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International Adoption

The Department of Health and Social Services in Nunavut oversees all adoptions in the territory. At the present time, there are no private licensed adoption agencies in the territory and families hoping to adopt internationally must employ the services of agency from southern provinces. The Department of Health and Social Services does assist families with their homestudies and oversees adoption placements once the child joins his/her family in Nunavut.

Adopting a child from abroad is a complicated process. Nunavut’s laws, federal immigration laws and the laws of the child’s country must all be observed and met for the adoption to be legal and finalized. Nunavut is a partner in the Hague Convention and follows its laws and guides for adoption practices. If a family in Nunavut adopts from a country where the convention is not in force, the same principles and practices outlined in the Hague convention are honoured and followed wherever possible.

What is the Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoption?

With the increase of child abduction and trafficking around the world, many countries have signed the Hague Convention in an effort to make international adoption a safer and more secure process. The Hague Convention is an international agreement which lays out guidelines to govern adoption processes in these countries and to protect the best interests of children. The Convention also has safeguards in place to protect birth and adoptive families but its main goal is to ensure that an international adoption is in the best interests of a child and that his/her fundamental rights are protected. More information about the Hague Convention.

Canada has been a partner in the Hague Convention since 1993 and all provinces and territories follow the Convention’s guidelines. Canadians can adopt from countries that have not ratified the Hague Convention. These adoptions have similar steps but lack the assurances of Hague Convention adoptions.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada

Choosing the citizenship process or the immigration process

According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s web site, as of December 23, 2007, anyone adopted by a Canadian citizen after February 14th, 1977 can apply for a grant of Canadian citizenship without first becoming a permanent resident. Some new adoptions, however, will still need to use the immigration process. The following explains the two processes and will assist you in deciding which to pursue.

The Citizenship Process:

You can apply for citizenship for an adopted person if:

  • at least one adoptive parent is, or was, a Canadian citizen when the adoption took place
  • the adoption severs (or severed) all ties with the adopted person’s legal parents
  • the adoption was or will be completed outside Canada (except for Quebec)

The adopted person does not meet the requirements for the citizenship process if:

  • neither parent was a Canadian citizen when the adoption took place
  • the adoption took place before February 15, 1977
  • the adoption did not fully sever all ties with the child’s legal parents
  • the adoption will be completed in Canada, or
  • a probationary period is to be completed in Canada before a final adoption order is issued from the child’s birth country.

More information on how to apply for Citizenship can be found here: How to apply for Citizenship. More information on what happens after you apply for Citizenship can be found here: After applying for Citizenship

The Immigration Process:

You can use the immigration process to apply for permanent resident status for the adopted child if:

  • the adopted child is going to Canada to live right after the adoption takes place, or
  • one or both parents are Canadian citizens or permanent residents.

The adopted person does not meet the requirements for the immigration process if:

  • the adopted person is not going to Canada to live right after the adoption takes place
  • you are an adult adoptee living outside Canada and not returning to Canada to live right after your application is approved.

More information on Immigration can be found here: How to Apply for Immigration, After Applying for Immigration, Arriving in Canada with Your Child.

For more information regarding immigration issues, contact Citizenship and Immigration Toll Free at: 1-888-242-2100.

International Adoption Expenses

The expenses for international adoptions are quite high and will vary based on the requirements of the child’s country of origin, agency programs, coordinator fees and several other factors. On average, most international adoptions cost anywhere from $18,000 to $50,000.

In New Brunswick, adoptive families are responsible for the following costs incurred in an international adoption:

  • the home assessment report fees and parent training courses
  • application and registration fees for a licensed adoption agency
  • translation and courier fees
  • immigration fees
  • the child’s medical evaluations
  • the agency fees in the child’s country
  • travel and accommodations
  • legal fees and post placement reports

The Role of An International Adoption Agency

Hiring a licensed private adoption agency that has a good reputation as well as one that has policies, payment deadlines and staff you’re comfortable with is very important to the success of your family’s adoption. After all, your agency is responsible for the total management of the international adoption process until the adoption is complete and your child safely enters New Brunswick.

Your licensed international adoption agency will:

  • Ensure that the laws related to international adoption in Canada, New Brunswick , and the child’s country of origin are followed
  • Help you understand the laws and procedures of New Brunswick and the country from which you wish to adopt
  • Provide information to assist you in choosing the country from which you wish to adopt, if you have not yet made the choice
  • Review immigration procedures with you
  • Prepare you for your experience of adopting from another country
  • Present you with a service contract for your signature, as indicated under costs
  • Review and explain the Memorandum for Adoptive Applicants to you

Your licensed agency is also responsible for arranging the preparation and submission of follow up reports where required by the other country.

The Children Available for Adoption

Like Canada, there are children of all ages waiting to be adopted from overseas. Most children waiting to be adopted are available due to poverty and lack of family services. Many children are abandoned by their biological families or made orphans due to war and/or disease.

Prospective adoptive families pursuing international adoption must be aware that these children are considered special needs. Why? In most cases, these children have had traumatic early life experiences, health problems, poor pre-natal and/or postnatal care, or malnutrition. These special needs could arise due to such situations:

  • the child has lived in an orphanage where there were many children and few caregivers. This leads to attachment problems and disorders.
  • there is little or no background on their biological families or their own early life experiences
  • they had to fend for themselves “on the street” and their past independence may make it difficult for them to adjust to life in a family environment
  • they suffered physical or emotional deprivation, leading to long-term problems despite receiving loving care in their adoptive homes

Adopting a Child of Another Culture or Race

With an international adoption, the child is often a different race and/or culture from their adoptive family. An inter-racial adoption raises a number of issues that adoptive parents should be prepared for ahead of time.

An Asian child adopted by a Caucasian couple will be recognizably different and might have more difficulty ‘fitting in’ than a child from Russia or the Ukraine. Adoptive parents are now being encouraged to learn about the child’s country and culture so that they can teach their child about his/her heritage and incorporate parts of the child’s culture into their family life and identity. Honouring the child’s heritage will instill a sense of pride in the child and help them in the teenage years with their sense of identity.

Some adoptive families also face the reality of racism and attitudes from others (even relatives, friends and colleagues) towards those who are culturally or racially different. Adoptive families must also be prepared for inappropriate inquiries from others (often inquisitive strangers) about the child’s origins and adoption. Many adoption agencies offer seminars and training courses that can prepare families for such situations and issues. There are also support groups for families that have adopted internationally. These groups are wonderful supports for not only parents but as well, their children, who find friendship with other adoptees possibly from their country of origin.

The International Adoption Process

STEP 1: Decision making! First and foremost, you need to choose the country from where you want to adopt. Each country has its own expectations of potential adoptive parents. For example, some countries require adoptive parents include a psychological report or that the applicant(s) be of a certain age or married for a set period of time. A licensed international adoption agency will be able to assist you in this area.

STEP 2: Contact the Department of Health and Social Services and fill out the required application forms, complete medical and police checks as well as get three reference letters of non-relatives for each person. You will also be required to supply a photo of your home and family. Forms and paperwork should be promptly submitted to the Director of Adoption.

STEP 3: The Home Study Report. Once your application and supporting documents have been received and reviewed, the Director will then request Health and Social Services’ local office to conduct a home study for your family. Nunavut has its own home study format and a licensed social worker will meet with your family for several interviews. Topics covered will include your relationship with your spouse and extended family, your home and community, hobbies and interests, your childhood, parenting expectations and views on fostering and adoption. Once your worker has gathered enough information based on your meetings, he/she will write the home study report and make recommendations about the type of child who would best fit with your family. Your home study will be submitted to the Director of Adoption for review and approval.

STEP 4: Hire an Adoption Agency. Since there are no licensed private adoption agencies in Nunavut, you will have to employ the services of a licensed agency from a province like Ontario or British Columbia. A directory of licensed international adoption agencies can be found in each province’s section on this web site.

STEP 5: Adoption Dossier. A dossier refers to the paperwork requested by the child’s country of origin. Your home study report is just one of the many documents that will be included in your dossier. Your adoption agency will work with your family to collect and complete all of the necessary authentications and translations and to ensure your dossier is complete. During this time, prospective adoptive parents should also be researching the processes of Citizenship and Immigration to Canada.

STEP 6: Wait for a match! Once your dossier has been completed and forwarded to the child’s country, you’ll wait a period of time for a child to be referred as a match for your family. Once your adoption agency and Nunavut’s Director of Adoption have reviewed and approved the referral, you will be able to review the referral. (Sometimes, a country will send the child proposal directly to the Director of Adoption, and the Director presents the child to your family.)

A referral for a child contains the child’s description, a photograph (and maybe a video) as well as the child’s medical and social histories. Your adoption agency’s professionals will be on hand to review the information with you and discuss any concerns or issues in the referral. If there are any concerns, you should do some research and consult with professionals like your family doctor or a pediatrician.

STEP 7: You will be asked to submit a Letter of Acceptance/Decline to your agency who will then forward it to the Central Authority in the child’s country of origin. If you decline the referral, your agency will request that the country refer another child. If you accept the referral, your agency will forward the Letter of Acceptance to the child’s country.

STEP 8: Adoptive parents are responsible for their child’s entry into Canada. As of December 23, 2007, families can now choose from two processes: citizenship or immigration. Detailed information can be found here about Citizenship and Immigration Canada. For more information regarding immigration issues, contact Citizenship and Immigration Toll Free at: 1-888-242-2100

STEP 9: Travel! Your child’s country will advise you and your agency on when you can travel to pick up your child. Depending on the country, you may be required to spend a certain amount of time in the country. During this time, you will be able to bond with and form attachments to your child as well as learn more about their heritage/culture. In most cases, you will also attend a court session where the adoption will be finalized.

STEP 10: Post-Placement. Once you’ve returned home with your child, your family will be required to submit post-placement reports to the child’s country of origin and Nunavut’s Director of Adoption. Most countries require that a social worker submit these reports which detail the child’s safety and well-being, as well as include several photographs. These post-placement reports are often mandatory and some countries require the family to continue sending reports about the child(ren) on their own for several years (sometimes until the child is 18 years of age).


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