Routes to adoption reunion in BC


Siobhan Rowe
Focus on Adoption magazine

In BC, several registeries exist to help connect birth parents, adoptive parents and adoptees.

Post-Adoption Openness Registry

This registry, run by the provincial government, is meant for birth parents, adoptive parents, and relatives of an adopted child under the age of 19 who wish to communicate with each other after the child has been adopted, if no “openness agreement” was made before the Adoption Order.

How does the Post-Adoption Openness Registry work?
Once an application is made, the registry is checked to see if there’s a match. For example, if both the adoptive parents and the birth mother register, then there’s a match. Registry staff will contact you to discuss the type of openness you want. You’ll be asked to arrange for a facilitator to help you reach an openness agreement—be it saving letters and photographs to give to the adopted child at a certain age, or a continuing exchange of letters or phone calls, or even visits. An application to the Post- Adoption Openness Registry stays in effect until the adopted child reaches 19 years of age.

Reunion notes

Participants should be emotionally prepared for the reunion experience. Adopted persons and birth parents may carry a picture in their mind of the perfect family, but the reunion experience may not live up to that ideal. In preparing for contact and reunion, adopted persons (and birth parents) should prepare for a whole range of realities, including rejection. Although most birth parents are agreeable to further contact, research indicates that a minority, perhaps 9 to 15 %, reject any contact (Muller & Perry, cited at www.childwelfare. gov/pubs/f_search.cfm)

A reunion survey showed that 92% of all birth mothers contacted were grateful for the opportunity for a reunion. Eighty-eight percent of birth fathers were pleased to be contacted, 99% of birth sisters and 97% of birth brothers were pleased to participate in the reunion experience. (Source: Parent Finders of Canada)

A recent study shows that adopted persons are more likely to seek out information about their birth families now than in the past (Harris Interactive Market Research, 2002), and a study that reviewed estimates abroad and in the United States suggests that 50% of all adopted persons search at some point in their lives (Muller & Perry, cited at

How does the Passive Registry work?
If you register your name, and the person you’re looking for also registers for contact with you on this registry, a match is made. An “intermediary” or staff social worker will contact both of you and help you to make contact.

How does the Active Registry work?
After you register, staff will search for the person you want to locate. If they succeed, a social worker will then contact you to discuss the next step. If the person you’re looking for also wants a reunion, the social worker will explore with both of you the type of contact you want.

The Exchange Registry

The Exchange Registry is used by people who have negotiated a non-identifying openness agreement, where the adoptive family and the birth family don’t communicate directly with each other. Communications are sent to the Exchange Registry, which redirects them to the other person or family. After the adopted child turns 19, the adoptee or the birth family member can apply to the Adoption Reunion Registry to make direct contact with each other.

Adoption Reunion Registry

This registry connects adopted adults with their birth families if the adoption took place in BC. Everyone must be 19 or over, i.e., you must be an adult, and the person you want to connect with must also be an adult. The registry operates both a Passive Registry and an Active Registry.

Who can apply to register on the Adoption Reunion Registry?
Adult adoptees, birth parents, birth siblings of an adopted adult, and other birth relatives can all apply. Depending on who you are, you will have to provide different documents with your application, some of which will be available from the Vital Statistics Agency. For more information, visit

There’s a $25 registration/processing fee to register with the Adoption Reunion Registry. If you want an active search, you’ll be asked to submit an additional fee of $250. If you qualify, the fees can be reduced or waived. The social work staff at the Adoption Reunion Registry can offer brief counselling and support during the reunion search process.

How do you get the documents from Vital Statistics?

You have to submit an application form to the Vital Statistics Agency. Visit their website at Or call 604-660-2937 in Vancouver, 250-952-2681 in Victoria, or 1-800-663-8328. There’s a fee of $50 to obtain copies of the adopted adult’s original birth registration and/or Adoption Order. The names of and information about the adoptive parents are deleted to protect their privacy.

What if a person doesn’t want to be known or found?

Individuals can have a “disclosure veto” or “nocontact declaration” placed on their records in the Vital Statistics Agency. This prevents the release of any information on the birth registration or Adoption Order identifying the person who placed the veto. You can place a disclosure veto if you’re a birth parent or adopted person involved in an adoption that took place before 1996.

A no-contact declaration allows information to be released, but prohibits any contact with the person who has placed the declaration. If a no-contact declaration has been placed, you’ll have to sign a statutory declaration promising that you won’t contact the other person as long as the declaration is in effect. If you do, you’ll face up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

The person placing a disclosure veto or no-contact declaration can also place or file a written statement. This statement may include social, medical, and health information, and perhaps the reason the person doesn’t want to be contacted. If the birth and adoption records you’re searching at the Vital Statistics Agency contain a written statement, you’ll be given a copy.