The Adoption Industry in Canada

In Canada, we don’t normally think of adoption as being an industry. For most Canadians this would be an idea that would be uncomfortable, not in our image, not the Canadian way. But the fact is that it is an industry in Canada, and it is an industry that is growing in double digits. And, it is an industry that governments support because supporting young single mothers is expensive…and keeping children in care is expensive…that’s the bottom line.

Adoption in Canada has slowly been following the example of the United States over the last decade.

In Mirah Ruben’s book “The Stork Market”: America’s Multi Billion Dollar Unregulated Adoption Industry” is exposed. One thing our U.S. neighbours have taught us is that there is money to be made in the Adoption Industry. Where there is an opportunity to make money, business will grow, and the adoption industry is growing in leaps and bounds in Canada as it slowly moves towards the model of its U.S. counterpart

To assume there is no Adoption Industry in Canada would be naïve at the very least.  Let’s explore the facts…

Canadian Adoption Agency websites are now modelled on U.S. websites.  The use of  soft colours,  images of cute babies and pregnant bellies with no faces; with happy “birthmother” testimonials,  giving babies as gifts,  and other insidious marketing devices all contribute to the overall objective.  Canadian websites use the  U.S. coined “birth” terms such as “Birthmother” in their marketing, offer help in crafting “Letters to Birthmothers”, and post Parent Profiles for  Canadian prospective adopters  to market themselves to obtain a “birthmother”  Once achieved, many prospective adopters refer to these pregnant women as “our birthmother” as if they are property or chattel of prospective adopters.

Adopters are using these services more and more in their quest to find “newborn babies” rather than those “in care” who may be older or have disabilities who are in need of permanent families.

Provincial governments loosely regulate these agencies, just checking in once per year to see that they have complied with various regulations, mostly monetary. There are no checks and balances on this industry for the protection of young, vulnerable, pregnant youth and women.

In fact, adoption laws are slowly moving backward instead of forward in Canada. For example the shorter the period of Consents after a birth is marketed in the U.S. to a “birthmother” as a positive ….e.g. “You can sign your baby over within 24 hours of birth!”  In most provinces in Canada the consent times are 7-10 days, although in Manitoba, and Saskatchewan they are 48 and 72 hours respectively. Recently the New Brunswick law changed, shortening the period when a consent can be signed after birth following the U.S. example. Instead, our laws should be changing in the other direction; making the signing of consents longer after a birth to protect mother and baby from needless separation and giving mothers time after a birth to recover and consider her child and options.  Mothers in the UK are not allowed to sign consents until 6 weeks after a birth.

It stands to reason that the closer to the birth the consent can be signed, the more vulnerable the mother and the more adoptions that will take place.  Early consents get more babies to market, and when a mother changes her mind, it is a financial loss.

Money exchanged for the services of lawyers and adoption agencies and the satellite industries/services is a fast growing sector in Canadian business.

The cost of adoption in Canada varies. Adoptions can cost very little if adopting from Provincial Governments and the Children’s Aid Societies that they sponsor, however the fees for a private domestic adoption vary considerably and can run anywhere from about $10,000-20,000.

Someone in Canada receives this money.

International adoptions can cost anywhere up to $100,000.

Someone in Canada receives this money.

One common requirement for all adoptions is a Home Study, no matter where one lives within the country. This is a study of the family and usually consists of three or more visits with an accredited Adoption person, usually a Social Worker.

Home Studies usually cost from $1,000 to $1,500 in private adoptions.

Someone in Canada receives this money.

Courses mandated for adopters prior to adopting. Most provinces require parents to take some kind of course e.g. the PRIDE course in Ontario.
Fees – around $1,000 –

Someone in Canada receives this money.

The Client in Adoption

When speaking of adoption as an industry, there has to be a client or a customer.  The client in adoption is  the prospective adoptive parent. Most prospective adopters are infertile due to no fault of their own perhaps due to a medical condition. Others may be single, gay or would prefer to adopt rather than go through a pregnancy.  Others may be inspired to adopt to rescue or help a child.

The Broker in Adoption

When speaking of adoption as an industry, there must be a facilitator or broker.  The broker may be a government agency, private adoption agency, social worker, lawyer, doctor, religious minister, or even an individual soliciting to obtain a child for her own use (as in a surrogate mother). Usually the broker benefits through fees or donations to the “charitable” work of finding babies for people to adopt. Infants “sell” for anywhere from $10,000 on up into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The Product for Adoption

In speaking of adoption as an industry there must be a product.  The “product” that the adoption industry sells is human children and the promise of “real parenthood”.  The “as if born to” theory of adoption has been refuted by hundreds of studies but the industry still promotes this theory to prospective adopters  who are usually desperate infertile couples. Some of these clients or customers also enjoy the status of “saviour” or “rescuer” that comes with adopting a child.

The most in demand are healthy infants, especially white infants. Babies may be taken from family as a form of genocide on a population. Examples of this are the “Stolen Generations”  in Australia, and the “60s Scoop” of Canada’s aboriginal peoples. It was expected to take several generations of interbreeding to make “them” disappear and be indistinguishable from the white population.

All of these child-transfer programs are always promoted as being all about the interests of the child. In reality,  the child suffers the loss of his or her mother, identity, heritage,  and may suffer feelings of rejection and abandonment, loss, or attachment disorders.

The Source of Babies for Adoption

The source of the “product” or child may be children who come into public care because they were  abused, neglected, have disabilities or are orphaned.  These are the children for which adoption was created to protect and nurture.

However the source is quite often a mother who is young and naive, temporarily without resources, or afraid and looking for choices. Created by the adoption industry as the “not ready to parent” market. She is most likely in college or college-bound, from a higher socioeconomic background and an intact family. Mothers from a less-affluent situation may be used as well. Interestingly, studies have shown that mothers of colour are not targeted for adoption in Canada, and are routinely apprised of the resources available to them so that they can keep and mother their children.

It’s easy to take advantage of a young, vulnerable, pregnant youth or woman who is going through hormonal changes and other effects of pregnancy. Some mothers are lured in to adoption industry websites while looking up scholarship information on the web. Once a mother has been “identified” or “targeted” she often has a difficult time getting rid of brokers (or an individual) even after she has said a definitive “no”.

Once the Broker has the mother as a target, she has little chance. She is a victim of sophisticated sales and marketing techniques which are designed to separate her from her child.  All this happens before she has even given birth.  By using her natural love for her child she may be convinced to “make the best plan”  when the best plan is always the natural mother except in cases of neglect or abuse.

No mother can imagine in advance the joy she will feel holding and caring for her child or how painful it will be for her when her child is gone. She will not be told of the severe long term psychological damage to herself and her child.

Other sources include international ones, most of which come from “questionable” sources.  There are true orphans in the world,  children who need parents and families, however in today’s adoption climate, it is difficult to separate the questionable sources from the reliable sources.  Although the Hague Convention and the UN has made an effort to regulate international adoption, abuses still abound.

The UN Special Rappateur for the Preliminary Report on Adoption Fraud has stated that “Regrettably, in many cases, the emphasis has changed from the desire to provide a needy child with a home, to that of providing a needy parent with a child. As a result, a whole industry has grown, generating millions of dollars of revenues each year, seeking babies for adoption and charging prospective parents enormous fees to process paperwork.”

No one is watching but things are moving fast, and before we know it we will have a U.S. style Adoption Industry right here in Canada and Canadians will wonder “when did that happen?”

The answer is…it is happening right now.

Copyright Valerie Andrews2009