Skip to content

For this Vancouver Islander, adoption just another avenue for love

What does it mean to be a family?

What does it mean to be a family? 

These days, there’s about as many definitions for the word “family” as there are families. But to Ashley Kendrick, it all boils down to one thing. 

“Family means those people that we can be ourselves around,” she says. “They’re the people that we can be honest and open with, and if we create an atmosphere of that, there’s a safety in being able to be yourself and be taken care of. When we feel safe and when our needs our met, that’s when we can hit our full potential.” 

Kendrick, however, may not have had all of that in mind when she first moved to Campbell River eight years ago. At the time, she had been living in Ontario and her partner had just gotten a job in Campbell River. After living long distance for a year or so, she followed him out to the coast and got settled in. Kendrick works as a child and youth counsellor with Laichwiltach Family Life Society, putting her psychology degree to use. 

“I love working with people, but I didn’t know what that would look like,” she said. “I knew that psychology studies people. Before I worked here in town I worked at a rehabilitation facility on a one-year program for young women who were overcoming any kind of addiction … anything that was preventing them from living a life that felt free to them. I worked there with women who were between 18 and 30 and I loved that. 

“When I came here I was just looking for any job that was pouring back into people. I applied for a few and Audrey (Wilson) gave me a call back,” she said. “I hadn’t really worked with young kids, and those that I have were teenaged girls. “Then for whatever reason my whole first case load was like eight-year-old boys,” she laughed. “Well okay, we’ll shift it up.” 

Through that experience, Kendrick and her husband eventually got involved in the foster care system. “A lot of the kids that I worked with were in care,” she said. “My colleagues were working with their parents, and there just seemed to be a kind of discord between the parents and the foster parents. I said to my husband that we could create a safe home environment for the kids, and make the parents feel respected and welcome. That was our goal getting into it. 

“Our first placement would probably agree with us. We were told that the dad was really hard to work with, and they’d actually switched placements because it was so difficult,” she said. “We created a relationship that we still have to this day.” 

Kendrick said that their interest was not in just helping the kids, but in helping the parents learn the skills they need to eventually get to reunification. 

“The goal for that child is to land with their parents and so you want to give their parents a safe place to grow and heal,” she said. “The whole aspect of foster care is traumatic, but we can find good in it. I often will tell the kids if a parent can just focus on what they need to do and I can focus on taking care of you right now then your mom or dad can heal so much quicker because now they have less things to focus on.” 

While the goal is reunification, Kendrick admits that sometimes that doesn’t work. Kendrick and her husband are adoptive parents, having welcomed their son into their lives four years ago. 

“We didn’t seek out adoption,” she said. “He was actually friends with one of our first foster boys, and was a foster child in one of my coworkers’ homes … we invited him over a few times, and there was one time when he was over and he said ‘it’s really sad, I just found out I’m never gonna live with my mom and dad again.’ “So he just says this point blank, and then keeps playing. Later on, he came to us and said ‘it would be really nice to live here. 

“My husband and I looked at each other and said ‘yeah, we’re probably going to talk about this later.’” 

After a long process, the adoption was finalized. He got to keep living in Campbell River, and they still keep an open policy with their son’s birth family. 

“We’re going to see his nana tonight,” she said. “We’re still trying to promote that family growth, and maybe are just taking the ‘raising a child’ piece out of it. They’re still mom, they’re still dad, but we’ve just kind of shifted it so they’re not doing the raising of a child, and are still part of their life.” 

To Kendrick, it truly does take a village to raise a child. However, “you want it to be a really healthy village.” 

“Maybe a family can’t take care of a kid, but that doesn’t negate how much they love them.” 

Marc Kitteringham

About the Author: Marc Kitteringham

I joined Black press in early 2020, writing about the environment, housing, local government and more.
Read more