My husband and I completed our first adoption in 2013. We know many families who have adopted, and we are a part of a large adoption community. Last September, we decided to apply to adopt through the foster care system again, and due to a backlog, we had been waiting to get our home study updated (the current wait time in our area is two years). We felt that we had a good working knowledge of the types of adoptions and how they are processed. In June, just a few short months ago, we unexpectedly met with a beautiful birth mother who had decided to place her unborn child for adoption—and she had chosen us! But here’s the hard part: she was not working with a private adoption agency and neither we were. Obviously, this was not an international or kinship adoption. So…just what type of adoption would this be and how would it work?
This turned out to be a good question that even initially stumped our local MCFD office. Tyler and I, along with the birth mom, went in for a meeting. We assumed it would be as simple as making an adoption plan.
It was not.
Direct placement adoption is a truly unique type of adoption. It happens when two people find each other in a community. One is seeking to place a yet-to-be-born child for adoption, and the other has agreed to adopt. While private adoptions in Canada cost about $20,000, a direct placement adoption costs, on average, about $5,000 to $7,000 or more if there are “hiccups” (birth father does not consent to the adoption, paperwork has not been filled out properly, or needs to be redone, etc). There are a lot of moving pieces though, and the onus is on the adoptive family to have the right paperwork done at the right time. The adoptive family may use a private adoption agency to do portions of a direct placement adoption or may use the aid of an adoption social worker through the Ministry for Children and Family Development (this government branch has other names in other Canadian provinces). A private adoption agency may be more equipped to handle the necessary paperwork, but at the same time, this is a fairly rare form of adoption from what we have gleaned, and it is possible that no one you ask will know just exactly what needs to be done. We chose to use the adoption worker through our MCFD office who handled and completed our two adoptions from foster care. She needed to check several times with an adoption consultant as to the steps needed. We were able to find exactly one lawyer in our area who had handled exactly one case in years previous of a direct placement adoption. While this type of adoption can go much faster, with the exception of the six-month adoption residency period that is required in all Canadian adoptions, we found ourselves feeling a bit of pressure to focus on what was needed, deadlines, etc.
Now, let’s look at the steps of a direct placement adoption:
- Prospective adoptive parents MUST notify a director of adoptions, or adoption agency, of their intent to receive a child in their home for adoption prior to the child being born. AND, it is against the law to miss this step! That was an eye-opener for us. Our adoption worker provided the form for us to fill in so that we were not committing an offense under the Adoption Act, Section 9.
- After being notified, a director or agency MUST meet with the birth parents to provide information, and alternatives to adoption, as well as inform them of their right to seek independent legal advice. The director or agency must also obtain as much medical and social history from each parent as possible.
- The director or agency must then provide the adoptive parents with the medical and social history, and prepare a preplacement assessment of the adoptive home. This is much, much shorter than a home study. Our preplacement assessment was only a page and a half long. The idea is that both parties have found each other somehow, so there must be some degree of knowledge of each other, and acknowledgment of the home the child will be going to.
- The adoptive parents can only receive the newborn child in their home once the birth parents have received a copy of this preplacement assessment. Once the child is born, the birth parents may transfer care, custody, and guardianship of the child to the adoptive parents. In our case, the hospital required this in both letter and affidavit format before the birth mom left the hospital. While the lawyer provided the templates, it was up to Tyler and I to arrange a notary and take the birth mom to have the documents signed.
- In Canada, a birth parent cannot sign a consent to adoption until ten days after the birth of the child. This protects her right to change her mind. But, we also have a gap in Canadian law. A consent cannot be signed until the birth certificate is issued, which takes three to four weeks after birth. At this very moment, in our adoption, we have passed the ten-day-old mark, but the birth mom has not received the birth certificate yet, so we have to continue to wait, although we do have the care, custody, and guardianship of the child.
- Within 14 days of receiving a child in our home for the purpose of adoption, we had to notify the director (in our case, it could also be an agency) in writing that the child was now living with us, and then our adoption worker had to come to our home within five working days for a check-in.
- Six months after the consents are signed, our lawyer may apply to the courts to have the adoption finalized, but we must provide the director or agency with 30 days notice of our intent to do this.
When Tyler and I were presented with this list, we felt overwhelmed. After the birth of our beautiful son, we felt terrible having to trouble the birth mom with papers, affidavits, and trips to the city commissioner (who was legally allowed to act as a notary in our case). We were concerned with getting it all right and not breaking the law. We had to think about the birth parent expenses as they are regulated by law in Canada. We were informed that it is our responsibility, along with our lawyer, to ensure we met all the requirements, on time. That being said, we totally circumvented the long wait for an updated home study. We met our birth mom on our own terms, in restaurants, and in our home, and really got to know each other on a personal level. Being huge advocates of open adoption, this is preferable to us than the impersonal viewing of profiles. The steps, so far, have flown by, and we feel more in control. We can call our lawyer, review the steps, and make a plan. Despite the burden of responsibility, this has probably been our easiest adoption. And here we sit, Tyler and I, with this beautiful child that has been entrusted to us. And you know what? Even if the process had been a million times harder, we would have done it anyway. We joke and tease each other about whose turn it is to change the diaper or warm up the bottle. This son of ours, I would already do anything for. A list of “must dos” before an adoption is nothing compared to holding the child in your arms. Which I intend to do, right now.