During November, OACAS and Children’s Aid Societies (CASs) across Ontario are promoting Adoption Awareness Month to raise awareness about the importance of life-long relationships for children and youth in care. Adoption is one of a range of permanency options CASs consider when making decisions about the best setting for a child or youth. Other permanency options include kinship service, kinship care, customary care, legal custody, and transition to adulthood.
Children’s Aid Societies are looking for families with the right fit to match the special needs of children available for adoption. This requires finding adoptive parents with the strengths and skills to deal with children who may have complex needs because of the experiences that brought them into care, behavioral issues, mental health, and medical issues. Prospective adoptive families are often surprised to find out that the average age of crown wards who have been in care for more than two years is over 14 years old, and that children often want to be adopted with their siblings.
Adoptive families also increasingly need to have the flexibility, commitment, and skills to facilitate ongoing contact with persons of significance from their child’s life prior to adoption. The Child, Youth and Family Services Act includes “Openness” provisions that lay out a process for setting up parameters for a child to have continuing contact with birth parents, birth siblings, other birth family members, or a significant person or community member in the child’s life. In 2016/17 there were a total of 767 adoptions completed through a CAS and over a third of these adoptions included “Openness” as part of the adoption arrangement.
“Openness now occurs in 99 per cent of adoptions in the private system” says Mary Polgar, senior policy analyst at OACAS. “Public adoptions are increasingly moving in this direction, though it is more complex. But child welfare recognizes that “Openness” helps children to stay in touch with their roots, makes them better able to acknowledge and resolve their loss, and helps them understand their story.”
During Adoption Awareness Month OACAS will be sharing materials that increase understanding about how “openness” works in public adoption.