Public adoption in Canada

An introduction to Canada’s “waiting children”

By Focus on the Family Canada staff

Public adoption involves adopting children who are in the care of a provincial child welfare authority. Commonly referred to as “Canada’s waiting children,” these are children whose parents have been unable to parent them, for a variety of reasons, and the courts have therefore turned over responsibility for their care to the province. These children can range in age from newborns to teenagers. They live in foster homes until a permanent placement (an adoptive home) can be found for them.

Since few parents give up their rights without a period of trying to parent, it can be months or years before these children are legally able to be adopted; this is why few are available for adoption as babies. Some, however, are adopted by families who have fostered them. If you are interested in pursuing public adoption, you should contact your local child welfare office and inquire about the process, which usually involves education and screening (a home study). For a list of offices to contact, click here

There are no fees for adopting through the public system and some financial support is available if the child requires ongoing services, such as counselling. These children are usually considered “special needs” children, not necessarily because they have mental or physical handicaps (although this is sometimes the case), but because they may have experienced abuse, neglect or disruptions due to shuttling back and forth between birth and foster families before a permanent placement (an adoptive home) is found. Adoptive parents must parent with these special circumstances in mind; a stable, loving, consistent family is an amazing gift for these children.

Christian families who wish to foster and adopt children from the public system need to be aware that spanking is not permitted. In fact, in some Canadian jurisdictions, telling a social worker that you would spank a child will result in the home study being turned down. Parents should consider other means of discipline to provide boundaries for their children. Traditional methods of parenting which may have served parents well in raising their birth children are often not effective techniques for adopted children. Children who have been abused, abandoned or neglected need to be parented differently, with these needs clearly in mind.

This website includes a variety of articles to help you understand how discipline and parenting needs to be tailored specifically for the unique needs of adopted children. Do prepare well by reading this material, talking with other adoptive parents, and paying attention to this topic in your training.

Social workers tasked with finding families for these children do all they can to find the family that is best suited to a particular child. Parents should understand that the emphasis is on finding a family for a child, rather than finding a child for a family. This can mean that, although your application is approved and you keep hearing that there are many children needing adoptive homes, it may take a while to be matched with a child. Be patient; God places children in families and His timing is always right! Many children who are in foster care in Canada today are being influenced by Christian families and hope to eventually be placed in families who will continue to support these values and teachings.