Family Law...One Lawyer's Adoption Journey (Part 2)

Angela Walker – December 2016

* Editor’s Note – Angela Walker is a partner at MDW Law, whose practice includes providing legal services and advice for Nova Scotia families who grow their families by adoption.  In this two part series, she shares her own adoption journey. (View Part 1)

When Personal and Professional Worlds Intersect – A Lawyer’s Journey in International Adoption: Part 2

And so, after September 8, 2014 when our dossier left for South Africa, the waiting game began. I was told that this was the most difficult part of the process and it absolutely was.

Luckily, I had the opportunity to travel to Toronto in late September 2016 to meet the social worker, Robyn Shepstone, who works on the ground in South Africa to place children adopted internationally to Canada. The program in South Africa is a matching program. What this means is that a child is placed with the family that best meets the child’s needs/personality. Children are not placed based on date of application by families but rather with the best family for the child. Robyn is the person who makes this matching decision.

I spent a day in Toronto listening to Robyn’s stories and wisdom. I had the chance to meet with her one-on-one so that she could get a sense of who I was, as a potential adoptive mom. I returned to Nova Scotia filled with excitement, anticipation and hope.

And then we waited. And I shopped…for things that could be used by a child regardless of his or her age. We did not know if our child would be one year old or four years old, which made planning almost impossible. We had no idea how long we would have to wait for a referral. We had no idea when we might expect a call. We were paper pregnant with no known delivery date.

And then…. on January 20, 2015, only four short months after our dossier landed in South Africa, my husband “got the call” at home. I was in a meeting at the time and when I returned to my office saw a text to call immediately. I had no idea that the news would be that we had been matched with a beautiful 18-month-old little man. Together we opened the emails, over the phone, that attached his photos, medical history, and story. We cried. It was the first in a series of intensely incredible experiences.

Our court date was tentatively set for March 2, 2015 in South Africa. We had to be present at least five days prior to that time. We suddenly had five weeks to not only plan the trip of a lifetime but also to prepare our home for the arrival of an 18-month-old child! We frantically booked fights, and accommodations. We dealt with some final details surrounding paperwork. made deliveries almost daily, from a highchair, to bath toys, to diapers. I had to assign all my file work to my colleagues. It was a whirlwind. We left for South Africa on February 24, 2015.

Once in South Africa we were welcomed by our hosts at Heaton Cottage B & B in Durban, recommended by the Toronto adoption agency. We were welcomed with open arms by the owners, who have hosted many Canadian families both before and after us on the adoption journey. We met with Robyn and completed more paperwork.

And then, on Saturday February 28, 2015 we drove four hours from Durban to Newcastle with Robyn to meet our son. I had not slept for two nights and was wired with adrenaline. I will never forget that moment when our car pulled into the driveway of the baby house, and there was our little man we had only seen in pictures waiting to meet us. He was absolutely perfect.

We spent the morning and afternoon at the baby house getting to know our little guy. It took some time for him to warm up to us… and we did not want to push him. It was when he discovered that our noses “beeped” that he began to let us hold him and share in his space. I felt an immediate connection to him. It was surreal.

The following day we went back to the baby house. We stayed for the morning and then after nap, we had the chance to take our little guy with us to the B & B for the afternoon. I held him for the entire afternoon. I have never been more present in a singular moment.

The following morning was our court appearance. With Robyn, our little man, and one of the caregivers from his baby house, we headed into court in town. We entered the Judge’s chambers and sat before him at his desk. I could barely breathe. Although I have appeared in courtrooms many times, nothing had prepared me for this experience. After what felt like an eternity, but was only 5-7 minutes, the adoption was granted.

We stayed in South Africa for a further four weeks so that all paperwork could be completed.  We got to know each other. We introduced our little guy to a myriad of new experiences, from the beautiful beaches of South Africa, to dinners out, to bedtime stories, to morning snuggles.

We took our son to get his passport photos completed. We finalized further paperwork to have his citizenship granted. There were three other families in country adopting from Canada at the same time as us. Each of those families received their citizenship confirmations for their children very quickly. For some reason, ours stalled. We were on the verge of changing our flights and thought we may be delayed a further two weeks. Fortunately, at the very last possible minute, his citizenship was granted in Pretoria. From there, we just had to wait for his temporary Canadian Passport to be granted.

We received our little man’s passport the morning our flight was scheduled to depart! And together, we flew home to Nova Scotia.

The rest as they say, is history. Our incredible baby, now toddler, is healthy, attached, happy, funny, determined, super cute, and a complete delight. I can’t believe that I get to be his mom.

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