One thing I’ve learned in life is that when you’re listening to someone tell a story of some injustice, or hardship, there are always two sides to every story. As I was growing up, my adopted family treated me like one of their own, I always felt accepted and loved as I was growing up. Every once in a while, somebody would look at me different, or treat me different when they’d discover I was Indigenous. But all in all, I always felt like I belonged. Sometimes it wasn’t until years later that I discovered someone looked down on me because of being Indigenous. In those situations, I was glad I didn’t know.
When I met my biological family, around the age of 18, I started to experience a whole new world. The life I lived until then was entirely different than the life my biological family had been living. As the years went on, I was involved with my post-secondary education, the work force, or volunteer work, where I was among non-Indigenous People. Then there were other times, when I worked for Indigenous organizations, and almost all the people there were fellow Indigenous People.
As an Indigenous person, who grew up always knowing I was adopted, and having family members who ended up adopting Indigenous children, I saw both sides of the story of children separated from their biological families. Then I started to meet other families, who had also adopted Indigenous children. I also had a dark period in my own life, that led to my wife and I having our children raised by other people for quite some time. This gave me the very unique perspective of seeing a deeper level of both sides of the story.
Since I have Residential School Survivors in my family, and since my wife and I are in the category of Sixties Scoop Survivors, this has also given me a much more unique perspective of both sides of the story. Some of my people weren’t able to look after their children, but some of my people had their children taken away in a deceitful way.
Some people who raise other peoples’ children abuse them and are only interested in the money they get for raising them. Some people who raise other peoples’ children, love them unconditionally, and don’t care about the money they get. In fact, they’ll use that money to make their house a better home with renovations, trampolines, and even family vacations.
Some people will choose to have the government file closed, which means all financial supports stop. Some people will keep the government file open, so that the child they’re raising can have all the supports available. While there can be many benefits to keeping the file open, some people want the freedom to raise an adopted child without having to answer to someone all the time.
With all the stories that hit the news regarding financial payouts for residential school survivors, this has created a whirlwind of emotions. Yes, the Indigenous people who have been eligible for these financial payouts are happy to receive these one-time payments, but it also leads to frustration and disillusionment for other people. For instance, the families who adopt Indigenous children start to feel like they are the bad guys, when all they’ve been trying to do is help a child in need.
Another example is the fact that I received money for being a Sixties Scoop Survivor even though I wasn’t abused or neglected. In fact, my late biological mother told me years ago, that she really struggled with raising any one of her seven children. She said she loved us all but didn’t feel she had what it took to be with her children all the time. Then when I read some of the records on myself, going back to when I was born, I found out that she struggled with post-partum depression with several of her children, and ended up in Alberta hospital, right after giving birth to three of us.
I think it’s great that my uncles and aunts received money from being in residential schools. I’m glad that my wife and I received some money. I’m glad that some children and families will receive money as a result of having child welfare involved in their life unnecessarily, when living in their own Indigenous community.
Yet, I also see how this whole system, that’s lived out through the media, is still very flawed. Flawed in the sense that there are families out there who aren’t guilty of doing anything wrong. All their guilty of is being a loving person, willing to have their life interrupted, so they can care for a child in need. It’s also true that even when parents do get their children taken away, many times it’s a result of intergenerational trauma impacting their lives.
There are always two sides to every story. Then there’s the truth. There are some child welfare workers who really care about the children they supervise, and there are others who just make things worse. There are parents who really weren’t looking after their children in a responsible way, and others who got stuck in the middle, and experienced prejudice and injustice. There are also parents who really love the children they look after, and others who care about the money more than the child.
There will always be two sides to every story, and there will always be the truth. And sometimes the truth gets camouflaged in a system of constantly flowing disillusionment. For those who know the truth, keep up the good work and don’t let the bad apples ruin your life.