Adopting a child from another country is extremely complex, and programs change as the requirements of the countries of origin change. With international adoptions, Alberta Adoption Services:
- accepts all applications for international adoption
- authorizes the completion of a home study report on prospective adoptive parents, when appropriate
- reviews and approves adoptive parents for adoption when appropriate
- reviews information on children available for adoption
- works with families to determine whether a match is suitable and provides documentation to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada
- works with foreign jurisdictions, the federal government and immigration officials to ensure that the requirements of Alberta legislation and the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption are met
Alberta relies on the originating country to provide accurate information about the child in the matching referral. However, there may be little information available because the child may have been abandoned at birth, resulting in no birth certificate or health records.
The International Adoption Guidebook for Alberta Families is designed to help adoptive families understand the risks and challenges they may face when adopting a child from another country.
Learn more about processes and timelines (PDF, 45 KB).
The Hague Convention
The Hague Convention regulates adoptions between contracting countries. It provides safeguards and procedures to ensure the adoption is in the best interest of the child, biological parents and adoptive parents. The child’s country must make reasonable efforts to place the child domestically before considering an international adoption.
The Hague Convention applies to every adoption, including relative adoptions, where the child lives in a Hague country and the adoptive parents live in Alberta. This is the case even when the adoptive parents are citizens of the child’s country and own property in that country.
Private Guardianship Orders
Private Guardianship Orders are often granted in countries where there is no legislation to process an adoption. Guardianship orders are not equivalent to adoption orders, which create a permanent parent-child relationship.
Immigration regulations require that a permanent resident visa be obtained for a child for the purpose of entering Canada. Alberta Adoption Services has no role in obtaining permanent residency status for children and no authority in cases where guardianship is granted internationally.
You may wish to seek independent legal advice to determine if a guardianship order obtained in a particular country is equivalent to an adoption order as set out in section 73 of the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act.
Types of international adoption
There are 3 types of international adoption:
- Hague Convention Adoption: this is when the child’s country is a member of the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Convention).
- Government Adoption for Non-Hague Countries: this is when there is an adoption process established between the child’s country and Alberta.
- Private International Adoption: this is when:
- the child’s country has not implemented the Hague Convention.
- the child’s country does not have an adoption process with Alberta.
A permanent resident visa must be obtained before a child enters Canada. Privately arranged adoptions in Hague Convention jurisdictions that are finalized in the child’s country of origin do not meet the requirements of the Hague Convention, the Alberta Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act or Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
In all types of international adoption, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada is responsible for the immigration process that allows the child you have adopted or intend to adopt to enter Canada.
In Hague Convention and Government international adoptions, Alberta Adoption Services is responsible for:
- providing information/procedures for adopting from specific countries
- reviewing Home Study Reports completed by licensed agencies and determining if the applicants are suitable for adoption
- forwarding the adoption dossier to the child’s country of origin
- agreeing to the adoptive match
- delegating the proposal of the adoptive match to the family’s licensed adoption agency
- providing provincial acceptance of the match for immigration purposes
- finalizing the adoption order in Alberta, if the order cannot be finalized in the child’s country
- forwarding Post Placement Reports to the child’s country of origin, as required
In order to comply with the legislative requirements of the child’s country of origin, the federal Immigration Regulations, the Hague Convention, and Alberta’s Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act, applicants should be aware of:
- legislation, regulations and policies in the child’s country of origin that may change on a regular basis
- highly sensitive and political issues that countries face when their children are adopted by foreigners
- problematic adoption practices uncovered in the child’s country of origin, which may include child theft, baby selling, child trafficking and forging of documents
- technical difficulties in reaching officials in foreign jurisdictions, as well as differences in language, culture and interpretation of procedures
In international legal matters, there are no guarantees. You might begin the process to adopt a child, only to have the process or costs change or the program end without notice. You need to allow sufficient time for each agency and department to complete procedures and forward documents.
Most international adoptions take an average of three to four years to complete and cost between $15,000 and $40,000.
Adoptive parents are responsible for the cost of:
- parent training and completion of the Home Study Report
- preparation of supporting documents and notarization, authentication and verification of documents
- courier fees
- immigration fees
- child’s medical examination
- agency fees in child’s country of origin
- travel and accommodations
- adoption finalization
- legal fees
- Post Placement Reports on a schedule prescribed by the child’s country of origin
How to apply
Step 1. Fill out the form
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International Adoption Application (PDF, 2 MB)
This form is also accessible through licensed adoption agencies or submit your request online to have the form mailed to you. Please include your complete mailing address in your request.
Step 2. Submit the form
Mail the completed application form to:
Alberta Children’s Services
10th Floor, Sterling Place
9940 106 Street
Edmonton, Alberta T5K 2N2
Step 3. Get training and a Home Study Report done
Once Adoption Services authorizes you to proceed with a Home Study Report and pre-adoption training, contact a licensed adoption agency to begin the process.
The adoption agency will review the results of the Home Study Report with you and then have you sign the report. The adoption agency will then send the report to Alberta Adoption Services for provincial approval.
If you are proceeding with a private international adoption, see the Private International Adoption section for next steps.
Step 4. Compile an adoption dossier
Once the Home Study Report is approved, gather the report and all other required documents into an adoption dossier.
It is recommended to get help from an adoption agency or a coordinating agency authorized by the child’s country to compile the dossier.
Step 5. Get the dossier translated
You will need to have the dossier translated, notarized, authenticated and verified according to the legal requirements of the child’s country of origin.
If you are using an adoption agency or coordinator, they will arrange this for you.
Step 6. Send the dossier
Send the completed dossier and appropriate number of copies to Adoption Services.
If you are using an adoption agency or coordinator, they will arrange this for you.
Alberta Adoption Services will send the dossier to the adoption authority in the child’s country of origin (Central Authority for Hague Convention members or government organization for non-Hague countries) and request the dossier be provided to an approved agency to facilitate an international adoption.
Step 7. Fill out the sponsorship forms
Contact Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to complete the forms required to sponsor a child or apply for the child’s Canadian citizenship. The immigration website provides detailed information on the options available to you.
Step 8. A match is made
The adoption authority in the originating country sends a child referral to Adoption Services for your family. Matches are made considering the needs of the child and your ability to parent a child with such needs
In all cases, the biological parents of the child must have their guardianship permanently terminated before the child can be considered eligible for adoption.
Reasonable efforts must be made to place the child domestically before considering an international adoption. This applies to the adoption of relatives as well.
Newborns are not generally available because efforts must first be made to place them for adoption in their country of origin. The majority of children adopted internationally are older or have significant special needs.
Alberta Adoption Services reviews the “match”. If appropriate, Alberta Adoption Services provides the referral information to your Alberta licensed adoption agency. The agency proposes the match to you and forwards all information to you, including a “Letter of Acceptance/Decline”.
Step 9. Discuss the match
Discuss the information about your adoption match with your family doctor and appropriate specialists at the International Adoption Clinic.
Step 10. Advise Alberta Adoption Services of your decision
Advise Alberta Adoption Services of your decision regarding adoption of the child by completing the Letter of Acceptance/Decline.
If Alberta Adoption Services approves the match and you agree to the adoption of the child, the child’s adoption authority arranges for finalization of the adoption in Court.
Once the adoption procedures are finalized, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada review your application for sponsorship or Canadian citizenship.
For more details about the adoption process, see the International Adoption Guidebook for Alberta Families.
Using a coordinator
Due to the complexity of requirements, it is recommended to use a coordinator for your international adoption. A coordinator can:
- prepare all required documentation on the family’s behalf, including:
- certification and authentication of the Home Study Report
- supporting documents
- get travel visas and make travel/hotel arrangements for adoptive parents who travel to the child’s country of origin
- arrange for a translator who is knowledgeable about the events which must occur when the applicants arrive in the child’s country
Alberta Adoption Services does not license, monitor or endorse individuals/agencies that arrange international adoptions in foreign countries. Families can hire an individual/agency of their choice to help prepare their family’s dossier and make travel and legal arrangements. It is the family’s responsibility to ensure they choose a reputable resource that is authorized to arrange and finalize adoptions in the child’s country of origin. For Hague Convention adoptions, families may only work with coordinators who are authorized by the child’s country and who have a working arrangement with Alberta Adoption Services.
Agencies licensed in other provinces to facilitate international adoptions do not have the authority to arrange adoptions in Alberta. They are considered to be coordinators in Alberta’s process and are only able to provide services as indicated above.
Private international adoption
In the context of International Adoption, private adoption means the adoptive parents are responsible for arranging the adoption directly with the child’s country of origin, according to the legislation of that country. In addition, the adoptive parents must finalize the adoption and obtain the adoption order in the child’s country of origin.
Private international adoptions are only processed under the following circumstances:
- the child’s country of origin is not a member of the Hague Convention
- the adoption can be finalized by the court in the child’s country of origin
- the child is not in government care
- the child’s country does not require any involvement from Alberta in the adoption process
There are 2 types of private international adoption:
- Private Non-Relative Adoption: this is the adoption of a child where there is no biological affiliation between the adoptive parents and the child.
- Private Relative Adoption: this is the adoption of a child where there is a biological affiliation between the adoptive parents and the child (for example, grandchild, niece, nephew, etc.)
In those countries where the Hague Convention has been implemented, Private Adoption is not possible.
For more information on the private adoption process, see the International Adoption Guidebook for Alberta Families.
Licensed adoption agencies
There are four non-government, non-profit agencies that have been granted authority to arrange private adoptions in Alberta and to assist with international adoptions. These agencies are licensed by Alberta Children’s Services and must comply with the requirements set out in the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act and Adoption Regulations.
Agencies charge the adoptive parents fees for their services.
A Small Miracles Adoption
#207, 5940 MacLeod Trail SW
Calgary, Alberta T2H 2G4
#304, 10109 106 Street
Edmonton, Alberta T5J 3L7
AMARIS Adoption and Family Support Services
- Families who are involved in an adoption and require legal information can call toll-free to explain what they need and to ask for a lawyer referral:
Connect with Alberta Adoption Services with questions or comments.