B.C. couple one of many left in limbo after adoption agency shutters

There are only two private adoption agencies left in British Columbia

Aaron and Patricia Pearson are pictured with their two-year-old biological daughter Emma are shown in a photo taken in December 2018 by Coastal Lifestyles Photography. The couple was in the process of adopting a sibling for Emma through Choices Adoption and Pregnancy Counselling Agency in Victoria, B.C., but the agency has announced it will shut down as of May 31, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO- Coastal Lifestyles Photography- Shea Michelle Long)

Patricia and Aaron Pearson were overjoyed when, after four years of trying, they finally conceived their daughter Emma.

But they always dreamed of giving her a sibling. Since pregnancy had been such a struggle, and they knew there were children out there that needed a home, they turned to Choices Adoption and Pregnancy Counselling Agency on Vancouver Island.

The couple spent $12,000, underwent numerous background checks, had a home study and took part in an education course. They were registered in the domestic adoption program and on the wait list for a South African adoption when they received an announcement from Choices last week.

The email informed them Choices was closing as of May 31, staff were working to find another agency to take on the Pearsons’ file and they would be in touch, Patricia Pearson said.

READ MORE: Vancouver Island’s only adoption agency closes after 30 years

“We were pretty shocked. It seemed to come out of the blue. We hadn’t had any indication that they were struggling financially or that this was a possibility,” she said.

“There isn’t a solid plan in place. That was pretty frustrating. We felt that the board should have done their due diligence and had some more specific options in place before sending out something like that.”

Choices is the latest private adoption agency to shut its doors due to changes to international adoption policies. More countries are looking to place children with local families who share their culture, which is resulting in fewer kids being available for adoption in Canada.

Jane Cowell, board chair for Choices, said about 140 families were in various stages of adoption through the agency and it is working with the Ministry of Children and Family Development to create plans for ongoing services for the families.

There are only two private adoption agencies left in British Columbia, after Family Services of Greater Vancouver closed in November due to the decline in overseas adoptions.

Statistics kept by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada show that international adoptions declined by 21 per cent between 2015 and 2017, from 903 down to 712.

Cowell said she had been on the board for six years and the issue had always been a concern, but the problem has grown. Government policies can also be a factor, such as Canada’s decision last year to stop issuing visas for children adopted from Japan.

“It’s a very unpredictable field to try and forecast financial viability, and that’s the bottom line,” she said.

Fewer children in Canada are being put up for adoption as well, Cowell added, as the stigma around teenagers or young women getting pregnant has been reduced.

Victoria Mitchell, who became pregnant as a teenager 25 years ago and placed her son with Choices, has launched a petition to save the agency that has garnered more than 800 signatures. She hopes the ministry might step in and provide some funding.

Choices enabled her to choose the parents that would adopt her son and ensure that she continued to have a relationship with him and his adoptive family, she said.

“It was such an unknown world to us as we progressed into becoming one big family. But if there were any questions or anything that came up over the years, Choices was there,” she said.

Children’s Minister Katrine Conroy said the ministry was working with Choices and the families involved with the agency to ensure the transition is as seamless as possible.

“We’re doing everything we can. I know how important it is to families when they’re trying to adopt, to have that forever family,” she said.

Couples can also adopt kids who are in foster care in B.C., but the number of children in care has declined and there has been more of a push to ensure Indigenous children are placed with relatives or families who share their culture, she said.

There were 1,347 children and youth in foster care registered for adoption in the last fiscal year, of which 445 were over 12, according to statistics compiled by the Adoptive Families Association of B.C.

Many of the children waiting for adoption — both internationally and domestically — are older kids living with invisible or visible disabilities, said Cathy Murphy, executive director of the Adoption Council of Canada.

“We have many children and youth in Canada who are in serious need of permanency and love and stability that a family provides and what we really need is to have people consider that,” she said.

“Then, as a society, we have to say OK, in order for you to be successful in parenting, what kind of supports do you need to have in place to do that?”

Supports for adoptive parents vary across Canada, but B.C. has a post-adoptive subsidy that it recently increased.

However, adopting an older child still doesn’t work for everyone. Pearson said she wants to respect a best-practice guideline that advises parents to adopt children younger than those currently in their home, and her daughter Emma is two.

“It’s hard to say what’s going to happen,” she said of Choices’ closure. “It just kind of leaves us with a lot of uncertainty.”

— With a file from Dirk Meissner in Victoria.

Laura Kane, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Cranbrook RCMP respond to fatal canoe incident at Moyie Lake

A young man died after a canoe overturned in the lake early Tuesday morning

Residents say crosswalk is unsafe

Approximately 200 Kimberley residents have expressed concerns with the crosswalk on Spokane… Continue reading

Plenty of misinformation spreading on Draft Caribou Plan, Wildsight says

The environmental group Wildsight is advocating for the proposals put forward in… Continue reading

MLA Report: Caribou Recovery – Regrets and Regression

Doug Clovechok, MLA Columbia River - Revelstoke Last week, the residents of… Continue reading

News from the Kimberley Garden Club

Submitted by Marilee Quist At our April 16th, we met at the… Continue reading

VIDEO: Driver in bizarre hit-and-run at B.C. car dealership turns herself in

Police believe alcohol was a factor in incident causing estimated $15,000 in damages

‘B.C. cannot wait for action’: Top doctor urges province to decriminalize illicit drugs

Dr. Bonnie Henry says current approach in ‘war on drugs’ has criminalized and stigmatized drug users

B.C. woman, 76, challenges alcohol-screening laws after failing to give breath sample

Norma McLeod was unable to provide a sample because of her medical conditions

New report on 2017 wildfires calls for better coordination with B.C. First Nations

Tsilhqot’in National Government documents 2017 disaster and lists 33 calls to action

B.C. youth coach banned amid sexual harassment, bullying scandal: Water Polo Canada

Justin Mitchell can’t take part in Water Polo Canada events or clubs

Wilson-Raybould: Feds want to just ‘manage the problem’ of Indigenous Peoples

Former federal justice minister speaks at First Nations Justice Council meeting in B.C.

Female real estate agents warned of suspicious man in Metro Vancouver

The man requests to see homes alone with the female agent, police say

Can you put your phone down for Mother’s Day?

#DiningMode campaign encourages people to leave the phone alone while eating

Horgan heckled as gas prices sit at record high, could go up more

Premier John Horgan blames refiners, not taxes

Most Read