Adoption (Script 145)

From Clicklaw Wikibooks

This script explains the adoption process in British Columbia, for both adopting a child within BC and adopting a child from overseas.

How does a child become available for adoption?

A child may be placed for adoption by:

  • the BC government, through the Director of Adoption, or
  • a licensed non-profit adoption agency (listed on the Ministry of Children & Family Development website), or
  • a birth parent or other guardian (called a direct placement).

The BC government adoption website describes the following ways to adopt in BC:

Who oversees adoptions?

Only the BC Ministry of Children & Family Development or provincially-licensed non-profit adoption agencies handle adoptions in BC. There are four adoption agencies in BC. Even with a direct placement, where the birth parents choose the adoptive parent or parents, the ministry or a licensed adoption agency must be involved before the adoptive parents receive the child.

Is there a fee to adopt?

It’s illegal to give or receive money for placing a child for adoption. But the following fees and expenses are allowed:

  • expenses relating to the birth and adoption can be paid by people involved in adopting, like the birth mother
  • fees charged by licensed adoption agencies and lawyers providing legal services

For example, the Adoption Regulation allows an adopting parent to pay the birth mother’s expenses for medical services, reasonable accommodation, counselling services, and other related expenses.

The ministry does not charge fees to people who adopt a child in its care.

Who can adopt?

Anyone over 19 years of age who lives in BC can adopt. They can be single or married, or in an unmarried relationship. Sexual orientation is not a factor.

What factors are considered in placing a child for adoption?

The most important thing is making sure that the best interests of the child are looked after. A child’s best interests include their:

  • safety
  • physical and emotional needs
  • continuity of their care
  • relationship with an adoptive parent
  • relationship with the birth parent
  • cultural, racial, linguistic, and religious heritage

•views, depending on the child’s age

What information is given to the birth mother and adoptive parents?

Before a child is placed with their adoptive parents, the ministry or the adoption agency must tell the birth parent 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.

Is a home study done?

Yes. A home study has an educational part and an assessment of the adoptive parent or parents. The home visits can take up to three to four months. The adoptive parents will be asked to get a medical assessment from their family doctor and to have criminal record and reference checks done.

What if it’s a direct placement?

In a direct placement, a pre-placement assessment must still be done before the child can go to the home (unless the adoptive parents are related to the birth parents).

What happens after a child is placed?

If everything looks fine, a child is placed in the adoptive home. For the first six months, the adoption worker visits the child in the home. Then, after the child has lived with the adoptive parent or parents for at least six months, the parents can apply to the BC supreme court for an adoption order. If it’s a ministry adoption, the 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.

Is a birth mother’s consent to adoption required?

Yes, a birth mother’s consent to an adoption is required unless the child is in the permanent care of the ministry. But her consent is valid only if the child is at least 10 days old when she consents. The consent must be in a specific written form, and other documents are also required.

What if a birth mother changes her mind?

A birth mother can cancel, or revoke, her consent within 30 days of the child’s birth—even if the child has already been placed for adoption. But she must do this in writing and deliver it to a Director of Adoption or the administrator of the adoption agency before the end of the 30 days.

Is a biological father’s consent required?

A biological father’s consent is usually required too, but there are exceptions. Usually the father must be notified of the proposed adoption, unless the father's identity is unknown or the court rules that it’s not in the child’s best interests.

Is an older child’s consent required?

If a child is 12 or older, their consent to being adopted is required. The views of a child between 7 and 11 must be considered, and if the child is mature enough, the child must receive counselling about the effects of adoption.

Adopting an aboriginal child

The Adoption Act has a special concern for aboriginal children. An aboriginal child’s cultural identity must be considered when looking at 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 Indian Act and other laws like the Income Tax Act.

Can a birth mother choose an open adoption?

Yes, the birth parents and adopting parents can choose to communicate with each other after a child is adopted. Before an adoption order is made, the birth parents and adopting 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.

Script 146 on “Adoption Registries” has more on openness and making an openness agreement.

International 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 home study to assess the adoptive parents’ suitability to adopt. So 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.

More information


Only the BC government or an adoption agency licensed by it can handle an adoption. If you’re over 19 and live in BC, you can adopt. When deciding on placing a child, many factors are looked at to determine if the placement is in the child’s best interests. The birth mother can consent to placing her child for adoption once the baby is 10 days old, but she can still change her mind within 30 days of the birth if she does it in writing. Usually the biological father’s consent is necessary, and older children may have to give their consent too.

[updated March 2018]

The above was last reviewed for accuracy by Adoption and Permanency Branch of MCFD, and edited by John Blois.

© Copyright 2018, Canadian Bar Association British Columbia Branch. Dial-A-Law is a registered trademark owned by Canadian Bar Association British Columbia Branch, a non-profit membership corporation.

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