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Public Adoption

In Ontario, Children’s Aid Societies are primarily involved in the adoption of older children and in some instances, adoptions of children where a birth parent consents to making an adoption plan. The following describes both types of adoptions and each process that adoptive families must take.

Waiting Time to Adopt through CAS in Ontario

How long your family waits to adopt through CAS depends on a number of factors including:

  • the age of the child you’re hoping to adopt
  • if you would consider adopting a child with special needs or a child who is a different race or culture
  • if you’re willing to adopt a sibling group

Waiting time to have a child placed in your home varies depending on circumstances, but the average length of time is:

  • Less than one year for special needs children and children of a visible minority who are Crown wards
  • Two to four years – Healthy Caucasian infant in Ontario or from another province
  • One to two years – International adoption (depending on the country)

Most adoptive families find the waiting time the most difficult part of the process. It’s important to be proactive during your wait to adopt. The following are some tips for adopting through a Children’s Aid Society:

  • Check in with your adoption worker on a regular basis to see if you are being considered for any possible matches.
  • Contact other CAS agencies and ask if you could send them your home study and profile for any possible matches.
  • Register with Adopt Ontario’s web site or Canada’s Waiting Kids and view profiles of children who are waiting to be adopted.
  • Attend all of the Adoption Resource Exchange (A.R.E.) conferences in your region.

CAS Infant Adoptions “By Consent”

Infant adoptions “by consent” through a Children’s Aid Society are not as common today since many birth parents are referred to private adoption agencies or they choose to parent. Most, but not all, parents who make an adoption plan for their child want some degree of openness and the opportunity to choose the adoptive family.

In the past, Children’s Aid Societies didn’t involve birth parents in the selection of the adoptive parents nor did they encourage openness in adoption. In the last few years this has changed and many CAS agencies are encouraging birth parents who consent to adoption to become involved and have ‘a voice’ in the adoption process for their child(ren).

The Process for Consent Adoptions through CAS

STEP 1: Prospective adoptive parents go through a preparation/home study process with an assigned adoption worker at their local agency. They must also enroll in and attend a mandatory education program called PRIDE.

STEP 2: Adoptive families are approved for adoption and may help prepare a personal profile of their family to be presented to birth parents.

STEP 3: A birth parent, who is working with the agency’s pregnancy counselor or family services worker during pregnancy, or requests assistance from the Children’s Aid Society at the birth of a child, is provided with the opportunity to consider alternatives and to select an adoption home for the child.

STEP 4: Approved adoptive parents are selected for a particular child either directly by birth parents’ choice through profile selection, by birth parent criteria if they choose not to select personally, or by adoption workers where the birth parent does not choose to be/or is unavailable to be involved.

STEP 5: Birth parents may choose to meet the adoptive parents in hospital or following discharge, and may choose to be directly involved in placement where possible.

STEP 6: A child may be placed directly from hospital with the adoptive parents or may be placed from a foster home, depending upon circumstances of placement.

STEP 7: The form of post placement contact between birth family and adoption family is established during the pre-placement process.

STEP 8: A minimum of 6 months supervision of adoption placement is legally required and the adoption worker will visit to provide support during this time. The adoption is legally finalized through the court by the agency. No lawyer or fee is involved in a CAS adoption.

Older Child Adoptions

Most adoptions through the Children’s Aid Societies in Ontario are of older children. Each agency is responsible for the children who come into their care in their geographical area. When a child’s legal connections to their birth parents are terminated through a court process called “Crown Wardship” they are then considered to be legally free to be adopted. While there are some younger children (under 3) the majority of children range in age from 4 to 18 years and all are considered to have special needs.

In this case, the term ‘special needs’ can be applied to a variety of situations as every child, as well their needs and circumstances, are different. Examples of such needs include:

  • Being part of a sibling group that needs to be adopted together
  • Racial or cultural identities that are different from the adoptive family
  • Adoption as a toddler, young child or adolescent
  • Mental or physical health issues
  • Learning, behavioural or developmental delays
  • Genetic risk factors
  • Abuse issues and dealing with past trauma(s)
  • Attachment or loss issues
  • Unknown or difficult backgrounds
  • Incomplete history

The Process to Adopt A Crown Ward

Procedures may vary from agency to agency, but will be similar to the following steps:

STEP 1: Contact your local Children’s Aid Society. The CAS intake adoption worker will answer any questions you have about the adoption process. CAS will then send you an information package as well as forms to fill out and return.

STEP 2: PRIDE Training. All prospective adoptive parents, whether adopting through CAS or a private agency, must now enroll in and attend the nine week education program called PRIDE.

STEP 3: Home study. Once your family has completed the PRIDE training, you will be assigned a social worker who will conduct your family’s home study. Ontario’s home studies are in the SAFE format (more info about SAFE home studies can be found here).

STEP 4: Wait for a Match. Once your home study has been completed, you are entitled to read a copy of the report. Your home study will be given to other workers at your agency for consideration of children who become available for adoption. Workers review your home study and determine your suitability based on the needs of the children on their caseload.

STEP 5: Network while you wait! Hopefully during your home study, your social worker explained the importance of creating a profile of your family that can be handed out to other CAS agencies. CAS agencies in Ontario are not linked to share home studies of applicants so it’s up to you to send your profile to adoption workers across the province. (Click here for more info on networking) Adoption workers do search for suitable applicants through the Adopt Ontario family database or at the biannual Adoption Resource Exchange.

* Note: Approved applicants may also look at children on the Adopt Ontario site/ or Today’s Child, or attend the Adoption Resource Exchange (A.R.E.) presentations to self select a child/ren for whom they wish to be considered.

STEP 6: The match! When a child has been selected as a match for your family, your social worker will contact you with the news and share information about the child for your consideration. You will learn about the child’s social and medical history and may even see a photo or video of them. At this time, your family must decide if you will accept the match and move forward. It’s important to ask questions during this time and consult professionals if the child has any possible health and/or developmental issues. Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ to a proposed match – social workers would prefer you do say no if you feel that the child would not be a good fit with your family.

STEP 7: Pre-placement visits – Congratulations! You’ve decided to accept the match and you’re going to be a parent! Your next step will be a series of pre-placement visits with your new son or daughter. These are done in order to achieve a comfort level for the child and family prior to the final move to your home. Pre-placement visits are often spent at the child’s foster home where you’ll spend time bonding with your new son or daughter. What occurs during these visits is largely dependent on the child’s age – if the child is an infant, you’ll spend much of your time learning how the baby likes to be held, fed, diapered, bathed and their bedtime and daily routines. With an older child, pre-placement visits with be quite different as you’ll able to talk with them about interests, engage in activities they enjoy and also learn about their daily routines from both the child and their foster family.

*The length of time for pre-placement visits is greatly dependent on the age of a child and their comfort. An infant will attach to his/her adoptive parents much faster than an older child who has been in foster care for several years. The child’s best interests and comfort are the priority to ensure a smooth transition.

STEP 8: Welcome your new son or daughter home! Once you’ve completed the pre-placement visits, your child will move to your home. Your social worker will visit with you 7 days after placement to ensure everyone is adjusting well. This period of supervision will continue for a minimum of 6 months as required by legislation or for whatever period of time is required for the family to be prepared for legal finalization of the adoption. This is frequently a period ranging from 12 to 24 months.

STEP 7: Adoption Finalization. The adoption is finalized in the court serving the area where the adoptive family lives. All legal work is provided with the assistance of the agency and no fee is involved.


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