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Island adoption agency to close at end of May

A dwindling number of children available for international adoption is being blamed for the closure of another adoption agency in B.C. — the second to end operations in six months.
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A dwindling number of children available for international adoption is being blamed for the closure of another adoption agency in B.C. — the second to end operations in six months.

Victoria-based CHOICES Adoption and Pregnancy Counselling Agency, the only licensed adoption agency on Vancouver Island and one of just three agencies left in the province, will shut down on May 31.

“It basically boils down to the fact that the numbers of children available for adoption internationally have been in decline over the past few years and the trend is continuing, and we’re just not viable given the decrease in the number of international adoptions,” said Jane Cowell, board chair for CHOICES.

The agency serves families wishing to pursue adoption domestically and internationally, as well as providing pregnancy counselling. CHOICES has been involved in the adoptions of more than 1,000 children in the 30 years it has been in existence. It was one of the first provincially licensed agencies.

Over the past dozen years, according to B.C.’s Vital Statistics Agency, the number of adoptions registered in B.C. has been on the decline, going from 714 in 2006 to 207 in 2016. There was an increase in 2017 to 521 adoptions. In 2018, there were to 507.

In B.C., according to CHOICES, inter-country adoptions have decreased 39 per cent over the past five years, which the Ministry of Children and Family Development said is a global trend.

Cowell said international adoption is volatile, and can change day to day. Many countries have stopped allowing international adoptions and are instead working to place children with families within their own borders.

International politics can also be a factor. For example, last year, a number of adoptions were left up in the air when the federal government decided to stop issuing visas for children adopted from Japan.

“It’s a really unpredictable field and it just erodes the financial viability of the organization when you don’t have enough placements, basically,” Cowell said.

Domestic adoptions are also down, Cowell said. The main reason for that is that people are deciding to parent their children instead of putting them up for adoption, Cowell said.

The decline is taking a toll on adoption agencies. At one time, there were seven licensed agencies in the province.

Family Services of Greater Vancouver closed in November. After May 31, only Sunrise Family Services Society in North Vancouver and the Adoption Centre of B.C. in Kelowna will be left.

CHOICES and other licensed B.C. adoption agencies typically deal with adoptions from out of province or out of country, along with the adoption of B.C. children who have not been in ministry care. The Ministry of Children and Family Development oversees adoptions from foster care.

The ministry is working with CHOICES to move files and make the transition as seamless as possible for adoptive families, without creating extra costs for them. About 140 families are in various phases of the adoption process with CHOICES.

“Our priority is assisting the families who are affected by the agency’s decision to close,” Children and Family Minister Katrine Conroy said in an emailed statement. “Given the organization’s financial insolvency, coupled with the fact that international adoptions are on the decline, we respect and understand the board’s decision to cease operations.”

The Adoptive Families Association of B.C., which provides support to families going through the adoption process, offered its services to CHOICES staff and affected families during the transition.

“CHOICES was one of the first licensed adoption agencies in B.C. They were really a partner for the last three decades, and they were committed to finding families before we even had the B.C. Adoption Act, so it’s definitely a big loss and we’re sad to see them go,” said association spokesperson Andrea Driedger.