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  Ontario legislation would increase domestic adoptions
Family Helper editor

(June 6, 2005) By making public domestic adoptions more open, new legislation would give thousands of Ontario children a chance for a permanent home. Openness in adoption arrangements is the key to finding more permanent families for Ontario's Crown wards, according to the legislation introduced today by the Minister of Children and Youth Services, Dr. Marie Bountrogianni.

If passed, the legislation would make thousands of Ontario children eligible for adoption, taking them out of foster care and into permanent families.

"Children move between foster homes and group homes an average of every two years," said Dr. Bountrogianni. "This kind of instability can affect a child's education, self-esteem and their ability to form meaningful relationships as they grow up. We want to help our children grow up in permanent, nurturing families."

There are about 9,000 Crown wards in the care of Ontario's 52 children's aid societies (up from 7,935 in early 2003). A Crown ward whose birth parents have a court-ordered right to visit or contact cannot be adopted unless they give up that right.

Currently three-quarters of Crown wards are ineligible for adoption because their parents still have access to them. Yet almost 60% of parents never take advantage of their rights, and don't contact their children. (The children are moved from foster home to foster home.) As a result, only 10% of Crown wards are adopted each year -- about 900. (This compares with about 700 international adoptions each year to Ontario, according to Citizenship and Immigration Canada.)

The Ontario adoption community has long called for a legal change so that Crown wards with access can nonetheless be adopted.

Under Bill 210, which would amend the Child and Family Services Act, Crown wards could retain contact with their birth parents after being adopted. They would no longer have to cut off all contact to be eligible for adoption. A children's aid society would be able to go to court to get an openness order for Crown wards who are to be adopted.

The Ontario legislation's stress on openness reflects the strong trend today toward open relationships in adoption: birth and adoptive families know each other's names and addresses, and have ongoing contact through letters, phone calls or visits. Open adoptions have been the norm in private domestic adoptions for many years. A similar rule in the public sphere should boost the number of public domestic adoptions.

Bill 210 provides that:

* If a child who is a Crown ward has been or may be placed for adoption, the court may grant an openness order before the adoption is finalized.
* To make an openness order, the court must be satisfied it is in the best interests of the child, and will allow a continued relationship with a person that is beneficial and meaningful to the child, such as a birth mother, foster parent or member of the child's extended family.
* The adoptive parent and other parties can make their own openness agreement, before or after the adoption. This would allow an ongoing relationship with significant people in the adopted child's life, such as birth or foster parents, or the adoptive parent of the child's sister or brother.

If the changes go through, a child could keep important ties to her birth family, siblings or grandparents, and still be adopted.

Bill 210 will also amend the Vital Statistics Act so that if an adoptive parent reregisters an adopted child's birth, the birth registration will no longer read as if the adopted child had been born to the adoptive parent.

Further changes would help to remove barriers preventing thousands of Ontario children from being adopted:

* Standardized application and screening process. The government is changing the application process to make it consistent for both public and private adoptions across Ontario, and to avoid repeated assessments of prospective parents.
* Guardianship. In a legal option beyond traditional adoption, children could gain a permanent home by being placed under the guardianship of an adult, if they don't want to be adopted or placed with a relative.
* New funding formula will allow children's aid societies to pay for post-adoption support services such as physiotherapy and counselling.
* Online adoption database. The ministry is working with the Adoption Council of Ontario (, the AdoptOntario web site ( and children's aid societies to provide a province-wide, web-based registry to match children available for adoption with parents who want to adopt.

For more, see the article at the Adoption Council of Canada web site,

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