the court hearing, but then only one parent is required to stay in the country for 4 to 6 weeks before they can take the child home with them.
If we do get our approved Home Study by mid-January, it will probably be a few more months before our dossier is all ready to be sent to Sri Lanka. So this is for next year... For now, we still have 2 Home Study interviews to go through...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What If?

This post is about a difficult issue, which I hope we never have to worry about... Our social worker has raised questions about it, and I called our Ontario agency today to discuss this possibility.
I’m talking about having to refuse a referral.
It happens that the proposed child is not right for the adoptive family, that a doctor specialized in international adoptions raises concerns about the health and development of the child before the adoption takes place and the parents feel that they cannot take proper care of this child.
I wish I could say we are above this. But I have seen and heard of too many good adoptive families who have had to make that excruciating decision, and it would be pretentious (and unfair to the child) to think that we are limitless.
So I have clarified with our Ontario agent what would happen exactly, if this was what life had in store for us.
In Sri Lanka, the children do not get proposed to the agencies. They are matched directly with the adoptive families by Sri Lankan officials. Because of this, there is no way of knowing how far up on the list we are. I am not even sure they refer kids according to the order they received the dossiers...
If we were to refuse a referral, we would not necessarily be proposed the next available child. We would go back into the bucket and wait for Sri Lanka to match us with another kid. There is no telling how much longer we would have to wait.
On the other hand, our agency has never had a family refusing a referral from the Sri Lanka program. That is somewhat reassuring... I realize it is a small program, but it has been around for 11 years.
It’s painful to even think about such issues, but I am grateful that our social worker asked about it. Well informed adoptive families are better suited to make the right decisions.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Why Adoptive Parents Get Less

Our social worker has clarified something that really made no sense to me... In Canada, the federal government has a plan for parents to be able to take some time off work when they have a new child. By law, the employer is required to allow this time off and guarantee the same (or equivalent) position upon return. The new parent is also entitled to Employment Insurance during this period.
This time off is divided into Maternity Leave, which covers 15 weeks and can only be taken by the mother, and Parental Leave, which consists of 35 weeks that both parents can share as they like.
It turns out that Maternity Leave is not available to adoptive parents. When I heard of this, let’s say I found it a little peculiar... We keep hearing how important the first year as a family is for attachment. Yet, we get to stay at home for 15 weeks less than everybody else!
It didn’t make any sense to me, until our social worker explained that, in a domestic adoption, the birth mother gets the 15 weeks Mat Leave, and the adoptive parents get the 35 weeks Parental Leave. That makes sense... A young mother who has just delivered a baby and made the most difficult decision of her life sure needs time to recover! It just happens that international adoptions fall in a crack.
 I wish I could donate those 15 weeks off (and the Employment Insurance pay) to the birthmother of my child, in Sri Lanka... I’m sure she could use it!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

First Home Study Interview

We had our first meeting with the social worker today. It was over at our agency's office, and took about 2-1/2 hours.
Our social worker is this sweet young woman. She has 3 kids. I don't know if she has personally gone through the adoption process, but she told us about a lot of her friends who adopted from many different countries.
All in all, I think it went well. Her questions were mainly stuff we had already covered in the Self-Report.

But for some reason, I found this quite uncomfortable... I guess it's being put under the spotlight that made me nervous. It is, after all, our intimacy we were discussing there. A few times, I felt like the questions were challenging our views and it was uncomfortable.

It's funny how I was fine writing the Self Report, while Pablo got grumpy over the task, and now I'm the one who's all grumpy and Pablo seems all right!

In addition to what was already covered in the Self Report, she asked a lot of questions about the process (specific to Sri Lanka), the kids that are available there and the country itself. She asked what the fee schedule was, what the main religion was in SL, how long we had to travel for, how many families had adopted succesfully from SL into Canada and so on. She wanted to check how much research we had done. I'm glad we asked all those questions to our Ontario agency, and I started reading on the country! I need to ask more questions about the process though.

Anyway, we're a little closer to our goal! Next meeting is on the weekend of the 22nd, at our place... I'm already nervous about it...

Monday, October 10, 2011

Thanksgiving

It has never been a tradition for our family to celebrate Thanksgiving, but I thought it wouldn't hurt to take a minute to think about what's good in my life...
Today, I am grateful for my family and friends, for my health and that of the ones I love, of course. Also (dare I say this), I am grateful for the challenges that I have had to deal with in the past few years. Not that I would like to relive them, but they have made me what I am and I would not want it to be any different.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

An Introduction on Sri Lanka

Picture taken from http://www.srilankatravelcentre.com/
I have to admit I don't know much about Sri Lanka, so I have started reading on the country a little bit.
Sri Lanka is a relatively small country (remember I live in Canada), with 435km at its longest and 225km at its widest. It is a tear-drop shaped island, south of the tip of India. At its closest, it is about 50km from the coast of India, and it seems like there used to be a natural bridge between the two countries.
About 72% of the population is Sinhalese, 20% is Tamil. There is also a Moorish population, and some other smaller groups. The most commonly used language is Sinhalese. The majority of the population is Buddhist, but there is a wide variety of religious backgrounds.
The modern history of Sri Lanka is anything but boring! The island was colonised by the Portuguese, then taken by The Netherlands before falling into the hands of the British. It was then known as Ceylon. It became independant in 1948 and is now a member of the Commonwealth. Since independance, there have been tensions between the Tamil population and the Sinhalese majority. Violent events started in the 80s, with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam demanding an independant Tamil state. The civil war ended only very recently, in 2009.
The country is still quite rural. Its population is around 19 millions, with 2 millions living in the capital (Colombo). Sri Lanka is one of the largest exporters of tea (you know, Ceylon tea?). Textiles and garment-making are another very important part of the economy. The country also exports rubber, coconut products and precious stones.
It still is a developping economy, with a very low average income and 20% of its inhabitants living below the poverty line. Still, the literacy rate is high, around 90%.

I realize this is a very general introduction, but you gotta start somewhere! I will post more as I learn... I will tell you more about the climate and geography in a later post. I am also really curious about the ethnic groups and their customs...