Part 1 of 11

Did you know…

  • In 1995 there were more than 40,000 Canadian children in care;
  • More than18,ooo were in permanent care;

Less than 1,250 were on adoption placement;

(Child and Family Services Annual Statistical Report)

  • That of the 32,000 children in care outside Quebec, more than 12,800 are under the age of 12.
  • Between 40-70 per cent are aboriginal.
  • A child who comes into care at age seven will likely spend the next 11 years in he child welfare system.
  • Ontario Crown wards reviewed in 1995 had a change of worker every 22 months on average, and a change of worker every 23 months.
  • In 1995, Canadians adopted more than 2,800 children from outside Canada.

(Adoption Council of Canada)

“Adoption is not even considered as a possible solution for most of the children in (foster) care who cannot return home, says Elspeth Ross, Information Co-coordinator for the Adoption Council of Canada.

It is commonly thought that because few young, unmarried mothers place their children for adoption (only 2.2 percent in 1989), virtually no children are available to adopt in Canada. In fact thousands of children are available to adopt in Canada. In fact thousands of children are waiting.

Small Percentage

In 1995, of the 40,000 Canadian children in care, almost half of them, 20,000 children were in permanent care. Only 1.2 percent to 5.7 percent (it varies by province) of the in care were subsequently adopted that year.

“We have a bias against adoption. The family preservation model erred too much on one side,” maintains Pat Fenton of the Adoption Council of Ontario.

Many adoption advocates believe the Ontario Child and Family Services Act (1984) and similar legislation in other provinces is too centered on the biological family and not sufficiently child-focused. The needs of the child have not been put first.

“Adoption seems to be the option of last resort which is disturbing to many of us in the adoption community.” says Fenton. “There are so many children in the system, in care, but not moving on to adoption.”

“Because infants are more sought after, their adoptions are pursued much more energetically than children over the age of two, writes Sheri Landles and Harriet Fancott in Focus on Adoption, June-August, 1996.

“All children over the age of two have special needs,” according to Landles and Fancott. “On top a child’s circumstances, multiple moves can cause attachment disorders even in very young children, and any child in the system over two years will likely have behavioral difficulties.”

Children’s Aid Societies (CASs) are focused first and foremost on protection, not on adoption. Keeping a child safe may mean removing her from a dangerous, high-risk birth family and placing her in foster care. Moving on to adoption is not a priority.

“Workers have a fear of placing a child in a poor situation. They can move a child if they are not happy with the foster care but there is permanency with adoption,” explains Fenton. “They have to go out on a limb to find the appropriate adoptive home.”

Landles and Fancott agree. “Social workers may fear an adoption breakdown would be more traumatic than a foster home breakdown so the risk is not worth taking.”

Some societies, including the Ottawa-Carleton CAS, have a recruitment person to find both foster and adoptive parents. Other societies simply wait passively and use the pool of applicants.

Margaret O’Reilly, Manager of Adoption for the Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Metropolitan Toronto, says the public is wrong to perceive Children’s Aid as “spies.” Half the calls she gets are from relatives or neighbors who feel the child is not in a safe setting; the other half are from the parents who say they can’t cope and need help.

There is also a lack of information and resources that keeps children in care waiting. Agencies tend to match at a local level. Agencies tend to match at a local level. How does London, Ontario family learn of a special needs child in Ottawa?

Those who have had home studies with a private adoption agency often won’t know of children in care.

“Today’s Child”, an adoption column featuring older and special needs children, is published only ten times a year in the Toronto Star.

The Adoption Resource Exchange presents videos and slides to approved parents (ones who have had home studies completed), but is held only twice a year in Toronto.

We have so stressed the criminal nature of early bonding that we have become as a society pretty pessimistic about successfully adopting anyone but a newborn. Yet paradoxically Canadians are parenting children from Romania who have been in institutional care, who were very undernourished and developmentally delayed, yet who are now flourishing.

In 1990/91, more than 1,000 Canadians adopted Romanian children abandoned in orphanages after the fall of communism, the most international adoptions this country has ever seen.

“Parents think children from other countries will not have the same problems as children from our own foster care system, write Landles and Fancott. “In Canada we know more about the needs of children who’ve experienced multiple moves and the challenges of FAE/FAS [Fetal Alcohol Effect and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome]. This detailed information can be intimidating to adopters.”

In Canada, agencies tell prospective adopters the worse-case scenario. International adoptions too often give the best-case scenario. Canadian social workers are up front about special needs. Some international adoption agencies are not so forthcoming. How much will an adoptive parent be told who adopts an eight-year-old from Haiti or Romania?

The average child who becomes a Crown ward is of school age and has a turbulent past, according to Dr. Gail Aiken, Professor of Social Work at Ryerson Polytechnic University.

A ward of the Crown cannot be adopted if there are access orders for the birth parents. Those access orders preclude any consideration of adoption, even if the birth parent only visits once a year.

Many social workers think legalizing contact after adoption would lead to some increase in the number of children voluntarily relinquished for adoption. Aiken believes it would generally be in the best interests of the child, especially the older child.

Dr. Aiken, believes “there should be continuity of care and contact. School-age children will have deep memories and attachments. We shouldn’t cut off their roots. We need to help them keep some degree of contact with the birth family may just be confusing.”

In some cases the child may want to keep contact with someone in his extended family and yet go on to be adopted. Often it will be the grandmother, perhaps a young one in her thirties, who has been his primary care giver but who still has children of her own to raise. With more open adoption these special links can be maintained.

Children often have to wait six to eight months for a court date and then could face an adjournment in which several more months pass. Children loose precious time during this litigation limbo. It often takes two or three years for a child to become legally available for adoption

Aiken recommends reducing the time allowed to achieve Crown wardship. “An infant may only need three months, a child under three years may need six months while a child older than three may need a maximum of a year. We need to stop children floating in the system.

Siblings are either kept together as part of the family preservation model or, if they have to been placed separately, the fostering or adopting families usually are asked to agree to access.

We should encourage more foster parents to adopt. “We need to cultivate fostering with a view to adoption” believe Aiken. “We have a category in some jurisdictions for foster parents open to possibly adopting.”

A family fostering a haemophiliac child would like to adopt him. His drug plan costs a thousand dollars a month which the government pays while he is in foster care. If he had remained with his birth family who were on welfare, the drugs would have been free. The fostering family cannot afford a drug plan and so cannot afford to adopt the child. In such cases adoption advocates believe adoption should be subsidized.