Mary-Frances Scully is a mother living in St. John’s who is very concerned about the state of adoption in Canada.
Adoption is close to her heart. She was adopted as a newborn in Ireland, and one of her sons came into her family through adoption from Thailand.
It was when she began her son’s adoption process that Mary-Frances realized that there are elements about adoption in Canada that make no sense. In October 2000, Mary-Frances and her husband applied to the provincial authorities to adopt a child. Since Mary-France’s husband is Vietnamese, and they had recently returned from a trip to Vietnam during which they visited several orphanages, they wished to adopt a little boy from there. About 6 months later, when they had completed a required pre-adoption course, adoption from Vietnam to Canada was no longer possible, since there was a federal ban in place. They decided that it would be wonderful if they could adopt a Canadian boy of Eurasian heritage, and they searched for an adoption agency that could help them. They found that there were simply no programs to apply to.
Since adoption in Canada is regulated by the provinces/territories, it is next to impossible to adopt from outside your own province, except by direct placement (i.e., if a birth family wishes to place their child specifically with you). Domestic adoption in Newfoundland & Labrador was not an option for Mary-Frances’ family- the average wait for a healthy infant is 12 years, and there are maximum age limits for parents that apply.
In the end, Mary-Frances and her family decided to work with an agency in BC, which helped them find their son in Thailand. Their application was sent to Thailand in Fall 2002, they received a referral in May 2003, and they traveled to bring their 2-year-old son home in June 2004. In July 2006, the family traveled to Ottawa to sign official adoption papers from Thailand, and their son’s adoption was finalized in November, 2006- a journey of more than 5 long years!
This is a story with a happy ending, but there is no doubt that the process of adopting a child SHOULD be much quicker! To raise awareness about the challenges faced by families trying to adopt, Mary-Frances held a “Fast-a-Thon” for three days over the past 2 weeks, which, through sponsorships, also helped raise some money for our local volunteer support group “Newfoundland and Labrador Families Adopting Multiculturally” (NLFAM).
As a pediatric specialist (hematology), Mary-Frances wants the public to be aware that the Canadian Paediatric Society has recently released a position paper on transracial adoption. In brief, they conclude that when parents are sensitive to their child’s cultural background and help their child cope with issues around racism, the outcome of adoption is usually extremely positive. More information on this report is available here: http://www.cps.ca/English/statements/CP/cp06-01.htm
Also important to families who are adopting internationally is Bill C-14, which, if passed, will grant adopted children automatic citizenship upon finalization of the adoption. More detail can be found here: http://www.adoption.ca/news/060515citizenship.htm
One of the big questions that Mary-Frances’ story raises, though, is: why it is so much easier (well, relatively!) to adopt a child from another country than to adopt one from Canada? Although there are clearly not as many children legally available for adoption in Canada as there are in other countries, why is there not an effort being made to remove “provincial barriers” and find more children living in temporary care safe, loving and permanent homes?
All children, no matter their country of birth, have a right to this. When bureaucratic “rules” deny them this, something is drastically wrong with the system.
Thank you, Mary-Frances, for publicly telling your family’s story to help us remember these issues. Thank you for your example, and for your unending support of the miracle that is adoption.