Adoptive parents need more 'time to attach': Western University study

A new report is calling on the federal government to extend benefits for adoptive parents. The report's author said, employment insurance benefits should, at the very least, equal those for maternity leave.

The study said benefits should equal to those for maternity leave, at the very least.

Study out of Western University calls for new federal legislation to give adoptive parents more "time to attach." (Shutterstock)

A new report is calling on the federal government to extend benefits for adoptive parents. Employment insurance [EI] benefits should, at the very least, equal those for maternity leave, the study's author argues. 

"The study is about ensuring that children who join a family after having lived in care have what we call 'a sufficient time to attach'," said Carolyn McLeod, professor in Philosophy and Women's Studies and Feminist Research at Western University. 

That means getting to a point where a child feels comfortable turning to their new parent when they need help, she said.

Carolyn McLeod is a professor in Philosophy and Women's Studies & Feminist Research at Western University (Western University)

"We're arguing that the current benefit structure for parental leave in Canada doesn't give sufficient time to attach for these kids."

Two levels of government are responsible for parental and maternity leave. The federal government oversees EI while provincial legislation protects individuals from losing their jobs. The length of maternity or parental leave can vary depending on the province. 

McLeod said the age of a child is not part of the argument given there's limited data on what is optimal for adopted children and their parents. 

"The empirical literature does show that the first year of a placement is really crucial," she said. "It's really discriminatory not to take into account the unique challenges for [adoptive] parents." 

High demand

The study found the child welfare system is in a "state of crisis" with too many children flowing into the system. There are also not enough children or youth being placed in permanent, safe and loving homes. 

McLeod hopes extending benefits for adoptive parents would help ease concerns for people considering adoption, especially if a child is coming from a complicated past or is suffering some level of trauma. The transition time in a new home can be really hard, she said.

"The survey we did of parents across the country suggests that more placements would happen if there was a great time to attach at the beginning of a placement."

Lobbying well underway

McLeod is an adoptive mother of two. 

"It's the best thing I've ever done but it's hard," she said. 

McLeod has travelled to Ottawa twice to make the case for a change to federal legislation. She has met with MPs and their policy advisors from all political parties, she said. 

"They're all very supportive of the change we want to make," she said. "We're pretty hopeful that after the next election, as this won't happen before the election, that regardless of what party gets in we'll see change." 

And, once the federal government equalizes benefits, McLeod hopes the provinces will follow suit. 


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