Category Archives: Personal

March 1, 2014

Intercountry adoption in Australia

Filed under: Personal — Tags: , , — PD Martin @ 12:18 pm

This week was a huge milestone for our family – our son’s adoption was finally legalised/finalised. This comes over five YEARS after submitting our application to adopt a second child and nearly 18 months after coming home with our son. The system sucks, big time! And now that we are Liam’s legal guardians I can finally break my silence without fear of retribution.

The truth is there are so many problems with the system that I don’t know where to start. Some of these are unavoidable. Yes, in one way it pisses me off that we had to go through the ringer for someone to deem us worthy parents, but I also understand that we’re talking about a child’s life, a child’s welfare and they MUST be protected. But what if every prospective parent had to prove themselves worthy parents before they could have a child? Children may well be better off, but of course, that’s not a viable option – we don’t want the government controlling our right to reproduce.

Probably the thing that annoys me the most is the timing. Yes, during our adoption process things were changing significantly in Korea and I strongly support the move to enable children to stay with their birth mothers wherever possible. I would need pages and pages to explain what’s happening in Korea at the moment and what’s causing the delays over there, but today I’m going to focus on what’s happening our end.

So, the timing. Some dates for you to ponder:

  1. 28 November 2008, we lodge our first round of paperwork to adopt a second child with the Victorian Government on. (This package consists of over 60 pages of documentation, including police checks, medical checks, financial information, seven different forms (varying from one page in length to 10 pages), our life stories, genograms, photos and certified copies of our birth certificates and marriage certificate.)
  2. 28 November 2008 – April 2009 – application sits on someone’s desk waiting for review. That’s right six months.
  3. 28 April 2009 paperwork processed and on all subsequent documentation THIS date is noted as our date of application, not the November 2008 date.
  4. Home visits conducted by a social worker, report written and report finalised on 17 February 2010.
  5. 15 March 2010 – approved to adopt a child from Korea.

So it took the Victorian Government nearly 16 months to simply process our application. Need I say anything else? On the one hand, without this system we wouldn’t have our wonderful family. I’m forever in the debt of intercountry adoption and Korea for my gorgeous children. On the other hand…these time delays are completely unacceptable. We watched friends age-out (Korea has an age limit on adoptive parents) while they waited for the Victorian Government to process their forms. This stage for our counterparts in the US (where the system is privatised) normally takes 3-6 months.

At the moment the Australian Government is finally looking at a national system for intercountry adoption. In my view it also needs to be privatised. Competition is what makes people deliver superior service.

We’re also in a catch 22 with the countries we can adopt from. To adopt a child from overseas you must go through the state system, and it must be with one of the approved countries. You hear about the number of children in orphanages around the world yet Australians can’t adopt children from these countries. The basis of this is to protect the children’s rights (the country has to prove their commitment to basic human rights and prove that children aren’t being ‘sold’ by poverty-stricken parents) but the end result is mind-boggling. Here we have couples in Australia desperate to become parents, and children overseas in desperate need of parents. But the number of countries we can legally adopt from is shrinking. The Ethiopian program is closed, Korea is only open to families who have already adopted a child from Korea, the Thailand program is not accepting new applications, the China program has a seven-year backlog and the countries that are left on the approved list are very small programs.

This is a very complex issue, and one blog can really only touch the edges. But in terms of what’s going on our end, in Australia, my dates tell the story. I just hope the new, national system can deliver a better service.

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July 1, 2013

The fluidity of time

Filed under: Personal — Tags: , — PD Martin @ 1:55 pm

CB007970I’ve been thinking a lot recently about time. Specifically, the passing of time. I remember when I was a little kid and all the grown-ups used to say things to me like “Wait until you’re older…time goes so fast then.” Of course, at that age I had no real concept of time. An hour’s drive seemed like an eternity.

Now, as the mother of two little ones (aged 6 and 2) I find myself completely blown away by how fast time is moving. It’s the little things…like I’ll catch up with someone I haven’t seen for a while and in my head it’s been a couple of months, but then I realise it’s actually been six months, or even longer. Or suddenly it’s 30 June (end of financial year here in Australia) and I think ‘How did that happen?’ (On the plus side, it also means we’ve past the shortest day of the year and I definitely prefer the longer days of sunlight.) These are some of the little things that make me wonder where the time has gone.

Then there are the big things. Like the fact that Grace is six (and a half) years old and I just can’t believe how quickly those six years have gone by. Can she really be in Grade 1 already?

I also find with time, you can imagine things if you have a reference point. In some ways, Liam going to school seems so far away (2017)…but I know how quickly the years with Grace went, from toddler to starting school, so I’m sure the next couple of years will go that quickly, too. So I CAN imagine Liam starting school. I know it will fly by and I’m prepared for it.

But when Liam starts school, Grace will be in Grade 5. And that seems impossible to me…no point of reference, I guess. I’m yet to experience a child moving from 6 to 10.

For that matter, when did I ‘jump’ from being in my thirties to my forties? Yes, I know I can pinpoint the exact day it happened, yet at times it’s hard to believe I’m now in my forties. Know what I mean?

Again, I think back to being told as a child that as you get older time goes faster. But boy, this is intense! Or maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m stuck in my imagination, in one of the worlds I create, so much that my sense of time passing is as warped (in the opposite direction) as a child’s.

I know that each tick of the clock is a second, each time the sun rises and sets is a day. Time is constant, fixed. Yet it doesn’t feel that way. To me, time often feels more like a moving target, something that bends and twists. It almost feels fluid. And just when I think I have a concept of it, I find out that it wasn’t three weeks ago that xyz happened…it was three months ago. Fluid.

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May 1, 2013

Jet lag, toddlers and children

Filed under: Personal — Tags: , , — PD Martin @ 4:00 pm

A new era has begun…

As my regular readers will know, for over a year now I’ve been part of a group blog called Murderati and blogging every fortnight. Sadly, on Monday Murderati closed its doors (at least in its current form) and I made the commitment to start blogging once a month, on the first of every month. So here I am…1 May = first blog. Some blogs will be about the writing life, others about something totally unrelated (like today’s).

42-15977950First topic of the new regime…jet lag and toddlers/children.

A couple of weeks ago we made the long-haul trip from Australia to Ireland (and back). The jet lag in Ireland wasn’t too bad (more about that in a sec) but when we got back to Oz it was pretty horrendous those first few nights and I found myself Googling like crazy and asking friends who’d also done multiple long-haul trips for their advice.

Time difference when we left Australia was 11 hours, so pretty much the exact opposite. It’s difficult to adjust to such a massive time difference for anyone, let alone children (who only partially understand what’s going on) or worse yet toddlers who have no idea that they’ve just reversed their body clocks.

Our daughter (6yro) is a seasoned traveller. What do you expect with an Irish father and Aussie mum? Not to mention the fact that she’s adopted from Korea so has also done that trip a couple of times. Anyway, our little man (23 months old at time of travel) was a newbie. He’d only done the one trip — Korea to Melbourne back in September 2012.

Australia to Ireland

The first night in Ireland was pretty good. Grace (our 6yro) and I both woke up a couple of times in the middle of the night (1am, 2am and 4am) but managed to get back to sleep quite quickly. However, Liam (nearly 2) woke up at around 4.45am and was then ready to go. Pretty early, but not too bad in the scheme of things, especially given he’d fallen asleep around his normal time the night before of 8pm (Irish time).

We kept him close to his normal nap schedule and pushed him that first day until midday. We let him sleep for two hours, then woke him up. After that it was 12.30pm, letting him sleep for two hours. I know people have very different opinions on whether you should wake a sleeping baby/toddler but I think when travelling it’s essential to help them get into the new time zone. Even if they wake up very cranky!

Second night/morning he woke up at 5.30am. I was hopeful this was a pattern, and it was with the next morning being around 6.15 and then 7am the morning after that. So by the fourth night/morning he was waking up at his normal time. Fab.

However, like I said at the start, travelling back to Oz wasn’t quite so easy!

Ireland to Australia

We managed to get both kids down to bed only a couple of hours after their normal bed time but Liam woke up at 2am — wide awake. It literally took four hours to get him back to sleep and we tried various methods, from bringing him into bed with us to letting him cry a bit in his cot. There was a great deal of protest crying and mini-tantrums, and this situation was complicated by the fact that the kids share a room so we wanted to contain him and keep his as quiet as possible.

That morning we woke him at 8.30am and he went down for his normal daytime nap (12.30pm). After a day in pretty much the right time zone, I hoped the night would be getter, but it wasn’t. Again, he woke at exactly 2am and took nearly four hours to get to sleep.

The next day and night was much the same. At this point I read a few things online from other mums. Some said to let them get up and play, others said to keep the room dark and focus on getting them back to sleep. Some said to give them food (they might be waking because they’re hungry) others said NOT to give them food because this might reinforce the old time zone. I certainly did notice both kids were eating less during the day than they normally did. In the end, I opted for dark room and no food. I also looked up the effectiveness of melatonin for kids, and the results didn’t seem promising.

After the third night (and I was only getting about 2-4 hours sleep myself) I decided to look up the east/west travel thing. I remembered studying circadian rhythms and jet lag in university and knew you did something different in terms of sunlight depending on which direction you’re travelling. Around this time, I was also told by two frequent long-haul traveller friends that it was usually 3-5 nights or 3-7 nights before their toddlers got into the new time zone.

After I’d Googled my east/west thing, I knew that because we’d travelled west to east when coming from Ireland to Australia, Liam needed afternoon sun. It wasn’t particularly sunny that afternoon, but I took them to an indoor play area that has heaps of skylights directly above it. That night, I also put a drop of lavender oil on each of their pillows. Voila…8pm to 7.30am.

Quick tips

  1. Get into the new time zone as soon as possible. ‘Push’ the kids to their normal nap time/sleep time, especially those first few days.
  2. If you’re travelling west to east, make sure to get afternoon sun. If you’re travelling east to west, get morning sun.
  3. It may take 3-7 nights for the kids to get into the new time zone.
  4. No harm in trying lavender oil or something similar to help relax them before bedtime.

What about sleep on the plane?

In case you’re wondering about the plane trips, neither Grace nor Liam got their ‘normal’ amount of sleep on the plane. On the way over, Liam got about 6 hours (when he’d normally get 11) plus a 1.5 hour nap on the second leg. Grace got about eight hours (as opposed to her normal 11-12 hours). I think that’s just the nature of the beast, the nature of long-haul flights.

Happy travelling! If you’re mad enough to travel with young kids, it always helps to know how to ease the pain.

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