In New Brunswick alone, more than 400 children are currently in permanent care and are waiting for a family and a permanent home to call their own.
You don't have to be young, married, childless or wealthy to adopt a child through the Department of Social Development. You don't have to go to a certain church or have a certain education. You just have to be a special person with special skills.
You can arrange to adopt one or more of these children through the Department of Social Development. Most of New Brunswick's waiting children are between 12 and 18 years old. And some are part of a sibling group. Others may have special service and/or placement needs. They may be still waiting for adoption because they:
- are over two years old;
- are part of a sibling group;
- were exposed to drugs or alcohol in utero and may have behavioural and learning disabilities;
- have difficulty attaching to a new family;
- suffered abuse or neglect and this has delayed their ability to learn and develop; or
- have a combination of the above.
All of these children have some level of special service and/or placement needs due to their background and/or prenatal history. Parenting a child with one or more of these issues can be a difficult task; however, it can also be one of the most satisfying things you will ever do.
Children become available for adoption in many ways. Some birth parents choose to make an adoption plan for their child, and other children come into the care of the Department by court order. Every effort is made to find an adoptive family who best meets the specific needs of a child over the long term.
When placing a child for adoption, social workers consider many factors, such as the child's safety, physical and emotional needs and level of development. They also consider the importance of continuous relationships, including those with birth parents, as well as the child's ethnic, linguistic, religious and cultural heritage.
The Department looks for diversity in the families and parents who are interested in adopting children with special needs. Adoptive families require certain strengths, knowledge and experiences, such as:
- a healthy sense of self-esteem;
- strong sense of commitment;
- the ability to provide love and affection to a child who may have difficulty returning those feelings;
- the ability to talk about feelings and to listen so children are able to talk about theirs;
- the flexibility to make major changes in lifestyle;
- the ability to advocate on behalf of the child;
- the ability to adjust to children whose values, attitudes and life experiences may not reflect their own;
- the patience to live with a child who may have low self-esteem;
- a support system of relatives and/or friends;
- a willingness to work as part of a team with social workers and other professionals in the community for an indefinite period of time;
- a willingness to be involved with others who are significant to the child (for example, birth parents, siblings, foster parents); and
- a sense of humour.
Approved adoptive families, who have a demonstrated need, may be eligible to receive a financial subsidy for services to help meet the special needs of the child. These services may include counseling, special services to children, parenting or other training, and adoption support and information.
Adoptive parents of children with special needs often find great joy and satisfaction in providing the love and support these children need to achieve their full potential.
To begin the adoption process, call the nearest departmental office, under the listing "Social Development" in the New Brunswick Provincial Government blue section of your telephone directory. You will receive information on adopting a waiting child, as well as an application asking for basic information about you and your family.
You will be invited to attend pre-service training for prospective adoptive parents. This training will give you the opportunity and resources to learn about special placement needs of these children. It will also give you the opportunity to ask questions, clarify information and make contacts with other prospective adoptive families.
When these initial steps have been completed, you and your adoption social worker will begin the home study. In the home study, the adoption social worker will carry out family and individual assessments through home visits.
Once you have applied, you will also be asked to provide a medical assessment from your family doctor to confirm you are in good physical and mental health.
You, and anyone 19 years or older living in your home, will be asked to undergo a criminal record check.
As well, you will need to provide three references from friends, colleagues or professionals.
Once you have signed the written home study, it is registered with Adoption Services. Information from the home study becomes part of a database, which matches children with prospective families.
When a match has been made and you have accepted a prospective adoptive child, a series of pre-placement visits begins. If the child lives in a different community, you will be asked to travel there, at your own expense. These initial visits are structured and supervised, with your social worker and/or the child's social worker present and possibly the child's caregiver. As your relationship with the child grows, you will begin to spend time alone with the child and have him or her visit your home.
Once the pre-placement visits are completed to the satisfaction of both social workers, the child will be placed in your home.
At any point in the process before the placement of the child in your home, you can decide against proceeding. If you have any doubts about the placement, discuss your concerns with your social worker.
Throughout the adoption process, it is important for you to remember that while the steps must be followed, it is also an individual process. The average time from application to home study takes several months. How quickly you progress through the process is dependent on many factors.
A network of support is extremely valuable to adoptive families. It is important for you to develop such a network for you to share your feelings, experiences, challenges and joys with social workers, other adoptive parents, either when you have adopted, are thinking about adopting or going through the adoption process.
All children deserve a permanent, secure and loving family. Adoptive families are needed so these children will not have to wait for their permanent home. If you want to open your home to one or more of these children, please contact your Regional Office of Social Development.
To contact your Regional Office, look under the listing "Social Development" in the New Brunswick Provincial Government blue section of your telephone directory.