Adoption is the process to legally transfer parental responsibilities for a child from one family to another. Learn what’s involved in adopting a child or placing a child for adoption.
Understand the legal framework
Children become available for adoption in different ways.
Under the law in BC, a parent or guardian of a child may place the child for adoption. They can place the child with an adoption agency to seek an adoptive family. Or they can work with an agency to place the child with someone they know (who is not a relative). This type of adoption is called a direct placement.
The adoption process can also start with a child being placed into the permanent care of the provincial government. When a child enters foster care, the goal is to reunite them with their birth family. In some circumstances, this is not possible or in the child’s best interest. These children are placed in the Adopt BC Kids program.
BC’s licensed adoption agencies also facilitate international adoptions. These feature adopting a child from another country.
A family may become interested in adopting a relative or partner’s child. For instance, someone may wish to adopt a sibling’s child, or to adopt the child of their new partner. In order to adopt a child related to you by blood, or to adopt your partner’s child, you need to apply to court.
Only the BC government or an agency licensed by it can handle an adoption in BC. The Ministry of Children & Family Development facilitates the adoption of BC children living in foster care.
The adoption agencies licensed by the BC government handle various types of adoptions. Even with a direct placement, where the birth parents choose the adoptive parents, a licensed adoption agency must be involved before the adoptive parents receive the child.
Birth parents cannot be paid for placing a child for adoption. Under BC law, it’s illegal (with a few specific exceptions) to pay or accept money for placing a child for adoption.
The exceptions under this law are:
- A parent or guardian can receive money from a prospective adoptive parent to cover certain expenses. For example, the birth mother can be paid for medical services related to the birth of the child, and accommodation and transportation related to the transfer of the child.
- An adoption agency can receive fees and expenses up to certain limits set under the law.
- A lawyer can receive reasonable fees and expenses for legal services provided in connection with an adoption.
- A health care provider can receive reasonable fees and expenses for medical services provided to a child being adopted or to the birth mother in connection with the pregnancy or birth.
The Ministry of Children & Family Development does not charge fees to people who adopt a child in care.
A birth mother’s consent to an adoption is required unless the child is in the permanent care of the child welfare authorities. A birth mother’s consent is valid only if the child is at least 10 days old when the consent is given. The consent must be in a specific written form, and other documents are also required.
A biological father’s consent is usually required too, but there are exceptions. For example, a court can be asked to do away with the biological father’s consent if he can’t be located or if to do so is in the child’s best interests.
Any other parent or guardian of the child must also consent to an adoption.
If a child is age 12 or older, the child must consent to their adoption.
If the mother or father change their mind
A person who consented to their child’s adoption may revoke their consent (cancel it) before the child is placed for adoption.
As well, the birth mother may revoke her consent to the adoption within 30 days of the child’s birth — even if the child has already been placed for adoption.
A child who has consented to their adoption has until the adoption order is granted to revoke their consent.
The revocation must be in writing and delivered to the adoption agency or the BC director of adoptions.
The child’s perspective
If a child is age 12 or older, their consent to being adopted is required. The views of a child between seven and 11 must be considered, and if the child is mature enough, the child must receive counselling about the effects of adoption.
An adult (someone age 19 or older) who lives in BC can adopt a child. A child may be placed for adoption with one adult or two adults jointly.
Under BC law, the most important consideration in placing a child for adoption is determining the best interests of the child. The relevant factors that go into determining the child’s best interests are set out in the Adoption Act and the Child, Family and Community Service Act. They include:
- the child’s safety
- the child’s physical and emotional needs and level of development
- the importance of continuity in the child’s care
- the importance to the child’s development of having a positive relationship with a parent and a secure place as a member of a family
- the quality of the relationship the child has with a parent or other individual and the effect of maintaining that relationship
- the child’s cultural, racial, linguistic and religious heritage
- the child’s views
- the effect on the child if there is delay in making a decision
The adoption process starts with an application to adopt. The adoption representative will review the application. They check references, conduct a criminal record check, and complete a prior contact search through the Ministry of Children and Family Development (including equivalent searches in any other jurisdiction the applicant has lived in). A medical check is also required.
A homestudy is conducted
An adoption worker will conduct a homestudy. This involves six to eight visits to the home of the prospective adoptive parents. The parents also participate in mandatory adoption training.
Proposal and placement
The adoption representative calls the prospective adoptive parents with a potential placement. If after careful consideration a prospective family is chosen as meeting the best interests of a child, a transition plan is created to place the child in the adoptive home.
After the child is placed in the adoptive home
For the first six months, the adoption worker visits the child in the home.
After the child has lived with the adoptive parents for at least six months, the parents can apply to court for an adoption order. If it’s a Ministry adoption, the adoption worker makes the court application for the parents.
If the court is satisfied the proposed adoption is in the child’s best interests, it makes the adoption order.
Someone may become interested in adopting a relative or partner’s child. For instance, someone may wish to adopt a grandchild, or to adopt the child of their new partner. In order to adopt a child related to you by blood, or to adopt your partner’s child, you need to apply to court.
The legal requirements are outlined in BC’s adoption law. It’s a good idea to get legal advice on how to complete this kind of adoption.
The court will consider the child’s best interests when making decisions about their future. Children older than age seven will have a private interview with an adoption worker to make sure they understand the meaning of adoption, and get their views on potential placement. Children aged 12 and over must consent to their adoption.
Anyone who has a court order or enforceable agreement for contact with the child will be notified about the adoption application.
Under BC’s adoption law, special emphasis is placed on Aboriginal heritage. If the child is Aboriginal, the importance of preserving their cultural identity must be considered in determining the child’s best interests.
If the child is under 12 and the birth parent or other guardian doesn’t object, the Ministry or adoption agency will notify the child’s Aboriginal community and consult with them about planning for the adoption.
Under the federal Indian Act, an Aboriginal person who is adopted doesn’t lose any rights or privileges they have as a “status Indian” under the Act and other laws like the Income Tax Act.
Yes, the birth parents and adoptive parents can choose to communicate with each other after a child is adopted. Before an adoption order is made, the birth parents and adoptive parents can agree on how much and what type of ongoing communication or contact they want after the adoption. If an agreement isn’t made before the adoption order, they can register with the post-adoption openness registry. Our information on adoption registries (no. 146) has more on open adoptions.
To adopt a child from another country, you must use one of the licensed adoption agencies in BC. Like domestic adoptions, an international adoption requires a homestudy to assess the adoptive parents’ suitability to adopt. If you want to adopt a child from another province or country, you should tell the adoption agency you plan to work with early in the planning process.
Before a child is placed with their adoptive parents, the Ministry or the adoption agency must tell the birth parents about the adoption process and its alternatives. They also gather as much information as possible about the medical and social history of the child’s birth family, preserve this information for the child, and give a copy to the adoptive parents.
The Ministry of Children & Family Development has information about adoption on its website.
There are children in BC waiting for an adoptive family right now. Adopt BC Kids features information on applying for a waiting child.
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: 8 minutes