By Robin Hilborn, Family Helper editor


Answers for the pregnant student

Are you counselling students in high school? Or perhaps making a presentation covering pregnancy options?

For teenagers in secondary school new and sensitive issues rear their heads. A student who finds herself pregnant faces a tough decision on which way to go—abortion, adoption, parenting—and a lack of good information.

So get ready for questions about adoption. Below are some questions you may get, with suggested answers.

This is condensed from “Are You Thinking of Adoption for Your Child?”, by the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services. The ministry takes the point of view of the student in explaining how domestic adoption works. For the ministries which handle adoption in other Canadian provinces, see Provincial government adoption services.

Where can I get advice ?

It’s your baby, and it’s up to you to choose your baby’s future. To help you decide, there are people you can talk to.

If you’re thinking of adoption, talk it over with a social worker. You can find one at a Children’s Aid (they’re in the phone book, and at OACAS members) or you can call a private social worker. Their advice is free. If you decide for adoption, you can do it through a public agency (the Children’s Aid) or a private agency.

Whatever you decide—abortion; keep the baby; adoption, through either a public or a private agency—your wishes will be respected.

What about a private agency?

Instead of using the Children’s Aid, which is a public agency (and gives free services), you can choose a private adoption agency (which charges fees). They are licensed by the provincial ministry and any adoption they arrange must be approved by the ministry. To talk over this option with a private worker, call the ministry at 416-327-4742 for the names of agencies near you. There’s no charge for their advice or for arranging a private adoption.

How does a baby get adopted?

There are two ways a baby gets adopted in Ontario:
— You agree to the adoption, by signing a consent form any time after the baby is seven days old. If the baby’s father is living with you, or has declared he is the father and has helped support you—he should sign too.

After signing, you have 21 days to change your mind (and some people do). You can decide to keep the baby after all, by cancelling your consent (in writing). If the adoptive parents already have the baby, they must return her to you.

You’ll want good legal advice before signing the consent to adoption, and the worker arranging the adoption must give you the chance for this. You must sign this form in front of a lawyer who has given you advice. If you’re under 18 the Office of the Children’s Lawyer must have one of their staff explain your rights so you understand what you are signing. The Children’s Aid or private adoption person will make an appointment for you with that office.
— The second way is through Crown wardship. You explain the facts to a family court judge, and the judge decides what is best for the baby. If the judge makes the baby a Crown ward, then she is eligible to be adopted. The Children’s Aid Society (CAS) has the job of planning for the baby, and the CAS worker will explain how Crown wardship works. Sometimes the judge makes the baby a Society ward, who can’t be adopted because you keep your parental rights. Then you can visit your baby in a foster home, and take the time to make a permanent plan for her.

What’s a homestudy?

To make sure your baby will have a good home, a social worker visits the proposed parents and does a “homestudy”—she interviews them to assess their strengths and skills in parenting, their health and their emotional and financial stability. The social worker must send the homestudy to the ministry for approval.

You will need to give a “medical and social history”—your health, way of life and family background. This will tell your child something about her background and why you planned adoption. Adopted children need to have their questions about their birth answered as they grow up. It will mean a lot to your child in later years to read your own thoughts, and maybe see some photos. It would be helpful too if some information about the baby’s father were on file.

The medical history also tells the adoptive parents about possible health problems your baby may have inherited from you. Your history is given to the adoptive parents, without names, to pass on to your child when she is older. Your child can also consult the copy kept at the ministry.

By the way, a disability doesn’t stop a child from being adopted. Many parents have adopted children with various disabilities, and have provided them with loving, happy homes.

Can I choose the family for my child?

Yes. Whether it’s a public or a private adoption, you can discuss with the person handling the adoption the kind of family you would like for your child. You choose the adoptive parents from a selection of profiles—these profiles contain no identifying information. You and the adoptive family will not know each other’s name and address unless you both agree in writing to exchange this information, and many do.

The tendency nowadays is for adoptions to be much more “open” than before—the birthmother and the adoptive family get to know each other and keep in touch to the extent that suits them. They may exchange cards, letters and pictures, or make phone calls, or visit each other. You will want to talk to your social worker right from the start about how open an arrangement you want to have.

What you can’t do is just give your baby to a family you like (unless they are your relatives, like aunts, uncles or grandparents). Legally, only a children’s aid society or a licensed private agency or person can place a child for adoption. It’s also against the law for you to be paid for placing your child.

Does adoption mean I’ll never see my child again?

In Ontario a child 18 or over can register with the ministry’s Adoption Disclosure Register. You can also register after your child is 18, and so can the birth father. If you and the child are both registered, you will be able to meet, after you have had counselling. Adoptive families are told that their adopted children might look for their birth family when they are old enough.
You may reproduce this item with the credit:
"From Family Helper,


ONE—Many ways to make a family
TWO—Many ways to create a child
THREE—Biased class assignments ... and how to fix them
FOUR—Teaching the language of adoption
FIVE—How to introduce adoption in elementary school
SIX—Answers for the pregnant student
SEVEN—A suggested classroom presentation
EIGHT—Research points the way
NINE—Adoption resources for teachers and students
TEN—Glossary: the ABCs of adoption
"Teacher's Guide to Adoption" by Robin Hilborn was published in print in Family Helper 45, "Adoption Goes to School", 2004, and online since Jan. 5, 2005.