Finding My Sister:
Are Ontario Adoption Records Open?
By “Joy S. Searcher”
What a shock it was to find out recently that my mother and father had placed their firstborn child up for adoption when they were only 16 years old in the 1950’s. Not long ago my mother died of a severe and incurable cancer, and afterwards my father told my sister and me about the baby. We had only known that our parents had dated since age 14, married at age 19, had the two of us, and then separated after several years. Now, almost 60 years later, Dad told me in painful detail how they were made to place their first baby for adoption. They were shamed and humiliated by their relatives and officials at the Salvation Army Hospital and Children’s Aid Society.
The three of us decided to try to locate our full sister/daughter. The outcome might be painful and difficult; more likely it would end up being joyous for us and for my birth sister who might be looking for her biological parents or family.
“Ontario’s adoption records are open”
“If you were adopted in Ontario — or if your child was placed for adoption — you can receive information from your birth and adoption records through ServiceOntario.”
All my father needed to do was apply for the child’s adopted name and adoption information, and then we would search for her.
My father’s applications for the Post Adoption Information were denied. “No birth registration showing you as a birth parent” they replied. This is when we learned that during the 1950s until early 1980s, unwed fathers’ names were not allowed on their children’s birth registrations. With their names excluded from the birth registrations back then, these fathers are not entitled to receive their child’s adopted name now – a Catch-22. My father had no way to receive his daughter’s adopted name.
CAS sent Dad his file, which included an Ontario Adoption Act document that he had signed at the time of birth, swearing to his paternity. But even with that, the Post Adoption Info department cannot release his child’s adopted name to him.
Other Procedures (Condensed Version):
— Custodian of Adoption Information – Dad and I both successfully applied to be placed on their Adoption Disclosure Register (which is a contact information exchange) but my birth sister was not registered.
— CAS – (Usually takes 2 years to receive this file, but is expedited for parents over age 70) As well as the paternity document, CAS also provided a file with non-identifying information such as the adopting parents’ general occupations, their ages, date of their marriage, city of residence, age of other children in their home, and date of placement. The file also included the name our mother gave to her first daughter, “Merry.” This was magical for us, even though we knew her name was probably changed later.
— Newspapers, City Archives, Internet, etc. – Even without a definite name to search for, I still searched and placed notices, using what little information we had. Needle in a Haystack.
— Parent Finders – Next I joined Parent Finders, Very Helpful. With their input, Dad and I decided to visit his MPP to get assistance with this unfair situation.
— MPP – The MPP consulted the appropriate departments on our behalf and found that the legislation for unwed birth fathers of those earlier decades is not going to change in the near future, and that it will be a lengthy and complicated process if, or when, it is ever addressed. Even after two long years of applications, official documentation of his paternity, and political assistance, Dad was still not going to receive his child’s name. The MPP referred me back to the Custodian of Adoption Information.
— Custodian of Adoption Info – Severe Medical Search – I applied for this medical search so my birth sister would at least receive vital information about our mother’s severe illness and our family medical history. The government’s physicians approved my application, and the Adoption Info Advisor located Merry within a month! Merry was very thankful to receive the medical information from the Advisor because in the past the only thing she could write on her Family Medical History forms was “Not Applicable.”
To our great joy, Merry was also very interested in contacting us. All within days she phoned me, we exchanged emails and photos, and the four of us even met in person! It’s difficult to describe how powerful a feeling it is to meet a person who is so closely related and who shares so much of our essence. We have much to share and enjoy our get-togethers immensely. Although her adopted family will continue to be her wonderful family forever, she is still elated to know people that look like her and who are her birth relatives.
Post Script – Are Ontario Adoption Records Open?
Not for everyone. In 2008 the Ontario government legislated that adopted children and their birth parents have a right to know each other’s names and adoption information. (Note: There are various veto options for people wishing no contact with birth relatives.) When they file an application form, their child’s or parent’s name and information will be sent to them within weeks. BUT fathers who were unwed at the time of birth, and their children, born up until the early 1980’s, are an exception. These children and fathers are still being denied their basic right to know each other’s names, because the fathers’ names were excluded from the birth registrations through no fault of their own. These fathers are denied even when they have proof of paternity. Unwed fathers of the 1990’s until present, and their children, do receive each other’s names. Fathers and children have the right to know, no matter in which decade the child was born. We will write the Attorney General about this unjust legislation. It needs to be amended.
October 28, 2013
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