Wildrose Plans to Improve Alberta's Adoption System

Private Members Bill to Modernize and Improve the Adoption System in Alberta

At a special news meeting in Chestermere today, Wildrose leader Brian Jean, and MLAs Nathan Cooper and Leela Sharon Aheer released a plan to modernize and improve the adoption system in Alberta through a private members bill to be introduced in the spring.

It is with excitement and optimism that we share Nathan Cooper’s presentation and announcement, as we look forward to significant positive changes in access to adoption for adoptive parents and birthparents, as well  strengthened services and collaboration between adoption agencies and government departments.

Thank you so much, Brian. And thank you so much for everyone for coming this morning. It is just so exciting to be here with you, and so exciting for us to be able to try and put some common sense recommendations forward that will modernize adoption our adoption system.

Before I really begin, let me just say thank you so much to my very good friend Leela here who has agreed to work with me on this private members bill which will likely take place in the next session of the legislature. I also want to thank so many of the stakeholders who have provided feedback, whether its folks in the department or adoption agencies or adoption advocates like Judith.

Today in many ways is the start of a public conversation around this important issue of adoption. November is Adoption Awareness Month, so it’s so great to be able to do this announcement today. I want to be clear that while we are making a number of recommendations today, they in no way do they address all of the issues surrounding adoption in Alberta.  As a proud adoptive parent myself, I know that the current process can be cumbersome, and in many ways turn away prospective birthparents or adoptive families from choosing adoption.

Our first recommendation is to bring the adoption system into the 21st century by updating the current advertising legislation to reflect the use of modern technologies. Currently in Alberta, Albertans are unable to post adoptive profiles of themselves online. By updating the adoption legislation, parents will be able to receive the same abilities as those in other provinces to be able to post and share their stories online and even raise funds to contribute to the costs of adoption. As an example, I have heard from some stakeholders, who caution adoptive families from advertising on crowd-sourcing websites and even encouraging caution when speaking specifically about their adoption on social media as to not be in contravention to the legislation.

Next we want to ensure adoptive families are equipped with the right tools to start off their adoption on the right foot: a mandatory visit by an adoption professional for all private placement adoptions. Currently there is no requirement if you place your child for adoption without using an adoption agency or the department of Child and Family Services, for there to be any involvement by an adoption professional. We feel that even a single visit from an adoption professional would assist in potentially help making these types of adoptions more successful. It would allow families to learn all the resources available to them. And I know through firsthand experience in the adoption of my own two children there can be a lot of questions about supports that are available.

Finally, Wildrose is calling on the province to strengthen public health postnatal services and reduce stigmas around individuals asking questions about adoption. Currently, Child and Family Services must open a child intervention file when a birthparent inquires about adoption services. Instead, existing hospital resources should be utilized in partnership with adoption agencies to make this process as easy as possible. It is vitally important that all front line workers, including those in the department, are well trained on adoption services. All involved in adoption need to work together to improve access, communication between agencies and the department.

Let me close with this. There are a number of other ways that we can modernize our adoption system here in Alberta. That would include updating the application process and moving towards online education around adoption. We have seen some of these changes made recently in the province of British Columbia that will make significant advances in increasing access to adoption.

Adoption should not be seen as and an issue in isolation, but work collaboratively to ensure agencies, the department, prospective adoptive families and birthmothers all have the support they need.

These are only a few of the small changes that will make a big difference in our adoption system and in our province. And it is my sincere hope that the NDP accepts these recommendations.