Adoption Registries (Script 146)
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This script explains adoption registries in BC. It also explains how to search for an adopted child or birth parent. Detailed information is available on the BC provincial government’s adoption website and its adoption reunions and registries website. Both sites are updated regularly.
- 1 Society’s attitudes toward adoption have changed over the years
- 2 Parents Registry
- 3 Post-Adoption Openness Registry
- 4 How does the Post-Adoption Openness Registry work?
- 5 Adoption Reunion Registry
- 6 Who can apply to register on the Adoption Reunion Registry?
- 7 Registering by mail
- 8 What does it cost to register?
- 9 Counselling available
- 10 How do you get the documents from the Vital Statistics Agency?
- 11 What if a birth parent or adopted child doesn’t want to be known or found?
- 12 A written statement may be included
- 13 More information
Society’s attitudes toward adoption have changed over the years
Many adopted people want to know about their biological parents. Many birth mothers want to know how the child they placed for adoption is doing. Many adopted people and birth parents want to meet each another. In BC, the following registries help connect birth parents, adoptive parents, and adopted children with each other:
- Parents Registry
- Post-Adoption Openness Registry
- Adoption Reunion Registry
Birth parents of a child placed for adoption can register to receive notice of adoption details and be involved in the adoption planning for the child. Parents can register any time before, and up to 150 days after, the birth of their child. There’s no fee to register.
Many people believe that the adoption of a child shouldn’t end a parent’s relationship with the child. Instead, it should create an additional relationship with the child’s adoptive family. They believe that a continuing relationship between the child and their birth parents and other birth family members can help the child develop a healthy sense of identity and belonging. The Post-Adoption Openness Registry is meant for birth parents, adoptive parents, and relatives of an adopted child under the age of 19 who want to communicate with each other after the child has been adopted, if no openness agreement was made before the adoption order. There are no fees to register.
How does the Post-Adoption Openness Registry work?
When you apply to the registry, it 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. Registry staff will contact you to discuss the type of openness you want. You’ll be asked to arrange for a facilitator to help you reach an openness agreement acceptable to both of you. It may involve saving letters and photographs to give to the adopted child at a certain age, or a continuing exchange of letters and calls, or even visits.
In deciding how much openness is best, the best interests of the child are the most important factor. Participation is voluntary—both the adoptive parents and the birth mother or relatives must register.
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, discussed later in this script.
The Adoption Reunion Registry connects adopted adults with their birth families, if the adoption took place in BC and everyone involved is 19 or over when the connection is made. The Adoption Reunion Registry operates a passive registry. This means that staff will not help you look for the person you’re trying to find. But in some cases, the registry may perform an active search.
- Passive registry
- If you register and the person you’re looking for also registers for contact with you through the passive registry, a match is made. Staff will then contact both of you and help you contact each other. Staff will not try to find the person you want to locate.
- Active search
- Staff will first check if a relative you want to find is registered. If not, they will search for the person. If they succeed, staff will contact you to discuss next steps. If the person you’re looking for also wants a reunion, staff will discuss with both of you the options for communicating, such as letters, phone calls, a meeting, or visits in person.
Who can apply to register on the Adoption Reunion Registry?
Adult adoptees, birth parents, birth siblings of an adopted adult, and other birth relatives can all apply. The requirements differ, depending on who you are.
Registering by mail
If you’re an adult adoptee or a birth mother, you must mail the following three documents to the registry:
- A signed application form
- A copy of your birth certificate (as proof of your identity)
- The $25 registration fee, unless it has been waived
If you are requesting an active search, you also need to submit a copy of the original birth registration document and adoption order. You can get these from the Vital Statistics Agency (information on how to get documents from the Vital Statistics Agency is at the end of this script). The original birth certificate and adoption order aren’t needed for a search of the Passive registry.
If you’re the birth sibling of an adult adoptee or the biological father or other relative, you must submit other or different documents. For example, if you’re the birth brother or sister of an adult adoptee (you’re looking for your birth sibling who was adopted), proof of death of the birth parent is required (for example, a copy of the dead birth parent’s death certificate from Vital Statistics).
What does it cost to register?
It’s $25 to register with the Adoption Reunion Registry. If you want an active search, it’s another $250. If it’s hard to pay these fees, you can ask them to be reduced or waived.
The staff at the Adoption Reunion Registry can provide brief counselling and support during the reunion search process. You may also seek other counselling through a local social services agency or a private therapist.
How do you get the documents from the Vital Statistics Agency?
Submit an application form to the Vital Statistics Agency. Its website has details (call 604.660.2937 in the lower mainland, 250.952.2681 in Greater Victoria, and 1.800.663.8328 elsewhere in BC).
There’s a $50 fee for copies of the adopted adult’s original birth registration and adoption order. The names of the adoptive parents, and information about them, will be deleted to protect their privacy.
What if a birth parent or adopted child doesn’t want to be known or found?
People who want to remain unknown can have a disclosure veto or no-contact declaration placed on their records in the Vital Statistics Agency.
- What’s a disclosure veto?
- 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.
- What’s a no-contact declaration?
- A no-contact declaration allows information to be released, but prohibits any contact with the person who has placed the no-contact declaration. If a no-contact declaration has been 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 written statement may be included
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.
- Check the Ministry of Children & Family Development’s adoption reunions and registries and its adoption website.
- Contact the Adoptive Families Association of BC at 1.877.236.7807.
[updated March 2018]
The above was last reviewed for accuracy by Adoption and Permanency Branch of MCFD, and edited by John Blois.
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