International adoption for Canadians

An overview of the process for adopting from another country

By Focus on the Family Canada staff

In addition to public and private adoptions, a third option for adoption in Canada is international (or “intercountry”) adoption. Many children around the world are orphaned and in need of families.

Since international adoption regulations vary between countries and change over time, your provincial adoption division is the best source of information on which countries currently have workable programs, as well as requirements for adopting from these countries.

All international adoption programs require a screening process, which is performed by a licensed agency in the adoptive parents’ province. This process involves adoption education, a home study and approval from the provincial authority. Home studies, with other required supporting documentation (such as medical reports, financial statements, etc.), are then sent to the child’s country, where a child will be selected and proposed to the family.

Once a family accepts a proposal, they are considered to be matched with that child and the legal process is initiated within the child’s country. Again, this process and the cost of the adoption, as well as the length of time it takes, varies from country to country. It may also vary depending on the circumstances within the country.

Countries that have had workable and successful intercountry programs with Canada include China, Haiti, Ethiopia, Russia, the United States, Vietnam, Thailand, Ukraine, Romania, Kazakhstan and Taiwan. Contact your provincial agency or a local agency that works with international adoptions for current information on the status of these programs.

Once the legal paperwork is complete, arrangements are made for the family to receive their child, usually by travelling to the country to pick the child up, but occasionally children can/need to be escorted to Canada. Travel forms a significant percentage of the fees involved in international adoption; the total cost can range from about $15,000 to $40,000 Cdn.

If you decide to adopt internationally, it is important to consider the cultural and racial differences that your child will experience. While parents often feel that culture or race is “not an issue” for them, the child who grows up outside their culture and/or race may feel alienated, displaced or uncomfortable in situations parents may not have anticipated. It is essential that parents carefully consider how they will help to preserve culture, offer opportunities for their child to interact with others of their race, and help their child feel comfortable “in their own skin.” Agencies will assist in the process of educating parents and heightening awareness of the challenges of intercountry adoption.

Probably the biggest challenge in international adoption for most families is the cost. Families who have adopted internationally have dealt with this in a variety of ways. The National Bank of Canada offers adoption loans, and the government permits Canadians to deduct adoption expenses from their income tax. Some families ask for assistance from extended family, and others begin fund-raising projects. Some seek additional work to help with expenses.