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Domestic Private Adoption

"It's birthmother's choice"

By Jennifer Smart, editor, Post-adoption Helper

Most provinces allow private adoption. All private adoption is regulated by the provincial government ministries through their adoption units. They license individuals and agencies to place children privately, approve the social workers to conduct homestudies and monitor the performance of licensees and social workers. When a private adoption is proposed, the ministry reviews and approves it.

Domestic private adoption will cost the adoptive parent roughly $6,000 to $10,000. That covers the initial consultation, home study, foster care, post-placement reports, documents, court costs, and birthmother costs (counselling, preparing a social history, travel expenses).

The children available through private adoption are usually newborns and may or may not have a prenatal history indicating alcohol or drug use, poor nutrition and genetic disposition to learning or behavioral disabilities. Adopting privately, or adopting a newborn, is no guarantee your child will not have some special need.

There is no chronological waiting list -- you have to be chosen by the birthmother when your profile is presented to her, along with several others. You can expect to wait anywhere from three to five years and you will likely experience some very emotional disappointments along the way.

You might be able to shorten the wait by registering with several agencies, getting the word out that you are pursuing adoption, having a family whose profile happens to appeal to a particular birthmother, and luck.

And be warned that with private adoption, although the birthparents sign a consent form after the birth they can change their mind within a certain time period, and you'll have to give back the baby.

Hiring a licensee

To adopt privately you must contact a licensed individual or agency. The licensee must get the ministry's approval before placing a child with you and must ensure that the birth parent has counselling available, and has an opportunity for independent legal advice before consenting to the adoption.

After meeting a licensee you move to the homestudy phase. This must be carried out by a social worker approved by the ministry. In a series of home visits the worker gathers information about you which can be given to the birth parents (without identifying you). For you it's an education: with the social worker's help you learn about parenting adopted children, open and closed adoptions, and adoption disclosure registries.

Once your homestudy is finished it's time to let family and friends -- and the rest of the world -- know that you want to adopt. Ask your doctor to remember you should she have a patient considering placing a child for adoption. Some hopeful adopting parents send their profile to doctors all across their province, place ads in community newspapers, rent an 800 phone number and get a cellular phone to be always available to answer calls.

How do birthmothers choose?

Times have changed; these days, birthmothers take an active role in placing their child for adoption. They get to choose who the adoptive parents will be. If you can offer a good range of desirable attributes, you increase your chances of being picked by a birthmother.

The birthmother makes her choice based on the family profiles which parents have given to the licensee. The licensee must provide the birthmother with at least three family profiles.

If you are chosen you receive the social and medical histories of the birth parents. You need to assess the health history and if you have medical concerns -- say, alcohol or drug abuse -- you can consult your doctor or a specialized clinic.

Finally you meet the birthparents. Typically, people choose to use first names only at the first meeting. And also typically, the birth and adoptive parents are quite interested in meeting, to find out about each other and to talk of the future.

Meanwhile the ministry has gone through all the paperwork and, satisfied that you will make suitable parents, approves the placement.


Once the child is born the birth parents review their decision and if they wish to proceed with the adoption, within a day or two they release their child, through the licensee, to the adoptive parents. The birthparents sign a consent form, but there is a period of time during which they can change their mind and take the baby back. The time allowed for revoking consent varies quite a bit across Canada (up to 30 days).

After you've arrived home with your new child, your social worker makes several home visits to check on how your family is doing. Then the social worker sends a report to the ministry, which okays the granting of an Adoption Order. And then you are legally the parent of your child.

Today's trend is toward abandoning the secrecy of the past. Increasingly, birthmothers want some degree of openness in the adoption. So you will come to some mutual agreement on how much contact you would like between families. It could range from just a regular exchange of (non-identifying) pictures and letters, to full openness -- frequent visits between your family and the birthparents.


For additional information on adoption, the Adoption Council of Ontario has an Adoption Resource Centre at 3216 Yonge St., 2nd floor, Toronto, Ont. M4N 2L2, 416-482-0021, email, web

Free Ontario government publications may be ordered from Ministry of Community, Family and Children's Services (Adoption Unit), at There is a list of ministry publications and web pages at Domestic Adoption -- Ontario Government.

For a list of adoption agencies in Ontario, see Family Helper web site at

You can order editions of Family Helper

Fertility Adoption Adoption Resource Central Post-adoption Family Tree

Contact: Robin Hilborn,
Box 1353, Southampton, Ont. N0H 2L0 Canada
Copyright 2009 Robin R. Hilborn
Updated July 15, 2006

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