Welcome back to Blogville my friends, thanks for visiting. I think a Peppermint tea might set the mood for some exciting news. Grab a cup and read on.
A while ago I entered the 2023 CBC Short Story competition. According to the contest rules, it had to be a never previously published, just shy of 2000 words, short story. I decided to consider finishing and submitting a piece that I had written called, Ten Days. I finished writing it, edited the piece, read it, reread it, and finally declared it ‘ready to submit’!
I was a living example of contradictory feelings, terrified and excited at the same time, but I copied and pasted the piece and pressed ‘send’ concurrently with my entry fee. There, I did it, I was about to win my first literary contest. Then, the hardest part, I waited. I tried to forget about it but do you know how many times a day one hears the term CBC? I have never really counted but I’m confident when I tell you, one hears it a lot. Every time I heard it my tummy did that little flip as butterflies took up residence.
I fantasized how I would announce my selection to the long list, which is obviously released before the short list. The short list is comprised of five authors, one of whom will be selected as the winner of the 2023 CBC Short Story competition, and I planned to be on it.
I pictured announcing my being selected concurrently with the CBC on Facebook and other social media. I wrote little templates up so I would just have to fill in the details and publish them right away. I made up an announcement email and created an email address grouping so everyone would hear my news at the same time. After all, my family and friends shouldn’t hear about it on Facebook, right? They should hear it from me.
I belong to the Timmins Writers’ Group and I imagined logging on to the virtual meeting and when Jess called on me for my weekly update I would calmly state, “Well, I suppose I should let the group know I made the long list for the 2023 CBC Short Story competition.” I imagined hearing the cheers and applause from my fellow writers. After all, we are a very supportive group.
All I could do now though, was wait. I searched for and read previous years’ winning submissions. I was entertained, I laughed, I cried, and I cringed. Would my piece stand up to these types of submissions? Maybe this would be the year that the jury would be comprised of people looking for a short story with the topic and style my piece had. I was sure that would be the case. Again, the butterflies in my stomach took flight and the anticipation was almost more than I could stand.
The CBC Short Story competition comes with a cash prize, a CBC Books publication, and a two-week writing residency at Artscape Gibraltar Point. Pretty cool right? Imagine what I could learn about writing during that two week residency. I was already forming a list of questions that I could ask to hone my writing skills. Just the thought of how that residency would help improve my blogs took my excitement to a whole new level. Maybe people who do not actually know me would start reading my blogs. Oh, those butterflies.
I learned that there were over 2300 submissions to the CBC competition. Wow, that’s a lot of submissions right? Well, I wished luck to my competitors in my mind, and hoped the writers who did not win would not lose their confidence.
Then, incredibly, I forgot about the contest as other life responsibilities took over. Well, not actually forgot, but put it lower on my thought priority list. One morning I innocently logged on to my Facebook account and there, quite unexpectedly, was a picture of the five contest winners. There must be some mistake I thought, my picture was not there. Ok, relax, this is probably just last years’ winners. Nope, my stunned mind focused and read, “5 Writers Make the 2023 CBC Short Story Prize shortlist”. To my shock, I had not actually made the short list. Really? My story did not make it?
I then realized I must have missed the release of the 2023 CBC Long-List. A quick internet search revealed the 27 writers from across Canada that had been long-listed for the 2023 CBC Short Story Prize. Sigh, the list was not even alphabetical. So I scanned the list, by title and then author, looking for the words, “Ten Days” or for my name.
Having recovered from the shock of not winning the competition after all, I realized I now had to amend my pre written Facebook and social media posts, emails, and text messages. So, I sat back, collected my thoughts, and wrote, “As you may or may not know, I submitted a piece called Ten Days to the 2023 CBC Short Story competition. This was a story of the days between the birth of my grandson and the loss of my mother. It was a piece that came from my heart that I am so very proud of. With regard to the CBC competition there were over 23,000 submissions that culminated to twenty-seven stories making the long-list and then to the top five submissions that made the short-list, and finally the declared winner. Please join me in congratulating all the finalists and of course, Will Richter of Vancouver, whose piece, Just A Howl, won the grand prize.
I feel like my piece probably placed 28th in the competition, but we will never know for sure. After all, someone had to have just missed making the long-list of 27 stories by placing 28th, so why not my story? I do know that some CBC jury member or members actually read my short story, so I’m pretty proud of myself.
My story may or may not have placed 28th in the 2023 CBC Short Story competition, but I have personally short listed the piece so watch for my blog post, Ten Days, that will be published May 9th on my website www.whatisyourstorybook.com/blog
Once you have read it, let me know if you think it placed 28th too.
Thanks for reading! As always, your comments are welcome here or by sending me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
If We Had Only Known
Hi everyone! Welcome back to Blogville. Today it’s a strong black tea for me as I write this blog about the impact of information errors on adopted people and their families. This blog may be of particular interest to children and youth in care workers, foster parents and adoption workers; or anyone whose role it is to gather information for children and youth moving on to adoption.
Some of the stuff I’m going to talk about, you have already read in previous blogs. This blog’s intent is to bring focus to the impact on people of not getting the details right when completing documents and/or when verbally sharing the child or youth’s historical information.
When a social worker is completing case notes or a Social and Medical History, or when a foster parent is working on a life book, take my word that details matter.
As you know, my parents were told that my birth mother had given birth to a baby boy about three years before me who was kept by the birth family, but they wanted an adoption plan for me. To the best of my knowledge, my parents were never given anything in writing; instead, they were expected to remember details shared verbally with them during an extremely emotional event. In fact, I am not even sure if my father would have been present for those information-sharing phone calls.
In my first non-identifying information report, it indicated “Own Child: Born prior to (my birth name removed/vetted) -was also placed on adoption”. Own child referred to a child born before me, to our birth mother. Following that file note was a list of my birth mother’s siblings, their gender, their ages, and their health. At the time of my birth there were 5 boys aged between 11 and 23 years of age, then two girls, aged 10 and 7. Finally, a boy aged 3 years. That assumably, was my birth brother, who had been adopted/kept by the birth family.
When I wrote in my previous blog (What If It Had Been Open Part 3) that my birth mother and her mother were pregnant at the same time, my maternal birth relatives stepped up to make a correction. Note that I have had two disclosure reports and received my full vetted file. Every one of those documents indicated that this boy was 3 years old at the time of my birth.
I was 64 years old when I found out that this was an error. The boy in the report was actually 4 years old, while my birth sister was 3 years old at the time of my birth.
My maternal birth relatives not only provided me with a copy of his birth certificate, but they also included a photograph of my birth grandmother in a hospital bed. Her daughter, my birth mother, was sitting at her mother’s bedside while a nurse held up my birth uncle for the photographer.
I cannot even begin to describe what finding out that part of my adoption story had been a lie for my whole life felt like. An unintended lie, but a lie all the same. It would be more than a year after this hospital photograph was taken before our birth mother would give birth to my half-sister and make an adoption plan for her.
I had spent my whole life wrongfully believing boys were better than girls, because all evidence to date indicated that my birth mother’s family had kept the boy she gave birth to, but let me go. If it had not been for that blog, I may never have realized that.
From an attachment and trauma perspective, my parents should have been given more adequate information about my early months. They were never told that I was abandoned by my agency as well as my birth mother at a hospital in another community. I was born on the 22nd of September and my birth mother was discharged and left the community on September 29th while I waited for a social worker to come and get me.
Following an unexplained delay and a rather curt letter to my agency dated October 14th authored by the head nurse strongly indicating they needed the bassinet for “other unwanted children”, I was finally collected by a worker on October 19th. I had been unparented for almost a month at this point. After a delay due to weather, at which point I remained with the worker, presumably in a hotel, we finally returned to my birth mother’s community.
I was then placed in an emergency foster home on October 21st and remained in that home until October 30th when I was moved to a new foster home. On November 14th, without explanation in my file, I was moved to another foster home. It was noted upon my arrival in that home that I had sores on my head and a rash from my belly down to my knees. Within this final foster home, I received the love and care of my foster parents until my placement on adoption probation about 7 months later.
My parents were never informed of the month I spent unparented in hospital, nor were they told that I had lived in three foster homes in about 6 weeks, and that there were signs of neglect before I was placed with the last foster family. They were not told how much my last foster family loved me and that they wanted to keep me.
Until I received my second non-identifying disclosure report when I was 35 years old, my parents and I believed I had left hospital and was placed in a foster home and then left that foster home when I went to live with my parents. A comprehensive social and medical history would have prepared them for potential attachment concerns and the impact on me given my early lack of parenting.
None of this was done with malice or poor intent. Social workers are guided by what is known at the time they are educated and working in the field. We have learned so much since my adoption placement in 1959 but we still make mistakes. So, I put forward to you some ways to at least mitigate any harm.
First, to social workers that are working with the children and families long before there is any adoption planning. Write down the details, please share as much information as you know because you cannot really know what may be critical to that child in their future. You are even provided the tool, often at the intake level. In Ontario it is known as the child/family Social and Medical History. This tool is intended to gather family medical history, and information (likes/dislikes/personality traits) about birth relatives, especially the birth parents. This tool is like a written baby book, genealogy chart, medical records, school records, parenting questionnaires, and a historical essay all in one. You may not be the author of the whole document, but accuracy in your chapter is important to the child or youth!
Second, to kinship families and their workers. Do not assume that because they are related to each other that the social and medical history information is automatically known to the kinship provider. Do you know everything there is to know about your cousin’s family, or your aunt’s family? Oh, and make sure that as long as you are involved with the kinship family, you keep updating that Social and Medical history! Without a crystal ball, you can not know how long this placement will last or if the child or youth will maintain a connection if this placement disrupts.
Thirdly, to prospective adoptive parents. Ask, ask, ask, and ask your questions. Your prospective child or youth’s records will be sealed once the adoption is finalized and there is no going back into them until your child is an adult. Read the social and medical history thoroughly. Ask for copies of reports, ask about current behaviour and concerns, because you are not yet the expert on your child, but once placed with you, society will expect that you are. Be as prepared as you can be. I cannot reinforce to you enough that you are not doing the agency a ‘favour’ by being short listed, nor should you be feeling ‘honoured’ at being considered. This is a commitment you are making; hopefully for the rest of your life. Do not feel intimidated, this is about your potential child. Even more importantly, an informed decision may well prevent the trauma of an adoption disruption!
I had a good adoption, in a good family, with its own problems and experiences. My parents had no idea of the trauma I had been through and what it might have meant to my attachment. They were unable to mitigate what they did not even know about. As I combed through my vetted files, I learned more about why I had, and still have, attachment concerns and perhaps even why, to this day, I still have feelings of abandonment and insecurity.
If we had only known.
Thanks for reading, I’m glad you stopped by. As usual, your comments and questions are welcomed, both here or via my email, email@example.com