Public adoption in Ontario : available children and the decision-making processes of applicants considering children with and without disabilities
Burge, Philip Gerard
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In much of Canada, the number of children in child welfare care has been increasing significantly in recent years. In Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, the permanent ward population doubled in size over the decade ending in 2005, according to the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies (Gail Vandermeulen, personal communication, January 6, 2006). Ontario law asserts that it is preferable for children who are permanent wards with no access to their biological parents to leave care via domestic adoption rather than remain in fostering arrangements (Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services, 2000). Nevertheless, rates of adoption for these children in Ontario actually declined over the past ten years according to the former government minister of the Ministry of Community and Social Services (Marie Bountrogianni, personal communication, February 23, 2004). The purpose of these investigations was two-fold: to profile the population of children who were legally available for domestic public adoptions while developing a theory about the decision-making processes of adoption applicants as they consider available children with and without disabilities. In the first study a representative sample of over 20% of the files of children who were permanent wards of the state on December 31, 2003 and legally available for domestic public adoption in Ontario was reviewed. Results indicated that 57.8% of children had at least one type of disability. Children with disabilities were more likely to enter care at older ages, were significantly less likely to be residing in adoption probationary homes, and have an official permanency plan of adoption than were the child wards who had no disabilities. Multivariate logistic regression analyses demonstrated that the variables most predictive of permanency plans included the age at which a child entered care. The second study included interviewing 15 adoption applicants. Using a grounded theory approach the data regarding participants’ decision-making processes were analyzed and a substantive level theory generated. A core category resulted and was labeled, gaining balance. Key categories included commitment, persistence, and evaluation. The findings were member checked by a select group of participants and were found to have considerable explanatory power.