Open adoptions in Alberta hindered by online profile ban, say potential parents
Birth moms can't see web profiles of potential Alberta parents like they can in other provinces
Some advocates for open adoptions are calling on the Alberta government to update a little known publication ban.
They say it's putting local adoptive parents at a disadvantage when it comes to matching new babies with parents.
Under the current legislation, Alberta couples are not allowed to create public profiles of themselves on websites such as CanadaAdopts.com.
The sites help match prospective adopters with birth parents from across the country.
Different rules for B.C., Yukon and Ontario
Alberta's Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act prohibits the publication of any advertisements related to the adoption of a child in order to protect the child's confidentiality.
The rules are different for families in British Columbia, Ontario and Yukon.
It's a discrepancy that continues to frustrate Judith Kustermans of Okotoks, Alta. She and her husband Peter have been on a waiting list for their second open adoption for nearly four years.
"In a way I love looking at the them — just to see what are other people looking for, and how to do their profile themselves," said the 39-year-old mother while browsing through the online pictures of smiling adoptive families in other provinces.
"On the other hand, I don't like looking at them because I'm like, 'Hey, they can post their profiles online, why can't we post our things here in Alberta?'"
Alberta adoptive parents losing out
Some social workers in Calgary are convinced adoptable babies are leaving the province as a result of the ban.
"We are seeing some birth parents from Alberta that are choosing families from other provinces," said Ramone Kindrat, executive director of Adoption by Choice — one of four licensed facilitators in Alberta.
Kindrat said she supports the idea of allowing Alberta couples to advertise online, as long as proper safeguards are in place.
Another reason for updating the law, she said, is because a lot of birth parents are doing their research and communication online today.
"For birth parents that first phone call is really scary," said Kindrat.
"Usually birth parents are not phoning us," she said. "They are emailing, they're texting. It's so much easier as a starting point and also to take a look at the profiles at your own pace and in the comfort of your own home."
Province advertises adoptable children
In what critics call a "blatant inconsistency" of law, over the years, personal information and photographs of thousands of children in government care have been published on television and online.
Children up for adoption are regularly featured in a well-known television segment called Wednesday's Child. Their profiles are also searchable on the Alberta Human Services website.
"Those children posted on Wednesday`s Child are in the care of the statutory director and the Government of Alberta's priority is on finding permanent placements for children in government care," said Zoe Cooper, a spokesperson with Human Services.
The ban does not apply to the government minister or director responsible.
"Media recruitment may be used when there is no approved adoptive home available for a child in permanent government care," Cooper later clarified in an email.
Cooper said the legislation is up for review sometime in the next two years or so. Though exactly when, she couldn't answer. She said the issue has been flagged in Edmonton, but any proposed change would require action from cabinet.
'Laws are dated,' says critic as wait times grow
It's difficult to determine how much of an impact the current online profiles from B.C., Ontario and Yukon are having on Alberta adoptions.
Many complicated matters are at play, said Sheryl Proulx, director of Adoption Option that has offices in Calgary and Edmonton.
What Proulx said she's witnessing is a growing average wait time for approved couples looking to adopt. She estimates for her agency, the average period now spans three years.
"In the last five years absolutely," she said. "There are a bazillion reasons. A big fact is that there are many more options now."
Access to abortions, birth control and changing attitudes all contribute to longer wait times, Proulx added.
Even so, Proulx said she has personally received calls from adoption agencies in B.C. and Ontario hoping to connect with Alberta birth mothers because those mothers had found potential matches online.
"The laws are dated and we need to get with the times," said Proulx. "But there'd have to be controls and parameters in place to ensure the safety of everybody involved in the adoption circle."
Back in Okotoks, Judith Kustermans has created a scrapbook in her spare time that is filled with information about her family. It even includes a testimony from Luna's biological mother.
She said she would love to put the book online for birth parents to see, but it's against the law.
The Kustermans first turned to open adoption in 2010 after failing to conceive on their own. The couple had undergone three rounds of fertility treatments to no avail. They adopted their first child, Luna, in 2011.
"Luna's birth parents gave me the greatest gift ever — I can be a mom," said Judith Kustermans, who maintains a relationship with her daughter's biological family.
She said she had always envisioned a large family. So when Luna turned one, the couple decided to adopt another child.
"It's heartbreaking that I can't give her a brother or sister," said Kustermans."Luna for the last year has been asking every single day, 'Mommy when will I have brother or sister just like my friends?'"