Adoptions in BC
November is National Adoption Awareness Month. For many families in Canada, adoptions are used to grow families and provide children with a nurturing home. There are four ways a child can become available through adoption: (1) adopting from foster care, (2) infant adoption, (3) adopt a child from another country, and (4) adopt a relative or stepchild. As family lawyers, we assist families in the adoption of a relative or stepchild. The other three options are most commonly facilitated by a licensed agency. This blog will highlight a few of the relevant legal considerations in the fourth option set out above.
Who can apply to adopt a Child?
In order to apply to adopt a child in BC, you must firstly be a resident of BC. One adult alone or two adults can apply to adopt a child to become a parent.
The Best Interest of the Child
Adoptions in British Columbia are governed by the Adoption Act. Similarly, to the Family Law Act the paramount consideration in adoptions is the child’s best interest. Section 3 of the Adoption Act sets out the court considerations used to evaluate the best interest of the child. They are as follows:
3 (1) All relevant factors must be considered in determining the child’s best interests, including for example:
(a) the child’s safety;
(b) the child’s physical and emotional needs and level of development;
(c) the importance of continuity in the child’s care;
(d) the importance to the child’s development of having a positive relationship with a parent and a secure place as a member of a family;
(e) the quality of the relationship the child has with a parent or other individual and the effect of maintaining that relationship;
(f) the child’s cultural, racial, linguistic and religious heritage;
(g) the child’s views;
(h) the effect on the child if there is delay in making a decision.
(2) If the child is an aboriginal child, the importance of preserving the child’s cultural identity must be considered in determining the child’s best interests.
In presenting evidence to a court about the best interest of the child, it is important to be thorough in your explanation of the unique circumstances of the child. It is also often useful to provide the court with supporting evidence from third party professionals such as counselors, family doctors, community members, and any other health or education professional able to provide an insight into the best interest of the child.
Who is required to consent to adoptions?
Section 13 of the Adoption Act sets out who is required to consent to adoptions. The consent of each of the following is required for a child’s adoption:
(a) the child, if 12 years of age or over;
(b) the child’s parents;
(c) the child’s guardians.
For children whom are 7 years and older but less than 12 years old, the applicant must arrange for a child to meet with a social worker to get their views on the proposed adoption an prepare a report.
In the event that parties are not able to obtain the necessary consent, they will be required to bring on an application to have the consent dispensed with. Circumstances where a court may dispense with consent include:
(a) the person whose consent is to be dispensed with is not capable of giving an informed consent,
(b) reasonable but unsuccessful efforts have been made to locate the person whose consent is to be dispensed with,
(c) the person whose consent is to be dispensed with
(i) has abandoned or deserted the child,
(ii) has not made reasonable efforts to meet their parental obligations to the child, or
(iii) is not capable of caring for the child, or
Can a child’s name be changed through adoption?
Children’s given or family names can be changed in adoptions, pursuant to section 36 of the Adoption Act if: (1) a court has dispensed with the child’s consent to adoption, (2) the child is 12 years of age or over and consents to the change, or (3) after considering the child’s views, if the child is at least 7 years of age and less than 12.
What is the legal effect of the adoption?
Once the adoption order is made, the child becomes the child of the adoptive parent, the adoptive parent becomes the parent of the child and the previous parent ceases to have any parental rights or obligations with respect to the child.
As a family lawyer, some of the most rewarding cases are those where we can help families successfully obtain an adoption order. A family’s decision to move forward with adoption can be both stressful and exciting. Having proper legal advice to guide you through the process can help make the process more enjoyable.