Private domestic adoption refers to any adoption within Canada that is not arranged by a public agency. “Private” in this context doesn’t mean that the adoption is done quietly or in secret. In fact, most private domestic adoptions nowadays are open adoptions.

Adoption in Canada comes under provincial jurisdiction, which means that the laws vary from one province to the next. Some provinces are flexible, others are not. Listing all the rules and regulations province by province would require a separate website, one that would need to be updated on an ongoing basis since that’s how often the laws themselves seem to change.

The key to a successful private adoption is to find out everything you can about your province’s restrictions and limitations regarding:

  • What adoptive parents can and can’t do to find a child
  • The fees and expenses prospective adoptive parents can pay, and who they pay them to
  • The requirements regarding who must consent to the adoption, as well as when and how that consent can be signed
  • The notifications and approvals needed before a child can be placed in the prospective parents’ home
  • The time frame when the final adoption order can be issued
  • In many cases, adopting from another province is possible. It simply adds an extra layer to the process since in addition to meeting the requirements governing adoption in your province, you need to meet the laws of the province in which your baby lives or is born. But this isn’t something you need to worry about now. Your licensee or agency can explain all the legalities in more detail when the time comes.

For the time being, bear in mind that despite all the legal barriers and obstacles that exist in Canada today, prospective adoptive parents and birth parents find their way around them every day. And with a little bit of patience, perserverance and luck, you can too.

The Process

Apart from a few differences, the private domestic adoption process has much in common with the public one. The key difference is that in private adoption the wait for a healthy newborn is much shorter and prospective adoptive couples (and birth mothers) have much more control over the process than with public adoption. Rather than having the agency choose a child for you, in some provinces you have the option of finding one yourself. And our Parent Profile Writing Service, Parent Profile Design Service and Waiting Parents Registry can help speed things up, saving you time and money.

Here are some of the steps you’ll need to go through:

  • Get a home study completed
  • Find a prospective birth mother considering placing her child for adoption
  • Have her and the birth father undergo social and legal counselling
  • Review their medical and histories
  • Meet the birth mother and birth father (optional)
  • Have child placed (usually occurs directly from the hospital, prior to birth parents signing their consent)
  • Wait for the birth mother’s revocation of consent period to expire
  • Undergo a probationary period (follow-up visits from adoption practitioner)
  • Submit a post-placement report to the provincial ministry in charge of adoption
  • Receive an adoption order from the court

Time Line

Adopting privately could take a year or it could take many years. A lot depends on you, and how quickly you can complete a home study, find a child and, finally, get your file processed.

A home study could be completed in three to six months. If everything is in place, the processing of the adoption could be done in a few months as well. In terms of the wait, the biggest question mark will be the search. For some waiting parents, finding a birth mother could take just a couple of days. For others, it could take months or even years. Then again, it may not happen at all. Luck definitely plays a role but remember, in adoption you make your own luck.

The Costs

The fees for a private domestic adoption vary considerably and can run anywhere from about $10,000-20,000. The variation depends on how quickly or easily you can find a child, what method you use to do this, and where the child lives. Conducting your own search through the Internet or newspaper classifieds, for instance, will in most cases be less expensive than going through a private agency. But in some provinces, direct advertising and placement may not be possible so make sure you speak to your individual adoption licensee or agency first.

Going down more than one road at a time–say, signing up with an agency and an online service like Canada Adopts!–will add to your costs, but it will also increase your chances of finding a child.

Like many people, you may choose to search for your child yourself, but have an agency finalize the adoption or conduct the home study for you. Whatever route you take, eventually you’ll need to get your adoption finalized by an adoption licensee, whether s/he works independently or through an agency.

In fact, that’s where most of your fees will go–to cover legal and administrative costs. Depending on where your child’s birth mother lives, there may also be some travelling and lodging expenses involved. Remember, the birth mother does not get paid for the placement nor is she allowed to receive any kind of incentive, gift, financial inducement or compensation for making her decision. You can’t even buy her a cup of coffee or flowers at the hospital.

Also remember that as the prospective adoptive parents, you will be responsible for covering all of the birth mother’s and father’s counselling fees, whether or not they decide to go through with the adoption. So make sure you’re confident of your choice of birth parents.


Most waiting couples choose private domestic adoption because they want a healthy newborn. If your biggest concern is your baby’s health, then this is probably your best route. As part of the process, you’ll have access to the medical and social history of your child’s parents. If you’d like, you can ask them questions about it and in many cases you’ll even meet them.

As a result of your open relationship with your child’s parents, your child’s heritage will never be in doubt. You–and eventually, she–will know who her parents were and how she came to be part of your family. This will be important later when your child grows up and starts asking questions about her identity.

Besides being medically less risky than an overseas adoption, a private domestic adopion could be less expensive as well. In the end, it will all hinge on:

  • how fussy you are
  • the kind of child you’re interested in adopting
  • your time frame
  • your financial resources
  • plain dumb luck
  • If you live in a province where advertising is permitted, you also have the option of having more control over the process and in facing a potentially shorter waiting period.


The biggest downside to private domestic adoption is the lack of available newborns. The vast majority of women today who have an unplanned pregnancy either terminate it or decide to raise their child themselves.

Nobody knows exactly how many birth mothers in Canada place their newborns for adoption each year. It’s been said that we keep better track of our used cars than we do of our children. The number is thought to be in the hundreds rather than in the thousands, with the lion’s share originating in Ontario.

If you really want to be a parent and you have a low threshold for risk, then this isn’t the route for you. International adoption is. Then again, don’t get too discouraged. Sure, there may not be many birth mothers available. But remember, all you need is one to start a family.

The other major risk is, of course, that the birth mother could change her mind and decide to raise her baby herself. There are restrictions as to when she can do this, but for many hopeful parents that’s not enough of a safeguard. In fact, many people feel uncomfortable about going through an open adoption and knowing that their child will have another set of parents.

And lastly, as with any baby, there’s no guarantee that yours won’t have health problems.

Ten Common Mistakes Adoptive Parents Make When Adopting Privately in Canada

  1. They don’t research the adoption laws in their province enough.
  2. They look for guarantees.
  3. They invest too much of themselves too early in the process.
  4. They make snap decisions based on limited information.
  5. They don’t know when to walk away from a situation.
  6. They don’t treat their birth mother like a real person.
  7. They afraid of asking their birth mothers hard questions for fear that they’ll scare her away.
  8. They don’t realize that even though the birth mother may live faraway, her child’s connection to her will never disappear.
  9. They don’t realize that birth mother will become part of their extended family.
  10. They make promises they have no intention of keeping.