Ontario public adoptions drop every year, or do they? CAS numbers are contradictory

(Aug. 16, 2010)    A report to the Hague Conference on Private International Law shows that Ontario public adoptions are in serious decline.

In contrast, the annual report of the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services credits the ministry with an "increase in adoptions", despite the fact that its own statistics show public adoptions not growing at all, but flat or heading down.

What is the true state of affairs? Here are three charts reporting how many children in state care are being placed for adoption by Ontario's Children's Aid Societies (CASs).
Ministry report of CAS adoptions
Ministry report of CAS adoptions: presumed to be calendar years.
Source: Results-based Plan Briefing Book 2010-11, Ministry of Children and Youth Services (Ontario)

OACAS report of CAS adoptions
OACAS report of CAS adoptions: fiscal years, e.g. Apr. 1, 2008 to Mar. 31, 2009
Source: Child Welfare Report 2009/10, p. 28, Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies (OACAS)
CAS adoptions reported to Hague Conference
CAS adoptions reported to Hague Conference: calendar years.
(Data sent in May 2010 to the Hague for a Special Commission on intercountry adoption, held by the Hague Conference on Private International Law, June 17-25, 2010.)
Source: Annual adoption statistics for receiving states - Country: Canada (Ontario), Hague Conference on Private International Law

Why don't the three sources have identical numbers? In part because of differences in time periods (fiscal vs. calendar year) and reporting delays (time to receive and process court order data). An additional, and unknown, reason must account for the markedly different numbers in the third chart.

The first two may be read as "stable" or "in slow decline". The third, as reported to the Hague Conference, shows a marked drop in CAS adoptions completed in Ontario—peaking in 2006 at 865 and dropping to a record low in 2009 of 622.

In apparent contradiction to these statistics, the Ministry's Results-based Plan Briefing Book 2010-11 says one of the ministry's "Key Results" is an "Increase in adoptions".

Exactly the same claim of "Key Results" - "Increase in adoptions" appears in the two previous reports, Briefing Book 2009-10 and Briefing Book 2008-09.

In no way can these figures be called an "increase".

In addition, I wonder why the first two charts don't show the decline reported in the third. Differences in reporting standards should smooth out over four years and at least show the general trend.

While it's hard to say which chart portrays reality, it is clear that adoptions of Ontario children in care have not been on the "increase", as the ministry claims.

Although the ministry's lack of clarity is a concern, there remains the larger issue: is the ministry doing its job?

The ministry is supposed to protect abused or neglected children, provide for children in care, and place Ontario Crown wards for adoption. (The ministry delegates its mandate to 53 Children's Aid Societies (CASs) across the province.)

OACAS statistics say 17,876 children were in care of Ontario's CASs at Mar. 31, 2009. Of those, about 9,200 are permanent wards, usually shuttled between foster homes, who need permanent, loving families.

Yet only 620 to 820 a year (depending on your source) actually find an adoptive home. Meanwhile many Canadians go abroad to complete their families.

Across the whole of Canada, an estimated 30,000 children languish in foster care.

See also 2009 intercountry adoption stats: Canada shortchanges the Hague Conference. The statistics for many countries involved in international adoption are at Annual Adoption Statistics.
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