Family Matters.... Families at the Centre

Written by ACO's Kathy Soden & Sylvia Gibbons, adoptive parents

We adopted from Ontario's public system many years ago with excitement, lots of love and high hopes, but in retrospect, not much in the way of specialized education or support.

Thankfully our passion and commitment to our children (and lots of initiative and advocacy!) have seen us and our families through the ups and downs. Our children will someday decide what "family" means to them. In our humble opinion family makes a positive, long-term difference. Family has given our kids a chance to build their lives with a permanent family that they can count on to have their backs - every step of the way.

We know Kids Need Families and Families Need Support. But what does Families Need Support really mean.....

We think there are a few critical elements:

  • Navigation of the adoption system
  • Specialized parent education pre and post adoption
  • Peer support pre and post adoption
  • Financial support in the form of subsidies and respite, based on the needs of the child
  • Specialized professional support

Over the past four years we have been so fortunate to have been a part of the ACO's work to bring two wonderful specialized training programs to Ontario families and professionals.

Pathways to Permanence: Parenting Children who have experienced Trauma & Loss is our parent training program. We've built a new training session into Pathways that helps participating parents create and sustain parent support groups in their communities.

We often talk about how we wish we had had the benefit of the Pathways knowledge when we first adopted. We also recognize that despite the fact that we didn't learn about Pathways until our kids were much older it has helped us both understand them and their journeys better, and adjust our parenting accordingly. We are huge believers in Pathways and the change and hope it can provide.

But you don't have to take our word for it. Thanks to the support of the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, over 900 parents have taken the Pathways training. It consistently receives very high ratings. Over 90% of parents completing the evaluations rated it as Excellent or Very Good and over 90% would recommend it to other parents. Through pre and post evaluations done by the University of Toronto, we know that parents leave Pathways feeling significantly better in a number of key areas including nurturing and attachment, family functioning and resilience.

And most importantly, from the words of families who have taken the training.....

"Huge impact. Wish I had taken it years ago."

"We have gone through such a journey to be able to adopt, it has been a real process and we didn’t realize all the grieving that our child has had to do and will continue to do as they grow and develop. We didn’t understand how all the losses would effect their everyday life…we get it now!"

"As a mental health professional and a parent, I have struggled with understanding my children’s behaviours. This course makes sense…everyone should have to take it. I am so glad that I belong to a community that gets me."

"I have learned so much from books, but what I learned from this course and the others in the group was amazing."

"This past weekend has been very exhausting. I was awake most of the night trying to process everything that I have learned. It took me attending this course in order for me to fully understand-THANK YOU!"

"The new parenting skills that I have learned is allowing me to reach the hearts of my kids. There were so many reminders and new tools to learn. I really see the benefit or a support group and after the first couple of sessions, I decided to start one in my home."

"I am exploring more deeply my relationship with my child and we are connecting. It has been the best training that I have ever attended. More people need to know about this. I can honestly say that for the first time, I understand the needs of my children."

'This has been very eye-opening."

"For our family, this has been wonderful. We have made huge progress as a family. I need my own therapy. I realize that the trauma that my mom had experienced because of her history has impacted me and the way I parent. Thank you for giving me the safe place to learn and share. I am fortunate to have supports here that understand."

We view family as being at the centre for kids. Family matters. Specialized trainings such as Pathways and the parent support groups that follow help support families and provide additional strength to them.The parent support groups that are created post-Pathways are a key additional support that are now available for many Ontario families.

Pathways can mark a real turning point for a family and make a real difference.

If you are interested in learning more about Pathways or want to look into attending Pathways sessions, go to