Hot! Ontario to provide adoption subsidies for older children

TheStar.com – parentcentral.ca/parent/newsfeatures
September 1, 2011.   Laurie Monsebraaten,  Social Justice Reporter

Ontario will spend $9.5 million over the next two years on adoption subsidies for parents who adopt siblings and children age 10 and older.

The subsidies are being announced by Children and Youth Services Minister Laurel Broten as part of new legislation that becomes law Thursday, which is aimed at removing legal barriers currently trapping most of the province’s 9,000 Crown wards in foster care.

Provincial officials said the subsidy money will be available through Children’s Aid Societies to eligible families who want to adopt or gain legal custody of a Crown ward. While specific eligibility criteria are still being worked out with CASs, Broten said she is pleased to be announcing a province-wide strategy on subsidies and new funding to support it.

“There is nothing more important in the life of a child than knowing he or she will always have a place to call home,” Broten said in a statement. “With the new legislation and new subsidies thousands more kids will have the opportunity to find their forever family.”

For the upcoming year, the province is proposing $3.5 million in targeted subsidies amounting to about 60 per cent of the current foster care rate — although this could rise to up to 75 per cent for children with high physical or emotional needs, officials said. The current foster care rate is about $19,000 per child annually.

In cases where families require only limited assistance, Children’s Aid Societies will have the flexibility to provide one-time subsidies for specific needs such as help to buy bunk beds for siblings, officials said.

Adoption advocates heralded the Liberal government’s new adoption law when it was unanimously passed in the legislature in June. But they were disappointed it did not include a provincial subsidy plan to make it financially easier for parents to adopt older children, who often have complex medical or social needs.

Both Tory and NDP children’s critics also criticized the government on this point.

At the time, Broten said she was working on province-wide eligibility criteria to help Children’s Aid Societies determine which adoptive parents should qualify.

Adoption subsidies were one of the key recommendations of the province’s Expert Panel on Infertility and Adoption, which in 2009 called on the province to double the number of adoptions of Crown wards within five years.

“This is fabulous news for kids and the families who want to give them a permanent home. Forever families are hard to build. Especially with older kids and sibling groups,” said panel member William Falk.

“The old system has been a patchwork quilt,” Falk said. The minister has addressed the most crying need by funding older kids and sibling groups, he added.

“There is more to be done but this is a great start.”

This week’s legislation dates back to the Liberals’ 2007 election promise to appoint an expert panel to review adoption.

The panel’s recommendations appeared to be going nowhere until advocates held a Queen’s Park news conference last December and Broten made it a top priority Falk said.

Until now 75 per cent of Ontario’s Crown wards were ineligible for adoption because of court orders legally preventing adoption.

Under the new law these court orders which set out the type of contact Crown wards have with their birth family will be terminated when children are placed for adoption. In cases where some contact would be healthy for a child courts could make “openness” orders.

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