Starting the adoption process can be a daunting task. Finding a centralized hub with all of the information is almost impossible. Rules, prices, countries available, and even the process can differ between provinces and countries. In this post I will provide important things to know based on Canadian information, so you can start your adoption process!
1. YOU MUST CHOOSE A TYPE OF ADOPTION.
In the world of adoption there are actually many different ways to adopt. Most people have an idea in their head of what adoption looks like, not realizing that different routes exist and each have different requirements. The main types of adoption include: Domestic Adoption, International Adoption, Foster Care Adoption, Direct Placement Adoption, and Embryo Adoption.
Each route of adoption has specific requirements, costs, wait times, children available, and travel required. To find out more about the different types of adoption, read my blog post entitled What Types of Adoption Are There?
2. YOU MUST CHOOSE AN ADOPTION AGENCY
Once you have decided what type of adoption you would like to pursue, you then need to choose an adoption agency. Unlike the United States where you can work with lawyers, in Canada you have to work with a licensed adoption agency or government agency. Every adoption agency is different, offering different programs, different prices, and even different staff. It is always a good idea to begin by calling your local adoption agencies and speaking with the staff to see how you both get a long. Having a positive relationship will help alleviate ample amounts of stress during your process. It is also helpful to be aware that your agency does not have to be local. While it does need to be in your province, it can be outside of your hometown. Most agencies have local social workers to complete home studies, and all other steps can be done remotely.
If you choose to adopt a child from foster care, however, you must adopt through your local government agency. These agencies have different names in each province but can include Ministry, Ministry of Children and Families, or Children’s Aid Societies.
Local Adoption Agencies in BC Include:
3. IF ADOPTING INTERNATIONALLY YOU MUST CHOOSE A COUNTRY
Sometimes…and this is where it can get confusing, complicated…and even overwhelming, you must choose your country before you choose your adoption agency. If you are adopting internationally and have certain limitations, sometimes a country comes first. For example, if you have a large family, if your youngest child is younger than two, or you have had cancer, you would not qualify to adopt from China. If you are over the age of 50 or under the age of 30, you might only qualify for a select few countries. If you have a job that does not allow much time off, you might need a country that has a shorter travel period, such as a few days, rather than one that requires 3 months.
The trouble then arises when certain adoption agencies only work with certain countries. If you know you only qualify to adopt from 3 specific countries, then you need to find an adoption agency that works specifically with one of those 3 countries.
4. YOU MUST COMPLETE TRAINING
Before you can adopt, everyone must undergo adoption training. While the social worker side of me loves this aspect, the adoptive parent side of me also appreciates it’s importance. Many people quaff at the idea of having to attend training, complaining of the time commitment, that it will be just like parenting their biological children, or that it will just come naturally. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The fact is, children whom are adopted come with an entirely new set of unique needs unlike parenting a child through birth. This can involve issues with special needs, health issues, attachment issues, trauma, and even understanding their own history and identity of being adopted. Adoption training is a valuable resource that teaches you all of these topics and more in order to equip you to be the best parent you can to your new child.
Training to adopt can look different in each province and agency. Some agencies provide online training, some involve a training component in your home study, and some involve in depth classes over a period of time. Whichever route you are required to take, take notes and remember it will add multiple tools into your parenting tool belt to be used down the road. I always encourage families to also attend any other workshops, conferences or training’s available to prepare themselves to their best ability.
5. YOU MUST COMPLETE A HOME STUDY
Completing a home study is the step you take after you attend all of your training. A home study involves a local social worker coming to your home, typically between 4 – 6 times, to get to know all about you and/or your spouse, how you were raised, how you parent, what your relationship is like, and to review your home. In Canada, this is typically done via a SAFE Home Study, which involves filling out questionnaires, completing a home check list, criminal record check, physician report, and references.
At the end of the home study, the social worker and supervisor must either approve or not approve your home study. Sometimes if a home study cannot be approved immediately, recommendations are given to either adjust the age or number of children being requested, attend counseling, or change something in the home. Once these tasks are completed the home study can then be approved.
6. YOU MUST EDUCATE YOURSELF ON SPECIAL NEEDS
Many people begin the adoption journey looking to adopt a healthy infant. The unfortunate reality is that there are very few healthy infants anymore, and all children through adoption require a specialized type of parenting. Most of the children adopted out of foster care have special needs such as FASD, ADHD or some form of attachment or trauma related behavioral issues. Typically these children have in depth medical records available detailing their diagnoses, but remember, many disorders, such as FASD, are not diagnosed until a child is older (5-9 in Canada). Trauma and attachment related issues can be present from children who experience multiple care givers, and may not present itself immediately.
Children adopted internationally have the added challenge of international medical systems. Many countries do not have the same medical services, and many others do not diagnose all of the disorders we do here in Canada. Since most children will come from either an orphanage or a foster home, they will likely struggle with some level of trauma or attachment related difficulties.
7. YOU SHOULD FIND YOURSELF SUPPORT
Adoption is amazing, beautiful and an adventure. It is also one of the hardest things you will likely ever do. Many people begin their journey believing they can do it on their own and they just need their friends or family. The reality is, however, that most of the time friends and family just don’t get it. This journey is going to be challenging, life altering, and sometimes you might want to quit. Sharing with the world your excitement for completing paperwork, or venting to others about the long and grueling wait, can often go on deaf ears. Finding a group of fellow adoptive or future adoptive parents can make all the difference in your journey.
There are many different forms of support out there. I highly recommend starting with a facebook group. There are multiple groups out there that focus on different things. There are transracial groups, country groups, international groups, and local groups. You can even join multiple groups and gain even more support! Not only do these groups provide emotional support, but they also provide valuable information on parenting, special needs, adoption and the process.
Many areas also have local adoption support groups. These are typically held once a month and involve local parents meeting together. If your area doesn’t have one, then I encourage you to start one! If you are located in BC then consider finding or starting one through Home for Every Child Adoption Society. They also offer services across Canada for anyone considering adoption or foster care!
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