New Brunswick

Moncton couple challenges lack of adoption matches

Moncton couple questions why hundreds of children waiting for adoption are not getting placed in approved homes.

After 8 years, no match for couple despite hundreds of children waiting for permanent home

Richard and Krista Mitton gave up hope of adopting a child in New Brunswick after eight years. (Brian Chisholm/CBC)

Moncton couple questions why hundreds of children waiting for adoption are not getting placed in approved homes.

Nine years after launching their ultimately unsuccessful bid to adopt, Richard and Krista Mitton are asking why the 430 children waiting for permanent homes in New Brunswick are not getting matched with the 170 families on Social Development's list of approved adoptive families.

"If you have 400 children in the system, why haven't we been shown one case that would be a potential match for us?" asked Krista Mitton in the Moncton house where she had hoped to welcome a child of almost any age or special need.

The Mittons gave up on their adoption quest eight years after putting their names on the waiting list, back when they were newlyweds.

'You have to have a cut-off point'

By March of 2015, they said they felt too old to start a family.

Richard Mitton said he and his wife had to have a cut-off point for when they would stop trying to adopt a child. (CBC)
And they said they felt too overwhelmed by the prospect of renewing their application and all that entailed, every year, until they got a match.

They were told none was imminent.

"You have to have a cut-off point," said Richard Mitton, now 41.

"If it had happened five, six years ago. It would have been a different story."

Endless paperwork

The Mittons say their file never progressed in the years between 2007, when they first signed on, and the fall of 2014, when they got called for training.

They completed a 27-hour preservice course, also known as PRIDE, or Parents' Resource for Information, Development and Education.

Richard and Krista Mitton applied to adopt in New Brunswick after getting married in 2007. (Submitted by Mitton family)
They said one of its components is making sure prospective parents really understand what's involved in a special needs placement.

The Mittons said they were undeterred and also expressed an interest in taking more than one child, if it meant a brother and sister or a sibling group needed a good home.

The Mittons got criminal checks.

They assembled their financial records.

They found three people to serve as references.

"It took our references each a day to a day-and-a-half to fill out these surveys about us and how we interact," said Krista.

Richard says he had to contact a lawyer to track down his biological parents so he could complete his medical history and family tree.

They also completed the home study and interviews, which they described as draining.

"Deep questions, very personal questions. And you certainly feel the emotions at that point," said Krista.

Approved by Social Development in March of 2014, the Mittons said 12 months then went by and no case was presented to them.

Repeat paperwork annually

The following spring, they were told their approval would expire and they'd have to redo every part of the vetting process.

Krista Mitton wonders what is stopping prospective adoptive families with more than 400 children waiting for a permanent home in New Brunswick. (CBC)
That's when they balked.

"We didn't think we would end up with a child within a time frame that was going to be fair to us and fair to the child," said Krista.

"Our age was becoming a factor for us."

The Mittons say they're speaking out because they believe others with similar stories are afraid of being blacklisted by the department.

So  what, in between, is stopping that from happening?- Krista Mitton, former adoption applicant

"When we decided that we were no longer going to be part of the adoption process, we had nothing to lose at that point," said Krista.

"There's obviously lots of parents out there waiting for kids. And there's lot of kids who are saying, 'We want a permanent family.'"

"So what, in between, is stopping that from happening?" she asked.

430 children in care

The Department of Social Development confirmed on Tuesday that 430 children in New Brunswick are in permanent care, meaning the courts have severed their ties to their biological parents.

More than half of those children are over the age of 12.

The needs of the children must be matched with the skills, abilities and the strengths of the adoptive family.- Leah Fitzgerald, communications officer with Social Development

In New Brunswick, youth age out of care, mainly at age 18, but in some cases, youth can reject services as early as 16.

Very few infants come up for adoption. On average, it's only 10 per year. 

As for the rest, the province says it has placed 1,058 older, special needs children and children within sibling groups, since 2002.

"There is no way to determine how long an applicant will wait to be placed with a child because of the unique matching that is done specific to the needs of the child," explained Social Development communications officer Leah Fitzgerald. 

"The needs of the children must be matched with the skills, abilities and the strengths of the adoptive family."

Adoptive parents surveyed

The New Brunswick Adoption Foundation says it's conducting a survey of adoptive parents to learn more about their experiences, good and bad, dealing with the system.

The foundation expects to provide that information to the Department of Social Development within a few months.

Suzanne Kingston of the New Brunswick Adoption Foundation said it can take a long time to find a match with a family for a child waiting for a permanent home. (Suzanne Kingston)
"So it is helpful to hear when people have dropped out of the process," said foundation executive director Suzanne Kingston.

Kingston says once a family is approved for adoption, it can still take a long time to find a match.

"It's what that child needs. It's all about finding the right family for that child," she said.

"It's not about some families being better than other families. It's about, 'Are you the most suited for this child?'

"And there's all kinds of idiosyncrasies that would go into that decision."

The Mittons say they were so heart-broken after deciding to quit, they shredded their approval letter and their training manuals.

But they say, they can't avoid the commercials urging more families to consider adoption.

"It's a slap in the face," said Krista.

"What's wrong with us?" 

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