If you are unready to make the huge commitment involved in adoption (or if you are waiting to adopt) fostering and getting involved with Big Brother/Big Sister/Special Friends are two excellent ways to help out those in need while also gaining experience working with children.
Some Children’s Aid Societies even have a foster-to-adopt program which you may be interested in inquiring about.
Legal guardianship is a special tool that exists to provide security and family to children who are unable to live with their birth parents but for whom the adoption process may be unnecessary.
Finally, adult adoption is a way for those over the age of 18 to still find a forever family.
When a child comes into the care of a Children’s Aid Society in Ontario they are first placed in a foster home while efforts are made to work with their birth family to facilitate the return of the child, if possible, to the family home.
Foster parents provide day-to-day care for children, including supervision, guidance, and affection. They must be able to provide a stable home environment and consistency of care. Foster parents will receive training from the Children’s Aid Society or private agency they are working with. They will become an integral part of the professional team who is working with the child and family.
When a child is not able to return to birth family, the foster parents will be involved in the adoption planning for the child and may be given the opportunity to put forth an adoption plan themselves, if appropriate. Some CAS’s have a foster-to-adopt program that is specifically designed to limit the number of moves a child has by preparing families for both fostering and adoption.
Call your local Children’s Aid Society to find out about the process, evaluation and training required to become a foster parent.
In many instances, children are able to stay in the care of their birth families through challenging times, provided they can receive some additional support. This niche is filled by the Big Brother, Big Sister, and Special Friends programs.
Volunteering in this capacity is a great way to help out a child who is in need and to keep children actively involved in your life when the fulltime commitment of adopting a child is not an option.
Children’s Aid Societies often have programs that match volunteers with specific children and families. As well, many communities have a chapter of Big Brothers/ Big Sisters of Canada that provide training and matching of adults with children.
Sometimes a child cannot live with the birth parents but could have their need for family met by an extended family member, a close family friend or a member of the community who has developed a relationship with them or the birth parents. In these situations the family who is able to provide care may become the legal guardian for the child. Usually, the birth family consents to the guardianship plan and the order is granted in the family court system.
Legal guardianship resembles adoption in many ways, but guardianship relationships are not afforded all the legal protections of adoption. Guardianship may be preferable to adoption in situations where the child may in the future be able to return to the care of their birth parents. Guardianship is sometimes also called “kinship placement.”
Adoption is not limited to children. In Ontario, the court can grant an adoption order when a person is over the age of 18. In these situations, the person seeking adoption and the prospective adoptive family would seek counsel and apply to the Ontario family court for an adoption order. The relevant legislation can be found in Section 146, Part VII of the Child and Family Services Act.