Waiting adoptive parents and open adoption professionals in Alberta say it’s time for the government to update its ban on online profiles.
In open adoption, couples hoping to adopt can often take months or even years off their wait time by connecting directly with families that are placing their baby for adoption.
And as the number of parents making an adoption plan drops, finding new ways to spread the word about their desire to adopt is becoming more important than ever for waiting parents.
However, under Alberta’s current law, prospective adoptive parents are not allowed to advertise or market themselves.
Meanwhile, in other provinces and territories such as Ontario, British Columbia and Yukon, couples have the right to use any number of outreach tools including online profiles, social media and websites.
Judith Kustermans and her husband, Peter, have been on an Alberta waiting list for their second open adoption for nearly four years.
She says the double-standard facing couples in Alberta is frustrating and finds it “heartbreaking” that she can’t give her daughter a brother or sister.
“In a way I love looking (at the profiles on Canada Adopts!) just to see what are other people looking for, and how to do their profile themselves,” she told the CBC.
“On the other hand, I don’t like looking at them because I’m like, ‘Hey, they can post their profiles online, why can’t we post our things here in Alberta?'”
Since launching in 2001, we have received dozens of requests by adoption-ready families in Alberta to join our website. But each time we have had to turn them down due to the legislation.
And last week, after several discussions about the issue on our Facebook page and a meeting with her MLA, a waiting parent put out a call to prospective parents to share their stories and anecdotes about how changing the law could assist them with their adoption journey.
Some social workers in Calgary say they’re convinced adoptable babies are leaving the province as a result of the advertising ban.
“We are seeing some birth parents from Alberta that are choosing families from other provinces,” says Ramone Kindrat, executive director of Adoption by Choice, one of four licensed facilitators in Alberta.
Kindrat says she supports the idea of allowing Alberta couples to advertise online, provided the proper safeguards are in place.
Another reason to update the law, she says, is because many birth parents do their research and communication online before contacting an agency.
“For birth parents that first phone call is really scary,” she says. “Usually birth parents are not phoning us. They are emailing, they’re texting. It’s so much easier as a starting point and also to take a look at the profiles at your own pace and in the comfort of your own home.”
Sheryl Proulx, director of Adoption Options, an adoption agency with offices in Calgary and Edmonton, also believes it’s time for a change.
“The laws are dated and we need to get with the times,” she told the CBC, adding that protective “controls and parameters” need to be put in place.
She says that she has received calls from agencies in Ontario and British Columbia hoping to connect with Alberta expectant mothers after those mothers had found potential matches online.
Interestingly, some critics of the ban point to the government’s “blatant inconsistency” in regards to its adoption outreach policy.
They say that while adoptive parents are prohibited from posting their profile online, personal information and photographs of thousands of children in government care have been published on television and the Internet for years.
Proulx says it’s hard to measure the impact that online profiles from B.C., Ontario and Yukon are having on Alberta adoptions.
Still, she says that the wait time for approved couples looking to adopt is growing due to a number of factors including access to abortions, birth control and changing societal attitudes.
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