We often get asked how the whole adoption process works. It’s a bit of a mouthful and can be overwhelming to people when trying to explain it. The good and bad part of adoption is that there is a LOT of waiting, so you get to take care of things in small bits with waiting in between. This is my long-winded explanation of Private domestic adoption in Ontario.
To be approved to adopt in Ontario, you must first have a homestudy. The name is confusing because this is not a study of your home (though they do check your home – more on that in a moment). A homestudy is performed by an adoption practitioner, who is approved by the government to conduct homestudies and supervise adoption placements. A homestudy involves interviews talking about your childhoods, your family life, your interests, your experiences, your marriage, your parenting goals, why you want to adopt – a LOT of things! It’s not just to learn about you, but for you to learn more about adoption and even yourself. It really made us think. There is a lot of paper work that is filled out and signed, and some very personal questionnaires. You need references, forms filled out by your doctor, fingerprints/police checks, and a financial statement. A homestudy also includes a safety check of your home. This is the part where the potential adoptive parent goes crazy cleaning every single crevice in their entire house. Of course the practitioner comes in, takes a walk through your home, asks a few questions, like if you have a carbon monoxide monitor and smoke alarms. It is way less stressful than imagined. And then you wonder why you deep cleaned the inside of the fridge.
In the midst of your homestudy, you’re advised to take your PRIDE training. PRIDE stands for Parent Resources for Information, Development and Education. It’s a 27 hour course that is mandatory for anyone interested in pursuing adoption in Ontario. It covers things like trauma, abuse, handling negative comments and insistent questions, attaching, openness, telling your child about adoption, and much more. It was really eye-opening and extremely helpful in solidifying that we wanted to move forward.
The Profile and your Licensees (Getting Matched)
When you complete your homestudy and PRIDE training and your practitioner gives their recommendation, you are considered Adopt Ready. Now you must create your adoption profile, and sign with licensees. Your profile is what is presented to an expectant couple, literally their first impression of you. Different agencies have different guidelines, but it is basically a booklet with pictures and writing about your lives and what their child’s life would look like if they were chosen to parent. Licensees are lawyers or agencies that are approved by the government to legally perform adoptions. Generally you register with the licensee, you have a consultation talking about the process and their fees, and if all is well, you are placed on their active list. This means that should you match what an expectant mother or parents are looking for, the licensee will ask you if your profile can be shown. If you say yes, your profile will be included with others for the expectant mother to look through. If afterwards she wants to meet you, a meeting will be arranged in a neutral location. This would include the expectant mother/couple, their counselor, any support people they would like present, the licensee, the adoptive couple’s practitioner, and the adoptive couple. It’s a full house! After this meeting, the expectant mother may decide to choose you to parent her baby. This is a match!
Before the point that your profile is present, the expectant mother/couple has (unless refused, which we are told is rare), received counseling on her options, her feelings about it all and what adoption is and is not. After the match, the expectant mother would continue to receive counseling and support. We would all talk about the level of openness we would like to have, and it would be put into writing. Openness does not mean co-parenting, but is based on the belief it is in the best interest of the child to have access to their roots, to have their questions answered, and that they deserve to know their whole story. This means that our full first and last names would be known, we could send letters and pictures, exchange emails or phone calls. Openness is really what the people involved want to make it.
Why Birth Parents are Not Birth Parents Yet
At any point during this process the biological parents are free to change her mind and parent their child. This is why I do not say birth mother, as the adoption is a plan until consents are signed and a period of time has passed. After the child is born, she will be asked if she would like to continue with the adoption. If she does, she and the biological father will sign consents on the baby’s 8th day of life (or after depending on the situation). During this time, the baby most likely goes home with the adoptive parents. After the consents are signed, there is a 21 day period where the consents can be revoked and the baby placed back into the biological mother’s care. Many people have said they couldn’t imagine going through this with that possibility. But I know when it finally happens it will be worth it.
When the Revocation Period Passes
Should the 21 days pass without consents being revoked, then the adoptive parents are on their way to being the legal parents. During this time their practitioner makes occasional visits to check up on how you are doing, and around 6 months makes a recommendation for finalization. This can take more months, so that baby might be 1-year-old before the adoption is finalized. This is a huge day, as the child is now legally your child.
Not sure if I’ve missed anything but if I haven’t answered your question please feel free to ask!