Adoptions in B.C. are governed by the Adoption Act, which severs legal ties between a child and their biological parent(s) while creating permanent and profound legal ties between the child and the 1 or 2 adopting adults.
Interesting facts about adoptions in B.C.:
- In order to adopt a child in British Columbia, each applicant must be a resident of B.C.
- The adopting parents do not need to have any kind of relationship between them.
- An applicant can apply to become a joint parent with someone who is already a parent to the child, but a child cannot have three legal parents by adoptions in B.C., so in those cases the court will sometimes just give guardianship to an applicant instead of allowing the adoption.
Types of Adoptions
Agency placements occur when the child is not in state care and the applicants have no prior relationship with the child. For an agency placement, the applicant must have a home study conducted by a registered social worker and a new home study is required each time you introduce a new child do the home. The applicants must approach the Ministry of Children and Family Development, register their application and have an assessment done. Adoptions in B.C. done in this manner are confidential by default. The child can be placed immediately from birth, but the child must be in the adopting parent’s home for 6 months before adoptions in B.C. can be finalized. A post-placement report is done after the finalization of adoptions in B.C.
Direct placements have the same requirements of pre-placement assessments and registering notice of adoption that is seen in agency placements, but the agency doesn’t act as an intermediary in finding or matching the parties. The adopting parent party and the biological parent party don’t have to know each other personally, or exchange any information with each other, but they do have to undergo criminal record checks. The parties should approach a B.C. agency together; the agency then facilitates the process.
Ministry placements occur when the Director of the Ministry of Children and Family Development places children for adoption in B.C. Unlike other types of adoption, Ministry placements do not require the consent of the child’s biological parents. If the child has aboriginal heritage, the Ministry must consult with the child’s band when contemplating placement, but ultimately the band’s consent is not required. The birth parent or a child over 12 years of age may sign an agreement terminating the band’s consultation rights; notably, the termination of band ties does not terminate the child’s aboriginal rights. A placement for an indigenous child must ensure that the child is aware of their aboriginal rights and heritage.
Open adoptions occur when the parties sign an openness agreement. The birth parents tend to hold control over what the agreement looks like in each case. Open agreements are usually the more secure option for the child and for the adoptive parents, and they help the biological parent(s) grieve appropriately and to keep up with what the child does in life. It can be very beneficial for the child, as they know they are adopted from a young age, rather than learning later in life that they were adopted.
International adoptions can be very complicated. An applicant bringing a child into B.C. for this purpose triggers the Adoption Act, the Immigration Act, and the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry Adoptions. The applicant will need agency approval even if they are related to the child. The most effective method for international adoptions is for the applicant to travel to the child’s country of origin, complete the adoption there, and return to Canada with the child once they have permanent residency or direct citizenship. Often, after crises abroad, potential parents will want to adopt children from the location of the crisis. The UN strongly discourages this, putting a moratorium on adopting children from the area for the two years following the crisis, to encourage children being reunited with their family and to discourage human trafficking.
Custom adoptions occur when a First Nations band or other aboriginal community conducts an adoption according to their tradition. Custom adoptions in B.C. are not technically an adoption order, but they do have the same effect as adoption orders. One major drawback is that it can be hard to get documentation of the adoption recognized, especially off-reserve. There is no uniform documentation for custom adoptions.