Adopting a Child

Law

Adoption is both a personal decision and a legal process. See the sections below to learn about:

  • What adoption is, who can adopt, and who can be adopted
  • Adopting privately: as a step-parent, directly from birth parents, or through an adoption agency
  • Adopting a child who is in the permanent care of the government
  • Adopting a child from another country
  • Accessing the information in adoption records
  • Looking for a biological parent
  • Adopting an adult

Please read “Who is this Information Page for?” just below to make sure you are on the right page.

Choose the Process tab above for the forms you may need, and information about steps in adopting and dealing with adoption records.

LegalAve provides general legal information, not legal advice. Learn more here.

Last Reviewed: November 2016
Who is this Information Page for?

This Information Page has legal information for people who wish to adopt a child or an adult.

If you are a birth parent who is considering placing your child for adoption, see the Pregnancy & Birth Information Page.

If you want to know about parental leave and benefits for adoptive parents, see the Having a Child Information Page.

If you are thinking of adoption, but are also still considering other options, see the Caregivers, Foster Care, & Kinship Care Information Page.

In general, the law on this Information Page is for people who live in Alberta. This is because in order for Alberta law to apply, the people who want to adopt must live in Alberta. If you are not sure whether you officially live in Alberta (this is also called “residency”), see the New Relationships & Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

You are currently on the Law tab of this Information Page, which has information on what the law says in Alberta about adoption. For information on the process you need to follow to adopt someone or access adoption records, click on the Process tab above. There is also important information in the Common Questions and Myths tabs above.

The law and legal system are complex: this will take a while. Be sure to give yourself enough time to read the information below, understand how it applies to your situation, and know what actions you may need to take.

The first topic is What the words mean. Please read this section even if you think you already know what the words mean. In order to understand the resources on this page, you will need to understand the legal terms.

What the words mean

These words are not listed alphabetically—they are in the order that makes it easiest to understand the complete legal picture.

If you are looking for a specific term, you can use the Glossary, which is in alphabetical order.

birth parent

A term commonly used to describe a biological mother or father.

However, the question of “who is a birth parent” has become much more complicated in the modern age. As a result, the term “birth parent” is often defined differently within specific laws.

The Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act (CYFEA), which is the Alberta law that governs adoption, does not use the term “birth parent.” The CYFEA uses the term “biological” parent instead (see definition below).

However, most of the resources listed on this Information Page use the term “birth parent.” Generally that term can be understood to mean biological mother or father as defined in the CYFEA.

Be Aware

Under other laws that apply in Alberta, such as those dealing with assisted reproduction, “birth mother” refers to a woman who gives birth to a child, even if she has no genetic connection to the child. In other words, even if she is not the biological mother. This can happen if the woman is a surrogate (a woman who gives birth to a child for someone else).

biological parent

A term commonly used to describe the woman who gave the egg, and the man who gave the sperm, to make a child.

However, the question of “who is a biological parent” has become much more complicated in the modern age. It is now possible for eggs and sperm to come from donors, and for eggs that have been fertilized outside of the body to be implanted. Also, couples may use a surrogate mother (a woman who gives birth to a child for someone else).

As a result, the words “biological parent” and “birth parent” are often defined within specific laws.

In Alberta, adoption is governed by the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act (CYFEA). The CYFEA defines these words as follows.

“Biological mother” means the woman who gave birth to the child.

“Biological father” is more complex. The CYFEA says that a biological father is a man who meets at least one of the following conditions:

  • he was married to the biological mother at the time of the birth of the child;
  • he is acknowledged by the biological mother as the biological father of the child;
  • he has been declared by a court to be the biological father of the child; or
  • he is able to satisfy a “director” of the Ministry of Human Services that he is the biological father of the child.

adoption

A legal process in which the legal rights and duties of one person or couple toward a child are ended, and are permanently transferred to another person or couple who become the adoptive parents.

Adoptive parents have all the legal rights and responsibilities a parent can have toward a child. Legally they are no treated no differently than any other kind of parent. After an adoption, the child’s birth certificate is changed so that the adoptive parents are listed as the child’s parents.

open adoption

An adoption process in which birth parents and adoptive parents share information about each other before the adoption takes place. An open adoption may also include a plan for ongoing contact between the birth family and the adoptive family.

ordinary residence (also called “habitual” or “usual” residence)

The place where a person lives his or her daily life. This is different from where a person might occasionally stay, or even where a person often stays. It is where a person’s life is centred. Even if they are not always there, it is the place where they regularly return.

When deciding if a person is an “ordinary” resident, a court will consider different factors. These may include:

  • where a person spends most of his or her life; and
  • where a person has ties to family and the community.

In the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act, the term used to describe ordinary or habitual is “usual.”

guardian (of a child)

A person who has the right to make decisions for a child, and the responsibility to care for that child by providing the “necessaries of life,” such as food and shelter. Alberta’s Family Law Act describes the decision-making powers, rights, and responsibilities of the guardians of children. This role is called “guardianship.”

In Alberta, a child is a person under the age of 18, and every child must have at least one guardian. A child may have 2 or more guardians.

A person does not have to be a parent to be a guardian, and not all parents are guardians (although most are).

best interests of the child

The factors that parents, guardians, and/or the Court must consider when making decisions about a child. The best interests of the child “test” is made up of many considerations that focus on the well-being of the child.

For example:

  • the physical, psychological, and emotional safety and well-being of the child;
  • the child’s need for stability, taking into consideration the child’s age and stage of development and attachment;
  • the child’s history of care;
  • the child’s cultural and religious background; and
  • for older children, the wishes of the child.

consent

To give permission for something to happen, or to agree to do something.

home study

Part of the adoption process that helps to determine how suitable an adoptive family will be for the care of a child. The adoptive family members are interviewed, and the study looks at many details, such as:

  • health of the family members;
  • family dynamics (which includes things like family structure, communication, beliefs about discipline, and traditions);
  • home and community environment;
  • reasons for adopting; and
  • what supports the adoptive family may need to properly care for a child.

private adoption agency

An organization licensed by the Alberta government to provide adoption services, including:

  • arranging the placement of children with adoptive parents;
  • completing home studies (see above);
  • arranging record checks for child intervention and criminal records;
  • providing adoption counselling;
  • preparing, filing, and serving legal documents; and
  • completing post-placement assessments to ensure that the child is doing well in the adoptive family’s home.

Disclosure Veto form

A form that can be filed with Alberta’s Post-Adoption Registry to prevent your identifying information from being released from the adoption record. This can only be used if the adoption took place before January 1, 2005.

Contact Preference form

A form that can be filed with Alberta’s Post-Adoption Registry to indicate whether or not you are willing to be contacted if someone requests your identifying information from the adoption record. This can be used if the adoption took place after January 1, 2005.

Indian Act

The main law through which the federal government administers Aboriginal issues, including:

  • “Indian” Status;
  • Status Indians’ Wills and estates;
  • First Nations’ governments;
  • band administration; and
  • the management of reserve lands and communal funds.

Indian

A person who has “Indian status” under Canada’s Indian Act. This term was originally used by Europeans to identify indigenous people of South America, Central America, and North America. Although it is no longer commonly used to refer to Aboriginal people, it is still the “legal” term required by the Indian Act.

Indian band (also called “First Nation”)

A group of Aboriginal people who:

  • have been declared to be a band for the purposes of the Indian Act (the Act defines certain Aboriginal people as “Indians”);
  • live on reserve lands that have been set apart for their collective use and benefit; and
  • have money held for them by the Government of Canada (also called “the Crown”).

Most bands hold reserve lands, but bands and band members do not legally own the land because the legal title belongs to the Crown and is “held in trust” for the band by the Crown.

A more modern term used for a band is “First Nation.” The terms “band” and “First Nation” are also used to describe the government of the group and its reserve. Many band governments also represent members who live off-reserve. Bands can also govern non-band members who live on the band reserve and/or work for the band.

The laws that may apply to you

You may wish to read the laws (also called “statutes” or “acts”) that apply to your situation. The laws included on this Information Page are:


Web Adult Adoption Act (and associated Regulations)
Government of Alberta
English

Web Hague Convention of 29 May 1993 on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (available in many languages)
Hague Conference on Private International Law
English
This information is available in multiple languages. Choose your language from the “Other languages” menu on the top of the page.

Web Indian Act
Government of Canada
English

When reading laws, you also need to know about the “regulations” associated with those laws. Each of the links above takes you to a page that lists the laws as well as the regulations that go with them. For more information on laws and regulations, see the Our Legal System Information Page.

Adoption basics

What is adoption?

Adoption is a legal process in which the legal rights and duties of one person or couple toward a child are ended, and are permanently transferred to another person or couple who become the adoptive parents. Adoptive parents have all the legal rights and responsibilities a parent can have toward a child. Legally they are no treated no differently than any other kind of parent. After an adoption, the child’s birth certificate is changed so that the adoptive parents are listed as the child’s parents.

Similarly, through adoption, the adopted person becomes a member of a new family just as if they had been born in that family. As a result, an adopted person is not allowed to marry a member of their adoptive family, just the same as they are not allowed to marry a member of their birth family.

Be Aware

You can also adopt an adult in Alberta. For more information about that, see the “Adopting an adult” section below. The rest of this section will only discuss the adoption of a child.

What does “birth parents” mean?

A term “birth parents” is commonly used to describe the woman who gave the egg, and the man who gave the sperm, to make a child.

However, the question of “who is a birth parent” has become much more complicated in the modern age. As a result, the term “birth parent” is often defined differently within specific laws.

The Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act (CYFEA), which is the Alberta law that governs adoption, does not use the term “birth parent.” The CYFEA uses the term “biological” parent instead.

Under the CYFEA, “biological mother” means the woman who gave birth to the child.

Biological father is more complex. The CYFEA says that a biological father is a man who meets at least one of the following conditions:

  • he was married to the biological mother at the time of the birth of the child;
  • he is acknowledged by the biological mother as the biological father of the child;
  • he has been declared by a court to be the biological father of the child; or
  • he is able to satisfy a “director” of the Ministry of Human Services that he is the biological father of the child.

Other laws that apply in Alberta do not treat “birth parents” as “biological parents.” For example, laws dealing with assisted reproduction. In those laws, “birth mother” refers to a woman who gives birth to a child, even if she has no genetic connection to the child. In other words, even if she is not the biological mother. This can happen if the woman is a surrogate (a woman who gives birth to a child for someone else).

Most of the resources listed on this Information Page use the term “birth parent.” Generally that term can be understood to mean biological mother or father as defined in the CYFEA. On this Information Page, we also use the term “birth parents” in the same way.

What kinds of adoption are there?

Public vs. private adoption

The are 2 main ways in which children are adopted in Canada:

  • In a private adoption, the birth parents choose to place the child for adoption and decide who the adoptive parents will be.
  • In a public adoption, the child is in the permanent care of the government. Generally a social worker decides who the adoptive parents will be.

Each of these options is discussed in more detail in later sections of this Information Page.

Open vs. closed adoption

In the past, adopted children often knew nothing about their birth parents. And birth parents usually knew nothing about the adoptive parents. This has been called “closed adoption.” Over the years, this has changed. Now “open adoption” is common.

In an open adoption, birth parents and adoptive parents share information about each other before the adoption takes place. An open adoption may also include a plan for ongoing contact between the birth family and the adoptive family.

What laws govern adoption?

Adoption is governed by provincial laws. This means that each province makes its own rules about adoption. All provinces require an in-depth application and interview process that includes:

  • home studies (described in detail below);
  • police and background checks; and
  • reference checks.

In Alberta, adoption of a child is governed by Part 2 of the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act (CYFEA). This Act sets out:

  • who may place a child for adoption;
  • who may adopt;
  • how the adoption will happen; and
  • other legal issues involved in adoption.
Be Aware

The CYFEA includes some specific rules about the adoption of an Aboriginal child. For more information, see the “Aboriginal matters and on-reserve considerations” section below.

Any person who wants to adopt a child must apply to the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench for an Adoption Order. The adoption application must have the consent of:

  • all the guardians of the child; and
  • the child, if he or she is 12 years or older.

The Court may order that any of these consents is not required. The applicant must provide evidence that there is a good reason to do this.

As with all issues involving children, the guiding principle for adoption decisions is the best interests of the child. The best interests of the child “test” is made up of many considerations that focus on the well-being of the child. For example:

  • the physical, psychological, and emotional safety and well-being of the child;
  • the child’s need for stability, taking into consideration the child’s age and stage of development and attachment;
  • the child’s history of care;
  • the child’s cultural and religious background; and
  • for older children, the wishes of the child.
Tip

Adoptive parents may be eligible for similar parental leave and employment benefits as those available to birth parents. For more information, see the Having a Child Information Page.

Who can be adopted?

A child to be adopted must be:

  • a Canadian citizen, or have been admitted for permanent residence to Canada; and
  • under 18 years old.

The adoption must also have the consent of:

  • all the guardians of the child; and
  • the child, if he or she is 12 years or older.

Who can adopt?

If you want to adopt a child who lives in Alberta, your usual (or “ordinary”) residence must be in Alberta. Or, if you already have care and control of the child, you must have had your usual residence in Alberta at the time the child came into your care. (See the definition of “ordinary residence” in the “What the words mean” section above.)

Also, you must be at least 18 years old to be an adoptive parent. You can be single or in a relationship. Couples must apply together. People who are LGBTQ are allowed to adopt in Canada. However, some countries do not permit international adoptions by people who are LGBTQ.

For information about adopting a child who lives in another province, see the “Adopting a child from another Canadian province” section below.

For information about adopting a child who lives in another country, see the “International adoption” section below.

Who helps arrange adoptions?

The Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act says that a child may only be placed for adoption by:

  • a parent of the child;
  • a licensed private adoption agency;
  • staff of Alberta Human Services who are designated as a “director” under the Act; or
  • the Minister of Alberta Human Services.

What does adoption cost?

The cost of an adoption will depend on whether it is public, private, or international. This may include fees for:

  • agency services, such as doing a home study or providing counselling;
  • travel expenses;
  • legal services, such as lawyers or court applications; or
  • medical services, such as doctors’ examinations or immunizations.
Be Aware

It is illegal for anyone to give or receive money to obtain a child for adoption. The offence may be punished by a fine of up to $10,000.

What is a home study?

A home study is part of the adoption process that helps to determine how suitable an adoptive family will be for the care of a child. The adoptive family members are interviewed, and the study looks at many details, such as:

  • health of the family members;
  • family dynamics (which includes things like family structure, communication, beliefs about discipline, and traditions);
  • home and community environment;
  • reasons for adopting; and
  • what supports the adoptive family may need to properly care for a child.

A home study report must be included in the application for an Adoption Order. The only exception to this is in private direct adoptions (see the “Private adoption” section below). However, for private direct adoptions, the Court has the option to request a home study report.

For more information, see the following resources.

Web Home Study
Canada Adopts
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web The Home Study
AdoptiveParents.ca
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web How to prepare for your home assessment
Focus on the Family (Canada) Association
English

Web The Adoption Process in Canada
Adoption Council of Canada
English
See “The Homestudy.”

Web The Adoption Home Study
CHOICES Adoption & Counselling Services
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web The homestudy explained
Adoptive Families Association of British Columbia
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Homestudies - They're not really about you
Adoptive Families Association of British Columbia
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Can an adopted child be taken back from the adoptive parents?

Any person who consents to an adoption has up to 10 days after signing it to change their mind and withdraw consent.

Also, even after an adoption is completed, an application to set aside an Adoption Order can be made:

  • up to one year after the order was made; or
  • at any time if it can be shown that the adoption was obtained by fraud. For example, if someone lied to get the consent of a guardian to the adoption.

However, Adoption Orders will only be set aside if it is in the best interests of the child to do so. This is true even if there was fraud. This is a very difficult case to make. If you want to go to court about setting aside an Adoption Order, consider getting legal advice.

What if adoptive parents separate or divorce?

No matter what happens in their relationship, adoptive parents remain parents of their adopted children. They must make arrangements for parenting and financial support of the children using the same legal processes as any other family.

More information

For more information about adoption, continue reading this Information Page, and see the following resources.

Web Adoption
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF Parenting: Legal Rights & Responsibilities
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English
See p. 10.

Web Frequently Asked Questions about Adoption
Adoption Council of Canada
English

Web Domestic Adoption in Alberta
Adoption by Choice
English

Web FAQ for Adoptive Parents
Adoption by Choice
English


Web Adopting in Canada FAQs
Canada Adopts
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Video Bruce Sellery's Videos
Adoption Options
English

Web Adoption
Children's Legal & Educational Resource Centre
English

Web For Adoptive Parents
Christian Adoption Services
English

For more information about open adoptions, see the following resources.

Web About Open Adoption
Adoption Options
English

Web Alberta Open Adoption: "Open" Versus "Closed" Adoption
Small Miracles Adoption
English

Web Open Adoption
Canada Adopts
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Video Bruce Sellery's Videos
Adoption Options
English
Private adoption: Adoption agencies & step-parent or relative adoptions

In a private adoption, the child is not in any type of government care. The birth parents have chosen to arrange an adoption. As a result, they will decide who the adoptive parents will be. There are 2 ways that this could happen:

  • private direct adoption; or
  • other private adoption.

Private direct adoption

In a private direct adoption, the child is placed with a family that the birth parents already know, or a member of the child’s family (such as step-parents). Some examples of such situations are:

  • A child is born to a single parent. Later the parent is in a relationship and the partner wishes to adopt the child.
  • A parent has children from a previous marriage, then remarries. The new spouse wishes to adopt the children.
  • A same-sex partner wants to adopt their partner’s birth child.
  • A birth parent has placed a child in the care of a relative (for example: an aunt or grandparent) or another person known to the family. The person who has been caring for the child now wishes to adopt the child.
Be Aware

Step-parent adoptions are only suitable in certain situations. Currently, Alberta law only recognizes a maximum of 2 legal parents. If both biological parents are actively involved and contributing to the child’s life, then “replacing” one with an adoptive parent would not usually be an option.

Private direct adoptions may also take place in situations where the child was conceived using an assisted reproduction process where there was no sex between the partners. Depending on the type of process that was used, the person or couple who plans to act as a parent to the child may or may not actually be the legal parent of the child. If you are not already a parent, you may need to adopt the child. For more information, see the Assisted Reproduction: Fertility & Surrogacy Information Page.

In private direct adoptions, you generally apply for the Adoption Order on your own or with the help of a lawyer. However, you may also be able to get help from a licensed adoption agency. For information about making direct adoption applications, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

For more information about direct adoption, see the following resources.

Web Private adoption
Government of Alberta
English

Audio/Web Step parent adoption
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Web Private Direct Adoption
Adoption Options
English

Web Considering Adopting Your Step Children in Alberta?
Small Miracles Adoption
English

Other private adoptions

A birth parent may want to arrange for the adoption of their child, but does not have a direct connection with someone who wants to adopt. In Alberta, this type of private adoption must be done through a licensed adoption agency.

Be Aware

Any person who consents to one of these adoptions has up to 10 days after signing it to change their mind and withdraw consent. The adoption can only be finalized after that 10-day period.

For more information about choosing an adoption agency and the process for private adoption, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

For more information about private adoption, see the following resources.

Web Private adoption
Government of Alberta
English

Audio/Web 

Audio/Web Private adoption
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Web Domestic Adoption in Alberta
Adoption by Choice
English

Web Domestic Open Adoption
Adoption Options
English

Web Domestic Adoptions
Christian Adoption Services
English
See the links on the right of the page for more information.


Web Private Domestic Adoption
Canada Adopts
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.
Public adoption: Adopting of a ward of the government

Alberta’s Ministry of Human Services is the government department responsible for administering the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act (CYFEA). The CYFEA deals with the well-being of children. This is done through the division of Child and Family Services.

Children come into the permanent care of the government for a variety of reasons, including:

  • The parents are unable to care for the children and a court has determined that it is in the best interests of the children for them to be under the care of the government. As a result, the court has issued a “Permanent Guardianship Order.”
  • The parents are unable to care for the children and they have entered into an agreement for the government to take over that care. It has become a “Permanent Guardianship Agreement.”

If there is a Permanent Guardianship Order, the child cannot be adopted until:

  • the time period for appealing the Order has passed; or
  • an appeal of the Order has been completed and the Order has remained in place.

If there is a Permanent Guardianship Agreement, the child cannot be adopted until:

  • the time period in which the parent can apply to end the Agreement has passed; or
  • an application for terminating the Agreement has been dealt with in court. The Court decided to keep the Agreement in place.

The children are generally placed in foster care until a suitable adoptive family can be found. Sometimes foster families will choose to adopt a child in their care. The children are often older (not infants) and frequently have some type of special needs. Because these adoptions can be challenging, Child and Family Services provides financial help and programming through the Supports for Permanency Program. For more information about resources to help adoptive parents of children with special needs, see the “Resources for adoptive parents” section below.

To adopt a child who is the ward of the government, you apply to Alberta Child and Family Services. For more information about applying, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

For more information about public adoption, see the following resources.

Web Adopting Alberta children
Government of Alberta
English

Web Adoption
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Alberta's Waiting Children
Government of Alberta
English

Audio/Web The adoption of children who are wards of the government
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Web Public Domestic Adoption
Canada Adopts
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

PDF Enhancement Policy Manual
Government of Alberta
English
Start on p. 900.
Adopting a child from another Canadian province

Adoption is governed by provincial laws. This means that each province makes its own rules about adoption. Provinces generally require that adoptive parents be residents of that province. However, there may be special situations where an adoptive family from another province would be considered.

To find out about the possibility of adopting a child from another province, contact the adoption authority in that province. For a list of adoption authorities and agencies in other provinces, see the following resources.

Web Adoption authorities
Government of Canada
English

Web Entités responsables en matière d’adoption
Government of Canada
French

Web Private Adoption Agencies in Canada
Canada Adopts
English
International adoption

You may wish to adopt a child from another country. This is a complex process, even if the child you wish to adopt is related to you.

International adoptions must meet many legal requirements. Laws that apply can include:

  • the laws of the country the child is from;
  • Alberta law (the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act);
  • federal immigration regulations, because Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada is responsible for the process that allows the child to enter Canada; and
  • the Hague Convention of 29 May 1993 on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention), for those countries that are members. Canada became a member in 1997 and Alberta brought the terms into force that same year.

In Alberta, there are 3 types of international adoption processes.

  1. Hague Convention adoption is used when the child’s country is a member of the Hague Adoption Convention.
  2. Government adoption for non-Hague countries is used when there is an adoption process established between the child’s country and Alberta.
  3. Private international adoption is used when the child’s country has not implemented the Hague Adoption Convention and the child’s country does not have an adoption process with Alberta.

All 3 processes begin with an application to Alberta Adoption Services (a division of Alberta’s Ministry of Human Services). If the application is approved, the applicants must then complete a home study and attend Parent Preparation Training before the other steps in the adoption process can begin.

In the first 2 processes, Alberta Adoption Services continues to be involved through to the completion of the adoption.

However, for a private international adoption, once the home study report and training are complete, the applicants must arrange the adoption directly with the child’s country of origin, following the laws of that country. Alberta Adoption Services has no role in matching, processing, or finalizing the adoption. As a result, adopting in this way has many more challenges and risks.

For more information about applying for an international adoption, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

For more information about the many steps and challenges involved in international adoption, see the following resources.

Web International Adoption
Government of Alberta
English


Web Private International Adoption
Government of Alberta
English

Because the adopted child will be entering Canada from another country, an immigration process must also be followed. For more information about how the immigration process fits with the adoption process, see the following resources.

Web Adopt a child from abroad
Government of Canada
English

Web Our role in adoption
Government of Canada
English

Web Citizenship law and adoption
Government of Canada
English

Web Irregular adoptions – Adoption fraud
Government of Canada
English

Web Help Centre: Adoption
Government of Canada
English

For information about the ways in which licensed adoption agencies can help with international adoptions, see the following resources.

Web Licensed Adoption Agency Services
Government of Alberta
English

Web International Adoption
Adoption by Choice
English

Web International Adoption
Adoption Options
English


Web International Adoptions
Christian Adoption Services
English
Resources for adoptive parents

Tax-related information

For information on tax credits for adoption expenses, see the following resources.

Web Line 313 - Adoption expenses
Government of Canada
English

Web Ligne 313 - Frais d'adoption
Government of Canada
French

Web Alberta Tax and Credits
Government of Canada
English
See “Adoption expenses.”

Web Impôt et crédits de l'Alberta
Government of Canada
French
Voir : “Frais d'adoption

Special needs

Many of the children available for adoption have special needs. For more information on dealing with these needs, see the following resources.

Web Supports for permanency
Government of Alberta
English


PDF Edmonton Adoption Clinic
Alberta Health Services
English

PDF Child Sexual Abuse: A Guide for Adoptive Parents
Adoptive Families Association of British Columbia
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Glossary of Special Needs and Related Terms
Government of Alberta
English

Web Special Needs Adoption
Canada Adopts
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

General

For general help available for adoptive parents, see the following resources.

Web Adoption: Resources
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Alberta's Waiting Children
Government of Alberta
English
See p. 8-10.

Web Supports for permanency
Government of Alberta
English

Web Resources
Adoption (ABI) Society of Alberta
English

Web Adoption Preparation Courses
Adoption by Choice
English

Web Adoption Support Groups
Canada Adopts
English

Web Canadian Adoption Blogs
Canada Adopts
English

Web Adoption Links
Canada Adopts
English
Adoption records

The Alberta Post-Adoption Registry deals with the sealed adoption records of all adoptions completed in the province. The records contain 2 types of information about birth parents and adopted children: identifying information and non-identifying information.

Identifying information may include:

  • names; 
  • ages;
  • date of birth; and 
  • place of birth.

Non-identifying information may include:

  • province of birth; 
  • marital status; 
  • occupation; 
  • education level; 
  • physical description; 
  • personality and interests of the birth parents; and 
  • medical history of the family.

Birth parents and adoptees who are 18 or older may file a “Request for Release of Adoption Information” with the Post-Adoption Registry. Non-identifying information will be always released. The release of identifying information will depend on when the adoption took place.

For adoptions granted before January 1, 2005, birth parents and adult adoptees who do not want their identifying information to be released can prevent it by filing a “Disclosure Veto” form.

For adoptions granted after January 1, 2005, birth parents and adult adoptees cannot remain anonymous. Their identifying information will be released when an official request is approved. However, they may file a “Contact Preference” form saying that they do not wish to be contacted. This preference will be shared with the person requesting the information. However, it is up to that person whether they respect that preference. The contact preference is not legally binding.

For more information about registering a disclosure veto or contact preference, see the “Managing adoption records” section on the Process tab of this Information Page.

For more information about requesting adoption information or making contact with a birth family, see the “Requesting adoption records” section on the Process tab of this Information Page. 

The Post-Adoption Registry also provides other services, including:

  • Certified copy of the Adoption Order
  • Ongoing information exchange
  • Medical request
  • Adoptive family profile
  • Treaty Status assistance

For more information about what these services are, who they are for, and how to apply, see the following resource.

Web Services We Provide
Government of Alberta
English

Each province keeps its own adoption records. For contact information in other provinces, see the following resource.

Web Canadian Post Adoption Registries
Government of Alberta
English


For more information about Alberta adoption records and the Post-Adoption Registry, see the following resources.

Web Adoption Records
Government of Alberta
English

Web Frequently Asked Questions
Government of Alberta
English

Web Adoption records in Alberta FAQs
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Adoption records: Community resources
Government of Alberta
English
Aboriginal matters and on-reserve considerations

Adopting an Aboriginal child

Much of the law around adoption in Alberta is the same for Aboriginal families as for other families.

However, there are concerns that Aboriginal children should stay connected to their culture. As a result, Alberta’s Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act has some specific rules about the adoption of Aboriginal children.

First, those deciding about the placement of an Aboriginal child must keep in mind the unique character of Aboriginal culture, heritage, spirituality, and traditions. This means that they must consider how the child’s cultural identity will be protected in the adoption.

Second, the adoption application for an Aboriginal child must include a “cultural connection plan.” This must show how the adoptive parents plan to involve the child in the child’s Aboriginal culture, heritage, and spirituality. It should explain how the child’s cultural identity will be encouraged and developed. However, if the adoptive parents are from the same band as the child, this plan would not be needed.

Third, for each Indian band involved, a person assigned by that band should be involved in the adoption of children. This must happen when the child is an Indian (as defined by the Indian Act) and is a member of a band. There are 2 possible situations:

  • If the parent/guardian placing the child for adoption lives on the reserve, then the assigned member for the band must be involved.
  • If the parent/guardian giving the child for adoption does not live on the reserve, then the parent/guardian must be asked whether the assigned member for the band may be involved. If the parent/guardian agrees, the assigned member will be involved.

The Delegated First Nation Agency for each band deals with adoption applications. The purpose of these agencies is to deal with on-reserve situations, but they may also be consulted about the adoption of children who are band members and live off-reserve.

Be Aware

The Child and Family Services offices in each region of the province have their own relationship with the bands in their area, and they work together in different ways. You will need to talk to the local office to understand how things are done in their area. See the following resource.

Interactive Child and Family Services
Government of Alberta
English

For more general information about cultural connection plans and adopting an Aboriginal child in Alberta, see the following resources.

Video Raising The Spirit: Cultural Connections Plans for Aboriginal Children (Alberta)
Native Counselling Services of Alberta (via YouTube)
English

Web The Bear's Den - Raising the Spirit of Children in Care
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English

PDF Cultural Connection Plan: Supplementary Material and Research Organizer
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English

PDF My Child’s Cultural Connection Plan Notes
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English

Web Perspectives: Adoption in Alberta
Adoptive Families Association of British Columbia
English
See “Working with First Nations and other Aboriginal communities.”

PDF Culturally appropriate adoption practices for First Nations children and youth
Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.

For places that can help with Aboriginal adoptions, see the following resources.

Web Contact Native Counselling Services of Alberta
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English
 
Web Friendship Centres
National Association of Friendship Centres
English

Web Delegated First Nations Agencies
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Delegated First Nation Agencies map
Government of Alberta
English

Customary adoptions

There is a long history of adoption in Aboriginal law and tradition. This is called “customary adoption” or “custom adoption.”

The laws of British Columbia and the 3 territories have given some recognition to Aboriginal customary adoption. Alberta law has not.

In Alberta, even in First Nations communities, all the legal requirements of adoption must be met. This includes getting an Adoption Order from the court. However, the use of a traditional adoption ceremony in addition to the legal process is encouraged.

For more information about customary adoptions in Canada, see the following resources.

Web Custom, Kinship & Step-parent Adoption
AdoptiveParents.ca
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

PDF An Overview of the Recognition of Customary Adoption in Canada
Saskatchewan First Nations Family and Community Institute Inc.
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here

PDF Supporting First Nations Adoption
First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.
LGBTQ considerations

People who are LGBTQ are allowed to adopt in Canada. They would follow the same adoption processes as any other Albertans. However, some countries do not permit international adoptions by people who are LGBTQ.

If you have a child, your same-sex partner may be able to adopt as a step-parent. You may need the consent of the other biological parent. See the “Private adoption” section above.

You may have used an assisted reproduction process where there was no sexual intercourse between the partners. Depending on the type of process that was used, you may or may not be the legal parent of the child. If you are not already a parent, you may need to adopt the child. For more information, see the Assisted Reproduction: Fertility & Surrogacy Information Page.

Concerns for immigrants and other non-citizens

Adopting in Canada

Permanent residents are allowed to adopt a child in Canada. If you want to adopt a child who lives in Alberta, your usual (or “ordinary”) residence must be in Alberta.

A couple may apply jointly to adopt a child in Alberta if: 

  • one person is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident; and
  • the other person is not a permanent resident. 

However, be aware that the application process includes a Home Study Report. One part of the study will look at the stability of your relationship. The uncertainty of your immigration status may be a concern.

Adopting internationally

Permanent residents can apply to adopt a child from another country, and sponsor them to come to Canada. 

A couple may apply jointly to adopt a child from another country if: 

  • one person is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident; and
  • the other person is not a permanent resident.

However, be aware that the application process includes a Home Study Report. One part of the study will look at the stability of your relationship. The uncertainty of your immigration status may be a concern.

For more information, see the “International adoption” section above.

Temporary residents may not apply on their own to sponsor anyone to come to Canada. This means they cannot adopt a child from another country.

For more information about immigration sponsorship and adoption, see the following resources.

Web How do I sponsor parents, grandparents, adopted children and other relatives?
Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants
English


Looking for a biological parent

If you were adopted as a child in Alberta and are now over 18 years old, you can file a Request for Release of Adoption Information with the Post-Adoption Registry. You may be able to get identifying information about your biological parent (including their name, age, date of birth, and place of birth) if:

  • you were adopted before January 1, 2005, and your birth parent did not place a disclosure veto on the file; or
  • you were adopted after January 1, 2005.

No matter when you were adopted, you can get some non-identifying information from the adoption record. See the “Adoption records” section above for more information.

However, getting identifying information does not mean that you will be reunited. Once you have the information, you have to decide what to do with it. If you decide that you want to connect with your biological parent, there are several steps you can take. For more information, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

Adopting an adult

Alberta allows the adoption of adults under the Adult Adoption Act. In Alberta, a person becomes an adult when they turn 18. You may want to adopt an adult if you have had a family-like relationship with that person, but for some reason you were unable to adopt the person as a child. Now both of you would like to formally set up the family relationship. For example, you might be:

  • a former foster parent;
  • a step-parent; or
  • a birth parent who has reconnected with your adult child.

To adopt an adult, you must apply to the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench for an Adoption Order. For more information, see the Process tab of this Information Page. 

Be Aware

Adult adoption is not for dealing with situations where an adult lacks the capacity to care for himself or herself. For information about such situations, see the Caring for and Decision-Making for a Family Member Information Page.

Who can be adopted?

Any adult who is a Canadian citizen or who is admitted to Canada for permanent residence can be adopted in Alberta.

The adoptee must consent to the adoption. As an adult, they do not need the consent of their parents.

Who can adopt an adult?

Any adult who is resident in Alberta may adopt another adult. A joint application to adopt may be made by spouses.

What are the effects of adult adoption?

If you are adopted as an adult, your legal status will change in several ways:

  • You will get a new birth certificate.
  • You will be a son or daughter of your adoptive parents just as if you had been born to those parents.
  • You will no longer be a child of your former parents, unless your adoptive parent is a step-parent who is married to your parent. In that case, you will remain a child of that parent.
  • You are still not allowed to marry any member of your former family, and you cannot marry a member of your adoptive family either.

Your new legal status applies to all legal situations and legal documents that refer to a person by their family relationship. For example, if an adoptive parent’s Will says that a certain gift of money will be “divided equally among all my children,” you would be included in that group with any other children of your adoptive parent.

Your name will not automatically change with adult adoption. If you want to change your name, you must apply for a legal name change separately. You can do this before or after the adoption. For more information, see the “Adult adoption: Changing your name” section on the Process tab of this Information Page.

Be Aware

If you are Aboriginal, being adopted as an adult may affect your status as an Indian. You may want to consult with a lawyer or with Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada before going ahead with the adoption.

More information

For more information about adult adoption, see the following resources.

Web Adult adoption
Government of Alberta
English

Web Alberta Adult Adoption
Small Miracles Adoption
English

Web Adult Adoption Law in Canada
AdoptingBack.com
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Process

Learn more about the steps involved when adopting or dealing with adoption records, including:

  • Applying for the private adoption of a child
  • Applying to adopt a child from the Alberta government
  • Applying to adopt a child from another country
  • Managing your adoption records: disclosure veto and contact preference
  • Requesting adoption records and registering for voluntary contact
  • Changing your name when you are adopted as an adult

Please read “Who is this Information Page for?” just below to make sure you are on the right page.

LegalAve provides general legal information, not legal advice. Learn more here.

Last Reviewed: November 2016
Who is this Information Page for?

This Information Page contains legal information about the process of adopting a child or an adult. It also deals with:

  • ways you can control the release of your adoption information;
  • how to request information from an adoption record; and
  • how to register for voluntary contact between adoptees and birth families.
Tip

If you are just starting out with this topic, it’s a good idea to begin on the Law tab of this Information Page. There you will find basic information about what the law says, what the words mean, and other issues related to adoption. Once you have the basics down, you will be in a better position to learn about the process you need to follow.

In general, the law on this Information Page is for people who live in Alberta. This is because in order for Alberta law to apply, the people who want to adopt must live in Alberta. If you are not sure whether you officially live in Alberta (this is also called “residency”), please see the New Relationships & Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

You are currently on the Process tab of this Information Page, which has information about the process you need to follow you need to follow to adopt someone or access adoption records. For information about what the law says about adoption in Alberta, click on the Law tab above. There is also important information in the Common Questions, and Myths tabs above.

Applying for a private adoption

Private direct adoption

If you are adopting as a step-parent, or are arranging the adoption directly with a birth parent, you can download the Adoption Self-Help Kit, which includes instructions and forms, from the following resource.

Web Adoption: Forms
Government of Alberta
English

 

Other private adoption

In Alberta, any private adoption that is not a direct adoption must be done through a licensed adoption agency. For contact information, see the following resource.

Web Licensed Adoption Agency Services
Government of Alberta
English

For information about things to consider in choosing an adoption agency, see the following resources.

Web Choosing an adoption agency: Questions to ask
Adoptive Families Association of British Columbia
English

Web How To Choose Your Adoption Professionals
Canada Adopts
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

There are many steps in the adoption process. For more information, see the following resources.

Web Private Domestic Adoption
Canada Adopts
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web Canada Adopts: Canada's adoption meeting place
Canada Adopts
English
This is a private source. Learn more hereSee “Hoping to Adopt.”
Applying to adopt a child from the government

There are many steps in the adoption process. For more information, see the following resource.

Web Adoption Process
Government of Alberta
English

To begin the adoption process, you can download the Application to Adopt a Child from the following resource.

Web Adoption: Forms
Government of Alberta
English

You will send the completed form to your nearest Child and Family Services or Delegated First Nation Agency office. For locations, see the following resource.

Interactive Child and Family Services
Government of Alberta
English

Families wishing to adopt a child must be interviewed, trained, and matched by Children’s Services social workers. Children’s Services places the children for adoption and completes all the legal requirements free of charge for the adoptive parents.

Applying for an international adoption

Adopting a child from another country is a complicated process. For all types of international adoption, you must begin by completing the International Adoption Application Form (ADOP2777) from the Alberta government. You can download it from the following resource.

Web Adoption: Forms
Government of Alberta
English

For more information about the many steps that come after your adoption application is approved, see the following resource.

PDF International Adoption Guidebook: A Guide for Alberta Families
Government of Alberta
English
See Part Two: Adoption Procedures.

To get help for some steps in arranging an international adoption, contact a licensed adoption agency. 

Web Licensed Adoption Agency Services
Government of Alberta
English
Applying to adopt an adult

You can download the Self Help Kit for Adult Adoption, which includes application instructions and forms, from the following resource.

Web Adult adoption
Government of Alberta
English
Managing adoption records

There are 3 different ways you might want to file applications to manage your adoption record.

  • For adoptions granted before January 1, 2005, birth parents and adult adoptees who do not want their identifying information to be released can prevent that by filing a Disclosure Veto form
  • If you change your mind about the disclosure veto, you can file an Application to Cancel Disclosure Veto form
  • For adoptions granted after January 1, 2005, birth parents and adult adoptees cannot remain anonymous. However, they may file a Contact Preference form saying that they do not wish to be contacted. 

The forms for the Disclosure Veto, Application to Cancel Disclosure Veto, and Contact Preference can be downloaded from the following resource.

Web Adoption Records: Forms
Government of Alberta
English
Requesting adoption records

To ask for information about an adoption, you can download the Request for Release of Adoption Information from the following resource.

Web Adoption Records: Forms
Government of Alberta
English

For more information about the adoption documents, see the following resources.

PDF Adoption Information: Common Questions and Answers
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Search tip sheet
Government of Alberta
English

The Post-Adoption Registry can help with contact between adoptees and their birth parents or siblings. To register for voluntary contact, you can download the appropriate application form from the list in the following resource.

Web Adoption Records: Forms
Government of Alberta
English

Each province keeps its own adoption records. For contact information in other provinces, see the following resource.

Web Canadian Post Adoption Registries
Government of Alberta
English
Steps to connect with a biological parent

If you were adopted as a child in Alberta and are now over 18 years old, the Post-Adoption Registry may be able to help you connect with your biological parents or siblings. You can submit a Voluntary Contact application with the Post-Adoption Registry. If members of your biological family have also asked for voluntary contact, the Registry can help connect you. To register for voluntary contact, you can download the appropriate application form from the list in the following resource.

Web Adoption Records: Forms
Government of Alberta
English

If you cannot connect through voluntary contact, you may want to search for your biological parent yourself. For more information on getting adoption information and finding a birth parent, see the following resources.

Web Adoption Records
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Adoption Information: Common Questions and Answers
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Search tip sheet
Government of Alberta
English

To ask for information about an adoption, you can download the Request for Release of Adoption Information from the following resource.

Web Adoption Records: Forms
Government of Alberta
English

Finding and connecting with a birth parent can be stressful. You may want to seek support as you consider this decision. For more information, see the following resource.

Web Adoption records: Community resources
Government of Alberta
English

Each province keeps its own adoption records. For contact information in other provinces, see the following resource.

Web Canadian Post Adoption Registries
Government of Alberta
English
Adult adoption: Changing your name

If you are adopted as an adult, your name will not automatically change. If you want to change your name, you must apply for a legal name change separately. You can do this before or after the adoption. When you legally change your name, your name on your birth certificate will change.

To legally change your name, you must apply at a registry office. You can apply in person or in writing. There are many different registry agents throughout Alberta. To find a registry agent near you, see the following resource. 

Web Find a registry agent
Government of Alberta
English

For information about how to change your legal name, see the following resources.

Web Change of Name
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English

Audio/Web Changing Your Name
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Web Changing a Name | How it works
Government of Alberta
English

Informing others of your name change

You will need to update all of your identification to reflect your name change. To do this, most organizations will want to see “evidence” of your name change. You can show them your new birth certificate.

For information on how to tell the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) about your name change, see the following resource.

Web How to tell the CRA about your change of name
Government of Canada
English

For a list of other places which you may want to notify of your name change, see the following resource. Although this resource is written for people changing their name after getting married, the same list will be useful for any situation where you change your legal name.

Web Changing your last name after getting married
Alberta Motor Association
English

Provincial Court

Queen's Bench

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