Once a person has decided to adopt a child, and is informed on all the elements to consider before a foreign adoption, the process can begin.
The foreign adoption process involves a number of steps, which vary depending on the adoptive child's country of origin.
The process can be broken down into 12 steps:
- Preparing the adoption plan
- Opening an adoption file with the Secrétariat à l’adoption internationale
- Psychosocial assessment
- Preparing and sending the foreign adoption file
- Waiting period
- Adoption proposal
- Authorization to proceed with the adoption
- Foreign administrative and legal procedures
- Arrival of the child in Québec
- Administrative and legal procedures in Québec
- Sending the child's progress reports to the foreign authorities
- Finalizing the adoption plan
To find out about all possible steps, see the chart showing the progression of an international adoption plan (in French only).
At this stage, prospective adopters select a country of origin and a certified body. The requirements and procedures by country are a guide to help with this choice.
Choice of the country of origin
In selecting the country of origin for a child, adopters must:
- verify whether their personal situation corresponds to the requirements of the country of origin;
- verify whether the profile of the children proposed for international adoption in that country corresponds to the profile of the child they can adopt;
- verify whether registration is possible.
Other criteria must also be taken into consideration, such as the cost, duration and number of trips to the foreign country to complete the adoption process.
Choice of certified body
Adopters must choose an adoption body certified by the Minister of Health and Social Services that works with the country of origin chosen. The certified body will take the adoption steps for the adopters. When there is more than one certified body in the country of origin, the adopters must consider their expectations concerning the services they wish to receive.
The adopters must sign a contract with the certified body that is chosen. The contract must include a breakdown of the estimated adoption costs and a list of services offered by the body.
For information on certified bodies in Québec, see the List of certified bodies.
It is mandatory to work with a certified body during the adoption process. It is only under certain exceptional circumstances, where prior authorization is granted under the Ministerial Order respecting the adoption without a certified body of a child domiciled outside Québec by a person domiciled in Québec that a person is exempted from using a certified body for an international adoption. Intra-family adoption is an example of this.
The adoption plan must be authorized by the Secrétariat à l’adoption internationale (SAI) before getting under way. Otherwise, the necessary authorizations to complete the adoption and immigration process will not be issued, and the adopted child will not be authorized to stay permanently in Canada.
The certified body provides the adopter with the Demande d’ouverture d’un dossier d’adoption [adoption file application] form. The adopter completes and signs the form.
Once the form is completed, the certified body submits it to the Secrétariat à l’adoption internationale (SAI) along with the required documents.
Upon receiving the application, the SAI verifies whether Québec requirements have been met, in particular the adopter’s age and domicile. The SAI then sends the adopter a letter confirming that an adoption file has been opened.
The adopter must wait to receive that letter before undertaking the next step.
At this stage, the adopter undergoes a psychosocial assessment. The psychosocial assessment enables the adoption authorities in Québec and the country of origin to ensure that the adopter has the parenting capacities required to adopt a child and meet his or her needs. It is mandatory for all adoption plans.
At the first assessment meeting, the adopter provides the evaluator with the letter from the SAI confirming that an adoption file has been opened.
At the end of the assessment, the evaluator or the director of youth protection (DYP), depending on the case, sends the original assessment to the SAI. The recommendation must be positive for the adoption process to go forward. The assessment is valid for a period of two years. After that time, an update is necessary.
For more information on the psychosocial assessment, see the Psychosocial assessment of the adopter page.
With assistance from the certified body, the adopter puts together the adoption file.
The body ensures that the file is in compliance and is sent to the foreign country, and then follows up with the authorities. If necessary, the documents are translated into the administrative language of the country of origin, and authenticated.
At this time, the SAI informs the foreign authorities that the adopter had a psychosocial assessment and is qualified and suited to adopt.
Several years may go by before receiving an adoption proposal. Numerous factors are taken into account, such as:
- the availability of adoptable children;
- the time required to process a foreign adoption application;
- the profile of the child recommended by the psychosocial assessment.
Certain events can also disrupt the normal progress of the adoption process, such as:
- changes of government
- foreign legislative changes
- moratoriums on international adoption
- political conflicts
- natural disasters
What the adopter must do during this period
The adopter must inform the certified body of any significant change to his or her personal or family situation, for example:
- job loss
- separation or divorce
- new couple
A new psychosocial assessment may then be requested.
It is the authorities in charge of adoption in the foreign country who determine the adoptability of children, that is, whether they may be adopted or not.
After studying the file and taking cognizance of the profile child recommended in the psychosocial assessment, the authorities in the country of origin propose a child to the adopter. Generally, the proposal is made through the certified body and must be in line with the recommendation in the psychosocial assessment.
After taking cognizance of the proposal file, the adopter informs the certified body of his or her decision whether or not to adopt the proposed child. If the proposal is accepted, the certified body informs the SAI of the decision.
Contents of the proposal file
The proposal file may contain certain information on the child, among others:
- family situation
- medical file
- specific needs
The file may also contain documents on the child's health and development, as well as photos and information on the biological parents.
After ensuring that the adoption plan and all of the documents on the proposed child are in order, the SAI authorizes the adoption plan to proceed. The SAI can then issue an attestation stating that it is not opposed to the child entering Canada. It is known as a letter of no objection.
The certified body must request the letter of no objection from the SAI. The adopter receives a certified copy.
The letter is sent to the ministère de l’Immigration et des Communautés culturelles, then to the foreign Canadian visa office.
If the May 29, 1993 Hague Convention is in force in the child's country of origin, the SAI also sends an official letter to the central authority in the country of origin, consenting to the pursuit of the adoption.
The adopter must travel to the child's country of origin to complete certain administrative and legal procedures. While abroad, the adopter receives assistance from the representative of the certified body or the competent authority in the child's country of origin.
Depending on the country of origin, both spouses must make the trip abroad in the case of a couple. If, for an important reason, one of the spouses is not able to travel to the country, it is necessary to ensure that he or she can be dispensed from being present.
The duration and number of trips to the foreign country vary, depending on the requirements of the foreign authorities.
The Guide des bonnes pratiques en santé des voyageurs (in French only) [guide to good health practices for travellers], by the Institut national de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ), provides adopters with useful advice before making the trip abroad.
Official documents issued
In the country of origin, the adopter receives official adoption documents that enable him or her to attest to the child's identity and his or her adoption or long-term care, among others.
Certain documents must be presented to the Canadian embassy that grants the visa and passport enabling the child to enter Canada.
All official documents must be submitted to the SAI. If the documents are written in a language other than French or English, they must be accompanied by an official French translation.
Child's medical examination
While the adopter is abroad, the child must undergo a medical examination performed by a physician designated by the Canadian embassy in the country of origin.
That is necessary only if the adopter applies for the child's permanent residence. The medical examination is not required in the case of citizenship procedures, but it is strongly recommended.
The type of exam and the blood tests required may vary from one country to the next.
If the adopter is in doubt or has questions while abroad, he or she may discuss with the certified body the relevance of the medical exam. The adopter may also request supplementary exams at another clinic or with another physician.
The adopter must confirm with the certified body the date the child arrives in Canada and the date the child is entrusted to him or her, and, in turn, the certified body notifies the SAI.
As soon as the SAI is notified of the child's arrival in Québec, it follows procedure so that the adopter and the child can receive post-adoption services.
The child can be adopted under an adoption decision in the country of origin, or entrusted to the adopter to be adopted in Québec.
Both situations require the adopter to take the appropriate administrative or legal steps in Québec. These may vary, depending on whether or not the May 29, 1993 Hague Convention is in force in the country of origin.
What to do in the event of legal proceedings
Legal cases are heard by the Youth Division of the Court of Québec. It is recommended that the adopter retain the services of a legal advisor to draft and present the motion before the Court.
When the country of origin has rendered an adoption decision
Procedure when the Hague Convention is in force in the country of origin
The foreign central authority issues a certificate attesting that the adoption is in compliance with the Convention.
The adopter provides the SAI with the certificate of compliance obtained from the central authority. The adopter also sends the SAI the form intended for the Directeur de l’état civil of Québec, indicating the name that has been given the child.
The SAI ensures that the certificate of compliance meets the requirements of the Hague Convention, and then notifies the Directeur de l’état civil of Québec of the adoption. The Directeur de l’état civil draws up a new act of birth with the child's new surname(s) and given name(s), as well as the names of the new parent(s).
Procedure when the Hague Convention is not in force in the country of origin
The adopter must institute legal proceedings to have the adoption decision recognized in Québec. When the judgment acknowledging the adoption is issued, the court clerk notifies the Directeur de l’état civil, who then issues the child's new act of birth.
When the child is entrusted to the adopter for adoption in Québec
The adopter must institute legal proceedings jointly with the local Director of Youth Protection (DYP) to obtain a placement decision. A motion to obtain an adoption judgment must follow the placement decision.
Once the judgment is issued, the court clerk issues a certificate attesting that the adoption procedure is in compliance with the Hague Convention. The certificate is sent to the competent authority in the child's country of origin.
In the case of countries where the Hague Convention is not in force, the court clerk notifies the Directeur de l’état civil of Québec that an adoption judgment has been issued. The Directeur then draws up a new act of birth.
Foreign authorities require the adopter to submit periodic follow-up reports, directly or through the certified body, on the child's adoption and integration into his or her new family.
The type, frequency and number of reports, as well as how long they are required, vary depending on the country. Therefore, when the adoption process begins, the adopter commits to providing the requested reports. For more information, consult the Progress reports page.
The adoption is finalized when:
- the Directeur de l’état civil of Québec has been notified or an adoption judgment has been rendered;
- the Directeur de l’état civil of Québec has issued the new birth certificate;
- the child has become a Canadian citizen;
- the progress reports have been sent to the country of origin;
- the post-adoption administrative procedures with the authorities in the country of origin have been completed, if applicable.