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Bill 179 makes all of Ontario's Crown wards eligible for adoption


Pat Convery
Fall 2011

On Sept. 1, 2011, when Bill 179 was proclaimed, all of Ontario's Crown wards became eligible for adoption. The province also allocated subsidy funding for children adopted from foster care. The bill and subsidy increase were not only significant victories for children and families, they affirmed that dedicated adoption advocates can effect positive policy changes.

Bill 179: The Back Story

In 2008, Ontario seemed to be on the verge of overhauling the provincial adoption system. Officials appointed an Expert Panel on Infertility and Adoption that included high profile adoption advocates and experts. The panel released its report, "Raising Expectations: Recommendations of the Expert Panel on Infertility and Adoption", in August 2009.

The expert panel described Ontario's adoption system as complex, fragmented, and ineffective. Many older waiting children—some of the most difficult to place for adoption—were stuck in the system, not just because they were hard to place, but because most had court-ordered access to birth family members that, by law, kept them from being adopted. Adoptive families and professionals applauded the panel's recommendations, but the report lay largely dormant with the government.

Then, in September 2010, the Adoption Council of Ontario (ACO) partnered with NACAC's Community Champions Network (funded through Jockey International's Jockey Being Family initiative) to host two parent advocacy trainings. Trainees identified priorities from the expert panel's recommendations and made action plans to educate the parliament about special needs adoption.

In November 2010, ACO and a group of prospective adoptive parents, adoptive families, and youth began meeting with members of parliament to share their stories and suggest how the system could be improved. Media picked up on the stories and helped the public to understand the importance of adoption reform.

In April 2011, parliament introduced the Building Families and Supporting Youth to Be Successful Act (Bill 179) to give more children in care a chance to have forever families. Debate continued into June, and ACO's advocates met with members over the summer break to keep the needs of children and adoptive families at the forefront of the legislative agenda. They kept advocating until the act was proclaimed.

Key Provisions of the Legislation

The Building Families Act amends the Child and Family Services Act, and improves outcomes for children in the care of Children's Aid Societies (CASs) by removing barriers to ward adoptions.

The Act addresses two key goals:

  • increase the number of children adopted from foster care, and
  • support older foster youth before they leave care.

CASs are no longer prohibited from placing for adoption Crown wards who have access orders. A CAS can place such a ward if it gives notice to the person with the access order and the subject of the access order that:

  • the CAS intends to place the child for adoption;
  • the access order will terminate upon adoptive placement; and
  • the person who has been granted access can apply for an openness order within 30 days of receiving notice.

Children cannot be placed for adoption before 30 days unless everyone entitled to do so has filed an openness application. Provisions for openness orders and agreements that came into force in 2006 continue to be in effect for Crown wards who do not have active access orders.

Other Encouraging Changes

Announced when the Building Families Act was proclaimed, Ontario's Ministry of Children and Youth Services has allocated $9.5 million to fund subsidies for sibling groups and older children (ages 10 and up) who are adopted from foster care in the next two years. More than 5,000 children in foster care are over age 12.

More Adoption Resource Exchanges will help match adoptive families with children who are available for adoption. Exchanges are events at which prospective adoptive parents learn about waiting children, and Children's Aid Society representatives answer questions about the adoption process. Previously held twice a year, exchanges will now be held at least four times per year.

On Sept. 1, Will Falk, an adoptive father and co-chair of the Expert Panel on Infertility and Adoption, noted that:

The Expert Panel is pleased with the … government's introduction of targeted supports for adoptive families. [T]hese funds could be the difference between a child being adopted into a loving home and remaining in foster care. With … money and the proclamation of Bill 179, Minister Broten has moved forward with significant reform of our public adoption system.

Though more work is needed to improve Ontario's adoption system, the new reforms are a positive start. The Adoption Council of Ontario and our parent advocates have seen how collaboration and diligence can effect change. In the future we hope to help transform proposals into laws that will move more children from foster care to the stability and safety of permanent adoptive families, and support adoptive families as they work to help their children reach for the stars.

Previous Law Bill 179
Crown wards with active access orders (that allow contact with designated family members or friends) could not be placed for adoption. In 2009, 76 percent of 5,594 Crown wards had access orders. "Nothing in this Act prohibits a society from planning for the adoption of a Crown ward...[for]...whom there is an access order in effect." When a child is placed for adoption, access orders end.
Crown wards who voluntarily left care at 16 or 17 could not return to care or access any special subsidy or educational support. Crown wardship was automatically terminated for youth who left care before 18. "[A] person who chooses to stop receiving care...may choose to resume receiving it." Youth who return by age 18 can access extended care subsidies and educational support up to age 21.
Pat Convery is the executive director of the Adoption Council of Ontario in Toronto, a private adoption practitioner, and a clinician who helps families work through separation issues. Pat has worked in child welfare since 1975, and has worked in adoption since 1984.

©2011 Adoption Council of Ontario

First published in the Fall 2011 Adoptalk, quarterly of the North American Council on Adoptable Children.

Published at Family Helper,, on Jan. 30, 2012.


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