For a fresh start on adoptions

Posted on August 28, 2009 in Child & Family Debates – Opinion/Editorial – For a fresh start on adoptions …
August 27, 2009

Thousands of Ontarians who want to complete their family with adoption encounter bureaucratic barriers that delay and frustrate their hopes. Meanwhile, we have 9,200 Crown wards, many of these children longing to be adopted. Ontario throws barriers in their way, too.

Now, an expert panel on infertility and adoption has put forward some compelling and practical ideas to overhaul our sometimes absurdly hurtful system. Raising Expectations, released yesterday, calls for a central adoption agency to oversee and co-ordinate dozens of regional Children’s Aid Society operations across the province, as well as private and foreign adoptions.

This approach would actively match Crown wards with families and set up consistent requirements for families wanting to adopt any child. Giving children a dedicated advocate, and offering parents a one-stop shop that actually helps guide them through the process, are long overdue ideas. The panel also recommends providing a portion of the subsidy now given to foster parents (who temporarily care for children) to adoptive parents as well. This will address the fears of some families that they cannot afford to adopt a Crown ward with special needs requiring costly services.

The report argues persuasively that this will cost taxpayers less than keeping children in foster care and, as in other jurisdictions, result in more children being adopted – with far better outcomes thanks to the benefits of a permanent home.

The panel sensibly calls on the government to reduce the legal barriers that still prevent far too many Crown wards from being eligible for adoption. At present, contact orders (which preserve ties with their birth families) leave 70 per cent of Crown wards in a legal limbo. They cannot be adopted and are endlessly shuffled between foster homes and groups homes.

They deserve better. And, as Children’s Minister Deb Matthews has already acknowledged, “we can do better.”

Matthews is acutely aware of just how badly we are failing Crown wards. She knows they are less likely to graduate from high school and more likely to become homeless and rely on social assistance as adults than children raised in stable families.

For Crown wards, our adoption system is broken; for private and foreign adoptions, it is needlessly cumbersome.

When Matthews struck this panel she sought ideas on how Ontarians “with a little bit of help, could actually start to build a family.”

On adoption, the panel has done its job. It’s time for Matthews to act.

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