Canadian Government - Federal

Canadian Government - Provincial

The Adoption Act and Regulations

The links below provide a variety of general information about the legal and administrative background that guides adoption in British Columbia.

  • Adoption Act - The Adoption Act, introduced in 1996, reflects changes in society regarding adoption and openness in adoption, as well as issues and matters concerning adoption.
  • Adoption Act Regulations - Historical Table, Table of Legislative Changes, Adoption Agency Regulation, Adoption Fees Regulation, Adoption Regulation
  • About the Adoption Act - General information about the Adoption Act.
  • Child, Family and Community Service Act - The Act that governs the safety and well-being of children in British Columbia.
  • Confidentiality and Access to Information
  • Glossary of Terms - defines terms used in the Adoption Act.
  • Hague Convention - Protection of Children and Co-operation in respect of Inter country Adoption.
  • Inter-country Adoption - International adoptions are completed through the six licensed adoption agencies and must conform to the Hague convention’s terms and conditions..
  • Summary of the Practice Standards for Adoption (PDF Version) - for printing and viewing. (Size 295 kb)
  • Practice Standards and Guidelines for Adoption - PDF (size 799 kb)
    The standards establish the required level of practice for those persons who are delegated to carry out duties and functions related to the provision of adoption services by the ministry in British Columbia.

Thank you to MCFD for the above information.

General Adoption

  • Grief and Loss Tip Sheet - Mourning a Miscarriage
    by Sharon N. Covington, LCSW-C - View article
  • Relationship Tip Sheet - Enhancing Your Relationship During Infertility
    by Sharon N. Covington, LCSW-C - View article
  • A,B,C’s of Living with a Child with “Invisible Special Needs”
    by Sue Badeau - View article
  • An Adoption Perspective
    View article
  • Lifelong Issues in Adoption
    by Deborah N. Silverstein and Sharon Kaplan - View article
  • Instant Family? A Case Against Artificial Twinning
    by Patricia Irwin Johnston MS - View article
  • Adopting Again: Talking to the Other Children in the Home
    An interview with Sharon Kaplan Rozzia View article
  • Adoption and Nutrition
    View article
  • Changing Your Adopted Child’s Name
    View article
  • Create an Adoption Lifebook - Talking About Birth Parents
    View article

Post Adoption

  • Post Adoption Depression - The Unacknowledged Hazard
    by Harriet White McCarthy - View article


  • The Trend to Openness in Adoption: Practice and Policy Issues
    by Sandra Scarth - View article
  • Evolving Relationships - Answers for Adoptive Parents
    by Ellen Singer - View article

Please also refer to the following book list

  • Children of Open Adoption by Patricia Martinez Dorner and Kathleen Silber (1997, Independent Adoption Press).
    The topics in this book include the essential “ingredients” for successful open adoption and communication tips for talking about open adoption with children of all ages.
  • How to Open an Adoption by Patricia Martinez Dorner (1998, R-Squared Press).
    This book gives guidance to adoptive parents, birth parents, and adoption professionals in how to navigate more inclusive relationships.
  • Lifegivers: Framing the Birth Parent Experience in Open Adoption by James L. Gritter (2000, CWLA Press).
    This book examines the ways birth parents are marginalized. The author makes the point that adopted children are best served when birth parents and adoptive parents work together to ensure that birth parents remain in children’s lives.
  • The Open Adoption Experience by Lois Ruskai Melina and Sharon Kaplan Roszia (1993, HarperPerennial).
    This complete guide for adoptive and birth parents touches on almost every aspect of open adoption.
  • The Spirit of Open Adoption by Jim Gritter (1997, CWLA Press).
    This book gives a realistic look at the joys and pains of open adoption for birth parents, adoptees, and adoptive parents.
  • What is Open Adoption? by Brenda Romanchik (1999, R-Squared Press).
    Written from the perspective of a birth mother in an open adoption, this pocket guide provides concise information and resources.


  • Adopting from Russia - What To Pack
    View article
  • Adopting from Russia - Evaluating a Referral
    View article
  • Adopting from Russia - Travel Tips
    View article
  • Physicians Provide Health Advice for Intercountry Adoptions
    Noting that internationally adopted children are at increased risk for infectious diseases and often have uncertain immunization status, Chen et al make recommendations for adoptive parents to reduce the risk of transmission. “Preventing Infectious Diseases During and After International Adoption” provides suggestions for pre-travel consultation and for protecting other family members. The report cites a study finding that “important medical conditions” were identified in 57% of 293 internationally adopted children, 81% of which were identified “by obtaining a specific panel of screening tests.” The September 2003 article in Annals of Internal Medicine also gives an overview of specific infectious diseases and their case rates for internationally adopted children - including tuberculosis, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, measles, mumps and intestinal parasites - as well as of vaccination rates.
  • Health and Medical Information Section
    View article
  • Caring for Internationally Adopted Children
    Editorial, New England Journal of Medicine, Nov. 11, 1999 View article
  • Infectious Diseases and the Internationally Adopted Child
    View article
  • Attachment Issues In International Adoption
    by Susan Soon Keum Cox - View article
  • Hepatitis B Vaccine Is Imperative for Families Adopting from Abroad
    by Dr. Jane Aronson - View article
  • International Adoption: Health Aspects
    View article
  • Medical Issues in Adoption
    View article


  • Considering A Transracial Adoption?
    by J. Brandon, B.S.W. - View article


  • Modern Love - My First Lesson in Motherhood
    by Elizabeth Fitzsimons - View article
  • What is Attachment Parenting?
    by Jan Hunt, M.Sc. - View article
  • Talking to your children about adoption
    View article
  • Gracious Answers to Awkward Questions About Our Adopted Kids
    by Deborah McCurdy, MSW - View article
  • How Did I Get Here: Explaining Adoption to the Child
    by Deborah N. Silverstein and Sharon Kaplan - View article
  • Tips for Preparing and Staying Connected with Children at Home
    by Jean MacLeod - View article
  • Tips about dealing with your baby.
    View article
  • Attachment in Early Childhood
    by Marjorie Grace - View article
  • Entitlement and Claiming
    CASE Fact Sheet, View Article

Birth Parents

  • Stepping Out of the Shadows: Birthfathers Speak Out
    by Mary Martin Mason - View article

Obtaining Background Information on Your Prospective Adopted Child

Why is background information important?

In any type of adoption (domestic or intercountry), involving children of any age, it is important to obtain as much thorough and accurate medical, genetic, and social history information as you can about your prospective child. While adoption, like any form of parenting, involves a certain level of risk, background information is useful for the following reasons:

  • It enables you to make an informed decision about accepting a child. When you have complete and accurate knowledge of a child’s needs (medical or emotional) prior to placement, you will be better able to determine if your family is prepared to care for this child. You are also able to consider whether you have the emotional and financial resources to meet any special needs that may be identified for the child.
  • It provides an opportunity for your child to develop an accurate sense of his or her own history. Without accurate information, adopted children may develop unrealistic fantasies about their history or may blame themselves for the separation from their birth families. They may feel disconnected from their past or like a piece of themselves is missing and incomplete. As they grow older, they will also lack information critical to their own childbearing decisions.
  • It provides an opportunity for early diagnosis, treatment, and intervention for developmental problems and conditions. Knowledge of medical problems or genetic predispositions in a child’s birth family may help you diagnose and treat conditions more quickly. Knowing whether a child has been tested for a specific disease or condition, and the results of such tests, avoids duplicative testing.

Where would I find background information about waiting children?

Contact your local ministry office and ask about the types of children they usually places with adoptive families, the ages of children who generally are available for adoption, and the general backgrounds of the children. Keep in mind that each child is an individual with his or her own potential problems, as well as his or her own strengths, abilities, talents, and charms. Social workers will often share more specific information about each child after your family has completed a home study and expresses an interest in adopting that particular child.

What questions should I ask a child’s social worker?

Once your home study is complete and you express an interest in a particular child, you will have an opportunity to talk in-depth with the child’s social worker and, possibly, others in the child’s life. Asking questions and listening carefully to the responses will help you better understand what it would be like to live with that child.

The questions you ask and the information you receive will depend to some degree on the child’s age. With an infant, the birth parents’ health history, particularly the birth mother’s prenatal history, will be most important. With an older child, you will be seeking more comprehensive information (including social, developmental, educational, and mental health histories). If the child has been in foster care, the questions you ask may be much more complex.

Keep the following questions in mind when listening to any child’s background information:

  • What would a child with this history believe about him/herself?
  • What would a child with this history believe about parents/caretakers/the world?
  • What types of behaviors should I expect from a child with this history?
  • What special skills, abilities, or resources might be necessary to parent this particular child (e.g., medical knowledge or skills, accessible housing, special cultural or parenting training)?
Questions Regarding the Child’s Medical and Family History
  • How complete is the social/medical history on the birth family, including extended family? What is missing? Is it possible to get more information?
  • What is the birth family’s racial, ethnic, cultural, and religious background?
  • What is the general physical description of the child’s birth parents, siblings, and other close relatives? Are there pictures? (Attempt to get pictures of a child’s birth parents and relatives whenever possible, because this will enable you to answer the questions frequently asked by adopted children: “What did my birth parents look like?” or “Who do I look like?”)
  • Is there a family history of drug or alcohol abuse?
  • Is there a family history of mental illness or other genetic conditions, or predispositions to diseases such as diabetes or heart disease?
  • What was the age and cause of death of close relatives in the birth family?
  • What is known about the birth parents’ developmental history-physically, emotionally, cognitively, including language development?
  • What is known about the educational background of the birth parents and the child’s siblings?
  • What are the special skills, abilities, talents, or interests of birth parents and family members?
  • Are there letters, pictures, videotapes, and gifts from the birth family?
  • What was the birth mother’s health like during pregnancy, and what was the health of each parent at the time of the child’s birth?
  • What prenatal care did the child receive, and what was his or her condition at birth?
  • When did he or she achieve developmental milestones, and have there been any developmental assessments reflecting deviation from typical development?
  • Are there prior medical, dental, psychological, or psychiatric examinations and/or diagnoses for this child?
  • Are there records of any immunizations and/or health care received while the child was in out-of-home care?
  • What is the child’s current need for medical, dental, developmental, psychological, or psychiatric care?
  • What is the child’s HIV status?
Questions Regarding the Child’s Social and Placement History
  • Why did the birth parents make an adoption plan for the child, or why was the child removed from his or her birth family?
  • Did the child suffer any physical, sexual, or emotional abuse or neglect? At what point in the child’s life did he or she experience these traumas? How often? By whom?
  • How many placements did the child have, and where (e.g., relative placements, foster homes, orphanages, residential treatment facilities, hospitals)? What were the reasons for placements or re-placements? What does the child remember about his or her placements? What does the child believe about why he or she was placed or moved from one placement to another? (The child’s belief may or may not be accurate, but it is important to understand a child’s perception of his or her placement history.)
  • Where is the child currently enrolled and what is his or her performance at school?
  • What are the results of any educational testing and are there any special educational needs?
  • Are there significant events (early separations, multiple caretakers, abuse/neglect) in the child’s life that could affect his or her capacity to relate to a new family?
  • What are the past and existing relationships in the child’s life with people he or she has regularly lived with or visited (e.g., siblings, birth parents, foster parents, orphanage workers, teachers, therapists, nurses)? How has the child responded to visits with these persons in the past? Is future contact planned with any of these persons? How often? Who is responsible for seeing that it happens?
  • What are the child’s strengths?
  • What are the child’s special interests, talents, and/or hobbies?

You should seek assistance in interpreting this information by speaking with doctors, mental health professionals, education professionals, and parents who have adopted children with similar needs and issues.

Why might all the information not be available?

Complex Family Histories.

Social workers in the child welfare system make every effort to collect complete background information about each of the children for whom they are responsible. This often includes positive information about the child and family as well as problems. However, children in foster care often have complex and difficult family histories. They often are older, need to be placed with their brothers and sisters who may also have been removed from their birth family, have experienced trauma, and have experienced frequent moves both while in their family of origin and while in the foster care system. All these factors may make it difficult to obtain a complete background history.

Gaps in Recordkeeping.

Children in the foster care system may have had many different social workers in various units of the social service system before becoming available for adoption. Recordkeeping may vary, and workers may have moved on. Children may have had multiple foster placements; foster families may no longer work for an agency.

Intercountry Adoptions.

The only source of information in intercountry adoptions may be the agency, orphanage, and/or adoption facilitator in the country of origin. There may be no (or very limited) information about a child’s birth family. Doctors or attorneys who facilitated an adoption may have retired or moved out of the area.

Many children placed internationally may have health and developmental problems, particularly if they were placed at an early age in an institutional setting. Some problems, such as certain vitamin deficiencies and scabies, are unique to children adopted internationally and may depend on the child’s country of origin. Other problems, such as learning disabilities and the effects of prenatal alcohol or drug exposure, are similar to those that children in the Canadian experience.

Limitations in Knowledge.

Agencies, social workers, and intermediaries cannot disclose what they do not know. For example, children who have been abused may not feel comfortable telling anyone about the abuse until they are in a safe, stable environment. Indeed, an adoptive parent may be the very first person a child feels comfortable talking to about an incident of abuse.

What should I do if some or all the information is not available?

In domestic agency adoptions the family can ask the agency to try to contact the child’s birth family (or others in the child’s life) for additional information. Former foster parents can sometimes be the best source of information regarding an older child.

In any case, it is important to be honest with your child regarding what you know about his or her birth family and background information. How that information is shared with a child will depend on the family and the child’s developmental level.

National Adoption Information Clearinghouse

CHOICES offers individual and family post adoption counselling. Call our office for information.

Adoption and the Stages of Development

Article on Adoption and the Stages of Development

Post Adoption Support Groups

CHOICES will set up post adoption support groups according to demand. Please call CHOICES at (250) 598-8626 to arrange setting up a support group.

For information on Post Adoption support groups contact the Adoption Support Program, QACC, Vancouver Island Health Authority, at (250) 721-6798, or email

AFABC also provides post adoption groups. Please contact AFABC by phone at 1-866-334-3873 or by email at for more information.

Post Adoption Support Services

  • Openness and Mediation Services (This service provides adoptive parents or birth family with information, education, support and mediation to assist with openness and the openness agreement)
  • Adoption Consulting and Coaching (Adoption coaching provides adoptive parents with user friendly strategies to deal with challenging behaviours in children such as attachment concerns, aggression, fasd, adhd, anger management and grief. Coaching can help strengthen the adoptive family and is not considered therapy) This service can be provided in person, by telephone or by email.

Adoption reunion registry information


Useful Health Tips

Adjusting To Parenthood
By Lynne Thurling, MD, PhD, FRCP(C)

When a woman who is accustomed to working outside of the home interacting with other adults becomes a mother, it is a significant lifestyle adjustment to stay at home to care for a baby full-time.

It may be pure joy, having your new baby in your arms. But learning to cope with the constant challenges and interrupted sleep that come with being a new parent can sometimes seem overwhelming.

Preparing yourself for your new life before the birth of your baby will help you feel more confident. It helps to do some reading about child care and to talk with other new mothers.

Techniques To Help You Adapt To Your New Lifestyle

Sleep deprivation is common among new parents. This can be a problem psychologically and physically. Try to adapt to your baby’s rhythms, and nap when she (or he) naps. Concentrate on caring for your new baby and getting rest; everything else should become secondary.

Don’t fret if your home is not spotless. And this is not the time to start decorating! Graciously accept all the help your family and friends offer.

You don’t have to be completely deprived of spending time with other adults. With the Internet, cellphones, television and more, there are many ways to keep connected with the world outside your home. When your baby gets past the newborn stage, you can take her with you to the library, shopping, and even to have a coffee with a friend.

Your partner will feel less deprived of attention, if he is involved with caring for the baby. Taking part in the baby’s care will help him understand your fatigue, and the mutual involvement with your baby can lead to a new emotional and physical closeness. You can be a team, sharing parenting responsibilities and joys.

If you have a fulfilling career outside the home, you may be concerned you will be passed over for promotion. Companies acknowledge more and more that a parent must take the time needed to be with the new baby. Some women use their home computer and network with their employer to keep in touch, and even provide ongoing assistance to the person or people temporarily performing their duties.

Dr. Lynne Thurling is a psychiatrist in private practice in Fergus and Toronto, Ont.

Thanks to ParentsCanada.Com for the article.

Fathers Matter

Being a father is one of the most important jobs you will ever have. In the past, most fathers went to work to support their families, while raising children was the mother’s job.

Things have changed. In many families today, both parents work for pay. In others, the father stays at home caring for the children, while the mother goes out to work.

No matter what your family is like, it can be hard to balance the demands of your work and your family. But spending time with your children in the first six years is one of the best things you can do for them. Being involved in your child’s life doesn’t make you less of a man.

Getting involved in your children’s lives is the way to have them develop a strong bond with you. And being close to someone who loves them will make your children feel loved and secure.

When a baby is very young, many fathers feel there is no role for them because the baby depends so much on the mother. Babies do need their mothers, but there are many important things you, the baby’s father, can do, whether your child is a newborn or toddler.

Whatever you do with your children, the important thing is to spend time together. Show your children that you love them and that they have your attention. All these activities help you and your children know, trust and love each other.

You have what it takes to be a great father.

What you can do:

  • Play with your child.
  • Change your baby’s diapers.
  • Cuddle your children, and give them hugs and kisses.
  • Bathe, talk, read and sing to your baby.
  • Take your child to the babysitter or to school.
  • Take your child for walks.
  • Take your children to the library or a community program.
  • Take your children to play in the park.
  • Put your children to bed.
  • Have fun together. Be silly! Make funny faces and make your baby laugh.

Thanks to ParentsCanada.Com for the article.

Harvard Researchers Say Children Need Touching and Attention
by Alvin Powell, Contributing Writer, Harvard Gazette

America’s “let them cry” attitude toward children may lead to more fears and tears among adults, according to two Harvard Medical School researchers.

Instead of letting infants cry, American parents should keep their babies close, console them when they cry, and bring them to bed with them, where they’ll feel safe, according to Michael Commons and Patrice Miller, researchers at the Medical School’s Department of Psychiatry.

The pair examined child-rearing practices here and in other cultures and say the widespread American practice of putting babies in separate beds - even separate rooms - and not responding to their cries may lead to more incidents of post-traumatic stress and panic disorders among American adults.

The early stress due to separation causes changes in infant brains that makes future adults more susceptible to stress in their lives, say Commons and Miller.

“Parents should recognize that having their babies cry unnecessarily harms the baby permanently,” Commons said. “It changes the nervous system so they’re sensitive to future trauma.”

Their work is unique because it takes a cross-disciplinary approach, examining brain function, emotional learning in infants, and cultural differences, according to Charles R. Figley, director of the Traumatology Institute at Florida State University and editor of The Journal of Traumatology.

“It is very unusual but extremely important to find this kind of interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research report,” Figley said. “It accounts for cross-cultural differences in children’s emotional response and their ability to cope with stress, including traumatic stress.”

“Parents should recognize that having their babies cry unnecessarily harms the baby permanently. It changes the nervous system so they’re sensitive to future trauma.”

- Dr. Michael Commons,
Dept of Psychiatry, Harvard

Figley said their work illuminates a route of further study and could have implications for everything from parents’ efforts to intellectually stimulate infants to painful practices such as circumcision.

Commons has been a lecturer and research associate at the Medical School’s Department of Psychiatry since 1987 and is a member of the Department’s Program in Psychiatry and the Law.

Miller has been a research associate at Harvard Medical School’s Program in Psychiatry and the Law since 1994 and an assistant professor of psychology at Salem State College since 1993. She received master’s and doctorate degrees in education from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.

The pair say that American child-rearing practices are influenced by fears that children will grow up dependent. But parents are on the wrong track. Physical contact and reassurance will make children more secure when they finally head out on their own and make them better able to form their own adult relationships.

“We’ve stressed independence so much that it’s having some very negative side effects,” Miller said.

The two gained the spotlight in February when they presented their ideas at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting in Philadelphia.

In a paper presented at the meeting, Commons and Miller contrasted American child-rearing practices with those of other cultures, particularly the Gusii tribe of Kenya. Gusii mothers sleep with their babies and respond rapidly when the baby cries.

“Gusii mothers watching videotapes of U.S. mothers were upset by how long it took these mothers to respond to infant crying,” Commons and Miller said in their paper on the subject.

The way we are brought up colors our entire society, Commons and Miller say. Americans in general don’t like to be touched and pride themselves on independence to the point of isolation, even when undergoing a difficult or stressful time.

Despite the conventional wisdom that babies should learn to be alone, Miller said she believes many parents “cheat,” keeping the baby in the room with them, at least initially. In addition, once the child can crawl around, she believes many find their way into their parents’ room on their own.

American parents shouldn’t worry about this behavior or be afraid to baby their babies, Commons and Miller said. Parents should feel free to sleep with their infant children, to keep their toddlers nearby, perhaps on a mattress in the same room, and to comfort a baby when it cries.

“There are ways to grow up and be independent without putting babies through this trauma,” Commons said. “My advice is to keep the kids secure so they can grow up and take some risks.”

Besides fears of dependence, other factors have helped form our childrearing practices, including fears that children would interfere with sex if they shared their parents’ room and doctors’ concerns that a baby would be injured by a parent rolling on it if it shared their bed, the pair said. The nation’s growing wealth has helped the trend toward separation by giving families the means to buy larger homes with separate rooms for children.

The result, Commons and Miller said, is a nation that doesn’t like caring for its own children, a violent nation marked by loose, nonphysical relationships.

“I think there’s a real resistance in this culture to caring for children,” Commons said. “Punishment and abandonment has never been a good way to get warm, caring, independent people.”

Adoption and the Stages of Development

Article on Adoption and the Stages of Development