Province to launch pro-adoption campaign

By David P. Ball, 24 hours Vancouver

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, the Representative for Children and Youth. (24 HOURS FILE PHOTO)

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, the Representative for Children and Youth. (24 HOURS FILE PHOTO)

Roughly 1,300 out of B.C.'s 8,000 children in care are stuck “in limbo” awaiting adoptions in B.C., but a provincial plan to encourage families to step forward has gained accolades from one of its fiercest critics.

 After expressing concern over declining adoption rates — only 205 last year — the province's youth watchdog said the Minister of Children and Family Development's commitment Thursday to a pro-adoption campaign is a major step forward. It's been 15 years since the last such campaign, explained the Representative for Children and Youth.

“They just sit in limbo in foster care,” Mary-Ellen Turpel Lafond said in a phone interview. “There's been an impasse for years — the minister for the first time has set a target, they're going from 205 to 300. That's a huge lift.”

On Thursday, minister Stephanie Cadieux announced the government would “dramatically increase” adoptions rates from the foster care system, and to centralize the permanent adoption program under the authority of the Director of Child Welfare, not regional decision-makers.

She admitted it's rare to hear praise from outspoken Turpel-Lafond.

“It's fantastic,” she told 24 hours in an interview. “So often when the representative and I are meeting it's because something in our system has gone wrong — that is a reality of the child welfare system — but we're both focused on what's right for children in this province.”

The representative said it's the “right” of children to be part of a family, and since her appointment she has on numerous occasions issued reports lambasting the government's child welfare and foster care systems.

Both Turpel-Lafond and Cadieux admitted there is still social stigma against youth in care, but said there are supports available to help families and children with the transition and that adoption offers “gifts” to both sides of the adoption, the minister said.

“These are amazing kids, from birth to 18, and they need a 'forever family,'” added Turpel-Lafond. “That is so important because you need emotional support, to know you belong to a family … I really want British Columbians that would consider adoption to step forward.” 

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