EXCLUSIVE: Are other countries to blame for drop in international adoptions in Quebec?

Limited international adoption for Quebecers
A Montreal woman waiting to adopt a child internationally has received an outpouring of support since Global News told her story, but she’s also hearing outrage from people who have lived through similar situations. Anne Leclair has an update.

One week after Global News broke the story about a Cote Saint-Luc woman who blamed Quebec for her failed attempts to adopt a child, stakeholders spoke out about why international adoption is such a difficult process for parents.

One of the province’s nine adoption agencies claimed it is not all Quebec’s fault, but also deplored the fact that options are few and far between for Quebecers looking to adopt a child.

“All the origin countries are closing very slowly but very firmly the door for international adoption,” said Angela Alba, director of the government-approved agency APPEL.

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Alba has been at the helm of the agency that deals with adoptions in Colombia for more than 20 years and has seen the numbers drop significantly.

READ MORE: Montrealer blames Quebec government for botching international adoption

“When I started, we had 50 adoptions a year and now it’s closer to 20,” said Alba.

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The reality is that young healthy babies in other countries are no longer up for adoption and the list of restrictions for parents is getting longer.

“It’s very hard for parents,” Alba said.

“Here in Quebec, it’s not easy because the government has a lot of requirements that maybe Ontario and other provinces don’t have.”

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Ever since Marissa Sidel shared her painful, long struggle to adopt a child with Global News last week, she’s heard from many families who shared her outrage.

READ MORE: Activists push for law to allow open adoptions in Quebec

“The common thread in all the outrage from the parents that contacted me was, ‘We went through the same thing you’re going through. The SAI did not help us and the agencies are basically handcuffed to do whatever they’re told,'” Sidel said.

International adoption comes at a high cost for families, both financially and emotionally. Sidel had already waited six years and spent thousands of dollars with no results in sight.

“I’m at $15,000. $10,000 lost to the agency whose license was removed and $5,000 give or take to this agency I’m waiting with now,” Sidel said.

Ten years ago, there were over 500 international adoptions a year in Quebec, but that number has dropped to under 150 per year.

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“The decrease in these adoptions can be explained by several factors,” said Josée-Anne Goupil, director of the Secretariat à l’adoption international (SAI).

“The children available for adoption are increasingly older and often have special needs, whereas the majority of people looking to adopt want young healthy babies. Finding parents for [special needs] children is also a challenge.”

Goupil and Alba both blame the drop in numbers on the growing restrictions imposed by foreign countries, while underlining the fact that the Hague convention is behind many of the recent changes, which are intended to benefit the children.

READ MORE: Arizona woman searches for Quebec birth parents on Facebook

“Adoption isn’t a measure for people who don’t have children,” Goupil said. “It’s a measure to protect children.”

In a perfect world, Alba believes more children would be available for adoption. But in reality, the children currently available are often plagued with special needs and attachment difficulties due to their age.

“Colombia closed the adoption for children under six, so people here [in Quebec] can only adopt children over six,” Alba said.

“Most of the social workers and psychologists say to never take out children over six from their countries, from their roots.”

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While some have suggested the SAI should work on opening new opportunities in more countries, Goupil claims Quebec is actually ahead of the game.

“Quebec is recognized for the quality of its work on the international adoption front,” Goupil said.

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The government branch that oversees international adoption believes it is not about the number of children coming in, but rather the number of success stories — despite the growing restrictions imposed by other countries.

That’s little consolation for Sidel who is still holding on to hope, six years into the process.

“It could be tomorrow, it could be in a year from now, and so all I do is just wait.”

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