Adoption of a child

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Adoption can be a happy event for two families. But first there are legal matters to take care of — the transfer of parental rights and responsibilities for a child from one family to another. Learn what’s involved in adopting a child or placing a child for adoption.

What you should know

There are different ways to adopt a child in BC.

Under the law in BC, a parent or guardian may place a child for adoption. They can place the child with an adoption agency to find an adoptive family or 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.

A child can be placed into the permanent care of the provincial government. This is called foster care. The goal is to reunite the child with their birth family. But in some circumstances, this isn’t possible or isn’t in the child's best interests. These children are placed in the Adopt BC Kids program.

BC’s licensed adoption agencies help with international adoptions. These involve adopting a child from another country.

A family may want to adopt a relative or partner's child. It could be a niece or nephew, for instance, or the child of your new partner. To adopt a child related to you by blood, or to adopt your partner's child, you need to apply to the BC Supreme Court.

An adult (someone age 19 years or older) who lives in BC can adopt a child in the province. A person does not need to be married to adopt a child. You can apply to adopt a child if you're single or in an opposite-sex or same-sex relationship.

A child may be placed for adoption with one adult or two adults jointly.

Only the BC government, or an agency licensed by it, can handle an adoption in BC. The Ministry of Children & Family Development helps with the adoption of BC children living in foster care.

Adoption agencies licensed by the BC government handle various types of adoptions. A licensed adoption agency must be involved before adoptive parents receive the child. This is true even for a direct placement, where the birth parents choose the adoptive parents.

Birth parents can’t be paid for placing a child for adoption. Under BC law, it’s illegal, with a few specific exceptions.

The exceptions are:

  • A parent or guardian can accept money from a prospective adoptive parent to cover certain expenses. For example, the birth mother can be paid for medical services for the birth of the child, as well as accommodation and transportation 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 providing legal services related to the adoption.
  • A health care provider can receive reasonable fees and expenses for giving medical services to:
    • a child being adopted, or
    • the birth mother in connection with the pregnancy or birth.

The Ministry of Children & Family Development doesn’t charge people to adopt a child in care.

A birth mother must consent to an adoption unless the child is in the permanent care of the child protection authorities. Her consent is valid only if the child is at least 10 days old when she gives it. The consent must be in a specific written form. 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 found, or
  • it’s in the child’s best interests to do so.

Any other parent or guardian of the child must also consent to an adoption.

If a child is age 12 or older, they must consent to being adopted.

If the mother or father changes 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 in writing within 30 days of the child’s birth. This can happen 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.

A revocation must be in writing. It must be given directly to the adoption agency or the BC director of adoptions.

The child’s perspective

If a child is age 12 or older, they must consent to being adopted. The views of a child between ages seven and 11 must be considered. If the child is mature enough, the child must receive counselling about the effects of adoption.

Under BC law, the most important consideration in placing a child for adoption is the best interests of the child. The relevant factors here 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 child having a positive relationship with a parent and a secure place as a member of a family
  • the quality of the child’s relationship 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 a decision is delayed

Someone may want to adopt a relative or partner's child. For instance, they may want to adopt a grandchild or 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. An adoption worker will ask questions to make sure they understand what it means to be adopted and to get their views on potential placement. Children age 12 and over must consent to their adoption.

Anyone who has a court order or enforceable agreement for contact with the child will be given notice about the adoption application.

The process to adopt a child 

The adoption process begins with an application to adopt. An adoption representative (such as a licensed adoption agency or the Ministry of Children and Family Development) then reviews the application. They:

  • check references
  • conduct a criminal record check
  • conduct a medical check
  • complete a prior contact search through the ministry (including similar searches in any other jurisdiction the applicant has lived in)

After submitting the application, the applicant must take adoption training, such as the Adoption Education Program Online.

A social worker conducts a homestudy. This involves six to eight visits to the home of the prospective adoptive parents.

The adoption representative carefully considers whether the prospective family meets the best interests of a child. If the prospective family is chosen, the representative calls the prospective adoptive parents with a potential placement. If the placement is accepted, a transition plan is made to place the child in the adoptive home.

For the first six months, the social 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 social worker makes the court application for the parents.

If the court is satisfied that the proposed adoption is in the child’s best interests, it makes the adoption order.

Common questions

Under BC’s adoption law, special consideration is given to Indigenous heritage. If the child is Indigenous, 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 of Children & Family Development or adoption agency will notify the child’s Indigenous community and consult with them about planning for the adoption.

Under the federal Indian Act, an Indigenous 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 stay in touch 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 going forward. If an agreement isn’t made before the adoption order, they can register with the post-adoption openness registry. Our information on adoption registries has more on open adoptions.

To adopt a child from another country, you must use one of the licensed adoption agencies in BC. You should tell them your plan early in the process if you want to adopt a child from outside of Canada.

Like BC adoptions, an international adoption requires a homestudy. This will help determine if you’re the right fit for the adoption.

Before a child is placed with their adoptive parents, the Ministry of Children & Family Development or the adoption agency must explain the adoption process, and its alternatives, to the birth parents. The ministry gathers as much information as possible about the medical and social history of the child’s birth family. It preserves this information for the child and gives a copy to the adoptive parents.

Under BC’s adoption law, once a child is adopted:

  • the child becomes the child of the adoptive parent,
  • the adoptive parent becomes the parent of the child, and
  • the birth parents have no further parental rights or obligations to the child (unless a birth parent is parenting jointly with the adoptive parent).

After an adoption order is made, the child has only one set of parents: the adoptive parents. The birth parents no longer have any rights to see the child or make any parenting decisions. They have no obligation to pay child support.

An adoption also affects inheritance claims. A child who has been legally adopted by adoptive parents (unless they were adopted by the parent’s spouse) is not entitled to inherit from their biological parent’s estate.

Who can help

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.

The BC Supreme Court has a package of information and forms on their website. People who are representing themselves can use the package to make a basic adoption application.

Options for legal help include legal aid, pro bono services, legal clinics, and advocates. See our information on free and low-cost legal help.

  • This information applies to British Columbia, Canada
  • Reviewed for legal accuracy in February 2020
  • Time to read: 9 minutes

Reviewed for legal accuracy by

Adoption Branch, Ministry of Children & Family Development

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This information from People’s Law School explains in a general way the law that applies in British Columbia, Canada. The information is not intended as legal advice. See our disclaimer.


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