Adoption subsidies help children find a family

Posted on May 14, 2011 in Child & Family Policy Context

Source: — Authors: – opinion/editorials
Published On Sat May 14 2011.

Most children removed from their families for their own protection do not get placed with a permanent new family. They are shuffled through various foster homes or, worse still, placed in institutional group homes.

This doesn’t give them the love and stability they need to overcome their challenging start in life. It’s also a bad deal for taxpayers who fund this expensive, ineffective system. Far better for everyone if these Crown wards find what many say they want most of all: a “forever family.”

Adoption was never the likely outcome for four siblings all with severe health and emotional problems. But, as the Star’s Laurie Monsebraaten reports in today’s Insight section, it happened because of the willingness of the local children’s aid society to pay an ongoing subsidy. That subsidy — less than half what the government was paying to keep these children in foster care — meant that Annette Schoelier could afford to adopt them all.

Since Ontario does not have an official program for adoption subsidies, this sort of storybook ending is all too rare. The decision to offer a subsidy is left entirely in the hands of Ontario’s 53 children’s aid societies. Some offer help. Others don’t.

Not everyone who adopts a Crown ward will need or even want an ongoing subsidy. But it makes good sense for it to be an option for children with special medical and emotional needs that require costly services.

Indeed, such a subsidy was a key recommendation of the 2009 expert panel appointed to improve Ontario’s adoption system. Led by David Johnston, now Canada’s governor general, the panel concluded that Ontario was “out of step” with other jurisdictions. It said that greater use of subsidies could raise adoption rates and save $36 million a year.

Yet when Children’s Minister Laurel Broten introduced welcome legislative changes in April to remove legal barriers to Crown ward adoptions, she did not bring in a standardized subsidy system. She vowed to study the issue some more.

Now she says her ministry is consulting with children’s aid societies to figure out how to turn the current discretionary, case-by-case approach into a sensible province-wide policy. What should the criteria for subsidies be?

It’s past time to make this a priority. The clock is ticking both for the children, whose chances of being adopted go down as they age, and for this government to get a system in place before the October election.

Many parents who adopt Crown wards do not want or need ongoing assistance. But those who do should be considered according to a set of provincially accepted criteria — and not be subject to the whims and pocketbooks of individual children’s aid societies.

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