Saskatchewan

Access to adoption info made easier in Sask.

The rules of adoption have changed in Saskatchewan, making it easier for adult adoptees and birth parents to learn about each other.

Changes effective Jan. 1 expected to reduce wait times

The Saskatchewan government has made it easier for adult adoptees and birth parents to contact each other. (Getty Images)

Adoption regulations in Saskatchewan have changed, making it easier for birth parents and adult adoptees to learn about each other.

Regina resident Pat Cameron was reunited with her son three decades after she gave him up for adoption in 1980. The provincial records were still sealed when she was originally searching for him.

Cameron had registered her child for adoption because she didn't have the means to support him and hadn't finished high school.

She searched for him on and off throughout the years, but it wasn't until 2010 she began to make progress. 

Or so she thought. Cameron contacted the Saskatchewan Post-Adoption Agency and requested information on her son.

They gave her documents, but redacted all identifying information.

"Everything was closed down. You couldn't get any information. It could take up to two years after you put in an application for them to even start to search," Cameron said, adding they couldn't release information without consent.

"It made it very difficult."

New rules mean easier access 

One of the biggest changes effective Jan.1, 2017, is the removal of required consent from both parties to access birth registration information. Adult adoptees no longer need the consent of their birth parent to find out their birth name, the name and location of the hospital where they were born, and their birth parents' names. 

Prior to the changes, attempts to obtain consent from the other party were time consuming and difficult, according to Leah Deans, resource director for Adoption Support Centre of Saskatchewan.

"It's important that access is easier," she said.  

Ellen McGuire, director of program design and operational standards with the Ministry of Social Services, said lengthy wait times were caused by the need to seek consent from all parties.

"Locating these parties and obtaining their consent was often problematic for a multitude of reasons," McGuire said.

Before, the wait time was about three years. With this change, McGuire hopes that will be reduced to "weeks if not a month or two at the most."

Cameron was pleased to hear of the changes, and believes open records would have made her search easier. 

In 2015, Cameron's daughter made a post on Facebook that detailed their search for the son. 

It turned out he was searching for them too. He had even posted an ad on Saskatoon's Kijiji page, but Cameron hadn't lived there since she gave birth to him decades ago.

There were other missed moments in the years they spent looking for each other.

"The worst thing was that he was in Calgary for 10 years and I was in Lethbridge for 17...the things you find out after," she said. Today, Cameron and her son continue to have a relationship. 

For Cameron, that contact gives her "a sense of relief."

"I know where he is. I know what he's up to."

Shift in perspective

The new regulations come with a shift in the way people view adoption, Deans said, noting there used to be a lot of social stigma and little talk around it.

People have begun to understand that knowing where you came from can be an important part of identity formation, she added.

"Not every situation is a positive situation, but certainly some are, and it's sort of recognizing that people are entitled to gather that information, if they have the want and need to do that," Deans said.

Opting out

People don't have to be identified if they don't want to. 

Both adoptees and birth parents can veto the release of their birth registration information, so identifying information like their name won't be released, but other information such as the hospital name and location of birth will be. 

About 84 vetoes have been registered by birth parents, and "significantly fewer" by adult adoptees so far, said McGuire. 

Applications for information and veto forms are now available online. 

Adoptees and birth parents can also apply to gain access to birth registration information if the adoptee or birth parent has died. Adoptees and birth parents can clarify their preferred method of contact, should the chance to meet arise. 

Those looking for information can call the Post-Adoption Registry Toll Free line at 1-800-667-7539.