"I know that we gave these children a great home, and as the mother I worked to take care of them," said British Columbia's Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon. "What I never knew is how much they would take care of me. You see, when my children were 20, 16, 15 and 13, we lost their father in an accident."
On Monday, Guichon, 67, urged B.C. residents to consider adoption, saying it's a move they won't regret.
She told her heartwarming story at the legislature as the government introduced a social media campaign to encourage people to become adoptive parents. More than 1,000 children and teens in the province are waiting for families.
Lawrence Guichon died in a motorcycle crash near the family ranch in Merritt, B.C.
"To say that I would not have endured without my children is not overstating the case," Guichon said. "The love of my children enabled me to carry on."
Guichon said the first child she and her husband adopted was a 10-day-old girl. Two years later, they adopted their second child, a boy. In 1989, a relative mentioned knowing a woman whose son and daughter could be adopted, leading the couple to add two more children to their family.
She said the adoption process can be lengthy and never perfect because human beings are imperfect, but the families that result "with all their bumps and warts are the wonderful reward for perseverance. For anyone considering adoption, please don't hesitate, you will never regret starting this wonderful journey."
Children's Minister Stephanie Cadieux said the government wants to raise the profile of adopting children and teens who need parents to look after them. She said part of the campaign, featured on the website www.1000familiesbc.com, includes a build-a-family app.
"Realistically, the sooner people step forward, the sooner we'll be able to match those kids up with families," Cadieux said. "I think the general first thought people have when they think about adoption is adopting a baby, and the reality is that there's 1,000 great kids waiting for homes. They're just a little older. They still need somebody to love. They still need a home forever."
Last June, Cadieux and B.C.'s independent representative for children and youth, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, held a joint news conference to highlight the large number of children waiting to be adopted.
Cadieux and Turpel-Lafond are often at odds over child-protection issues, but they both urged action on adoptions after a report by Turpel-Lafond said some children have been waiting six years to be adopted.
Surrey resident Jennifer Wisdahl said she and her husband have adopted three children over the last six years.
The children, two girls and a boy, are aged 12, eight and five and from different biological parents. She said they play, fight and love just like any other family.
"People need to hear about adoption," Wisdahl said. "Sometimes people don't ask and they wonder. Absolutely, we're no different than any other family."
Opposition New Democrat Spencer Chandra Herbert, who has been trying to adopt a child, says the government must streamline the adoption process.
Last June, Chandra Herbert and his same-sex spouse, Romi Chandra Herbert, were being considered to be the adoptive parents of a baby whose extended family stepped in and rejected the adoption plan.
The New Democrat said the government's goal of finding families for 1,000 children is admirable and necessary, but gaps and barriers in the current system should be fixed.
Cadieux said the government is working on streamlining the system to make it more accessible.
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