I'm thinking about adopting — The language of adoption

As you learn more about adoption, you will come across terms that may not be immediately familiar to you. Here are some common terms used in the adoption field and brief descriptions to help clarify what they mean.

Adoption practitioner

These are individuals approved by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services to conduct homestudies and supervise private adoption placements.

Adoption probation

When a child is placed into an adoptive home, the adoption probation period begins. This is a period of adjustment for both the child and the new family prior to the adoption finalization.

A ministry or CAS-approved social worker is required to make a minimum of three visits to the family. This adoption probation period is a minimum of six months and may be for as long as 12 or more months. The Report on the Adjustment of the Child is completed following the probationary period, after which the adoption will be finalized in court.

Adoption Resource Exchange Conference (ARE)

This conference is hosted by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services – to help find and match potential adoptive parents with children available for adoption in Ontario. It is particularly aimed at people who have already completed a homestudy assessment.

AdoptOntario program

This program provides general information about adoption and supports matching potential adoptive parents with children available for adoption. The program is funded by the ministry and operated by the Adoption Council of Ontario.

Crown wards

A court may order that a child will be a permanent ward of the province of Ontario – a Crown ward. In that case, the children's aid society having care of the child must act as a parent of that child. This role ends when:

  • another court order is made, such as an adoption order
  • when the child is 18 years old or he or she marries.

International adoption

This is the process to adopt a child from another country, including a relative living abroad. It is complex because you have to follow Ontario adoption laws, Canadian immigration rules and the laws of the child's country of origin.


These are individuals and agencies approved by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services to place children for adoption in Ontario or to facilitate the adoption of a child from outside Canada. Here is a list of licensees for a private adoption in Ontario. Here is a list of licensed international adoption agencies.

Open adoption

This is an adoption when contact is maintained between the adoptive parents, the child and the child's birth parents or other significant relationship.

Openness Agreement

An adoptive parent can make an openness agreement with a birth parent, relative or any other person who may be meaningful to the child. The agreement helps the adoptive family keep in touch with other important persons in the child's life.

An openness agreement may be made at any time before or after adoption and is made outside of a court.

Openness Order

A court may make an openness order in certain circumstances if it is satisfied that it is in the best interests of a child who is a Crown ward and will permit the continuation of a relationship that is beneficial and meaningful to the child.

PRIDE - Parent Resources for Information Development and Education

PRIDE is a 27-hour training program that all prospective adoptive parents in Ontario must complete. The program helps to prepare you for the responsibilities involved in raising adopted children.

Private adoption

These adoptions are handled by a private agency or individual, licensed by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services.

Public adoption

Adopting a child through a children's aid society (also known as a CAS) is a public adoption. CASs match Ontario children (Crown wards) who are available to be placed permanently in a home with an adoptive family.

There are times when parents may also voluntarily consent to their child being placed for adoption by a CAS.

Relative or step-parent adoption

This is the process of adopting a child who is a step-child or a relative, as defined by the Child and Family Services Act, like a nephew or a grandchild. It doesn't have to be a blood relation – it could be the child of your sister's spouse, for example. A step-parent may also want to adopt their step-child.

If everyone involved lives in Ontario, for this type of adoption, you can apply to an Ontario Family Court or ask a lawyer to assist you.

SAFE - Structured Analysis Family Evaluation -more commonly referred to as a homestudy

All prospective adoptive parents in Ontario must undergo a homestudy assessment. It identifies their skills and readiness to raise an adopted child. It takes a look at the home environment and involves discussions on important parenting issues. The homestudy helps decide whether you are ready to be an adoptive parent and what type of child you are best suited to adopt.

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