McGuinty Government To Make Adoption Possible For More Children

Archived Release

McGuinty Government To Make Adoption Possible For More Children

New Legislation To Help More Children Find A Permanent Home TORONTO, June 6 - The McGuinty government intends to introduce legislation today that would, if passed, reform the province's adoption system so that more children can find a safe, secure family to grow up in, Children and Youth Services Minister Marie Bountrogianni announced today. "The current system is too rigid," said Bountrogianni. "We need to help more children find a permanent, caring home by making adoption more flexible for individual children and friendlier for parents." There are approximately 9,000 children, who are considered Crown wards, in the care of Ontario's children's aid societies, but current legal and structural barriers make three-quarters of them ineligible for adoption. Proposed changes would make adoption more flexible and provide a wider range of options so that more children can be placed with a family on a permanent basis. "Children move between foster homes and group homes an average of every two years," said Bountrogianni. "This kind of instability can affect a child's education, self-esteem and their ability to form meaningful relationships as they grow up. We want to help our children grow up in permanent, nurturing families." The proposed changes are part of the government's plan to reform Ontario's child protection system so that more children and youth in the care of children's aid societies thrive in safe, stable, supportive homes. The plan includes: - Making adoption more flexible for children by allowing more children to be adopted while keeping important ties to their birth family and community - Creating more legal options beyond traditional adoption so children and youth can be placed in a permanent home - Making the process consistent for adoptive parents by simplifying the application process, creating a province-wide registry to help match available children with prospective parents and supporting families after an adoption. The government's plan also includes working with children's aid societies so they are better equipped to place children in permanent homes and are more effective in matching their level of response to the individual needs of each family. A new funding framework for children's aid societies will help them to be more accountable and sustainable so they will be there to protect children who need them in the future. The legislation would also help resolve more cases outside the courtroom through more collaborative solutions. "Clearly, the government recognizes the monumental value that a permanent, caring family represents to a child who has been abused or neglected," said Pat Fenton, Executive Director of the Adoption Council of Ontario. "We are delighted to see it taking concrete steps today to help these vulnerable children." "Instability affects every part of a child's life," said Bountrogianni. "These children and youth live in fear because they think no one loves them or wants to invest in them. These changes would help those children and youth know what it means to have a family." Backgrounder ------------------------------------------------------------------------- HELPING MORE CHILDREN FIND PERMANENT HOMES: Highlights Of The McGuinty Government's Plan There are 9,000 Crown wards in the care of Ontario's 53 children's aid societies. The McGuinty government is committed to helping more of them find stable, supportive and loving homes. Having a safe and secure home will help these children to succeed in school, grow up healthy and become contributing members of their community. The government is proposing several changes to the province's protection system. More Flexibility Three-quarters of Crown wards cannot be adopted because their birth families have a court-ordered right to visit or contact them. However many of those families (almost 60 per cent) never take advantage of those rights and don't contact their children. As a result, fewer than 10 per cent of Crown wards are adopted each year. Under the current system, a Crown ward whose parents have court-ordered access cannot be adopted unless their birth parents give up all rights to them. This may leave children in a series of temporary situations where they may have no legal or emotional certainty. This kind of instability could affect their education, their self-esteem and their ability to form meaningful relationships. Proposed changes would mean that, where it is safe and appropriate, a child could keep important ties to his/her family, culture and community and still be adopted by a caring, stable family. Arrangements could be made so the child could keep in touch with siblings or grandparents and still be part of a family they can count on. Adoption is not the right option for every child. Most of the children and youth who cannot be cared for by their parents and are in the permanent care of children's aid societies live in foster care or group homes. On average, these children and youth move every two years. Often, they need specialized care or support programs. Proposed changes would provide more permanent options so children and youth can grow up in a stable, consistent home through a foster family, a legal guardian or extended family. Children's aid societies would have the flexibility to tailor their response to the unique needs of each child. Making Adoption Simpler For Parents Currently, parents who want to adopt a child from one of Ontario's children's aid societies are often faced with long waiting lists and an inconsistent application process. The process includes the professional assessment of a parent's strengths and needs. The government is changing the application process so prospective parents don't have to be assessed over and over and the application process is consistent for both public and private adoptions across Ontario. To give families who adopt a child through a children's aid society the support they need, societies will be able to help more families in need with programs and services. The government is working with the Adoption Council of Ontario and with children's aid societies to provide a province-wide, web-based system to help bring together children who are available for adoption with families who want to adopt. Working Together With Children's Aid Societies To help children's aid societies be more accountable and sustainable, the ministry will continue to work collaboratively with children's aid societies and modernize the way societies operate so they will be there for the children who need them in the future. The ministry will help to train workers so they are better able to help children and youth find a permanent home through adoption or another permanent solution. While maintaining the high standards of safety and protection, children's aid societies will change their intake process so that they can better match their response to the needs of each individual child and family. A new funding formula will provide children's aid societies with some longer-term stability, which will allow them to be more effective and accountable. As well, a new formula will provide societies with the flexibility to target their resources to activities such as adoption and placing children in permanent homes. If passed, legislative changes would help resolve more child protection cases outside of the courts by encouraging more collaborative solutions such as mediation. These less adversarial approaches help strengthen relationships and provide children, youth and families with faster, more effective solutions. Backgrounder ------------------------------------------------------------------------- PROVIDING MORE OPTIONS FOR CHILDREN AND YOUTH Below are a few hypothetical scenarios of how proposed changes would help some of Ontario's most vulnerable children and youth. Adoption A four-year-old girl is a Crown ward, meaning she is in the permanent care of a children's aid society. Her mother is loving, but cannot care for her daughter because of chronic mental illness. Upon taking the child into the care of a children's aid society, the judge orders that the girl's mother have the right to visit or contact her daughter twice a year. Current system: This court-ordered access means the girl cannot be adopted unless the access order is terminated and she may continue moving from foster home to foster home until she is 18 years old. Proposed changes: Instead of court-ordered access, the birth mother and adoptive parents will have new options to permit the girl to be adopted while still keeping some contact with her birth mother. Result: The child is adopted by a family who is eager to bring a child into their lives. The adoptive parents may still receive support from the children's aid society, but the child is no longer in the society's care. Open adoptions have been the norm in private adoptions for many years and are dictated by the best interests of the child. Openness is only an option when it is safe and appropriate for the child. Guardianship A 14-year-old-boy has been in the permanent care of the children's aid society for five years. He has lived with his current foster family for three years. He still considers his birth parents to be his only parents and does not want to be adopted. As a foster child, he receives visits from his social worker at school and at home and lives under the supervision of the children's aid society. He would like to be a regular teenager and live with his foster family on a permanent basis. Current system: He is either adopted or he continues to live with uncertainty in the foster care system until his 18th birthday. Proposed changes: The foster parents could become the boy's legal guardian. The society could continue to provide some support to the foster family, if necessary, but he would be discharged from the care of the children's aid society into the permanent, legal custody of his foster parents. Result: The boy would have a definite plan for his future without the fear of having to move to a different foster family. His daily life would be more stable and he could keep his own surname and perhaps a relationship with his birth family. WHAT THE EXPERTS ARE SAYING "These initiatives provide many opportunities for children's aid societies to work more flexibly with children and families. The emphasis on achieving stability and permanence for children in care through a broad range of options is welcome." Jeanette Lewis Executive Director Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies "This is a very promising set of initiatives. It will re-orient the Ontario child welfare system to more flexibly respond to the needs of children and youth in the community, who are being cared for by children's aid societies." Peter Dudding Executive Director Child Welfare League of Canada "It can be very damaging to children and youth to hear they can never have a permanent family. By removing barriers for these youth to be adopted, the government is helping them get on a positive path to adulthood. It's a win-win situation." Gordon Boyd President, Youth Justice Ontario Director, Youth Justice Services, Youth Services Bureau of Ottawa Foster Parent and Adoptive Father Fact Sheet ------------------------------------------------------------------------- MAKING ADOPTION EASIER FOR KIDS AND SIMPLER FOR PARENTS Legislative Changes The government is committed to improving the lives of children and youth who are in need of protection and whose parents can no longer care for them. Proposed legislation would, if passed: - Allow more children to be adopted - Help children's aid societies to better respond to the unique needs of each child - Help resolve more cases outside the courtroom through more collaborative solutions. Changing The Rules For Adoption Currently: Three-quarters of children in the permanent care of a children's aid society (Crown wards) cannot be adopted because a member of their birth family has a court-ordered right to contact or visit them. Currently almost 60 per cent of birth families never take advantage of that right. Today those court orders must be terminated before a child can be placed for adoption and there is no formal way for birth families or children to ensure that contact will continue after the adoption. Proposed Changes: Birth families and adoptive parents could form a voluntary "openness agreement" that would spell out the amount and type of contact between the child and their birth family. In other cases, a judge could make an "openness order" so the child could continue to have some kind of communication with a member of their birth family (for example, a sibling or grandparent). Communication could range from an occasional card to face-to- face visits. Note: If this legislation is passed, children and youth who are currently in the child protection system would have to go back to court to have their court orders terminated. This legislation would not automatically terminate the rights of their birth families. Providing More Options For Children And Youth Currently: Often, if a child cannot be adopted, they have to live in foster or group care and may move every few years. Proposed Changes: To provide more options for those children for whom adoption is not the answer, legislation would allow children and youth to be placed in the custody of extended family or with a member of the child's community or native band. A child could also be placed in the custody of their foster parent. The children's aid society could, if necessary, support these families through programs and services. Finding Collaborative Solutions Currently: When there are disputes about a child involved with a children's aid society, most decisions must go through the courts. This adversarial system often results in more uncertainty for the children and youth involved. Proposed Changes: If passed, the legislation would encourage children's aid societies to use alternatives to court when it comes to planning who will care for the child or how much contact a child might have with their birth family. Less adversarial alternatives such as mediation could be used to bring birth families, adoptive families and the child together to find a collaborative solution. Disponible en fran├žais www.children.gov.on.caFor further information: Contacts: Andrew Weir, Minister's Office, (416) 212-7159; Anne Machowski-Smith, Ministry of Children and Youth Services, (416) 325-5156