What is adoption in Ontario?

Adoption is a compassionate gift of family to a child or youth in need of a legal, permanent, loving relationship. Adoption is the legal process that gives children a new family when their birth families are unable to care for them. It is intended to provide children with the stability and lifelong security that comes from a permanent home.

Some things to consider about adoption

It’s all about the match. The needs of the child come first, and a successful match takes place when a family is found that possesses all the skills and characteristics that can provide for the child’s needs.

You don’t have to be rich to adopt. You just need to be sure that you can meet the needs of the child(ren). Children’s Aid Societies (CASs) do not charge fees for the home studies, the training, or the adoption service.

Every child is unique. And because of this, every adoption will be unique. One thing that each child has in common is the need for a forever family.

It takes time. The process to find the right match, have a home study done, and complete the training can take time. The time it takes to go through the adoption process also varies depending on the needs and situation of the child.

In Ontario, there are several ways in which you can adopt. People often explore options in all three systems:

Pamphlet cover_EN

“Adoption In Ontario: Private, Public and Inter-Country” is a brochure for prospective adoptive parents that clarifies how the three adoption streams in Ontario work. It is available for download.

Public adoption

Public adoption involves the adoption of a child or youth currently in the care of Ontario’s child welfare system. CASs can facilitate the adoption of a child or youth in their care. Typically, there are no fees associated with public adoption. Your local CAS will provide you with all the required information you will need to consider public adoption.

Private adoption

Private adoption is the process through which a child’s biological family makes the decision to pursue an adoption plan for their child, typically at birth, though a private adoption can be initiated at any age. The adoption is facilitated by a licensed Ontario adoption agency on a fee-for-service basis. To locate a list of agencies licensed to facilitate private adoption, go to

Inter-country adoption

Inter-country adoption involves the adoption of a child from another country by a resident of Ontario. Generally, inter-country adoption must be facilitated through a licensed Ontario adoption agency that is authorized to facilitate adoption by both the Ministry of Children and Youth Services and by the child’s country of origin. Services are provided on a fee-for-service basis and vary depending on the adoption agency’s fee schedule. To locate a list of adoption agencies licensed to facilitate inter-country adoption, go to

All three options can be explored to build your family through adoption;  it is important to educate yourself about each of them to determine the pathway that is best for you.

How does adoption work?

Applicants in Ontario must complete the following requirements in order to adopt:

  1. Complete a SAFE (Structured Analysis, Family Evaluation) home study.
  2. Complete PRIDE (Parent Resources for Information, Development, and Education) pre-service.

SAFE home study

  • Application
  • Home safety checklist and questionnaires
  • Medical report, police and child welfare clearances, and references

A SAFE home study may only be completed by a Children’s Aid worker or a Ministry-approved practitioner. A SAFE home study can take 4–6 months to complete and is generally valid for up to 2 years.

Parent Resources for Information, Development, and Education (PRIDE) Training

PRIDE pre-service is a nine-module (27-hour) training program used to prepare and educate families interested in adoption, kinship care, customary care, and fostering. PRIDE curriculum includes information about the following:

  • Adoption and child welfare systems, processes, and laws
  • Attachment and loss
  • Child development and issues specific to the needs of adopted children
  • The effects of neglect, lack of stimulation, abuse, and institutionalization on children
  • Identity formation and the importance of cultural and racial awareness
  • The importance of connections and continuity for children

PRIDE pre-service training can be completed through a CAS at no cost or through a private PRIDE trainer for a fee. Please contact your local CAS to enquire about PRIDE or view a schedule of private PRIDE pre-service training sessions at

A portable home study

Once your home study is completed you can apply to adopt through private, public, or inter-country adoption.

Each adoption system has unique requirements. Additional documentation, interviews, and education may be necessary.  No one practitioner or agency can fully approve you to adopt within all three systems, and CASs cannot complete a home study for the sole purpose of inter-country adoption.

There may be instances when your SAFE home study requires an update:

  • Change of adoption system (for example, public to inter-country)
  • Change of circumstances (you have a new partner, child, you have moved to a new home or area in the province)
  • Change of child profile (you would like to expand your criteria to include different sex, age, special needs, etc.)
  • You will be required to update any information that was not provided or has changed since your original home study


Becoming approved as an adoptive applicant takes time.

Completing all the requirements for adoption in Ontario may take up to 1 year. Your local CAS may have a wait list for PRIDE training or completion of your SAFE home study based on staffing and resources available.

In all three systems, children are placed based on the match with the family. The time frame for a match, and subsequent placement of a child, depends on the type of adoption you are pursuing and the profile of the child you are hoping to adopt.

Your local CAS or private adoption practitioner can discuss with you the time frames you may need to consider in your unique circumstance.

After 2 years, your SAFE home study will require an update.  This will involve obtaining new references, criminal and child welfare clearances, medical reports, and a meeting with an adoption professional to update your information.

What is openness in adoption?

“Openness in adoption” refers to the possibility of adoption for Crown wards who have maintained relationships with their family of origin. Openness in adoption was introduced in 2011, when Bill 179, Building Families and Supporting Youth to be Successful Act, introduced changes to the Ontario Child and Family Services Act that removed legal barriers to permanency for youth in care in Ontario who have relationships with their family of origin.

Despite the recent increases in permanency supports for children and youth in care, there remain thousands of children in care in Ontario with Crown ward status who are not available for adoption. Some children and youth are not emotionally prepared to engage in a process of seeking an adoptive family, with significant needs for healing from grief and loss experiences. Many Crown wards will remain in their current foster families, with a focus on how to best support these families in committing to a lifelong and legally permanent relationship to these children through either adoption or legal custody.

Learn more by reading our brochure, “Guide for Foster Parents Considering Legal Custody of a Child or Youth with Crown Wardship Status



Learn more about openness in adoption through our series of webinars.

2013–2014 data on adoption

In 2013–2014, 977 adoptions were completed in Ontario, with 406 of these children and youth having a form of openness agreement.

In 2013–2014, there were 871 children awaiting adoption. The number of families interested in adopting exceeds the number of children available for adoption.

The number of children available to be adopted has decreased steadily in the last 5 years. This is because of the increased focus of CASs on keeping children living safely with their families.

Other resources

Adoption Council of Ontario — The Adoption Council of Ontario is a not-for-profit organization providing outreach, support, and education to all adoptees, adoptive parents, potential adoptive parents, birth families, and adoption professionals in Ontario.

Adopt Ontario — A photolisting website that connects children from CASs in Ontario waiting for adoption with families in Ontario. Adopt Ontario is a program of the Adoption Council of Ontario.

Adoption Resource Exchange — The Adoption Resource Exchange conference helps locate and match adoptive families with Ontario children needing adoption and is hosted in the spring and fall each year by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services.

Best Practices of the Portability of Pride Pre-Service Training and a Safe Home Study — This is a guide intended for Ontario adoption professionals. The purpose of the guide is to provide clarity and transparency around the portability of the home evaluation and training requirements for adoptive parents across the different adoptions streams in Ontario.

Ministry of Children and Youth Services (MCYS) – MCYS provides oversight of CASs and CAS children and youth who are available to be adopted.

Read the recent announcement from the Ministry about funding to increase options for permanency here.

Upcoming events

2016 Adoption Resource Exchange

The Ministry of Children and Youth Services has announced that the Spring 2016 Adoption Resource Exchange will take place on Sunday, April 17, 2016, from 9 am to 3 pm at the International Plaza Hotel and Conference Centre in Toronto. For more information and to register please click here.