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Moratoriums protect the child Add to ...

Some people question why Canada blocks intercountry adoptions from countries such as Cambodia, Guatemala and Nepal when there’s such an apparent need for families for children from these countries.

In such countries, the stealing, buying and selling of children for the purpose of adoption is endemic. The best way to protect these children and their parents is to prohibit all adoptions from these countries.

It’s difficult to determine whether a child is genuinely available for adoption because local adoption facilitators fashion fraudulent death certificates of biological parents, and consent to adoption forms. Finding a child in an orphanage is no guarantee the child is legally available for adoption. Many parents place their children in orphanages for short periods to ensure they have food and shelter, not with the intent of having them adopted.

Under the regulations that accompany the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the final decision to admit a child in an intercountry adoption to Canada is made by provincial and territorial authorities, not by federal immigration officials (although immigration is usually a federal responsibility). No provincial or territorial officials, except for Quebec, travel to countries from which their parents adopt.

So the provinces and territories aren’t really in a position to determine the likelihood of a child being legally available for adoption. The only thing they have is copies of adoption-related documents. Even Quebec officials are not stationed in sending countries; they visit them periodically. This means the provinces and territories are dependent on federal immigration authorities for information and advice.

Canadian immigration officials have tried to validate these adoption documents by searching for birth parent gravesites, by examining DNA tests of people who pose as parents to ensure their DNA matches that of the child, and by interviewing birth parents to determine that their consent to the adoption was freely given.

Obviously, there’s no foolproof way of ensuring a child is legally available for adoption in countries where stealing children is a regular occurrence and the preparation of fraudulent documents is an art. So the provinces and territories prohibit adoptions from questionable countries. One might also ask whether taxpayers’ money should be used for validating documents when there are countries where ethical adoptions are more likely to occur and when there are 30,000 Canadian children legally available for adoption.

The task of validating documents can’t be delegated to Canadian adoption agencies, as it would create a conflict of interest. No matter how well-intentioned agencies are (some undertake charitable work in countries where they process adoptions), they’re paid by prospective adoptive parents to find a child for them, not to protect the interests of the biological parents.

Placing moratoriums on adoptions from countries where unethical adoptions occur is a first step to protecting children. (Canada isn’t alone; the U.S., U.K. and Germany also have such moratoriums.) Ottawa, the provinces and the territories should limit adoptions, except for those by relatives, to a small number of countries where ethical practices occur and work carefully with them. There’s no need to limit the number of adoptions, but there’s a need to limit the countries from which the children come.

Patricia Paul-Carson is an adoption consultant and former manager of Intercountry Adoption Services at Human Resources and Skills Development Canada.

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