Conceiving Family: balancing heart with head
|Written by Mark Robins|
|Wednesday, 08 June 2011|
It would probably come as no surprise that as a filmmaker, when Amy Bohigian and her partner Jane Byers first decided to adopt, Amy would document the experience on film. But what might be surprising is that it wasn't until a year after their adoption was complete that the idea of making a documentary based on that experience, and that of four other British Columbia same-sex couples, took shape. Now complete, Bohigian's documentary Conceiving Family will see its Vancouver premiere at a screening on June 24, 2011 at The Cultch.
Perhaps some will see it as a subtle difference but for Bohigian capturing their personal adoption experience as parents, rather than as a filmmaker, is what she says helped to make the film more authentic.
“That distinction gave me the space to be more present for each step along the way – making the initial decision to adopt, meeting the kids and bringing them home,” explained Bohigian. “Of course, I pulled out my little camcorder, but I did this from the perspective as a new parent rather than as a filmmaker. As a result, the footage is very authentic and in the moment. It wasn’t until a year into parenting our children that I decided to make a film from the footage I had shot of our experiences and to capture the stories of other gays and lesbians.”
With the help from the Adoptive Families Association of British Columbia, who were partners in the project, a call went out looking for other same-sex couples to be part of the film.
“The people that came forward were willing to participate and each one had such a compelling and unique story to add to the film.”
Answering that call were long-term partners Jan and Lindsey found their twin baby girls at a Romanian orphanage; Daryl and Ian whose first adoption fell through because the birth grandparents did not want a same-sex couple adopting but were successful the second time when they are matched with their son Oliver; Colleen and Tammy with their adoptive daughter Kelly; and Jim and Ted who adopt five-year old Damien.
Bohigian and her partner’s personal adoption story is one of patience and perseverance. Not only did they wait five months between finding out they were potentially able to adopt and meeting the children but had to deal with the Christian Fundamentalist foster parents who were looking after the twins.
“The social worker had the patience to work through their fears and brought us together for a meeting where were we asked what we would do if our kids grew up to be straight”, said Bohigian.
Not sure if the face-to-face meeting had the desired outcome, Bohigian described the wait for the final decision as painfully long.
“The social workers from the Ministry of Child and Family Development were amazing in every stage,” said Bohigian. “They’re in an impossible situation with caseloads way too big for one person. So, while we adults can cope with the waiting period, the kids in the system are going longer and longer without a permanent home, which is a disservice to them.”
It is in that long wait where Bohigian found the impetus for the film: “I wanted waiting kids to find loving homes. With so many gays and lesbians looking to start families, I am hoping that adoption becomes the first choice for many of them.”
For those same-sex couples looking to adopt, Bohigian is quite pragmatic: “talk to a range of others who have adopted to get a real sense of the process. Be real with yourself about what type of child you can parent. Balance your heart and head when making your final decision.”