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Adopting in Alberta

What is public adoption?

In Canada, a public adoption is facilitated by a province or territory's government agency (i.e. Children's Aid Society) and involves children who are in the permanent care of the government. The majority of the children are over the age of two years and many have special needs that require specialized parenting.

These special needs may include:

  • being part of a sibling group that needs to stay together;
  • they were exposed to drugs or alcohol in utero and may or may not have some behavioural and learning disabilities;
  • they have difficulty attaching to a new family;
  • they have suffered abuse or neglect and this has delayed their ability to learn and develop;
  • they need to be adopted by a family of the same heritage or culture (i.e. First Nations children)

The children available for adoption through the public system are in care because the courts have determined that their biological parents are not capable of parenting them for a variety of reasons. If you're hoping to adopt an infant, most social workers will tell you that there are fewer babies available today and that you'll wait several years.

There are a number of reasons for fewer infant adoptions:

  • there are fewer unplanned pregnancies, education about birth control and many women choose abortion.
  • there are more social assistance programs available to young parents and as a society, we've made it difficult and unacceptable for potential birth mothers to make adoption plans;
  • for parents who decide to place their child for adoption, they now have the option of using a private adoption agency. Private adoption agencies involve birth families in choosing adoptive families and promote openness in adoption.

Adopting an infant through the public system, although difficult, is not impossible as there are some birth parents who do consent to adoption. There are also situations where newborns are apprehended from the hospital and within a few months, the Courts terminate the rights of biological parents and the infant can be placed for adoption.

Realistically, newborns who are apprehended at the hospital often stay in foster care for months before a permanency plan can be made. The Courts generally give the birth parent(s) an opportunity to make changes and prove that they can parent their child. This opportunity may be for a period of several months in which time the birth parent(s) may be required to attend parenting classes, improve their housing situations or for some, enter rehab for drug and/or alcohol addictions. Some children are closer to their first birthday by the time a plan is set in motion.

Overview: The Public Adoption Process

Public agencies, like the Children's Aid, focus on finding the right family for a child, rather than a child for a family. When planning a public adoption, a number of social workers will collaborate to ensure the child's best interests are kept in mind when finding a 'forever family' for them.

Depending on the province or territory, the process to adopt a child through a public agency will vary, but looks similar to the following:

  • Contact your local Children's Aid Society or Family Services Agency
  • Attend an information session
  • Complete application forms as well as medical and police checks
  • Attend adoption training classes (i.e. PRIDE) if required
  • Submit family and social histories as well as your references
  • Wait to be assigned a social worker who will perform your home study
  • The Home study (more info)
  • Wait for a child to be matched with your family
  • A match is made and a child is placed with your family
  • Transition the child to your home through several visits
  • Probationary period (with follow-up visits from your worker)
  • Your worker will submit a post placement report and begin the paper work for finalization
  • Adoption Order is granted by the Court
Advantages of Public Adoption   Disadvantages of Public Adoption
  • Cost - Public agencies do not charge families any fees to adopt children. The only costs involved would be the fee for a police clearance report as well as a report by your familiy doctor after having a complete medical examination.

  • Children of all ages - Not everyone who adopts wants a baby and if sleepless nights and diaper duty aren't for you, then adopting an older child (3 to 18 years), is very possible in public adoption.

  • Legal Issues - By the time most children in care can be adopted, they are wards of the state and legally free to be adopted. Adoptive parents don't have to worry about birth parents changing their mind.
  • The Wait - Adopting through the public system can take years. It can take months or even longer just to start the home study and then many families wait years for a match.

  • Very Few Newborns/Infants - If you're hoping to adopt a healthy newborn, then you will wait several years. Most birth parents work with private agencies because they are more flexible than public agencies and they can choose the adoptive family as well as have an open adoption.

  • Special Needs - The majority of the children in the permanent care of the state have special needs that can challenge even the most experienced parents. These children required specialized parenting because of the abuse and/or neglected they've suffered. There are also children who have physical, emotional and/or behavioural problems.




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