The decision to adopt a child is one of the most significant you may ever make. In addition to personal and emotional considerations, it is important that you understand the process and legal implications of BC adoption.
This article is intended to provide some of the basic information about who can adopt and consent to adoption, ways to adopt, and the legal implications of adoption in BC. If you require more than this general overview of the basics, please contact one of our team of BC family lawyers for more detailed information about the adoption process or to discuss how BC adoption law applies in your situation. Who can adopt and consent to adoption in BC? The Adoption Act sets out the law and process for adoption in BC. The Adoption Act makes it so that you can apply to adopt in BC if you are an adult (i.e., over the age of 19) and you have been a resident of BC for at least six months. Any one adult or two adults jointly may apply. In other words, single people can adopt – you do not need to be married to adopt in BC. If, however, you are in a relationship, it does not matter if it is an opposite-sex or same-sex relationship for the purpose of adoption in BC. Generally speaking, consent is required for a child to be adopted. Unless the child is in the permanent care of the child welfare authorities, consent is needed from the child's parents and/or guardians. Consent is also needed from the child if he or she is 12 years old or over. There are also special considerations for placement of an indigenous child to ensure that the child is aware of their aboriginal rights and heritage. In all adoption matters, the overriding consideration is whether adoption is in best interests of the child. Ways to adopt a child in BC and basics about the process Here are some of the ways to adopt a child in BC: • Agency placement – the birth parents place the child with an adoption agency and the adoption agency matches the child with applicant(s) who have no previous relationship to the child. The applicant(s) must have a home study conducted for an agency placement and must also register with the Ministry of Children and Family Development. The child must be in the prospective adoptive parent’s home for six months before the adoptions can be finalized. • Direct placement – the birth parents work with an agency to place the child with a friend or other person who is not a relative. Even with a direct placement, where the birth parents choose the adoptive parents, a licensed BC adoption agency must be involved and will conduct a preplacement assessment of the prospective adoptive parents before the adoptive parents receive the child. • Relative adoption – the birth parents ask a relative such as a grandparent or sibling to adopt their child. To adopt a child related to you by blood or marriage, you will need to apply to the court. • Stepparent adoption – to adopt your partner's child, you will need to apply to the court. • Government placement – if a child is in foster care and the goal of reuniting the child with his or her birth family cannot be met or is not in the child’s best interests, the Ministry of Children and Family Development registers the child for adoption. To adopt a child by Ministry placement, prospective parent(s) also need to be registered. BC recently implemented the “Adopt BC Kids” online portal, which is intended to streamline the adoption process for families waiting to adopt a child who has been in BC foster care. There are other ways to adopt, such as by way of international adoption (also known as “inter-country adoption”). Adoption of a child from outside of Canada is facilitated by one of BC’s licensed adoption agencies. As the laws and eligibility requirements for international adoption vary greatly for each jurisdiction, a discussion of international adoption is outside of the scope of this article. If you need more information about the legal implications of adopting a child from outside Canada in BC, call us today to explain your situation, and to see how we can help. Legal implications of BC adoption The most profound legal implication when you adopt a child is that you take on all the parental rights and responsibilities that birth parents have. The birth parents of the adopted child give up all their parental rights and responsibilities. The situation is different for stepparent adoptions: if you are a stepparent and adopt your new partner’s child, you become a joint parent with your partner, and the other birth parent ceases to have any parental rights or responsibilities in relation to the child. There are many other significant legal implications and considerations that will arise both during the adoption process, upon completion of the adoption, and beyond. For example: • A natural parent’s duty to pay child support stops from the time an adoption order is made. • A natural parent no longer has the right to make decisions or receive information about the child’s health or schooling from that point. • An adopted child has the same inheritance rights as a natural child, so an adoptive parent should reconsider their estate plan and revise their will. • An adoptive parent should make a plan for an alternate caregiver so there is a guardian for the child in the event that something happens to the adoptive parent. What if I need more advice in relation to BC adoption? The process of adoption can be challenging to navigate and the discussion in this article touches on only a few of the legal implications of BC adoption that you will need to consider. Having an experienced BC family lawyer to guide you will make the process less stressful and ensure that legal rights are protected. To learn how we can help or for advice with respect to BC adoption, call Bronson Jones & Company LLP’s today at 1-855-852-5100 to schedule a consultation with one of our team of BC family lawyers.