Colour first, Age second, and Permanency last: The Priorities of Ontario’s Adoption Policy
Karen and Wesley* began the process of adopting their first child by attending a PRIDE run by a licensed PRIDE trainer, not by a Children Aid Society. Like many people who decide to adopt, they wanted to adopt an infant. The PRIDE course did nothing to dissuade them from this decision; in fact, it did the very opposite by reinforcing the idea. However, the course also suggested they had little chance of succeeding with a domestic adoption.
“We are a white couple, and at the time, were in our late 30s. We were told that we were probably too old to succeed, in particular with the private domestic adoption of an infant. And the message was quite strongly conveyed to us that we were too white to succeed with the public domestic adoption of an infant. Only one couple during the PRIDE course we took was encouraged to proceed with a public domestic adoption, and that couple was mixed race .“
Therefor the message was quite strongly conveyed to them that they were too white and too old to succeed with the public domestic adoption of an infant. Only one couple during the PRIDE course they took was encouraged to proceed with a public domestic adoption, and that couple was mixed race.
Along with at least one other family from their PRIDE course, they decided to proceed with an international adoption from Ethiopia. They became clients of Imagine Adoption, which, as many people know, went bankrupt in 2009. Unfortunately, they were affected by this bankruptcy, although it only delayed their adoption rather than made it impossible. Thanks to some wonderful people who worked hard to bring this agency out of bankruptcy, they were able to complete their adoption.
It became clear that there were far more toddlers available for adoption in Ethiopia than there were infants. When they were told this, Karen and Wesley immediately applied to increase the age range they were interested in from 0-12 months up to 36 months. And soon thereafter, they received a referral for a beautiful three-year-old boy.
“Adopting a three-year-old, rather than an infant was good for us in the end,” says Karen. “Since completing this adoption I’ve informally counseled some people who were considering a change to their adoption request from that of an infant to an older child.” She wishes she could have had the same opportunity: to talk to someone who could share their knowledge, including the positives and negatives of adopting an older child.
Adopting a child of a different race and from a different culture, although challenging in some respects, has enriched their lives. Moreover, Karen explains, “We know that being adopted, period, has improved our child’s circumstances immeasurably.” Although they don’t believe that trans-racial or trans-ethnic adoption is appropriate for every prospective adoptive parent or for every adoptable child, they strongly disagree with the policy of some (perhaps many) Children Aid Societies in Ontario of race-matching (i.e., of matching prospective parents with children only if one or both of these adults are of the same race as the child). Karen knows from having done research on adoption that studies on transracial adoption generally do not support such a policy. And although giving some preference in the adoption of a child to prospective parents who are of the same race as the child may be appropriate, a strict policy against transracial adoption is simply not justified. If it were not for such a policy, they may indeed have adopted through the CAS system in Ontario.
*Pseudonyms have been used in this story
Disclaimer "These stories are the perspectives of awaiting parents. Adopt4Life aims to give parents a voice, and as such stories remain unchanged even if they may appear controversial. It is the hope of Adopt4Life that by bringing awareness to the thoughts and feelings of families, together we can work to bring change that benefits everyone."