New adoption rules could help find homes for children

By 
  • April 27, 2011
TORONTO - Proposed changes to Ontario’s adoption laws will make more children in care eligible for adoption, said Dina MacPhail of the Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Toronto (CCAS).

“I think it can only benefit the children who are crown wards and in our care,” said MacPhail, speaking of the Building Families and Supporting Youth to be Successful Act 2011.

The changes to the Child and Family Services Act, brought forth in mid-April by Children and Youth Services Minister Laurel Broten and still to be voted upon, include removing access orders that prevent 75 per cent of children and youth in children’s aid care from being eligible for adoption.

“You might have a child who is in a group home or a foster home and his adoption is blocked because he sees his birth parents once every year,” said MacPhail, a child protection worker in the adoption department at CCAS. “We cannot do an adoption for a child that has an access order.”

At any given time in Ontario, 18,000 children and youth are receiving services from a children’s aid society, said Broten. Roughly 9,000 of them are Crown wards in the care of the province.

Jeff Gunnarson, project manager at Campaign Life Coalition, said cutting off access and allowing more children to be adopted is a good thing.

“Adoptive parents don’t want to have to constantly expose the child to his or her past which may just serve to confuse or divide the bond that’s supposed to be there between the child and the adoptive parents,” said Gunnarson.

Subsidies for adoptive parents are also being considered.

“The biggest increase I think we’ll see is foster parents wanting to adopt the children they’ve raised in their homes for many years because they’ll be able to financially afford to adopt them,” said MacPhail.

The bill also includes providing more online information that is easy to navigate about all types of adoption including public, private and international. In addition, it aims to create more forums — Adoption Resource Exchanges — that match children with prospective parents. It would also reduce wait times for “home studies” of prospective parents.

But Gunnarson said that while the changes will cut down some of the barriers to adoption, they won’t necessarily decrease the caseload. This is because it’s difficult for parents to consider adopting children who are over two or three years old — and many crown wards are older.

“I don’t think we’ll see thousands of kids suddenly adopted so I think they should focus on (getting them adopted) right at the beginning,” he said.

Broten hopes to have the bill passed before the legislature dissolves for the fall election.

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