The number of international adoptions has declined dramatically in Canada in the last five years due to tighter country controls, exorbitant costs and alternative routes to parenthood.
Last year, there were only 793 international adoptions in Canada, according to data from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). That’s the lowest number in decades, and nearly half the total from 2012, when there were 1,379 inter-country adoptions.
Deborah Brennan, chair of the Adoption Council of Canada, points to a number of factors driving the downward trend. These include hefty costs (an international adoption can cost up to $50,000) and an increasingly onerous administrative process that can take anywhere from 18 months to several years.
A growing number of countries have imposed restrictions or all-out bans on international adoptions, and many have developed stronger systems to encourage more adoptions within their own borders.
“I think they are paying more attention to making sure they create an infrastructure within their own country where they can take care of their children themselves,” Brennan said.
She sees the trend as potentially positive for adoptee children, because remaining in their countries of origin helps ensure their family connections, culture and ethnicity are not lost.
“Our preference is that kids do stay … in their own countries of origin because it is risky for kids to come here and lose that. Many parents who adopt internationally, in my opinion, can sometimes do not a great job of maintaining those ties and those roots,” she said.
While Canadians are increasingly using other ways to have a family, including surrogacy and in vitro fertilization, Brennan hopes fewer international adoptions will mean more domestic adoptions in Canada.
Right now, more than 30,000 children are available for adoption around the country.
Many of them are over six years old, are in sibling groups or are have visible special needs. Brennan said a big part of the problem with matching parents with children is a lack of social workers and a huge gap in the inter-provincial adoption system.
In 1993, the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption imposed strict safeguards to make sure all adoptions were in the best interests of the child. It also adopted new measures to crack down on the abduction, sale and trafficking of children.
Some provincial and territorial authorities have imposed suspensions on certain countries of origin including:
Data shows that the number of international adoptions to Canada remained high in the aftermath of the Hague convention, with moderate fluctuations between 1999 and 2009 that ranged from 1,535 to 2,127.
But the number of children adopted from China — which was long a top source country for international…