Potential adoptive parents face hefty costs after Victoria agency shuts doors

Potential adoptive parents will have to pay thousands of dollars to transfer their applications after a Victoria adoption agency closed its doors in October.

Former clients of Choices Adoption and Pregnancy Counselling Agency have been told by the province they will have to cover the fees associated with transferring their files and registering with one of two remaining agencies in B.C.

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Those fees could be up to $10,000 just to continue with a process that many have already put thousands of dollars into.

Jill Bentley has already spent about $17,000 trying to adopt a child from India. She has completed all the steps necessary in Canada, and would be waiting for India’s program to match a child to her application, if she still had an agency to represent her. Even then, she’d be looking at roughly $15,000 more in fees, plus travel and accommodation costs in India to meet the child.

“Now with the idea of having to spend another seven to eight grand, it's a hard pill to swallow,” Bentley said.

She started a private Facebook group for former clients to discuss next steps after the closing of the Victoria agency.

Several people in the group have indicated the extra costs are causing them to give up on their adoption dreams, she said.

A petition asking the government to assist families with transfer costs to a new agency had collected more than 450 signatures by Saturday afternoon.

Former clients are feeling let down, because the province was aware the agency was struggling financially when the director of adoptions reinstated the licence in April. The director suspended the licence when the previous board of directors voted to close the agency due to a decline in international adoptions. December 2018 tax statements show the agency’s finances were in the red.

Under the province’s adoption agency regulation, the director of adoptions must consider “the financial viability of the applicant” when deciding whether to grant a licence.

A new board of directors decided in April to keep the agency open.

Former clients are questioning why the province allowed the agency to continue operating.

Asked why the licence was reinstated, the Ministry of Children and Family Development said in an emailed statement: “The provincial director accepted the new board’s decision and continued to work with the new board.”

The ministry licences independent agencies such as Choices that provide private domestic and international adoptions, as well as counselling to birth parents looking for adoptive parents. The ministry does not provide funding to the independent non-profits or equivalent services. The ministry said its priority is to find permanent homes for children in care.

In its 30 years of operation, Choices helped match more than 900 children with families. With its closing, only two private adoption agencies remain in the province — North Vancouver’s Sunrise Family Services Society and the Adoption Centre of British Columbia in Kelowna.

regan-elliott@timescolonist.com

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