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Q - Who can adopt a child?
A - Anyone who is at least 19 years of age, and who is a Canadian citizen or has permanent resident status, can apply to adopt a child. Under the laws of Nova Scotia, either the applicant must live in Nova Scotia, or the child to be adopted must have been born or live in Nova Scotia. While there is no requirement for a minimum level of income, the applicant must have a regular income that will support their needs as well as those of the child. A single person may apply to adopt a child.
Q - Can common law and same-sex partners adopt?
A - Yes. Common law and same sex couples can apply to adopt children. In 2001 the Nova Scotia Supreme Court ruled that the provincial law prohibiting same sex couples from adopting children violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and was, therefore, unconstitutional.
Q - Can my new spouse adopt my child from a former relationship?
A - Yes, such an application in no way affects your existing relationship with your child, and if successful, your new spouse would then also be a legal parent of the child. Usually, you will need the consent of the other birth parent although a judge may allow adoption without the parent's consent in some situations.
If you are divorced from the other birth parent, and you have remarried, a joint custody order with your new spouse, may be an alternative to adoption. A judge may make an order of joint custody rather than adoption, if he or she believes that it would better meet the interests of the child or you and your spouse may apply directly for joint custody instead of adoption. Joint custody may be a good alternative if the other birth parent maintains a relationship with the child.
With a joint custody order, your new spouse will have the rights of a parent but the rights of child's other birth parent are not affected. For example, the new spouse could sign medical and other consent forms for the child.
Q - How do you adopt a child?
A - There are two ways to adopt a child, private adoptions and agency adoptions.
Private Adoptions: Private adoptions occur when a step-parent or other relative adopts a child. Your lawyer can start the process or you can contact your local licensed adoption agency.
Agency adoptions: You start the process for an agency adoption by calling the Nova Scotia Department of Community Services. You will be referred to a local licensed adoption agency that will screen you, take you through the application process and decide whether to approve your application. Screening includes checks with the police and Child Abuse Registry. The application process involves interviews with and home visits by agency staff. You will have to provide medical information.
When the agency finds a child it wishes to place with you, the agency will provide you with information about the child. If you decide that you want the child placed with you, a social worker will oversee the placement of the child in your home. The agency will file a Notice of Proposed Adoption with the Minister of Community Services. Once this is filed, the birth parent or parents cannot withdraw consent to the adoption. In most cases, the child must live with you for at least six months before the Nova Scotia Supreme Court, will hear the application for adoption.
During the six month placement the social worker will visit your home to ensure that the placement is going well and to help deal with questions or problems that may arise.
Q - How long does it take to adopt a child?
A- The process can take a long time. When you contact the agency, you will be put on a waiting list to see a social worker. The agency will tell you how long it will take to see the social worker. If your application is approved it can take years to actually have a child placed with you. Waiting lists for new- born babies are usually longer than for older children. When a child is placed with you in your home, there is period of at least six months to allow the relationship to develop between you and the child. If all goes well, after the six-month period, you can apply to the court for an Adoption Order.
Q - If I adopt a child, what are my legal responsibilities?
A - As far as the law is concerned, the legal obligations owed to an adopted child are no different than those owed to your own other children. These include the duty to provide for their care, health, welfare and education. The rights of an adopted child are the same as those of a child naturally born to a couple.
Q - Can birth parents voluntarily place their child for adoption?
A - Yes, under Nova Scotia's Children and Family Services Act, parents may enter into an agreement with a licensed adoption agency. The first step is to call the Nova Scotia Department of Community Services, listed in the provincial government section of the telephone book, to find the adoption agency nearest you. After the agreement is signed parents may withdraw their consent and have the child returned to them up until the time a Notice of Proposed Adoption is filed with the Minister of Community Services.
This happens when the child is placed in the home of the person who wishes to adopt him or her.
Q - Can the birth parents specify who their child is to be adopted by?
A - In the past, the birth parents could place the child for adoption with specific adoptive parents who were not related to the child. These were called "non-relative" or third-party adoptions. They are not permitted in Nova Scotia under the Children and Family Services Act.
Third parties can only adopt children through the agency adoption process. However, the birth parents can inform the agency that they have someone specific in mind.
If that person is approved by the child-placing agency and the adoption is seen to be in the best interests of the child, he or she may adopt the child. If the child-placing agency does not support such an adoption, they will notify the birth parents.
The parents can choose to allow the agency to find a suitable adopting family or they can withdraw their consent to the adoption agreement and they keep custody of the child themselves.
Q - Do I have to pay to adopt a child or to have my child placed into a good home?
A - No, the purpose of the screening, interviewing and placement process is to ensure that the child is placed in a suitable home and that the adoptive parents and the child form a loving caring relationship. It is a serious offence for anyone to offer or receive payment to either find a home for your child or help you adopt a child. The only exceptions are the legal expenses of your lawyer and additional costs if the adoption is international.
Q - Once my child is adopted, do I keep any parental rights?
A - No, once a court makes an Adoption Order, the birth parents no longer have any rights to custody or care of the child.
Q - Is the child's consent required for an adoption?
A - If the child to be adopted is 12 years old or older, his or her written consent is required.
Q - Does the name of an adopted child automatically change?
A - No, within the Adoption Order, the court usually orders that the child's last name be changed to that of the new family, but you can request a different name.
Q - Will I need a lawyer to adopt a child?
A - You should have a lawyer advise you on the process, prepare the legal documents, arrange a date for an adoption hearing and present information at the hearing.
Q - What benefits am I entitled to when I adopt a child?
A - You may apply for the same benefits as other parents, for example, the Child Tax Credit. You may also be entitled to Employment Insurance benefits when the child is placed for adoption. Your lawyer can advise you on this and you can also contact Human Resources Development Canada for more information.
Under the provincial Labour Standards Code, both adoptive parents may be entitled to take adoption leave when the child comes into the home. The Canada Labour Code, which covers employees in federally regulated industries, provides for adoption leave for either parent. For more information contact the Labour Standards Division of the Nova
Scotia Department of Labour and Advanced Education, or Human Resource Development Canada.
Q - How do International Adoptions work?
A - Nova Scotia has a program to help families who wish to adopt a child from another country. The Department of Community Services has an information package on the program. It includes information on policy and procedures for international adoptions, an application form, and information on some of the countries where Canada participates in international adoption programs.
You may also want information about the adoption laws for the particular country and how the bureaucratic process works; customs and cultural practices of the country; the health and background of the child; the status of the individual or agency which is making the child available for adoption; the process of bringing the child into Canada; and the costs involved.
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Q - Is there a way for birth parents or relatives and adopted children to get in touch with each other?
A - Yes, the Nova Scotia Department of Community Services operates the Adoption Register. Registration is voluntary and its purpose is to help reunite relatives when all involved parties wish to meet.
Adopted persons can be registered while still children, if their adoptive parents give written permission.
In exceptional cases, this permission may not be necessary. Otherwise, adopted persons can register themselves once they turn 19.
Birth parents and siblings can register whenever they choose. If for some reason either party needs non-identifying information about the other, the Register may be able to help without actually putting the parties in contact with each other.
Adoptive parents and birth parents can agree to share letters and photographs as the child grows up. Some even arrange to meet before the child is placed.
Q - Where can I get information if I am adopted?
A - In Nova Scotia there is an Adoption Information Act that is administered by the Department of Community Services. The Department has an Adoption Disclosure Services Program. It has information about all adoptions that have taken place in Nova Scotia. Through this program an adopted person, a birth parent or other relative may seek information about an adoption.
Q - What kind of information can I get about an adoption?
A - There are two types of information you can request through the Adoption Disclosure Program - identifying and non-identifying.
Non-identifying information may include:
- medical history
- physical description
- interests or hobbies
This information is available to:
- an adopted person 19 years of age or over
- an adopted person under 19 if he or she has the written consent of the adoptive parents
- birth parents
- adult birth siblings or birth relatives 19 years or older who have the birth parent's consent
Non-identifying information is given to the adoptive parents at the time the child is placed with them. They are encouraged to share it with the adopted child. Once an adoption is final, this information can only be provided upon request to the Adoption Disclosure Services Program.
Identifying information: is any information, such as name, address or occupation, which could lead directly to the identity of a person.
Q - What information will I need to give the Department of Community Services?
A - To ask for information about an adoption you have to complete an application form. Forms are available from the Adoption Disclosure Services Program, Department of Community Services.
On the form, you'll be asked to provide the adopted child's birth or adoptive name and date of birth.
If you are the child's birth parent you should provide the child's name at the date of birth and the name of the adoption agency involved if possible.
If you are an adult adoptee you should give the name and address of the adopting parents at the time of the adoption.
Q -What is the Passive Adoption Register?
A - This register is kept by the Department of Community Services and contains information on birth parents, adult adopted persons, and birth families who are willing to share information or to have contact with someone involved in the adoption who is seeking information.
You can register if you are 19 years or older and an adopted person or birth parent. You can also register if you are a birth sibling (brother or sister) if you have the written consent of the birth parent.
If you are seeking information about a person adopted in Nova Scotia, the information will be released if the person has:
- registered with the Passive Adoption Register
- agreed to the release of identifying information to you
The Adoption Information Act came into effect on January 1, 1997. If you registered with the Passive Adoption Register before that date, and you want staff to conduct a search, you will have to register with the Program again. The search will then be done automatically.
If you are on the Adoption Register, you should let the Adoption Services Program know if you change addresses.
Q - What happens if the person I want to contact isn't on the Register?
A - If you ask to contact a person involved in the adoption who is not registered with the Passive Adoption Register, the office of Adoption Disclosure Service Program will search for him or her on your behalf. The search is carried out in strict confidence to protect the privacy of the person you are seeking.
If the person agrees in writing to the release of identifying information to you, the information will be released. The service will not release information, which, in its opinion would pose a risk to the health, safety or well being of anyone to whom the information relates.
As well, if you request to contact the person and he or she agrees, a social worker will arrange contact between you.
If the person you are seeking information about or you want to meet does not wish to meet or have identifying information released, then the information will not be released to you.
If the person has died, the Adoption Disclosure Service may release the identifying information, if it believes the release of such information would not risk the health, safety or well being of anyone to whom it relates.
Q - What if I do not wish to be contacted?
A - If you do not want to be contacted, you can write to the Adoption Disclosure Service and ask to sign a no-contact form.
Q - Can I appeal a decision?
A - An adoption order can be appealed up to one year from the date it is made. You would appeal the decision to the Nova Scotia Appeal Court.
If you disagree with a decision about the release of information or a request for contact, you can appeal in writing to the Chair of the Appeals Committee.
Q - Where can I get more information?
A - The following agencies/organizations may be of assistance:
The Adoption Council of Canada can provide information on networking with adoptive parents organizations.
The Adoption Council of Canada
211 Bronson Avenue, #210
Ottawa ON K1R 6H5
1.888.542.3678 Toll Free
Service Nova Scotia
PO Box 157, Halifax, NS B3J 2M9
Tel. 902.424.4381 or 1.877.848.2578
North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC)
970 Raymond St., Suite 106
St. Paul, Minnesota, 55114, USA
Nova Scotia Department of Labour and Advanced Education
Labour Standards Division
Halifax 424.4311 (general inquiries)
1.888.315.0110 toll free
Adoptive Parents Association Nova Scotia
Employment and Social Development Canada
Manager of Adoption and Foster Care
Nova Scotia Department of Community Services
Toll free 1.866.259.7780 (for all adoption inquiries)
Home of the Guardian Angel
Chebucto Family Centre
3 Sylvia Avenue
Halifax NS B3R 1J7
Adoption Disclosure Service Program
Nova Scotia Department of Community Services
PO Box 696, Halifax, NS B3J 2T7
Nova Scotia Adoption Information Line
Nova Scotia Department of Community Services
The Department of Community Services and Children's Aid Societies are listed at the back of the phone book in the provincial government blue pages, or visit www.gov.ns.ca/coms