Category: canada/family-law

king

king

HUNTSVILLE, Texas — An avowed racist who orchestrated one of the most gruesome hate crimes in U.S. history was executed Wednesday in Texas for the dragging death of a black man.

John William King, who was white, received lethal injection for the slaying nearly 21 years ago of James Byrd Jr., who was chained to the back of a truck and dragged for nearly 3 miles (5 kilometres) along a secluded road in the piney woods outside Jasper, Texas. The 49-year-old Byrd was alive for at least 2 miles (3 kilometres) before his body was ripped to pieces in the early morning hours of June 7, 1998.

Prosecutors said Byrd was targeted because he was black. King was openly racist and had offensive tattoos on his body, including one of a black man with a noose around his neck hanging from a tree, according to authorities.

In this undated photo released Feb. 17, 1999 by the Jasper County District Attorney’s office, shows some of the tattoos on John William King.

King, 44, was put to death at the state penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas. He was the fourth inmate executed this year in the U.S. and the third in Texas, the nation’s busiest capital punishment state.

King kept his eyes closed as witnesses arrived in the death chamber and never turned his head toward relatives of his victim. Asked by Warden Bill Lewis if he had a final statement, King replied: “No.”

Within seconds, the lethal dose of the sedative pentobarbital began taking effect. He took a few barely audible breaths and had no other movement. He was pronounced dead at 7:08 p.m. CDT, 12 minutes after the drug began.

In a statement released after his execution, King said: “Capital punishment: them without the capital get the punishment.”

Byrd’s sister, Clara Taylor, who watched King die, said he “showed no remorse then and showed no remorse tonight.”

“The execution for his crime was just punishment,” she said. “I felt nothing — no sense of relief, no sense of happy this is over with.”

As witnesses emerged from the prison, about two dozen people standing down the street began to cheer.

The killing of Byrd was a hate crime that put a national spotlight on Jasper, a town of about 7,600 residents near the Texas-Louisiana border that was branded with a racist stigma it has tried to shake off ever since. Local officials say the reputation is undeserved.

In this Sept. 21, 2011, file photo, Ricky Jason wears a photograph of James Byrd Jr. outside the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Huntsville Unit before the execution of Lawrence Russell Brewer in Huntsville, Texas.

King’s appellate lawyers had tried to stop his execution, arguing King’s constitutional rights were violated because his trial attorneys didn’t present his claims of innocence and conceded his guilt.

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected King’s last-minute appeal.

“From the time of indictment through his trial, Mr. King maintained his absolute innocence, claiming that he had left his co-defendants and Mr. Byrd sometime prior to his death and was not present at the scene of his murder. Mr. King repeatedly expressed to defence counsel that he wanted to present his innocence claim at trial,” A. Richard Ellis, one of King’s attorneys, wrote in his petition to the Supreme Court.

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles also turned down King’s request for either a commutation of his sentence or a 120-day reprieve.

Over the years, King had also suggested the brutal slaying was not a hate crime, but a drug deal gone bad involving his co-defendants.

King, who grew up in Jasper and was known as “Bill,” was the second man executed for Byrd’s killing. Lawrence Russell Brewer was executed in 2011. The third participant, Shawn Allen Berry, was sentenced to life in prison.

King declined an interview request from The Associated Press in the weeks leading up to his execution.

In a 2001 interview with the AP, King said he was an “avowed racist” but wasn’t “a hate-monger murderer.”

Louvon Byrd Harris said earlier this month that King’s execution for her brother’s slaying would send a “message to the world that when you do something horrible like that, that you have to pay the high penalty.”

In this Wednesday, April 10, 2019, photo Mylinda Byrd Washington, 66, left, and Louvon Byrd Harris, 61, hold up photographs of their brother James Byrd Jr. in Houston.

King and Brewer got “an easy way out” compared to “all the suffering” that Byrd faced, Harris said.

Billy Rowles, who led the investigation into Byrd’s death when he was sheriff in Jasper County, said after King was taken to death row in 1999, he offered to detail the crime as soon as his co-defendants were convicted. When Rowles returned, all King would say was, “I wasn’t there.”

“He played us like a fiddle, getting us to go over there and thinking we’re going to get the rest of the story,” said Rowles, who now is sheriff of Newton County.

A week before Brewer was executed in 2011, Rowles said he visited Brewer, who confirmed “the whole thing was Bill King’s idea.”

Mylinda Byrd Washington, another of Byrd’s sisters, said earlier this month that the family will work through the Byrd Foundation for Racial Healing to ensure her brother’s death continues to combat hate everywhere.

“I hope people remember him not as a hate crime statistic. This was a real person. A family man, a father, a brother and a son,” she said.

@repost Spousal Support Guidelines

Via Amicable Divorce

source https://canoe.com/news/crime/any-final-words-no-openly-racist-ringleader-in-1998-dragging-death-of-black-man-in-texas-gets-the-needle

By The Wall of Law April 25, 2019 Off

parents

parents

CRYSTAL LAKE, Ill. — Authorities searching for a missing five-year-old Illinois boy who had lived in deplorable conditions dug up his body Wednesday and charged his parents with murder, sadly declaring that the youngster would “no longer have to suffer.”

The body, believed to be that of Andrew “AJ” Freund, was covered in plastic and buried in a shallow grave in a rural area of Woodstock in McHenry County, Crystal Lake police Chief James Black said.

Black said investigators went to the site after they interviewed the boy’s parents overnight and presented them with cellphone evidence. Woodstock is about 50 miles (80 kilometres) northwest of Chicago and a few miles from the family’s home in Crystal Lake.

“This is not the outcome that we want to talk about … but it is the unfortunate result,” said Jeffrey Sallet, who runs the FBI in northern Illinois.

The parents, Andrew Freund Sr. and JoAnn Cunningham, each face charges of first-degree murder and other crimes. An email seeking comment was sent to Cunningham’s lawyer. It wasn’t immediately known if Freund has a lawyer.

The couple reported AJ missing last Thursday, telling officers they had last seen him at bedtime the previous night. Freund told a dispatcher that they’d checked “closets, the basement, the garage, everywhere,” but investigators quickly knocked down the possibility of a kidnapping.

Speaking to reporters, Black had a message for AJ’s relatives: “It is my hope that you may have some solace in knowing that AJ is no longer suffering and his killers have been brought to justice.”

Crystal Lake police had visited the house over the years, according to records released by the department. One report described the home as littered with dog feces and urine, including a child’s bedroom where the “smell of feces was overwhelming.” Another report said the house was “cluttered, dirty and in disrepair,” and sometimes without electricity.

Investigators from the Crystal Lake police department, the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI gather at an area northwest of Dean Street and Route 176 in unincorporated Woodstock, Ill., on Wednesday, April 24, 2019.

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, known as DCFS, had contact with the family since AJ was born with opiates in his body in 2013. The Northwest Herald said he was in foster care for two years before being returned to his parents. A younger brother was removed from the home last week.

Black said the cause of AJ’s death remains under investigation. Police removed several items from the home, including a shovel, mattress, paper bags and a plastic storage tub.

“We know you are at peace playing in heaven’s playground and are happy you no longer have to suffer,” the police chief said in a public message intended for the boy.

DCFS acting director Marc Smith said AJ’s death was “heartbreaking.”

“The department is committed to conducting a comprehensive review of the entirety of our work with Andrew’s family to understand our shortcomings and to be fully transparent with the public on any steps we are taking to address the issues,” Smith said in a written statement.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker in March ordered an independent review of DCFS after the deaths of a two-year-old girl in Decatur and a two-year-old boy in Chicago. Child welfare workers had contacts with both families.

State Sen. Julie Morrison, a Deerfield Democrat, immediately called for “an independent, comprehensive audit of the DCFS hotline.”

“As with many other deaths, it seems the system designed to protect Illinois’ children did not work in AJ Freund’s case,” Morrison said in a statement.

@repost Divorce Lawyers near Me

Via Family Custody Lawyers

source https://canoe.com/news/crime/illinois-boy-5-found-buried-in-shallow-grave-parents-charged

By The Wall of Law April 25, 2019 Off

042419-Trump_Lawyer_Investigation

042419-Trump_Lawyer_Investigation

NEW YORK — U.S. President Donald Trump’s prison-bound former lawyer told actor Tom Arnold last month that he pleaded guilty to some crimes he didn’t commit so his wife wouldn’t “get dragged into the mud of this crap.”

Michael Cohen told Arnold “they had me on campaign finance” for arranging hush-money payments to two women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump, but denied committing tax evasion and called a crime related to a home equity line of credit “a lie.”

He also complained in the March 25 call that he felt abandoned and tossed aside — like “a man all alone” — after giving more than 100 hours of interviews and testimony to federal investigators and congressional committees.

Arnold said he recorded the 36-minute call without Cohen’s knowledge because Cohen was known to record conversations and that he wanted to remember what they discussed. Arnold provided a copy to The Wall Street Journal, which reported on it and posted audio excerpts on its website on Wednesday.

It’s unclear where Arnold was when he made the recording. If he was in California, he could face legal scrutiny because the state requires consent from both parties on the call. If he was in New York, he’s in the clear. That state only requires one party’s consent.

Cohen met Arnold in June 2018 in what he described as a “chance, public encounter” in the lobby of a Manhattan hotel where Cohen was staying while his apartment was being repaired. Cohen said that Arnold asked to take a selfie .

The meeting happened about two months after the FBI raided Cohen’s hotel room and home and about two weeks before he publicly declared he was splitting from Trump, telling ABC’s George Stephanopoulos: “I will not be a punching bag as part of anyone’s defence strategy.”

Arnold, who hosted a Viceland series last year in which he investigated rumoured recordings of Trump, told the Journal he made the recent call to Cohen to follow up on their meeting and to offer him moral support.

Arnold’s representatives did not immediately respond to an interview request.

Cohen is scheduled to begin a three-year sentence on May 6 at a federal prison about 70 miles (113 kilometres) northwest of New York City. His lawyers recently asked House Democrats to intercede to get a reduced or delayed sentence, but they’ve been reticent to do so.

According to the Journal, Cohen told Arnold he pleaded guilty to the charges he now disputes because federal prosecutors were looking at his wife, Laura Shusterman, because her name was on a bank account where he deposited $2.4 million in loan proceeds.

“I love this woman, and I am not going to let her get dragged into the mud of this crap,” Cohen said, according to the Journal. “And I never thought the judge was going to throw a three-year fricking sentence.”

Cohen’s concerns about the tax evasion and bank fraud charges appeared to echo some of what his former lawyer, Guy Petrillo, wrote in a sentencing memorandum submitted to the court in December.

Petrillo argued that Cohen’s tax evasion was “unsophisticated” and warranted less punishment than elaborate schemes. He argued that the bank fraud charge was the result of sloppiness in completing paperwork.

Cohen’s lawyer and spokesman, Lanny Davis, acknowledged that Cohen spoke with Arnold and said that he “meant no offence by his statements.”

“Michael has taken responsibility for his crimes and will soon report to prison to serve his sentence,” Davis said in an emailed statement. “While he cannot change the past, he is making every effort to reclaim his life and do right by his family and country.”

The Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment.

@repost Prenup Lawyer

Via Family Law Center

source https://canoe.com/news/world/trumps-former-attorney-michael-cohen-says-he-pleaded-guilty-to-crimes-he-didnt-commit

By The Wall of Law April 25, 2019 Off

Adoptive parents want to earn their kids’ trust. But they need more time.

On July 19, 2018, Katie and Mark met the daughter they hoped to adopt. Franny was standing just beyond the front door of her foster family’s home, dressed in her ballet recital outfit and eager to meet her new parents. They had lunch, chatted and played with Franny a little bit. “We were meeting our child for the first time, and we were trying really hard not to cry because we didn’t want to freak her out,” says Katie.

Franny was initially shy, but over the afternoon she started to warm to Katie and Mark (the names of the parents and children in this story have been changed for privacy reasons). As they were leaving, Franny ran up and gave them both hugs and said, “I’ve waited for you guys for a long time.” On Aug. 11, after almost daily visits, Katie and Mark brought Franny home for good. And it was only then that they realized how much work it would take to become a family.

Already six when they met, Franny had a well-developed personality. During those first weeks, she maintained the guarded politesse of a temporary house guest, eating anything Katie put in front of her and seemingly reluctant to test any boundaries. “We cared for her and we were in love with her, but we hadn’t bonded as parents yet,” says Katie. “We had to get to know her.”

For a while, when other adults came to the house, Franny would assume that they were also there to take her to yet another new home. Katie and Mark have encouraged Franny to keep pictures of her birth family, but they sense that she feels torn by loyalty to the parents who couldn’t care for her and the new parents who want to give her a different life. The little girl recently had a setback when she learned that two of her brothers, both adopted into another family, were being returned to foster care. “She feels so guilty that she has this stable home and her siblings do not,” says Katie. “We’re constantly reassuring her that this is her home, that this is her family.”

READ MORE: How did good parenting become a crime?

The oft-used phrase “forever family,” the idea that all previous families were simply temporary arrangements, is a pretty major nod to the instability that’s experienced by adopted kids who have already seen family life go bad, and are understandably wary and prone to mistrust.

For many adoptive parents, the arrival of a kid—their kid, who just happens to be a stranger—sparks the beginning of months or years of often hard-won adjustment. Yet those who adopt children in Canada aren’t entitled to the same amount of leave as biological parents. The federal parental benefits system currently offers 50 weeks of paid leave to biological parents, and just 35 weeks for adoptive parents.

A new campaign launched in February hopes to overturn that disparity. Adopt4Life, an adoption advocacy group, in partnership with Ontario’s Adoptive Parent Association and researchers at Western University, is demanding equalization and campaigning for a new kind of parental leave: 15 additional weeks of “attachment leave” for adoptive parents, kin caregivers (a family member who assumes custody of a child) and customary caregivers (Indigenous family placements for Indigenous children). “For a child to trust, they need time,” says Cathy Murphy, executive director of the Adoption Council of Canada. “They have to experience transitions and routines with their new family.”

The process of a family incrementally bonding is often made more complicated by the pragmatic challenge of taking time off. Mark burned through all of his vacation days during the preliminary transition period before Franny came to live with them, so his ability to spend time with her has been limited. Katie has been home with Franny since August, but she runs out of Employment Insurance in April and will have to take unpaid leave for the balance of their first full year as a family. In addition to spending hours a day at Franny’s school, Katie also has to juggle visits with lawyers, social workers, health care professionals and visits from an attachment therapist. “Even though Franny says she feels stable, we can see that she’s not there yet,” says Katie.

RELATED: Why progressive parental leave policy isn’t a game-changer

Franny first came into care when she was three, but she has clear memories of her parents and eight siblings. Her birth home was full of drug and alcohol abuse, along with severe neglect. Shortly after Franny turned four, she was returned to her parents, who promptly lost their home. For a stretch, the family lived in tents in someone’s backyard. Franny describes the tents as “yucky,” noting that it was almost always damp, and soaking wet when it rained. She had to use the bathroom inside the house, but the house was filthy and the toilet often overflowed. At one point, Franny was so riddled with lice that the back of her head was an open sore.

Franny’s trauma has manifested in the form of nightmares and anxiety, along with a fierce independent streak and a reluctance to let Katie and Mark take care of her. Now seven, she’s obsessive with cleanliness, washing her hands constantly and using craft supplies to build “lice traps.” Franny’s baby teeth are rotten, and she’s behind in both reading and writing. After she was removed from her birth parents’ care, she spent three years in three different foster homes, where she was typically separated from her siblings. “It makes it harder for her to attach to us because she’s been moved around so many times,” says Katie.

Franny and Mark measure her lamb’s growth (Photograph by Galit Rodan)

Her family’s experience reflects the issues faced by many in the same position. There are currently 70,000 children and youth living in the system in Canada, and 30,000 of those children—most of whom are over the age of six—are waiting for family placements. Each of these children has a family history—often a challenging one—that affects the process of integrating them with their new family. But that reality isn’t recognized by the 35 weeks of leave, adoption advocates say. In June 2018, the Time to Attach team at Western University conducted a large-scale national survey on parental leave and attachment. The survey found that 72 per cent of adoptive parents agreed that the current leave structure did not permit enough time to bond with their adoptive children, that approximately half of adoptive children have complex or special needs that complicated the transition, and that 20 per cent of newly adopted children have a different language of origin than their adoptive family.

Most of these kids have been exposed to a level of loss and betrayal that many adults will never experience—and all during the period when they’re forming their first impressions of the world. That kind of abuse and neglect can make a permanent imprint on a developing brain, says Mary-Jo Land, a psychotherapist in Priceville, Ont., who also serves as a consultant on attachment to the Time to Attach campaign. “In the early years, our brain forms in the context of attachment,” she says. “So if a child is experiencing frightening or neglectful parenting, or multiple changes in caregivers, that child’s brain architecture is literally being formed to adapt to that life experience.”

Feeling “safe” and cultivating the ability to form healthy attachments is part of a development process that takes place in the crucial first few years of life. Infants are primed for dependence, and the reaction of their caregivers provides them with a narrative that can shape the rest of their life. If a parent is responsive and provides comfort, a child can learn that the world is a safe place. But when a child experiences violence or neglect, when they’re punished for crying or permitted to go hungry, the lesson is also clear: You can’t trust those closest to you.

READ MORE: When it comes to parenting, can men really have it all?

In other words, kids who are removed from either traumatizing or temporary homes and placed with a “forever family” aren’t just being asked to live somewhere new. “We’re talking about reorganizing the brain to develop pathways for trust, connection and reaching out for comfort,” says Land. “So it’s about iteration after iteration of small, nuanced experiences of kindness and regulations in tiny, tiny steps. That process is a completely unique thing to every family, but nothing else can proceed until the child begins to feel safe. And we know that the older the child, the more trauma and the more placements, the harder it is to attach.”

A difference in family histories can also lead to a divide between adopted children and their parents. As Land points out, most adoptive parents have not had a history in the child welfare system, nor have they been adopted from orphanages in the developing world.

“Most of them haven’t had any lived experience like that of the child they’re adopting,” says Land. “So it’s not just about trying to parent a child who’s at first a stranger to you. Adoptive parents have to go through a really rigorous process to ensure that they are emotionally and financially stable enough, but they don’t really know what it’s like to be frightened, neglected or abandoned by their parents.”

When Colleen and her husband first picked up a picture of four siblings—ages three, five, seven and nine—at an Adoption Resource Exchange, a conference where prospective parents can view the profiles of children awaiting homes, in southern Ontario in 2011, they knew they had to bring them home. Colleen already had two biological children, but suddenly they were a family of eight.

The four siblings had recently experienced an adoption breakdown, having been returned to care after a year and a half with a previous “forever family.” In addition to that particularly acute trauma, Colleen soon learned that all of the children had previously undiagnosed fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Within two days of their move-in date, the house was engulfed in chaos. “When I say it was 24 hours a day, people think I’m exaggerating, but other adoptive parents know,” says Colleen.

RELATED: The collapse of parenting: Why it’s time for parents to grow up

The children were also prone to highly destructive fits of rage and frustration that could be triggered by the smallest things, like not getting a preferred cup at dinner. They punched holes through drywall, smashed furniture and ripped handles off doors. They frequently attempted to run away, one bolting through the front door toward the highway, another through the back door toward a field. The youngest, in particular, often sobbed through much of the night. The eldest, skeptical that this arrangement could possibly be permanent, had Colleen note the 18-month mark on a calendar—the point at which their previous adoption had broken down. “He decided that if we get to that date together, then he’ll trust us,” she says.

In addition to shortened parental leave, some adoptive parents also receive less social support than their biological counterparts. This, too, can complicate the process of settling in. Adoption is seen as a noble act, but almost certainly less celebratory. The months leading up to the awarding of legal custody aren’t full of approving nods from strangers giving up their seats on buses to pregnant mothers. Baby showers, gender reveal parties and balloon bouquets are less common.

“People are happy to come by and see cute babies, but when people stop by and watch a child attack you, they really don’t want to come back for coffee,” says Colleen. “You get a lot of likes on Facebook when you post a picture in front of a courthouse about making your adoption final, but people would prefer that you keep it heartwarming. They don’t want to hear about how hard it is.”

Eight years later, Colleen and her family are in a much better place, but they’re still working to overcome her children’s legacy of trauma, abuse and rejection. A stay-at-home parent, she spends hours a week on the phone—with teachers, doctors and administrators—who are helping her to transition her children, some with developmental delays, to early adulthood. “Our three-year-old came to us believing that she’s unlovable, that no one would want to keep her around and that she’s just a bad person,” says Colleen. “That takes everything you’ve got. How are you supposed to wake up early and go to a board meeting or work a late shift at a hospital after that? We took these kids from their parents to do better for them. Giving them to ill-prepared parents who are exhausted, who don’t have support, and then telling them to return to work is a recipe for disaster.”

While at times they’re overwhelmed, Katie and her husband haven’t had to deal with any diagnosed physical or mental disabilities, or any major trauma-related behavioural issues—and that makes Franny an anomaly in the broader adoption landscape. The family plans on using up their nest egg, pooling all their available resources to help ensure that Franny can be a happy, healthy and well-loved little girl.

“We have a child with no major developmental difficulties and it has still been so challenging,” says Katie. “This time together has been so valuable, but we still need to figure a lot out. And not everyone is as lucky as us.”

But every day, little by little, they’re more like a family. Katie can remember the first time she really felt like Franny was her daughter. “She got really mad at me for something and she still called me Mom. I was like, okay, we’re there.”

MORE ABOUT PARENTING:

@repost How to Get Full Custody

Via Division of Assets

source https://www.macleans.ca/news/canada/adoptive-parents-want-to-earn-their-kids-trust-but-they-need-more-time/

By The Wall of Law April 25, 2019 Off

Adoptive parents want to earn their kids’ trust. But they need more time.

On July 19, 2018, Katie and Mark met the daughter they hoped to adopt. Franny was standing just beyond the front door of her foster family’s home, dressed in her ballet recital outfit and eager to meet her new parents. They had lunch, chatted and played with Franny a little bit. “We were meeting our child for the first time, and we were trying really hard not to cry because we didn’t want to freak her out,” says Katie.

Franny was initially shy, but over the afternoon she started to warm to Katie and Mark (the names of the parents and children in this story have been changed for privacy reasons). As they were leaving, Franny ran up and gave them both hugs and said, “I’ve waited for you guys for a long time.” On Aug. 11, after almost daily visits, Katie and Mark brought Franny home for good. And it was only then that they realized how much work it would take to become a family.

Already six when they met, Franny had a well-developed personality. During those first weeks, she maintained the guarded politesse of a temporary house guest, eating anything Katie put in front of her and seemingly reluctant to test any boundaries. “We cared for her and we were in love with her, but we hadn’t bonded as parents yet,” says Katie. “We had to get to know her.”

For a while, when other adults came to the house, Franny would assume that they were also there to take her to yet another new home. Katie and Mark have encouraged Franny to keep pictures of her birth family, but they sense that she feels torn by loyalty to the parents who couldn’t care for her and the new parents who want to give her a different life. The little girl recently had a setback when she learned that two of her brothers, both adopted into another family, were being returned to foster care. “She feels so guilty that she has this stable home and her siblings do not,” says Katie. “We’re constantly reassuring her that this is her home, that this is her family.”

READ MORE: How did good parenting become a crime?

The oft-used phrase “forever family,” the idea that all previous families were simply temporary arrangements, is a pretty major nod to the instability that’s experienced by adopted kids who have already seen family life go bad, and are understandably wary and prone to mistrust.

For many adoptive parents, the arrival of a kid—their kid, who just happens to be a stranger—sparks the beginning of months or years of often hard-won adjustment. Yet those who adopt children in Canada aren’t entitled to the same amount of leave as biological parents. The federal parental benefits system currently offers 50 weeks of paid leave to biological parents, and just 35 weeks for adoptive parents.

A new campaign launched in February hopes to overturn that disparity. Adopt4Life, an adoption advocacy group, in partnership with Ontario’s Adoptive Parent Association and researchers at Western University, is demanding equalization and campaigning for a new kind of parental leave: 15 additional weeks of “attachment leave” for adoptive parents, kin caregivers (a family member who assumes custody of a child) and customary caregivers (Indigenous family placements for Indigenous children). “For a child to trust, they need time,” says Cathy Murphy, executive director of the Adoption Council of Canada. “They have to experience transitions and routines with their new family.”

The process of a family incrementally bonding is often made more complicated by the pragmatic challenge of taking time off. Mark burned through all of his vacation days during the preliminary transition period before Franny came to live with them, so his ability to spend time with her has been limited. Katie has been home with Franny since August, but she runs out of Employment Insurance in April and will have to take unpaid leave for the balance of their first full year as a family. In addition to spending hours a day at Franny’s school, Katie also has to juggle visits with lawyers, social workers, health care professionals and visits from an attachment therapist. “Even though Franny says she feels stable, we can see that she’s not there yet,” says Katie.

RELATED: Why progressive parental leave policy isn’t a game-changer

Franny first came into care when she was three, but she has clear memories of her parents and eight siblings. Her birth home was full of drug and alcohol abuse, along with severe neglect. Shortly after Franny turned four, she was returned to her parents, who promptly lost their home. For a stretch, the family lived in tents in someone’s backyard. Franny describes the tents as “yucky,” noting that it was almost always damp, and soaking wet when it rained. She had to use the bathroom inside the house, but the house was filthy and the toilet often overflowed. At one point, Franny was so riddled with lice that the back of her head was an open sore.

Franny’s trauma has manifested in the form of nightmares and anxiety, along with a fierce independent streak and a reluctance to let Katie and Mark take care of her. Now seven, she’s obsessive with cleanliness, washing her hands constantly and using craft supplies to build “lice traps.” Franny’s baby teeth are rotten, and she’s behind in both reading and writing. After she was removed from her birth parents’ care, she spent three years in three different foster homes, where she was typically separated from her siblings. “It makes it harder for her to attach to us because she’s been moved around so many times,” says Katie.

Franny and Mark measure her lamb’s growth (Photograph by Galit Rodan)

Her family’s experience reflects the issues faced by many in the same position. There are currently 70,000 children and youth living in the system in Canada, and 30,000 of those children—most of whom are over the age of six—are waiting for family placements. Each of these children has a family history—often a challenging one—that affects the process of integrating them with their new family. But that reality isn’t recognized by the 35 weeks of leave, adoption advocates say. In June 2018, the Time to Attach team at Western University conducted a large-scale national survey on parental leave and attachment. The survey found that 72 per cent of adoptive parents agreed that the current leave structure did not permit enough time to bond with their adoptive children, that approximately half of adoptive children have complex or special needs that complicated the transition, and that 20 per cent of newly adopted children have a different language of origin than their adoptive family.

Most of these kids have been exposed to a level of loss and betrayal that many adults will never experience—and all during the period when they’re forming their first impressions of the world. That kind of abuse and neglect can make a permanent imprint on a developing brain, says Mary-Jo Land, a psychotherapist in Priceville, Ont., who also serves as a consultant on attachment to the Time to Attach campaign. “In the early years, our brain forms in the context of attachment,” she says. “So if a child is experiencing frightening or neglectful parenting, or multiple changes in caregivers, that child’s brain architecture is literally being formed to adapt to that life experience.”

Feeling “safe” and cultivating the ability to form healthy attachments is part of a development process that takes place in the crucial first few years of life. Infants are primed for dependence, and the reaction of their caregivers provides them with a narrative that can shape the rest of their life. If a parent is responsive and provides comfort, a child can learn that the world is a safe place. But when a child experiences violence or neglect, when they’re punished for crying or permitted to go hungry, the lesson is also clear: You can’t trust those closest to you.

READ MORE: When it comes to parenting, can men really have it all?

In other words, kids who are removed from either traumatizing or temporary homes and placed with a “forever family” aren’t just being asked to live somewhere new. “We’re talking about reorganizing the brain to develop pathways for trust, connection and reaching out for comfort,” says Land. “So it’s about iteration after iteration of small, nuanced experiences of kindness and regulations in tiny, tiny steps. That process is a completely unique thing to every family, but nothing else can proceed until the child begins to feel safe. And we know that the older the child, the more trauma and the more placements, the harder it is to attach.”

A difference in family histories can also lead to a divide between adopted children and their parents. As Land points out, most adoptive parents have not had a history in the child welfare system, nor have they been adopted from orphanages in the developing world.

“Most of them haven’t had any lived experience like that of the child they’re adopting,” says Land. “So it’s not just about trying to parent a child who’s at first a stranger to you. Adoptive parents have to go through a really rigorous process to ensure that they are emotionally and financially stable enough, but they don’t really know what it’s like to be frightened, neglected or abandoned by their parents.”

When Colleen and her husband first picked up a picture of four siblings—ages three, five, seven and nine—at an Adoption Resource Exchange, a conference where prospective parents can view the profiles of children awaiting homes, in southern Ontario in 2011, they knew they had to bring them home. Colleen already had two biological children, but suddenly they were a family of eight.

The four siblings had recently experienced an adoption breakdown, having been returned to care after a year and a half with a previous “forever family.” In addition to that particularly acute trauma, Colleen soon learned that all of the children had previously undiagnosed fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Within two days of their move-in date, the house was engulfed in chaos. “When I say it was 24 hours a day, people think I’m exaggerating, but other adoptive parents know,” says Colleen.

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The children were also prone to highly destructive fits of rage and frustration that could be triggered by the smallest things, like not getting a preferred cup at dinner. They punched holes through drywall, smashed furniture and ripped handles off doors. They frequently attempted to run away, one bolting through the front door toward the highway, another through the back door toward a field. The youngest, in particular, often sobbed through much of the night. The eldest, skeptical that this arrangement could possibly be permanent, had Colleen note the 18-month mark on a calendar—the point at which their previous adoption had broken down. “He decided that if we get to that date together, then he’ll trust us,” she says.

In addition to shortened parental leave, some adoptive parents also receive less social support than their biological counterparts. This, too, can complicate the process of settling in. Adoption is seen as a noble act, but almost certainly less celebratory. The months leading up to the awarding of legal custody aren’t full of approving nods from strangers giving up their seats on buses to pregnant mothers. Baby showers, gender reveal parties and balloon bouquets are less common.

“People are happy to come by and see cute babies, but when people stop by and watch a child attack you, they really don’t want to come back for coffee,” says Colleen. “You get a lot of likes on Facebook when you post a picture in front of a courthouse about making your adoption final, but people would prefer that you keep it heartwarming. They don’t want to hear about how hard it is.”

Eight years later, Colleen and her family are in a much better place, but they’re still working to overcome her children’s legacy of trauma, abuse and rejection. A stay-at-home parent, she spends hours a week on the phone—with teachers, doctors and administrators—who are helping her to transition her children, some with developmental delays, to early adulthood. “Our three-year-old came to us believing that she’s unlovable, that no one would want to keep her around and that she’s just a bad person,” says Colleen. “That takes everything you’ve got. How are you supposed to wake up early and go to a board meeting or work a late shift at a hospital after that? We took these kids from their parents to do better for them. Giving them to ill-prepared parents who are exhausted, who don’t have support, and then telling them to return to work is a recipe for disaster.”

While at times they’re overwhelmed, Katie and her husband haven’t had to deal with any diagnosed physical or mental disabilities, or any major trauma-related behavioural issues—and that makes Franny an anomaly in the broader adoption landscape. The family plans on using up their nest egg, pooling all their available resources to help ensure that Franny can be a happy, healthy and well-loved little girl.

“We have a child with no major developmental difficulties and it has still been so challenging,” says Katie. “This time together has been so valuable, but we still need to figure a lot out. And not everyone is as lucky as us.”

But every day, little by little, they’re more like a family. Katie can remember the first time she really felt like Franny was her daughter. “She got really mad at me for something and she still called me Mom. I was like, okay, we’re there.”

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source https://www.macleans.ca/news/canada/adoptive-parents-want-to-earn-their-kids-trust-but-they-need-more-time/

By The Wall of Law April 25, 2019 Off