Private adoption in Canada

How private agencies assist prospective adoptive parents

By Focus on the Family Canada staff

In Canada, private adoptions are administrated by the provinces. This type of adoption involves children who are placed by a birth family. Usually, although not always, these are infants who are relinquished for adoption at birth. Adoption agencies, licensed and accountable to their provincial government’s adoption division, facilitate these adoptions.

These agencies provide birth parents with free counselling, support and referrals if they choose to parent, and with matching services if they choose adoption. There is no obligation for birth parents to continue with the adoption if they suddenly decide it is not what they wish for their child, even though the agency may have provided considerable support. It is essential that birth parents make this choice of their own free will, without any feeling of obligation or coercion on the part of prospective adoptive parents or agency staff.

Private agencies also provide services to prospective adoptive parents – including adoption information, education and home assessments for those who apply to adopt – as well as support services before, during and after the adoption. There is no guarantee that adoptive families will be successful in adopting when they apply with an agency, but the great majority do succeed in adopting. Agencies will discuss with applicants the likelihood of being chosen by a birth mother, as well as everything involved in the process, before recommending that they complete an application.

Adoptive parents are charged fees for the services provided by the agency. We recommend that you contact your local agencies for specific information about the fees, what they cover and when they are charged. On average, adoption agencies charge $10,000 to $15,000 Cdn for a private, domestic adoption.

It’s important to understand that, in most cases, private adoptions are considered open adoptions. Open adoption means that the birth parent(s) have the right to receive information about prospective adoptive families, to choose a family for their child, and to meet the family at some point in the process. They may wish to negotiate some form of ongoing contact with the adoptive family. This prospect makes many families nervous about private adoption. Some common questions are:

  • Will this confuse the child?
  • Will this be intrusive to our family?
  • Will my child prefer the birth mother to the adoptive mother?
  • Will they try to take the child away from us?

If you choose this option, it is important to explore these issues thoroughly with an adoption worker early in the process. In general, families who are initially afraid of open adoption come to embrace it when it is understood and managed well. If you would like to discuss this at greater length, call a Focus on the Family Canada counsellor at 1.800.661.9800.

Families who are interested in this option are usually invited to attend an information seminar. After this, they may be interviewed by agency staff and may begin an application process. They will be required to attend training and to undergo a home assessment.

Once the home assessment is completed, the family creates a photo album and writes a letter to a prospective birth parent. This forms the basis of their introduction to birth parents who come to the agency looking for a family for their child.

Prospective adoptive parents are often encouraged to join a waiting family support group and continue their adoption education. We encourage you to pray diligently through this process for God’s leading in your family and in the lives of those the agency is counselling.

When a birth parent chooses a family’s profile, the agency will often arrange and facilitate an initial meeting between the birth and adoptive families so both families can get to know one another. If this goes well, the birth parent may decide that this is a match and everyone waits for baby to be born. The agency will assist after the birth, determining if and when adoptive parents should visit, and whether the birth parent wishes to follow through on the placement.

In some cases, some kind of entrustment ceremony takes place when the child is placed by the birth parent with the adoptive family. This may be quite informal, or very formal. Legal requirements regarding when the consent to adopt can be signed, and the period in which the birth parent can revoke the adoption (the revocation period), vary from province to province. Agency workers will communicate these details early in the adoption process.

Prayer and support from family and friends are crucial for families in this process. It is humbling to realize that you, as adoptive parents, have little control at this stage of an adoption, but trust that God is in control and that He will work in your lives as He purposes.

Canada has two agencies that are specifically run by evangelical Christians. Amaris Adoption Services works in Alberta and JFJ Hope Centre works in Ontario. In other provinces, contact your provincial child welfare ministry for information on licensed agencies. It never hurts to ask an agency if they have Christian social workers who can work with you on your home study. Some provinces also have services specifically designed for families who are Catholic or Latter-day Saints.