Pre-adoption limbo


Problems with Canada’s child foster and adoption programs examined by McGill researcher

The number of Canadian children in the care of child welfare agencies has nearly doubled in just five short years. From a high of 40,000 in 1995, the Adoption Council of Canada estimates there are now as many as 70,000 children in foster care across the country. Almost half of those children are waiting to be adopted.

The soaring number of children without homes of their own -- and the varied problems caused by the absence of permanent parental figures -- are just some of the issues that Carol Cumming Speirs has been actively researching during her career. A professor at McGill University’s School of Social Work, and a child and family clinician, she will be sharing some of her findings this month as part of the 7th Congress of the World Association for Infant Mental Health.

Held July 26 to 30 at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel (900 Réné Lévesque Blvd.), the Congress is being held to allow international experts an opportunity to come together and examine the various situations affecting children today. Journalists wishing to speak to or attend a Congress poster session given by Professor Cumming Speirs, on July 28, from 1:30 pm to 3:00 pm, are welcome to contact the researcher or call Sylvain-Jacques Desjardins at 514-398-6752.

Some of the main points regarding foster care and adoption that Cumming Speirs plans to examine are:

  • the various laws that keep foster children in legal limbo and prevent their adoption;
  • the differences of child welfare laws across Canada’s provinces;
  • the policies that impede adoption within the country;
  • the outdated notions that still linger concerning adoption -- including the perception that adoption is a private family matter with no room for government intervention or child protection;
  • the false notion that couples are unwilling to adopt children with special needs.

Some of the problems foster children can experience Cumming Speirs will highlight are:

  • foster children drift from home to home -- as many as five residences every three years according to the Adoption Council of Canada
  • which undermines their ability to develop secure attachments during their formative years;
  • these children can experience severe emotional, psychological and social difficulties.

During her information session, Professor Cumming Speirs will also look at potential solutions to improve Canada’s foster care and adoption system. Some remedies she proposes include more government funding for adoption services (to permit the hiring of more adoption workers), increased recruitment of adoptive couples and the augmentation of pre- and post-adoption services offered to potential and adoptive families.