What you need to know about adoption in Canada

Adopting a child can be a long and complicated process. Here’s what you need to know.

toddler and parent Photo: iStock

In Canada, there are five different types of adoption: adopting within the welfare system (public), adopting through an agency (private), adopting a child in another country (international), adopting a stepchild and adopting a birth relative (kinship adoption). Adoption in Canada can be a complicated process. Here is a short primer on things to keep in mind.

What to do beforehand Before considering adoption, it’s important for applicants who have struggled with infertility to submit themselves to the grieving process. “If they haven’t had time to grieve their infertility, it’s harder for them to acknowledge the role that birth parents play in adopted children’s lives,” says Tina McCann, an adoption practitioner and executive director of the Adoption Agency and Counselling Service of Ontario.

Though it’s not necessary, it can be quite helpful for adoptive parents to consult with a lawyer to understand the legal framework. This consultation can help applicants make the right choice for them between private, public and international adoption. For instance, with foreign adoptions, same-sex couples and single parents may be limited to which countries they can adopt from.

The process for domestic adoption Domestic adoption in Canada is similar across the country, but the process may vary, depending on the province or agency you’re dealing with. When going through a public adoption agency, applicants must attend an initial intake meeting, where the agency will outline the adoption procedure and let them know the estimated waiting period. From there, applicants must complete a formal application for the agency.

In Ontario, adoptive parents take a mandatory educational 27-hour course called Parent Resources for Information, Development and Education (PRIDE) training. “If people are really looking to see if adoption is a good fit for them and find out what the issues related to adopting a child are, this is an effective way to find out,” says McCann. Agencies in other provinces also require a similar preparation course.

The next step, which sometimes happens in conjunction with PRIDE training, is a home study conducted by an adoption practitioner or a social worker. During the home study, applicants are required to provide an autobiographical statement, a medical exam, a police check and at least five reference letters and get clearance from the Children’s Aid Society. The goal of the home study is to assess the applicant’s ability to deal with issues that may arise with adoption. Costs for home studies for private adoptions vary according to the province you live in, but the average is around $2,500 to $3,000. A home study for a public adoption in Canada is free.


Once the home study is completed, applicants must see an adoption licensee. For foreign adoptions, applicants should contact the international adoption agency before the home study is completed to ensure that all of the eligibility requirements of the country are met during the course of the home study. “We’re looking at the parameters of acceptance,” says McCann. “In other words, we’re really looking to have a good match between birth parents and adoptive parents.” This is what often slows down the process in private adoptions because birth parents may have concerns, says McCann. Some birth parents may look for families of a similar ethnicity or want the adoptive parents to have a university education, while others may be more concerned with the level of communication that adoptive parents are willing to have after the adoption.

The process can range from nine months to nine years, depending on the type of adoption you’re doing and the province you live in. According to the Adoption Council of Canada, the cost of adoption in Canada ranges anywhere from $0 (public adoption) to $30,000 (foreign adoption), depending on the type of adoption.

Applicants who are interested in foreign adoption should keep in mind that it is the most complicated type of adoption. The rules on foreign adoption vary from country to country. All international adoptions are arranged through private agencies, but applicants may also consult with a lawyer before proceeding.

Once the casework is completed, a report is written and presented to the adoption agency for approval. The decision to accept a family isn’t up to just one individual.

This article was originally published on May 10, 2016

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