People who have been adopted and their relatives can use adoption registries and reunion services to find one another and exchange information. Learn how British Columbia’s three adoption registries work.
Understand the legal framework
Society’s attitudes toward adoption have changed over the years. Many adopted people want to know about their birth parents. Many birth parents want to know how a child they placed for adoption is doing. Many adopted people and birth parents want to meet each other.
In BC, there are registries that help connect people who have been adopted and their relatives.
Birth parents of a child placed for adoption can register with the Parents Registry to receive notice of adoption details and be involved in the adoption planning. Parents can register any time before the child’s birth, and up to 150 days after the child was placed for adoption. There is no fee to register.
Post-Adoption Openness Registry
Adoptive parents, birth parents or relatives of an adopted person can register for the opportunity to share information after an adoption order is granted for a child who is under 19 years old. By registering in the Post-Adoption Openness Registry, they can exchange information and communicate with each other after the adoption. There are no fees to register.
Adoption Reunion Registry
The Adoption Reunion Registry connects people who have been adopted with their relatives for adoptions that took place in BC. Adopted adults can search for their birth parents or siblings. Birth parents who placed a child for adoption can start searching for them as soon as the child is age 19.
Registering in the Post-Adoption Openness Registry gives adoptive parents, birth parents and other relatives the option of exchanging information after an adoption order is granted for a child who is under 19 years old. The information exchange may range from medical information, letters, cards and pictures, to the full exchange of names and addresses for direct contact.
A successful match
When you apply to register, the registry checks if there’s a match with anyone else involved in the adoption. For example, if the adoptive parents and the birth mother register, there’s a match. The registry will only contact parties if a match occurs.
Reaching an openness agreement
If there is a match, the registry will contact the parties to discuss the level of contact they want. The parties can opt for full disclosure and direct contact, or a non-identifying exchange of information. If one or both want a non-identifying exchange, a social worker will help them make an openness agreement.
Any decision to enter into an openness agreement should be based on what is in the best interests of the adopted child. An openness agreement cannot be forced — it’s based on voluntary cooperation of everyone involved.
How long registration lasts
An application to the Post-Adoption Openness Registry lasts until the adopted child reaches 19 years of age. Then, if no match has been made, an application can be made to the Adoption Reunion Registry.
The Adoption Reunion Registry connects people who have been adopted with their relatives for adoptions that took place in BC. Everyone involved must be age 19 or over when the connection is made.
The registry operates a passive registry and in some cases can help with an active search.
For adoptions that happened in BC, people who have been adopted, birth parents, siblings and other relatives can register to connect with their birth relatives.
The passive registry requires two parties looking for each other to register — a match is only made if both parties register. If there is a match, the registry will contact both parties and help them contact each other.
The registry can help with an active search for a relative. They will first check if the relative is registered. If not, they will search for the person. If they find the person, the registry will contact them to discuss next steps. If the person also wants a reunion, the registry will discuss with both parties the options for communicating, such as letters, phone calls, a meeting, or visits in person.
You can apply to be registered with the Adoption Reunion Registry by:
- completing and mailing the application form to the registry
- paying the $25 fee to register (you can ask for it to be waived)
As well, you must submit additional documents that vary depending on who you are.
If you’re a person who was adopted or a birth mother, you must send a copy of your birth certificate (as proof of your identity).
Siblings searching for an adult sibling who was adopted need to provide the birth parent’s birth and death certificates.
If you are requesting an active search, there is an additional $250 fee. You also need to send a copy of the adopted person’s original birth registration document and the adoption order.
You can get these documents from the Vital Statistics Agency. See its website at gov.bc.ca/vitalstatistics, or call 250-952-2681 in Victoria, and toll-free 1-888-876-1633 elsewhere in BC.
People who want to remain unknown can have a disclosure veto or no-contact declaration placed on their records in the Vital Statistics Agency.
A disclosure veto prevents the release of any information on the birth registration or adoption order identifying the person who placed the veto. A disclosure veto also prevents the Adoption Reunion Registry from helping to locate the person who filed the veto. You can place a disclosure veto on your record if you’re a birth parent or adopted person involved in an adoption that occurred before 1996.
A no-contact declaration allows information to be released, but prohibits any contact with the person who placed the no-contact declaration. If a no-contact declaration was placed on the birth or adoption records you’re searching, you’ll have to sign a statutory declaration promising not to contact the other person while the no-contact declaration lasts. If you break your promise, you may face a penalty of up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.
A person who files a disclosure veto or no-contact declaration can also file a written statement. This statement may include social, medical and health information and perhaps the reason the person doesn’t want to be contacted. If the birth and adoption records you’re searching at the Vital Statistics Agency contain a written statement, you’ll be given a copy.
The Ministry of Children & Family Development has information on its website about adoption reunions and registries.
The Adoptive Families Association of BC supports the adoption community at all ages and stages through education, counselling and advocacy.
This information applies to British Columbia, Canada
Reviewed in February 2019
Time to read: 6 minutes