The Questions

May 1st is Blogging Against Disablism Day. Please check out the submissions here.

About two years ago, Huib and I decided to embark upon the journey towards adopting a child through our local Child & Family Services. We called our local CAS office and an intake worker came to our home for a preliminary interview. She took down all of our basic information and told us that given our backgrounds in nursing (my husband is a registered nurse) and social work (I am a licensed social worker), she didn’t see any reason for the agency to refuse our application. She then told us that in the spring they would be holding a 10 week class for all potential fostering and adoption families to attend if we were interested. Huib and I attended the classes and then began our wait for the home study to begin.

Fast forward two years…

Huib and I had pretty much given up on our efforts to adopt a child. We had not heard anything from our local CAS since our initial worker had left the agency. I had called her supervisor a few months after we completed the 10 week course, but nothing happened.

Then we got a call.

The agency had assigned a worker to perform home studies and they were wondering if we were still interested. Both Huib and I weren’t sure what to say, but decided to start the process.

The worker came out and we discussed the home study process. She told us about the background checks that would be done and the interviews that would take place. She told us about the things that we would need to decide – whether we wanted to foster, foster to adopt or just adopt.

Then the questions about my disability began.

How are you going to handle having an infant or toddler around the house?
Are there organizations you can contact to help you?
How will you keep track of the child?
How will you feed them?
What if they get sick?
What if they get injured?
Do you have a specialist who might write a letter to say that your disability will not affect your ability to be a parent?

The questions went on and on.

All I could think of while our worker asked these questions was:

Do you ask sighted people these questions?
What would you do if your child was sick?
How do you feed your children?
How will my eye doctor know what kind of parent I will be?
Do you really think I am that stupid?

The expression on my face must have given my thoughts away because before I could open my mouth to answer, the worker explained that she needed to ask these questions because I was the first visually impaired person they had ever had experience with.

Before actually getting to the answers she wanted, I made my feelings clear. I was offended by the questions. I didn’t see how such questions could still be asked in this day and age. I told her there were blind people out there having children and raising them successfully every day. I told her that I’m sure there are blind people out there that should not be raising children, but that there were probably more fully sighted people out there who shouldn’t be raising children. I told her that if I could have a child of my own then going through this discriminatory process wouldn’t be worthwhile, but that since having a child of my own doesn’t seem possible, that I guess I will just have to suck it up and answer the offensive questions.

Our worker seemed sympathetic, but said she still needed me to research how I was going to do things, and even suggested talking to friends who are blind and raising children for advice.

It has now been about a month and a half since we started the home study and even though all of our background checks came through fine, the questions regarding my disability are still present. I’m hopeful that the agency will maintain an open mind and that the process will continue to go smoothly, but I still find the questions surrounding my capabilities as a visually impaired parent to be offensive.

How can a profession such as social work, whose mission is to help vulnerable populations, be so judgmental and discriminatory?

Message To A Younger Me

Yesterday on Twitter I saw a tweet asking what you’d say in a message to your younger self, and thought this would make an awesome blog post.

Dear 13 Year Old Brooke,
Despite what everyone says, the world is not a perfect place. Even if you follow the “rules”, you will still have to struggle for independence and prosperity. The world is not made for people who are “different”, but instead, caters to those who fit into the mould of “perfection” and “normal”.

You will find out through trial and error, who is worth making an effort to keep in your circle of friends. You will be surprised at the outcome. You will feel guilty for cutting ties with some, but you will quickly learn that it is necessary in order to live a stress-free life.

You will find it difficult to watch your friends date in high school and university, and wonder if you will ever find someone to love you as more than just a friend. It will happen though. You will meet him in your second year at the University of Guelph, and your friends and family will wish they could clone him. He will treat you like a queen, and stand by your side through the good times and bad. He will never make you feel inferior to him, and even though others outside of your relationship will try to come between you, he will stay true to you. Together, you will build a life full of love, compassion and adventure.

Life will not be easy. You will get frustrated by the limitations you encounter, and you will become discouraged by all of the closing doors around you, but you are strong. You will move beyond the disappointments and find a way to make a difference through your love of dogs, and your desire to help others.

No matter how often you are told by family members and friends that you need to change, you won’t. You know who you are, and know you are meant to become more than just another statistic. Your passion and determination for life is what will keep you going. You will never accept the status quo, and you will never stop marching to your own beat.

As Dr Seuss once wrote: “Today you are you. That is truer than true. There is no one alive, who is youer than you”.

No matter what life throws at you, just keep on swimming.

The 32 Year Old Brooke