December 13, 2017 4:38 pm
Updated: December 13, 2017 8:16 pm

Children’s watchdog warns adoptions lagging in B.C.

The report found that after several years of improvement, adoptions have slowed down in B.C.

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A new report from B.C.’s Children’s Watchdog has found the province is lagging when it comes to finding permanent homes for children in care.

Representative for Children and Youth (RCY) Bernard Richard says only 84 children were adopted during the first six months of this fiscal year, compared to 104 the year before.

READ MORE: B.C. youth advocate blames funding for gap in care for aboriginal kids

At that pace, the report warns, the province is at risk of “falling well short of the totals reached in either 2015/16 or 2016/17.”

“To give you some context, there were 362 children and youth in care placed for adoption during the entire 2015/2016 fiscal year,” said Richard.

In a statement, Children and Family Minister Katrine Conroy said adoption successes in previous years may have played a part in the challenges the adoption system is currently facing.

“Having arranged successful adoptive placements for so many children and youth since the representative’s initial report, a significant number of those still waiting for a permanent home have complex placement needs,” Conroy said.

Conroy added that her ministry remains committed to finding homes for children in care.

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She added it was redoubling efforts to improve the placement process as it relates to Indigenous communities — for many of whom, she said, adoption represents an extension of colonialism.

The report found that just 16 Indigenous children and youth were adopted in the first half of this year, versus 40 who found new homes in the first half of the previous year.

Just four of the Indigenous youth that were adopted this year were placed in Aboriginal homes, it said.

The numbers relating to Indigenous youth are particularly troubling, since those children make up 64 per cent of all youth now in government care, Richard said.

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‘We’d love to see a more aggressive campaign of recruitment for potential adoptive families. The ministry does say that children waiting may be more complicated to adopt because they may have special needs,” said Richard.

There are more than 1,000 children and youth currently waiting for adoption in B.C.

The report notes the decline in placement numbers comes despite increases to the children’s ministry budget directed to adoption, which climbed from $27.7 million in 2015/2016 to $31.2 million in 2017/2018.

The report marks the fourth time the RCY has published an update on B.C.’s “waiting children.”

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Those reports show that the landscape for kids waiting for adoptions has generally improved, and that through the 2014 to 2016 fiscal years, B.C. actually exceeded its target of 600 adoptions in a two-year period.

In 2016, B.C. adjusted its target to include not just adoptions but other “permanency options,” such as placement with other family members.

Under that new mandate, it said the province also beat its 2016/2017 goal of 600 total placements — with 284 children adopted, and a further 541 finding homes through a transfer of custody.

READ MORE: B.C. First Nations youth twice as likely to die as non-Indigenous peers: Report

Meanwhile, the head of Adoption Families Association of B.C. is disappointed to see the number of kids finding forever homes in the province is down.

Karen Madeiros said the process to try to find the best place for an Indigenous child in care is more complex, whether it is adoption or going to a family member.

“We have to sort of rebuild those connections we have to identify sort of what cultural group they belong to, what part of the province they are from, find a family and then start to work with the family and the community to see if those children are able to go home,” said Madeiros.

She said another challenge is having enough Indigenous and Metis adoptive parents for the children needing homes.

“If you’re an Indigenous family in British Columbia who wants to adopt we’d encourage you to do that. There are only a few Indigenous families that are waiting and many, many Indigenous kids.”

Of the 84 children adopted in the first six months of this fiscal year only 16 were Aboriginal.

~With files from Liza Yuzda

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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