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The number of adoptable children from abroad is bound to decline


Douglas R. Chalke
Executive Director, Sunrise Adoption, North Vancouver, B.C.
March 30, 2007

Ed. Note: Author Doug Chalke wrote in a note to Family Helper that the changes
he predicts apply not only to British Columbians, but to all Canadians ...

The world of adoption is changing quickly. There continue to be abandoned children in numerous countries, and infertility seems to be increasing. Will parents and children continue to find each other as they have in the past? For many reasons, the face of adoption in B.C. is changing and doors are closing for adoptive parents. What role can Sunrise play in shaping the future of adoption in B.C.?

What are the factors that are closing doors for adopting parents?

Increased Support for Birth Mothers

In B.C., the number of newborns available for local adoption has decreased dramatically, falling to 5% of the former totals over the past 30 years. The reasons for this include increased financial support for young mothers, greater acceptability of single parenthood, and peer pressure on teenage moms to keep their babies. Many other countries are experiencing similar changes in social programs and societal norms. As a result, fewer babies are available for adoption in other countries.

Increased Worldwide Demand

Increasingly, parents throughout the world are considering adoption. This increased demand is causing some countries to close their doors to international adoption. Some adoption programs are small and successful. These programs have longer and longer waiting lists. While the adoption doors may remain open, it will only be for a few applicants because of the small number of children available.

International Treaties

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption are changing the landscape of intercountry adoptions. The complex procedures of these international agreements are intended to protect the child, birth parents and adoptive parents from corrupt practices. The combined result of these treaties is that the placing country must first try to find a home for children in their own country. The first option for a child is to be re-integrated with family, or placed with extended family. Local adoption is the next option. Out-of-country adoption is considered a last resort. In almost every country that has implemented the Hague Convention, the result has been a reduction or elimination of intercountry adoption.

Closures by the Government

The Office of the Director of Adoption for the B.C. government talks often with counterparts in other provinces and with federal authorities. As a result of these discussions, the B.C. government has closed adoptions from countries where ethical problems have arisen in adoptions.

Closures by Agencies

To protect adopting parents, and to try to give them a safe and predictable experience, some B.C. agencies have closed programs from certain countries, owing to concerns about ethical practices or the children's health.

What is the Future of Adoption in British Columbia?

The inescapable conclusion is that if parents want to adopt, their horizons may have to broaden. Waiting periods will lengthen, the children adopted will be older, and the children may have special needs and challenges. As a result, some prospective adopting parents will look into adoption, see the options and decide not to pursue it (as sometimes happens already). Others will adopt locally, or from small but overwhelmed programs. Many parents, however, may have to go through doors that haven't been frequently used up to now.

Adoption is already a hard road for many people, and it takes courage to be an adopting parent. There will be a greater need for both pre-adoption and post-adoption support for Canadian adopting parents. The B.C. government has made it clear that it will provide that support only for parents adopting B.C.'s waiting children in foster care. The licensed adoption agencies, the Adoptive Families Association and the Society of Special Needs Adoptive Parents will need to do more work in the next decade to provide this support.

Every day 35,000 children under the age of five die of health-related reasons. In the face of this awful statistic, why is the world increasingly shutting down adoption?

Over the past 10 years, Sunrise has visited orphanages throughout the world. The children we meet in the orphanages are desperate to have a family of their own. We are looking for parents to adopt these children. While opportunities for children of many countries to find families are currently decreasing, they are not completely gone.

There are two rays of hope left. First, we can try to help countries support their children to be adopted in their own country, or even stay in their original families. When that is not possible, we can help to provide a loving and safe home for one of the world's homeless children.

This is the future of adoption. We need families who want to step up to the plate and help us accomplish both these goals. It is a huge task, but together we can make a real difference in the lives of children and families. We can also create a true win/win solution. Children can have a safe and loving place to grow up in a family, and parents can experience the joy of family life by adoption.


For information on how you can help accomplish these goals by volunteering or donating, see the Get Involved section at the Sunrise Adoption web site.
Douglas R. Chalke is executive director of Sunrise Adoption agency in North Vancouver, British Columbia.

©2007 Sunrise Family Services Society

Published at Family Helper,, on July 10, 2007.
Previously published online at Sunrise Adoption as "The Future of Adoption in British Columbia".


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