What is adoption in Ontario?
Adoption is the legal process that gives children a permanent, loving relationship with a new family when their birth families are unable to care for them. Adoption 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. There are also targeted subsidies available for adoption for families with an annual income of $93,700 and under. You can learn more about the kinds of supports and subsidies available for adoptive families below.
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:
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 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 www.children.gov.on.ca.
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, Community and Social Servicess 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 www.children.gov.on.ca.
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:
- Complete a SAFE (Structured Analysis, Family Evaluation) home study.
- Complete PRIDE (Parent Resources for Information, Development, and Education) pre-service.
SAFE home study
- 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 https://secure.adoptontario.ca/pride.main.aspx.
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, Youth 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 about openness in adoption through our series of webinars.
2020–2021 data on adoption
In 2020–2021*, 525 adoptions were completed through Ontario Children’s Aid Societies. In 2020-2021, 387 adoptions (almost three quarters) included Openness provisions.
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.
* These numbers were reported from 38 non-Indigenous member agencies. They are derived from the Q4 2020-2021 Ministry Quarterly Reports (as of October 29, 2021).
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, Community and Social Servicess.
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, Community and Social Servicess (MCCSS) – MCCSS 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.
The province of Ontario provides adoption supports to families that have adopted through a Children’s Aid Society.
These supports include:
- Targeted subsidies for adoption for families with an annual income of $93,700 and under. The subsidies provide $1,035 per month per child between the ages of 8 and 21, up to a maximum of $12,420 per year per child;
- The Aftercare Benefits Initiative, which has now been extended to include adopted Crown wards between the ages of 18 to 24, if they don’t have access to drug and dental benefits through their employer, adoptive parents, or a spouse’s plan. The adoption must have occurred on or after June 1, 2016. The program offers prescription drug, dental, extended health and counselling benefits, and life skills supports that they might not otherwise be able to afford. Eligibility will be for four consecutive years up to age 24. It is administered by the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies (OACAS);
- The Living and Learning Grant (LLG) to help youth from care and adoptive families with the costs of pursuing postsecondary education. Ontario is expanding eligibility to include adopted Crown wards aged 18 to 24 who were adopted on or after August 1, 2013. Youth must be enrolled in full-time postsecondary programs that are approved under the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) beginning August 1, 2016. Effective August 1, 2016, the grant will provide eligible youth with $2,000 a semester ($500 per month) of full-time postsecondary studies to a maximum of $6,000 per academic year to help with educational expenses. Eligible youth may receive the grant for a maximum of four academic years;
- Funding to support customary care, a culturally appropriate placement option for First Nations children and youth. The one-time financial assistance of $5,000 supports First Nations families to provide a safe, secure, and comfortable environment to children and youth;
- Specialized training through the Adoption Council of Ontario for parents who adopt through Children’s Aid Societies;
- The Parent2Parent Support Network to support families that are new to adoption by matching them with experienced adoptive parents. This program is run by Adopt4Life, the association for adoptive parents in Ontario.
To learn more about these supports and subsidies please visit the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Servicess.
OACAS submission to the MCCSS Adoption Enhancement Review
In September 2015 the Minister of Children and Youth Services (MCCSS) announced a number of initiatives to support permanency and adoption services in Ontario. These initiatives include a review of adoption services in Ontario, (specifically a cost benefit analysis).
The MCCSS “Adoptions Enhancement Review” was formally launched in September 2016 and is being conducted by KPMG. The Review involves meetings with CASs, focus group participation, and extensive data collection from all CASs.
In response to the Ministry announcement of a review, the OACAS convened the New Directions in Permanency Workgroup in January 2016 to research and analyse permanency practices in Ontario with a specific focus on adoption. OACAS delivered the submission to MCCSS in October 2016. Download the submission.