Governor General urges Ontario to act on adoption and infertility
TheStar.com – News/Canada
Published On Thu Dec 02 2010. Robert Benzie and Laurie Monsebraaten, Staff Reporters
Governor General David Johnston used his first official visit to Queen’s Park to implore MPPs to make it easier for women to get pregnant and for families to adopt children.
“We have some gaps with respect to adoption, we have some gaps with respect to fertility,” Johnston said Thursday at the Legislature.
In 2008, the McGuinty Liberals asked Johnston to head the Expert Panel on Infertility and Adoption, as part of an election promise.
The panel’s August 2009 report “Raising Expectations” recommended Ontario become the best jurisdiction in the world in which to have a family, the Governor General said.
To do that, the report called for an overhaul of the province’s adoption bureaucracy, which currently allows thousands of Crown wards to languish in foster care while several thousand families wait years to adopt.
It recommended policy changes to make it easier for Crown wards with court-ordered access to their birth families or relatives to be adopted into permanent homes.
And it pressed for modest adoption subsidies to help families manage the extra cost of raising children with histories of abuse and neglect. Subsidies of $8,000 to $15,000 annually would save taxpayers as much as $28 million within five years, the panel estimated.
“We have 10,000 Crown wards in our province now each year — children who’ve been taken away from their families because they do not have a safe environment,” Johnson said. “We only place five per cent of those 10,000 children each year.
“Think of . . . the physical cost of that and then think of the significance of those 95 per cent who do not have a permanent, loving family,” he said. “We can do better than that and I know we will.
“I encourage all of you members of the Legislative Assembly to read that report first of all for the values that it speaks to . . . and then to identify those gaps and systematically” to deal with them, Johnston said.
Johnston has five daughters and seven grandchildren. Two of his grandchildren were adopted from Colombia; two are the result of fertility treatment; and two came about through a surrogate mother carrying the embryos of one of his daughters and sons-in-law.
Premier Dalton McGuinty, who counts one of Johnston’s daughters as a senior adviser, hailed the new governor general.
“Ontarians are with you all the way,” McGuinty said.
A government official said the premier was aware Johnston was going to mention his work on the provincial panel during his visit.
“We’re reviewing the report now and working with various ministries, including Health, to determine the best way forward,” the official said.
“The global economic recession hit Ontario hard, and this review is helping us look at how we can act given the tight fiscal situation we are in,” the official added. “We are looking forward to taking action on the report, and having more to say soon.”
Adoption reform advocates praised Johnston for highlighting the issue in his new role.
“I think these are values that the McGuinty government shares with the Governor General and I hope that they will take this time to step up and act,” said expert panel member William Falk.
Falk, a father of two adopted sons, joined the Adoption Council of Ontario at Queen’s Park last month to press the province for action on the report that is now 15 months old.
All the key interest groups support the main thrust of the expert panel report, he said.
“That report was financially rigorous,” he added. “The returns on this are quick and long-term.”
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