Script 146 gives information only, not legal advice. If you have a legal problem or need legal advice, you should speak to a lawyer. For the name of a lawyer to consult, call Lawyer Referral Service at 604.687.3221 in the lower mainland or 1.800.663.1919 elsewhere in British Columbia.
This script explains the different adoption registries in BC. It includes information on:
- the Birth Father Registry
- making an “openness agreement” after a child has been adopted
- searching for an adopted child or birth parent
Society’s attitudes toward adoption have changed over the years
Many people who were adopted want to know about their origins. Many birth mothers want to know how the child they placed for adoption is doing. And many adopted people and birth parents want to meet one another. In BC, several adoption registries exist to help connect birth parents, adoptive parents and adoptees with each other. These include the following registries:
- Birth Father Registry
- Post-Adoption Openness Registry
- Exchange Registry
- Adoption Reunion Registry
What is the Birth Father Registry?
A biological father who registers with the Birth Father Registry is entitled to receive written notice of a proposed adoption placement, which gives him the opportunity to be involved in the planning for his child. The father can register any time before the birth and up to 150 days after the date that the child was placed. There’s no fee to register.
What is the Post-Adoption Openness Registry?
Many people believe that adoption creates a permanent kinship network between birth and adoptive families, and that adoption shouldn’t sever relationships – it should create them. They believe that an on-going relationship with birth parents and other birth family members can help an adopted child develop a healthy sense of identity and belonging. The Post-Adoption Openness Registry is meant for birth parents, adoptive parents and relatives of an adopted child under the age of 19 who wish to communicate with each other after the child has been adopted, if no “openness agreement” was made before the adoption order. There are no fees to register.
How does the Post-Adoption Openness Registry work?
Once an application is made, the registry is checked to see if there’s a match. For example, if both the adoptive parents and the birth mother register, then there’s a match. Registry staff will contact you to discuss the type of openness you want. You’ll be asked to arrange for a facilitator to help you reach an openness agreement acceptable to both of you – be it saving letters and photographs to give to the adopted child at a certain age, or a continuing exchange of letters or phone calls, or even visits.
In figuring out how much openness is best, the best interest of the child is the most important consideration. And participation is voluntary – both the adoptive parents and the birth mother or relatives must register.
An application to the Post-Adoption Openness Registry stays in effect until the adopted child reaches 19 years of age, at which time, if no match has been made, an application can be made to the Adoption Reunion Registry (discussed later in this script).
What is the Exchange Registry?
The Exchange Registry is used by people who have negotiated a non-identifying openness agreement, where the adoptive family and the birth family don’t communicate directly with each other, but through the registry. It facilitates communication between the adoptive family and the birth family as agreed to in their openness agreement. Communications are sent to the Exchange Registry, which redirects that to the other person or family. The Exchange Registry remains in effect until the adopted child turns 19. After that point, the adult adoptee or the birth family member can apply to the Adoption Reunion Registry to make direct contact with each other.
What is the Adoption Reunion Registry?
The Adoption Reunion Registry connects adopted adults with their birth families. This government registry can help if the adoption took place in BC. Everyone must be 19 or over – you must be an adult, and the person you want to connect with must also be an adult.
The Adoption Reunion Registry operates two registries:
- a Passive Registry
- an Active Registry
How does the Passive Registry work?
If you register your name, and the person you’re looking for also registers for contact with you on the Passive Registry, a match is made. A staff social worker will then contact both of you by letter or telephone and help you to make contact with each other.
How does the Active Registry work?
After you register, staff will actively search for the person you want to locate. If they succeed, a social worker will then contact you to discuss the next step. If the person you’re looking for also wants a reunion, the social worker will explore with both of you the type of contact you want, i.e., letters, phone calls, or a meeting or visits in person. The social worker will stay involved for a limited period of time to assist in facilitating the contact.
Who can apply to register on the Adoption Reunion Registry?
Adult adoptees, birth parents, birth siblings of an adopted adult and other birth relatives can all apply. There are different requirements, depending on who you are.
You register by mail
If you’re the adult adoptee or birth mother, you need to submit the following three documents:
- A signed application form
- A copy of your birth certificate (as proof of your identity)
- The registration fee, unless the fee has been waived
If you are requesting an active search, you’ll also need to submit a copy of the original birth registration document and/or adoption order. These are obtained from the Vital Statistics Agency (information on how to get documents from the Vital Statistics Agency is explained later in this script). The original birth certificate and adoption order aren’t needed for a search on the Passive Registry.
If you’re the birth sibling of an adult adoptee or the biological father or other relative, there are other or different documents you have to submit. For example, if you’re the birth sibling of an adult adoptee (i.e., you’re looking for your birth sibling who was adopted), proof of death of the birth parent is required, for example, a copy of the deceased birth parent’s death certificate from Vital Statistics.
What does it cost to register?
There’s a $25 registration/processing fee to register with the Adoption Reunion Registry. If you want an active search on the Active Registry, you’ll be asked to submit an additional fee of $250. If it’s hard for you to pay these fees, you can request an income test. If you qualify, the fees will be reduced or waived.
Counselling is offered
The social work staff at the Adoption Reunion Registry can offer brief counselling and support during the reunion search process. You may also wish to pursue additional counseling through a local agency or private therapist.
How do you get the documents needed from the Vital Statistics Agency?
You have to submit an application form to the Vital Statistics Agency. Visit their website at www.vs.gov.bc.ca/adoption. Or call 604.660.2937 in the lower mainland, 250.952.2681 in Greater Victoria, or 1.800.663.8328 elsewhere in BC.
There’s a fee of $50 to obtain copies of the adopted adult’s original birth registration and/or adoption order. The names of and information about the adoptive parents is deleted to protect their privacy.
What if a birth parent or adopted child doesn’t want to be known or found?
Individuals who want their privacy respected can have a “disclosure veto” or “no-contact declaration” placed on their records in the Vital Statistics Agency.
What’s a disclosure veto?
A disclosure veto prevents the release of any information on the birth registration or adoption order identifying the person who placed the veto. A disclosure veto also prevents the Adoption Reunion Registry from providing assistance in locating the person who filed the veto. You can place a disclosure veto if you’re a birth parent or adopted person involved in an adoption that took place before 1996.
What’s a no-contact declaration?
A no-contact declaration allows information to be released, but prohibits any contact with the person who has placed the no-contact declaration. If a no-contact declaration has been placed on the birth and/or adoption records you’re searching, you’ll have to sign a statutory declaration promising that you won’t contact the other person as long as the no-contact declaration is in effect. If you break your promise, you’ll face up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
A written statement may be included
The person placing a disclosure veto or no-contact declaration can also place or file a written statement. This statement may include social, medical and health information and perhaps the reason the person doesn’t want to be contacted. If the birth and adoption records you’re searching at the Vital Statistics Agency contain a written statement, you’ll be given a copy.
Where can you get help or find more information?
- Call 1.877.ADOPT.07 or 250.387.3660.
- See the Ministry of Children and Family Development’s website on adoption and adoption registries at www.mcf.gov.bc.ca/adoption.
[updated March 2013]
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