Area of Law: Family Law
Answer # 125
Adopting a childRegion: Ontario Answer # 125
The Ontario government has established a number of rules and guidelines for the adoption of children. These procedures must be followed to legally adopt a child.
Who can adopt a child?
To adopt a child in Ontario, you must live in Ontario and you must be at least 18 years old. You do not have to be married but, if you are, your spouse must also agree in writing that he or she wants to adopt a child. Two people can only adopt a child together if they are married or living in a common-law relationship.
Any child under the age of majority can be adopted by married or unmarried adults, step-parents, or any other person (including a single individual) a court believes will honour the best interests of the child. All provinces allow same-sex adoptions. If an adult (someone who has attained the age of majority) is to be adopted, there may be restrictions on who can adopt (usually, only the person or couple who tended to the individual when he or she was a minor).
Giving permission for your child to be adopted
An adoption can generally take place only with the written permission of the natural parents. In some circumstances, written permission may also be required from someone else who is providing financial support to the child or who has custody of or access to the child.
Birth parents must register the birth of their child within 30 days of the birth, giving the child a legal identity and ensuring that the child will get certain documents, such as a birth certificate and a passport. The child must be at least seven days old before written permission for adoption can be given and the natural parents then have 21 days to change their mind and cancel the permission. If permission is cancelled within the 21 days, the child must be returned to the natural parents. If the 21 days has gone by and the child has been placed with an adoptive family, the natural parents cannot normally change their mind about the adoption.
In some situations, the court can decide that written consent of the natural parents is not needed. For instance, if the identity of the natural father is unknown, or if he has disappeared, or if a child has been neglected or abused, the court can allow the child to be adopted without the parents’ consent.
How to adopt a child in Ontario
There are generally two ways to adopt a child in Ontario. The first is a public adoption through the Children’s Aid Society. The second way to adopt a child is through a private agency licenced by the Ontario Government.
To adopt a child through the Children’s Aid Society, you must first apply and go through a standard screening process. If your application is approved the Society will try to match you with a suitable child. A social worker will visit with you and the child and help you apply to the court to make the adoption final. Usually the child has to have been in your care for six months before the adoption order is given by the court. There is no cost for parents to adopt a child through the Children’s Aid Society public adoption process.
The process to adopt a child through a private agency is very similar to that of adopting a child through the Children’s Aid Society. For a private adoption, you must contact a private adoption practitioner that has been approved by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services. In addition, you will be charged a fee for the private services, which is generally between $15,000 and $25,000.
Adopting a member of your own family
If you want to adopt a member of your own family, such as a grandchild or step-child, you do not need to go through the Children’s Aid Society or a private adoption agency. However, you still need to go to court to get a formal adoption order. An assessment by an adoption practitioner is not needed for this type of adoption, unless the judge requires it.
However, if you wish to adopt a family member who lives outside Canada, there are a number of steps you must take, including:
- complete a homestudy assessment and training program,
- be approved by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services,
- apply through an Ontario agency licensed to handle adoptions in the child’s home country, and
- submit an application to Canadian immigration to get permission for your adopted child to move to Canada.
For personal or humanitarian reasons, many people choose to adopt a child from abroad.
For all international adoptions, two separate processes must be followed: 1) the adoption process, and 2) the immigration or citizenship process. In Canada, while the same immigration and citizenship processes apply to all provinces and territories, the rules for adoption differ in each region. For more information, refer to the Family Law topic #127 – Adopting a child from abroad.
The approval process for all adoptions
Ontario residents are required to complete two programs as part of the approval process for either a private, public or international adoption:
1) The Structured Analysis Family Evaluation (SAFE) homestudy is completed by licensed social workers approved by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services before approving the arrangements for the adoption. The purpose of homestudy is to assess the ability of the applicants to parent an adopted child, and involves discussions with an adoption worker about the adoptive parents attitudes towards parenting as well as exploring their values and beliefs. It can include references, medical reports and other personal information.
2) The Parent Resources for Information and Development and Education (PRIDE) program is a standardized training program to help prepare all prospective parents for the responsibilities of raising an adopted child. The curriculum involves a variety of areas such as: the importance of connections to the child’s birth family and kin, and the importance of cultural and racial awareness.
Adopting a child is a very important and complicated process For more information about adopting a child in Ontario, contact the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services.
Getting the legal help you need
Adopting a child is a complex process. It is advisable to get the legal help that’s right for you. If you are considering representing yourself in a family law matter, you may wish to get help from The Family Law Coach. Their experienced family law lawyers can provide information, legal assistance, advice and practical tips to help you prepare your case and improve your outcome. They provide specific services for fixed prices, and you only pay for the services you want. If you are considering hiring a lawyer to represent you, for legal advice and assistance regarding adoption and other family law matters, contact a family law lawyer.
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