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 childrensome of the most difficult to place
for adoptionwere 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
Then, in September 2010, the Adoption
Council of Ontario (ACO)
with NACAC's Community Champions
(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
adopted from foster
- support older foster
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
- 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.
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
"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.