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  Wilma Burke spoke to SPA again in September 2002 but I have lost my notes. If I ever find them, I can update this article a little but it will still be outdated.
This next article is getting old (1998) and there are new laws governing adoption in Ontario now. However, there is still value in the following article.

This article by Marie Artt, (private adoption social worker and SPA member with two daughters) was written after Wilma Burke of Metro Toronto Children's Aid Society Spoke at a Single Parent Adoption (SPA) Meeting, May 31, 1998. It first appeared in the SPA newsletter and is reprinted here with permission of the author.
   
Wilma Burke, Acting Adoption Supervisor of the Children's Aid Society (CAS) of Metropolitan Toronto, was the guest speaker. Wilma is also an adoption social worker and intake worker at CAS.
Times have changed. A couple of years ago the CAS would never have considered allowing someone to look at adopting through their agency while simultaneously pursuing an international adoption. Couples who were still attempting to conceive through fertility treatments were not permitted to consider adopting through CAS. Now both these scenarios are possible.
Roman Catholic families must first approach the Catholic Children's Aid Society. of Metropolitan Toronto. If there is no chance of a child being available for them, they may then apply with the public CAS. Jewish families would first apply with Jewish Child and Family Services, but they too may move on to the CAS, particularly if they wish to adopt a child with highly involved special needs.
Before an individual of couple can be listed for a homestudy, they must take a 6 week course, described as an interactive pre-homestudy educative group. This course covers:
sensitivity to the birth family and where the children come from;
grief issues, for the adoptive family as well as the child;
attachment and separation issues;
medical and psychological challenges the children may face;
a panel of adoptive parents and reunited adoptees.
At this time there are 24 members per group, 4 or 5 of whom may be single. The CAS processes only 15 families a year. Wilma emphasized the importance of pre-adoptive parents educating themselves. This would include talking with their family doctor and other adoptive parents, contacting MotheRisk at the Hospital for Sick Children and visiting Parentbooks (Harbord Street, Toronto).
Families who have had a private homestudy completed may be 'fast tracked' if a good match becomes available. The CAS now accepts private homestudies, but does complete their own assessment of the family. The family must also complete the 6 week pro-adoption educational course. Recently, a family who had adopted from Poland was fast tracked. They already had a completed homestudy although they required an update. Their child from Poland had Hepatitis C. At the time this couple were participants in the pre-adoptive group, a child with Hep C became available though the CAS. A match was made.
There are no statistics kept on singles vs coupled adoptions; neither are stats kept on homosexual couples. In the latter case, one of the couple adopts as a single and later the partner adopts the child, as in a step parent adoption.
Children available typically have special needs. Fifty to 60% have been exposed to drugs (crack/ cocaine/ alcohol) prenatally. Most are under age 3. Over the past year, there has been a 60-70% increase in the number of children who have been made crown wards (who are then legally available for adoption). This has meant that social workers have spent an enormous amount of time preparing for and being in court. The CAS currently has 2 adoption worker vacancies.
Back to Top   Questions from SPA members
Q: Is a single applicant ever bumped in favour of a couple?
A: The process is much more complicated. The CAS attempts to match children with families. The CAS puts together a medical and social history. They ask the biological parent for a wish list of what kinds of things they would like in an adoptive family for the child. Usually the birth family wishes for a 2 parent family, where one parent stays home. These wishes are given some consideration when planning for the child.
Q: Is age a factor?
A: If there are several families to choose from for one child, age is important. For example, with 3 families, one in their early 30's, another in their 40's, and a third in their 50's, the youngest family is likely to be chosen. The reason is clear if you imagine a tumultuous teenager with 70 year old first time parents.
If, however, there is only one suitable family for a child, who has the special resources for particular special needs, age will not play as big a role, since an older parent is certainly better than no parent at all.
Q: If a family has already adopted internationally, is that family seen more favourably to adopt another child of a similar race through the CAS?
A: No. If the parent(s) are Caucasian, the family is identified by the CAS as 'white'. If a non-white child is available, CAS looks for a racial match within Metro Toronto. If they are unable to find one, they look outside Metro. If they cannot find a match there, they will consider a white family which has already adopted transracially from within Metro Toronto. If this is not successful, they look outside Metro. If they are still not successful, the CAS will then look at placing the non-white child within a white family which has never adopted, within Metro Toronto. The CAS also looks at the racial make-up of the family's community, extended family and friends.
Q: What resources are there for families with adopted children who may need professional help?
A: There are no CAS resources for this and very few professionals in the community who deal specifically with adoption issues, particularly involving teenagers.
Q: What does the CAS look for in adopting singles?
A: Singles need to be resourceful and have a solid support network. If someone has been in therapy, this is usually seen as a strength in that the individual is willing to seek outside input for issues. A letter may be requested from your therapist. (One group member volunteered that her private social worker insisted on a meeting with her therapist at his office!)
Q: Do singles who are 'stay-at-home' moms have a competitive edge? (There were two 'stay-at-home' moms at this meeting, as well as one who works part-time and one who stayed home for a year after a newborn placement.)
A: They have more of a chance than those who do not stay home.
Q: Does CAS do follow-ups?
A: No. Once an adoption is finalized, the case is closed. However, other agencies and institutions occasionally do studies involving groups of children. For example, the Hospital for Sick Children is presently doing a follow-up with children who are now 9, who were crack/cocaine addicted babies.
Q: What is the process by which a particular child is placed with a particular family?
A: A team decides where a child's needs will best be met. The team may include the following players: CAS supervisor, family service worker (social worker), foster parent's support worker (sometimes a social worker, ) foster parents. If the birth parents relinquish the child voluntarily and agree to the adoption, they may be part of this team. Sometimes birth grandparents are involved. If the child has a sibling, then the team may have all these players doubled.
Q: How much weight do the foster parents carry in the selection of the adoptive family?
A: The foster parents have some say, but not the final word. Foster families are generally quite conservative, with stay-at-home moms. They usually think that his is the best situation for their foster child's adoptive family. Since the foster family prepares the child for the move to the adoptive home, it is in everyone's best interests to have their agreement about the adoptive family. There is also sometimes an on-going relationship established between the two families.
There was a discussion about how the public has a skewed view of single parents. Statistics Canada lumps all singles together: all women who have babies and parent them, all divorced parents with children, single women who give birth by donor insemination (known or unknown donor).
The media paints a very negative picture of single parents: They all have emotional problems, most are failing in school, they take up all the subsidized daycare spots. Fortunately, our children have not been traumatized by divorce in our homes and we are not stressed about the non-receipt of support payments.

Marie Artt, who compiled the above article, is a social worker licensed to do home studies in Ontario. If you would like to contact her for more information about adoption and/or home studies, write to clinicaladoption@primus.ca or phone her at 416-469-2424.

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