Systemic barriers to adoption persist, according to a new study by UBC graduate student, Marg Harrington. In an attempt to provide an analytic glimpse into the perceptions and realities of adoption in BC, Harrington recently conducted ten interviews with social workers, adoptive parents, and individuals who had previously inquired about adoption. While she acknowledges that this sample size does not allow for generalizations among the population at large, her findings indicate that greater resources are needed to adequately support the adoption system in BC.
All of Harrington’s research participants have had extensive experience with the Ministry of Children and Family Development. Many of them noted that there was an ongoing need for better recruitment and retention of adoptive parents. Several social workers pointed out that the adoption awareness campaign of 2001 achieved significant success; however, even the best campaign can only have an effect for so long. The need for a renewed commitment to awareness is a major priority. Other priorities include, but are not limited to, reducing the amount of paperwork social workers are forced to fill out; creating a unified approach to adoption among all government parties; including profiles of all the children available for adoption in the MCFD’s Adoption Bulletin; and, offering certain adoption education courses online.
Of particular interest was the fact that all five social workers interviewed mentioned a possible social worker bias towards gay and lesbian couples. Similarly, single parents (particularly young professionals) are often viewed skeptically by social workers because of their [single parents] commonly held high expectations. Perceptions of the "ideal family" persist, despite the fact that all of the social workers interviewed had come to the conclusion that a perfect parental couple doesn’t exist.
All of these issues have emerged in a wider historical setting of rising problems and falling supports. The wider availability of birth control and abortion, and greater acceptance of single parenthood, contributed to a decrease in the number of "healthy" infants available for adoption. At the same time, the number of children who were born after prenatal exposure to drug and alcohol began to rise, creating a growing number of kids in the system with special needs. When combined with the systemic barriers listed above, and the increased public use of private adoption agencies, these issues have created a seriously dire and under-acknowledged situation.