|This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by Adoption Branch, Ministry of Children & Family Development in February 2020.|
Adoption registries and reunion services can help adopted people and their relatives reconnect. Learn how British Columbia’s adoption registries work.
What you should know
Registries help connect adopted people with their relatives
Many adopted people want to know about their birth parents. Often, birth parents want to know how a child they placed for adoption is doing. Many adopted people and birth parents want to meet each other.
In BC, there are registries that help put relatives separated by adoption back in touch.
Birth parents of a child placed for adoption can register with the Parents Registry. This allows them to receive notice of adoption details. It also lets them be involved in the adoption planning. Parents can register any time before the child’s birth and up to 150 days after the child was placed for adoption. There’s no fee to register.
Post-Adoption Openness Registry
When an adoption order is granted for a child under 19 years old, the door opens for potential reconnections. Adoptive parents, birth parents, and relatives can decide to share information with the adopted child, and communicate with each other. To do so they register with the Post-Adoption Openness Registry. They choose the level of contact they want. They also decide how much they want to reveal about themselves. There are no fees to register.
Adoption Reunion Registry
The Adoption Reunion Registry connects people over 19 years old who were involved in a BC adoption. Adopted adults can search for their birth parents or siblings. Birth parents who placed a child for adoption can start searching for them as soon as the child turns 19.
How the Post-Adoption Openness Registry works
After an adoption order is made for a child under age 19, those involved in the adoption — including adoptive parents, birth parents, and other relatives — can exchange information by registering in the Post-Adoption Openness Registry. The adults may choose to share things like medical information, letters, cards and pictures. Or they may opt for full disclosure and exchange of names and addresses for direct contact.
A successful match
When you apply to register, the registry checks to see if anyone else involved in the adoption is in the system. For example, if both the adoptive parents and the birth mother are registered, that’s a match. The registry will only contact parties if there’s a match.
Reaching an openness agreement
The registry will next ask the matched parties about the level of contact they want. The parties can choose full disclosure and direct contact, or a non-identifying exchange of information. If one or both want the second (less direct) option, a social worker will help them make an openness agreement. This type of agreement sets out the ways that birth parents, relatives, and the adoptive family will communicate after the adoption process is complete.
Any decision to enter into an openness agreement must be made with care. The best interests of the adopted child should determine how it’s constructed. Its success depends on the voluntary cooperation of everyone involved.
How long registration lasts
An application to the Post-Adoption Openness Registry lasts until the adopted child reaches age 19, a match is made, or the application is withdrawn in writing. If there’s no match by the time the child turns 19, a different, adult registry comes into play. Interested parties can then apply to the Adoption Reunion Registry.
How the Adoption Reunion Registry works
The Adoption Reunion Registry connects people over age 19 who were involved in a BC adoption. Everyone must be age 19 or over when the connection is made.
The registry operates a passive registry. In some cases, though, it can help with an active search.
For adoptions that happened in BC, people who have been adopted, as well as their birth parents, siblings, and other relatives, can register to connect.
The passive registry requires interest from both sides. The registry is looking for a match. That can only happen if both parties are registered. If there’s a match, the registry will contact both parties and help them connect.
The registry can also help with an active search for a relative. First they’ll check if the relative is registered. If not, they’ll start a search. If they find the person, the registry will contact them to discuss next steps. If this person also wants a reunion, the registry will talk with both parties about the options for contact. These can include letters, phone calls, meetings, or visits in person.
The Adoption Reunion Registry offers 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.
Registering with the Adoption Reunion Registry
You can apply to register with the Adoption Reunion Registry by:
- filling out the application form and mailing it to the registry
- paying the $25 fee to register (you can ask for it to be waived)
There are also other documents to complete. Which ones are required depends on who you are.
If you’re a person who was adopted or a birth mother, you must send a copy of your birth certificate (as proof of your identity).
Adult siblings searching for a brother or sister who was adopted need to provide their birth parents’ birth and death certificates.
An active search costs an additional $250. You also need to send a copy of the adopted person’s original birth registration document and the adoption order. These documents are available from the Vital Statistics Agency. See its website, or call 250-952-2681 in Victoria, and toll-free 1-888-876-1633 elsewhere in BC.
If a birth parent or adopted person doesn’t want to be known or found
Either the birth parent or the adopted person can choose to stay unknown. This requires having a disclosure veto or no-contact declaration placed on their records in the Vital Statistics Agency.
A disclosure veto blocks identifying information from appearing on the birth registration or adoption order. It also prevents the Adoption Reunion Registry from helping to find the person who filed the veto. You can place a disclosure veto on your record if you’re a birth parent or adopted person (age 18 and over) involved in an adoption that occurred before 1996.
A no-contact declaration allows information to be released, but stops any contact with the person who placed it. If a no-contact declaration was 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 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. It may also tell you why 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.
Who can help
With more information
The Ministry of Children & Family Development has information on its website about adoption reunions and registries.
The Adoptive Families Association of BC supports the adoption community at all ages and stages through education, counselling and advocacy.
- Call 1-877-236-7807 (toll-free)
- Visit website
Free and low-cost legal help
Options for legal help include legal aid, pro bono services, legal clinics, and advocates. See our information on free and low-cost legal help.
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