Script 145 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 adoption process in British Columbia – both adopting a child within BC and adopting a child from overseas.
How does a child become available for adoption?
A child may be placed for adoption by:
- the government, through a Director of Adoption, or
- a licensed non-profit adoption agency, or
- a birth parent or other guardian (called a direct placement).
Who oversees the adoption process?
Only the provincial Ministry of Children and Family Development or non-profit adoption agencies licensed in BC are authorized to handle adoptions. Even with a direct placement, where the birth parents choose the adoptive parent or parents, the Ministry or a licensed adoption agency must be involved before the adoptive parents receive the child.
Are there fees involved?
It’s against the law to give or receive money for placing a child for adoption. But certain fees and expenses are allowed, namely costs relating to the birth and adoption are allowed for various people involved in the adoption process, such as the birth mother, licensed adoption agencies and lawyers providing legal services. For example, the Adoption Regulation allows a prospective parent to pay the birth mother’s expenses for such things as medical services, the cost of reasonable accommodation, counselling services and the like.
The Ministry of Children and Family Development does not charge fees if you’re adopting a child from the Ministry’s care.
Who can adopt?
Anyone over 19 who is a resident of British Columbia is eligible to adopt. You can be single, in a common-law relationship or married, and you can be straight, gay or lesbian.
What factors are considered in placing a child?
The most important thing is making sure that the best interests of the adopted child are looked after. To determine the child’s best interests, various factors are looked at, including:
- the child’s safety,
- the child’s physical and emotional needs,
- the importance of continuity in the child’s care,
- the child’s positive relationship with a parent and a secure place as a family member,
- the child’s relationship with the birth parent,
- the child’s cultural, racial, linguistic and religious heritage, and
- the child’s views.
What information is given to the birth mother and prospective adoptive parents?
Before a child is placed, government officials or the adoption agency must inform the birth parent about the adoption process and its alternatives. Staff also gather as much information as possible about the medical and social history of the child’s birth family, preserve this for the child and give it to the prospective adoptive parents.
Is a home study done?
Yes. The home study includes an educational component, as well as an assessment of the prospective adoptive parent or parents through visits to their home. The home visits can take up to three or four months. The prospective parents will be asked to get a medical assessment from their family doctor and to consent to criminal record and reference checks.
What if it’s a direct placement?
In a direct placement, a pre-placement assessment must still be done before the child can be received in the home (unless the adoptive parents are related to the birth parents).
What happens after the child is placed?
If everything looks fine, the child is placed in the adoptive home. For the first six months, the adoption worker visits the child in the home. Then after the child has lived with the adoptive parent or parents for at least six months, the parents can apply to the Supreme Court for an adoption order. If it’s a Ministry adoption, the worker makes the court application for the parents. If the court is satisfied that the proposed adoption is in the child’s best interests, it makes the adoption order.
Does the birth mother have to consent?
The birth mother must consent to the adoption unless the child is in the permanent care of the government. But her consent is only valid if the child is at least 10 days old when she consents. The consent must be in proper written form, and there are other required documents too.
What if the birth mother changes her mind?
She can revoke or withdraw her consent within 30 days of the child’s birth – even if the child has already been placed for adoption. But her revocation must be in writing and received by a Director of Adoption or the administrator of the adoption agency before the end of the 30 days.
Is the biological father’s consent required?
The biological father’s consent is usually required too, but there are exceptions. Usually the father must be notified of the proposed adoption, unless the court rules that it’s not in the child’s best interests to do so.
Is an older child’s consent required too?
A child 12 or older must be willing to be adopted and has to give consent. The views of a child between 7 and 11 must be considered, and if the child is mature enough, the child must receive counselling about the effects of adoption.
What about adopting an aboriginal child?
The Adoption Act expresses special concern for aboriginal children. The act insists that the aboriginal child’s cultural identity be considered when looking at the child’s best interests. If the child is under 12 and the birth parent or other guardian doesn’t object, the Ministry or adoption agency involved will notify the child’s aboriginal community and consult with them about planning for the adoption. Under the federal Indian Act, an aboriginal person who is adopted doesn’t lose any of the rights or privileges they have as a “status Indian” under the Indian Act and other laws.
Can the birth mother choose an open adoption?
If they want, the birth parents and adopting parents can choose to communicate with each other after the child is adopted. Before an adoption order is made, they can make an agreement about how much and what type of ongoing communication or contact they want between the birth parents and the adoptive parents after the adoption. If an agreement isn’t made before the adoption order, they can register with the Post-Adoption Openness Registry.
For more information on openness and making an openness agreement, refer to script 146 on “Adoption Registries”.
What about international adoptions?
The process of adopting a child from another country must involve one of the licensed adoption agencies in BC. Like domestic adoptions, an international adoption requires a home study to assess the adoptive parents’ suitability to adopt. So if you plan on adopting a child from another province or country, it’s important that you inform the adoption agency you plan to work with early in the planning process.
Where can you find more information?
- Call 1.877.ADOPT.07.
- Also see the Ministry of Children and Family Development’s website on adoption at www.mcf.gov.bc.ca/adoption.
Only the government or an adoption agency licensed by the government can handle an adoption. As long as you’re over 19 and reside in BC, you’re eligible to adopt. When deciding on placing a child, many factors are looked at to determine if the placement is in the child’s best interests. The birth mother can consent to placing her child for adoption once the baby is 10 days old, but she can still change her mind within 30 days of the birth if she does it in writing. Usually the biological father’s consent is necessary, and older children may have to give their consent too.
[updated March 2013]
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