This is the third in my series about options available to people facing unintended pregnancies as I did as a teenager. I have previously written on Abortion and Parenting. This article is about choosing adoption. Adoption is the option I have the most experience with since it was the choice we made.
Adoption in Ontario and in many parts of the world is often not the first choice when dealing with an unintended pregnancy. The idea of carrying a pregnancy to term and then not keeping the child is a challenging idea for many. It is also important to acknowledge the terrible history and shame associated with adoption.
For many women, especially unmarried women their experience with adoption has been one of coercion, duplicity and outright theft of their children. Unmarried women who became pregnant were shamed and hidden away to have their babies. This was the proverbial visit to the aunt for an extended period of time so that she could be pregnant in secret and away from those who knew her and give birth, leaving the child behind to protect her reputation, etc. Women were forced into giving up their children for adoption, either by governments, churches or their families. Women were sometimes told that the child had died.
As terrible as this history is, it doesn’t even begin to touch on the theft of aboriginal children by governments in Canada, Australia and others. Children were taken from their aboriginal parents to be placed with white parents or to be raised by the state in residential schools or foster homes. The Canadian government had a formal program to “Take the Indian out of the child” which was appalling, horrible and destructive to all who were involved, most especially to the children and families that were torn apart.
This post is not about these historical / ongoing abuses, but it is important to acknowledge them. This post is also not about children who are seized from their unsafe homes by child protection agencies and ultimately placed for adoption. This is about parents choosing adoption when dealing unplanned pregnancies.
In Ontario and I suspect many jurisdictions, there are two primary options when considering placing a child(ren) for adoption.
Adoptions can be done through public / state agencies like the Children’s Aid Society or privately.
Like my posts on Abortion and Parenting options much of this content has been provided through the Planned Parenthood Ottawa Options Support Service. As such some of these details may be applicable only in Ontario or Canada so if you or someone you know are considering placing children for adoption I would encourage you to do research on your local circumstances.
Adoption is the legal process that gives custody of a child to individual(s) other than the birth parent(s). It is intended to be a permanent arrangement for the child. Adoption is regulated under the Child and Family Services Act of Ontario (CFSA). Adoption can occur publicly (through the Children’s Aid Society) or privately (through an adoption agency and Licensee).
Many different agencies cater to the requirements of a private adoption process.
All agencies offer their unique approach to private adoption and include different programs that are not provided at all agencies; however, the goals, legal processes and required interactions with all parties involved during adoption are consistent within all agencies.
There is a fee for potential adoptive parents; this fee will include: payment of services provided by the adoption worker/agency (home studies, licensee, collecting information etc.) along with services provided for the birth parent(s) (pre- and post- adoption counselling).
Collection of honest and thorough background information about the birth parent(s) (if they have access to it) is important during private adoption. It can be intrusive for the birth parent(s) because of the amount of information needed.
Birth parent(s) working with private adoption have a higher degree of input when it comes to outlining their desires for an adoptive parent.
The private adoption agency is required to conduct at least one home study on the potential adoptive parents. A home study takes place in the home of potential adoptive parents; an adoption worker assesses their skills and talents as potential parents along with the safety level of their current home.
An adoption cannot be completed without successfully passing the home studies.
The birth parent(s) are not involved with the home study of the potential adoptive parents
Adoption counselling for the birth parent(s) is offered for a predetermined time (uniquely decided by each agency) period leading up to and after placement of adoptee in most agencies. This is a voluntary counseling service, and the birth parent(s) are free to make that choice.
Counselling for the birth parent(s) after adoption occurs can provide an outlet to build coping methods and explore the feelings and emotions that could accompany the process of adoption.
It is important to recognize that in order to determine the most appropriate private adoption agency for individuals and their unique situations, independent research about different agencies is necessary.
Public adoption takes place through Children’s Aid Societies (CAS).
There is no cost to potential adoptive parents when adopting through the public sector.
Many adoptions that occur publicly are adoptions of Crown Ward’s (children of the state); however, there are birth parent(s) who choose adoption through the public sector rather than privately.
Children’s Aid Societies assign a ‘birth-parent- worker’ to the individual going through the unintended pregnancy and they assign an adoption worker to potential adoptive parents.
Mediations (about openness agreements, for example) occur through CAS workers rather than the families directly.
‘Birth-parent-workers’ are also responsible for making an adoption plan with the birth parent(s). The adoption plan includes what type of family is desired for adoption, potential counselling for the birth parent(s) pre- and post-adoption, whether or not a worker accompanies the birth parent(s) to the hospital or not etc.
This may take place at any time the birth parent(s) desires, this can occur as early as the first confirmed pregnancy test.
It should be noted that a ‘wish list’ of qualities possessed by the potential adoptive parents is respected but every requirement may not be met depending on the parents wanting to adopt and the best interest of the child.
No matter what, the best interest of the child is the central goal for all activities within the Children’s Aid Societies; adoption is no exception to this mandate.
Children’s Aid Societies offers counseling to birth parent(s) post-adoption; however, counseling offered is extremely short term. Because of this, referrals are often made to the community for birth parent(s) to receive adequate amounts of counseling.
Like private adoption, legal services are provided for the birth parent(s) when working through the process of public adoption. A lawyer is present at all signings in order to ensure that both the birth parent(s) and adoptive parent(s) understand their responsibilities and rights.
Rights of Birth Parent(s)
Time Period and Consent
Birth parent(s) must give written consent for an adoption to take place. If the child is a Crown ward, the director of the Children’s Aid Society is responsible for writing said consent.
Written consent cannot be given until the child is at least 8 days old.
Written consent is only valid when there is a legal representative and/or licensee present to ensure that the birth parent(s) understands the implications of their consent.
If consent is given immediately after birth, it is under the discretion of the birth parent(s) to determine whether or not they would like to care for their child until placement of child can be given.
Making the decision whether or not to care for a child within the 8 days before consent can be given is a subjective choice. It is important to note that whatever choice is made does not need to be validated by outside sources; considering birth parent(s) well-being is also important during this decision process.
There is a 21-day period after consent of adoption is given that a birth parent can submit a written withdrawal form (completed in front of a lawyer).
If the 21-day period has passed, withdrawal from consent of adoption can only be permitted if granted by the court. It is the responsibility of the court to determine whether the withdrawal of adoption and placement of child with their birth parent(s) is in the child’s best interest or not.
In Ontario the birth parent(s), adopted child, birth relative(s) and adoptive parent(s) can request information regarding the adoption records as long as the adoption was registered in Ontario. This is true regardless of whether the adoption was arranged publicly or privately.
Adoption is the choice we made when I was a teen. We placed twins for adoption and we did it publicly through the local Children’s Aid Society. I wasn’t involved in all details of the process so I am not sure why we went with the Children’s Aid Society. I presume my girlfriend’s parents just reached out to them and may not have been aware of other options, or perhaps they discovered that there were no private agencies available.
We met multiple times with an adoption worker who helped us through the process. She asked for details about what characteristics we wanted in the adoptive parents and then brought us five or six couples to consider. Ours was a closed adoption so all the information provided about the couples was anonymous. We picked a shortlist of two or three couples who were then notified that they were being considered and asked if they would be open to adopting twins. They then wrote us letters describing their partners and why they wanted to adopt.
Once we chose the parents we waited as the pregnancy progressed. The twins were born prematurely and so we had some time with them in the hospital before the adoptive parents were notified of their birth. Once J was ready to leave the hospital after she recovered from some complications we signed the adoption papers, took some pictures with the children we were leaving behind and left the hospital.
The adoptive parents had agreed to honour the names we chose for the twins in some way. Either by keeping them as first names or as middle names. As I mentioned, this was a closed adoption so we had no information about their new family. The adoptive parents did agree to send us letters and pictures until they were two. I carried one of those wallet-sized photos in my wallet for 20 years.
We were also given the opportunity to each write a letter to the twins that they could read when they were older. They also had to be more or less anonymous with no identifying information included.
I always wanted to find the twins when I got older and make sure that they were ok. We chose their parents and I hoped that we had picked the right people and that as a result the twins had good lives.
Placing a child for adoption after an unplanned pregnancy is one of the hardest choices you will ever make.Click To Tweet
Open Adoption Records
In 2008 the Ontario government opened the adoption records. This means that when an adoptee turns 18 they can request their original birth certificate with their birth parents names (assuming the birth mother included the father’s name). When the adoptee is 19, the birth parents can request the amended adoptive birth certificate with the adoptee(s) adopted names.
I went through this process and requested the twins’ amended certificates. Based on the information included in those certificates and the help of Mr. Google I was able to find them.
More to come on that part of the story…
If you are a birth parent, birth relative or adoptee and you would like to learn more about how to search for your birth family, you may find this post helpful.
Please share with your networks – you never know who might be searching and need help.