Adoption is extremely important in order to provide permanence for children who cannot be raised by their birth parents or relatives. Every child requires bonding with a close caregiver in order to develop at a normal pace, physically and mentally. Every child requires the security of knowing that someone really cares about them. Generally,
infants and children without love and security do not thrive, and fail to meet normal developmental guidelines.
Today there are thousands of children in the care of Ontario’s Children’s Aid Societies who desperately need “forever” families. These children are in the permanent care of provincial child welfare agencies and most are well beyond infancy. The majority are of school age and many are teens.
The situation is unlike that of several generations ago when many single young women relinquished their newborns for immediate adoption. Today, authorities tend to encourage family cohesion and permit a child at risk to stay with birth family members, perhaps with support, in the expectation that the situation will improve. Consequently children available for adoption today often have had numerous placements in foster or group homes, and many have endured some traumatic experiences. Many have family members with whom some continuing connection is important.
For these children, adoption with openness is what is needed.
Adoption with openness doesn’t mean continuous or frequent contact. Guidelines are stipulated and openness orders can be modified as necessary. Some measure of openness subsequent to adoption can be very beneficial to the birth parents, and adoption parents as well as the child. It may be reassuring to birth parents and lessen feelings of guilt. It may be helpful in building the bonds between the child and adoptive parents if the child feels the adoptive family accepts their background.
With all the technology available secrecy about family background is often difficult to maintain. Furthermore, children deserve, within reason, the truth about themselves if they are to develop trust.
In 2017, thousands of Ontario children in care need the permanence of adoption, and adoption with openness is the way to go. The Children in Limbo Task Force believes that adoption is important to provide children in care with a sense of permanence and security. However, adoption with openness is essential if children are to feel that they are accepted for who they are. Even children of only several years of age have memories of important relationships and need to continue valuable contacts with members from their birth families in order to develop their senses of identity and self worth.
Written By: Gail Aitken
Professor Emeritus, Ryerson School of Social Work
Mother of two children adopted as infants
Member of the Children in Limbo Task Force