How Much Adoption Actually Costs in Canada
Adoption can be both an exhilarating and extremely frustrating experience. But opting to provide a loving home and parent a non-biological child is one of the biggest gifts you can give another human. There are many children in need of loving homes and caregivers, and many to-be-parents seeking to meet this need for a wide range of reasons.
In Canada, those wishing to adopt have five main ways to begin their journey. They can opt for a public adoption (via the existing child welfare system), private adoption (adopting through a third-party agency either within Canada or abroad), international adoption (going south of the border, or overseas), adopting a relative (within Canada or abroad), or adopting a step child.
Whatever your chosen path to adopting, there are often costs associated with the journey.
Setting out on your adoption journeyWhile having a surrogate is an option for some, adoption is the choice of many more parents. Each child and each adoption case is unique, and your journey to adoption will reflect that. How much this will cost you depends first on the path you choose to take (outside of the actual costs of raising a child in Canada). Simply put, there are multiple paths to finding your way to your child. In general, the more open you are (i.e. willing to adopt an older child, or a child with special needs), the more options you will have.
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Rules around adoption changes from province to provinceAdoption in Canada falls under provincial jurisdiction, so your experience will vary depending on whether you are looking to adopt in Prince Edward Island versus British Columbia. Each province has its own rules and regulations that reflect the unique needs and realities of children growing up in that particular province. And if you’re wondering, in many cases you are allowed to adopt a child from another province, though note that some provinces are more restrictive than others (for example, your approval may depend on where you live and where the child you wish to adopt is born or lives). In Ontario, The Child, Youth and Family Services Act, 2017 governs adoption.
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Public vs. private adoptionThe public system route is least expensive, and typically goes through a child welfare agency such as the Children’s Aid Society. However, because public adoption is much more tightly controlled (think of it as finding the right parents for the child as opposed to the right child for the parents), this route may take longest to navigate (about 8 years for a healthy newborn is not untypical for Ontario). There are however usually no fees associated with this process.
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Canadian private adoption vs. international private adoptionPrivate adoptions, while less accessible to financially-stressed parent(s), can be faster but can quickly escalate in cost to tens of thousands. Private adoptions for a child born in Canada can cost you anywhere between $15,000-$25,000. Looking outside the country to the United States or overseas can easily double that at $25,000-$50,000 and more.
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International private adoptionThis route, while seemingly broader because you are going beyond Canada’s border, does come with an added layer of criteria you must meet. In addition to having to fulfill your provincial rules and regulations, you will also need to meet the adoption criteria of your child’s country of origin. Depending on each country’s unique political climate, some places makes this process easier than others. In addition, you will also need to clear your child’s adoption by Canadian Immigration.
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Private adoption agenciesIf you are looking outside the public system, you’ll want to source and get in touch with one or more prospective private adoption agencies licensed in your province to help you navigate this route. While consultations are typically free, know that you will be paying for their expertise once you engage the agency.
If you are in Ontario, licensed agencies include:
- Beginnings Family Services
- Children's Resource and Consultation Centre of Ontario
- JFJ Hope Centre Adoption Services
- World View Adoption Association
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The home studyBe prepared to carry out a “Home Study” (you will actually be required to do this, whichever adoption route you go with, including public). This is often the first step in the adoption process, and it most often means someone essentially comes in to assess your skills and talents as a parent over multiple sessions. You can start the process without this step, but you will need to have it completed before the adoption is finalized. The study is carried out by a provincially-approved adoption practitioner — often a social worker. The costs vary, but typically range between $2,500-$3,000. The main goal of this study, as invasive as it may feel, is to help prospective parents prepare and anticipate the unique challenges of raising an adopted child. The adoption practitioner makes a recommendation but does not have final say. Only the director of the provincial ministry in charge can green light the adoption, if it’s in the child’s best interest.
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Open vs. closed adoptionAt some point along your journey, adoptive parents may have also considered open versus closed adoption. Open adoption essentially means that adoptive parents and the birth mother (and sometimes father) exchange identifying information and are known to each other. The extent of this exchange and involvement depends on the boundaries both parties are comfortable with.
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An overview of the numbers:An overview of the numbers: Public adoption (within Canada) through a local child welfare agency: Typically free
Private adoption within Canada: $15,000-$25,000
Private adoption outside of Canada: $25,000-$50,000+
Early stage fees you can expect to pay:The home study: $2,500-$3,000
Application fee: $200
Adoption education meeting: $300
Intake interview: $350