News Release Archive


People separated from their families through the process of
adoption often feel a need to reconnect with their birth
relatives. For individuals put up for adoption, there is a
longing for a sense of identity and history and sometimes there
is a need for vital medical information.

For parents who placed their children up for adoption, there is a
need to know how they are doing. For many people, finding out
about their birth family brings a sense of completion and
closure. It answers a lot of questions and puts a large piece of
the puzzle in place.

For these people who want to re-establish contact, the Nova
Scotia's new Adoption Information Act creates a service to help
birth relatives re-connect. The act creates the Adoption
Disclosure Services Program, a service for people separated by
adoption. As of Jan. 2, 1997, people placed for adoption, birth
parents and birth siblings can all apply to the Adoption
Disclosure Services Program to register their wish for contact,
or to have a search done. The service will attempt to locate the
person, and ask them if they consent to the release of
identifying information.

The new act moves Nova Scotia from one of the most closed
adoption information systems to one of the most open. Community
Services Minister John MacEachern said the Adoption Information
Act places Nova Scotia alongside British Columbia and
Saskatchewan on the Canadian forefront of adoption information

The act also has provisions for the exchange of non-identifying
information. This information includes: medical history, physical
description, interest, level of education and any other general
information which will not identify the person.
Susan Drysdale, manager of foster care and adoption services,
describes the new system as a sensitive balance between people's
right to privacy and the opportunity for contact. "A lot of
people trusted the government to keep the information about their
adoption private," said Ms. Drysdale. "But it is also important
to allow a means for people to search for their birth families.
The Adoption Information Act allows us to keep our commitment to
privacy and facilitate contact between birth relatives."

Searches will be done on a first-come-first-serve basis.
Applications must be submitted in writing. More than one thousand
people are expected to apply for the service in the first year.
Because of the large numbers, staff indicate that it could take
up to three years to process the initial flood of applications.

A social worker with adoption disclosure services, explained that
the backlog is expected to disappear over time. "There are a lot
of people waiting for this service. It is going to be busy at
first, but as the initial rush is dealt with, searches will take
less time to process and complete. After the rush is dealt with,
most searches will be completed within a year."

There will be fees associated with the service. The fee for
searches will be $250. Other less involved services, such as the
release of non-identifying information, will be less expensive.
The fees are necessary to enable the government to provide the
service. So as not to exclude anyone because of their income,
arrangements have been made to set the search fee at $50 for
people on a limited income.

The information contained in personal adoption files will be used
to locate people. Unfortunately some files, especially older
ones, are not complete. Staff will try to find the person through
other means, but they may be limited by the lack of available
information. To help facilitate searches, the Disclosure Services
Program has access to the Vital Statistics data base and other
information banks. This special access gives the search service
resources unavailable to most organizations. If the person cannot
be located, identifying information will not be released.

The development of new adoption legislation has been a careful
process. Formal planning began in 1994, with the appointment of a
ministerial committee. Groups representing adoptees, birth
parents, adoptive parents and a number of professional
organizations were involved in its development. Because of the
emotional nature of the legislation, it was very important that
everyone involved with the issue had a chance to present their
opinion. Of the hundreds of adoptees to present information to
the committee, 67 per cent were concerned about the lack of
medical history, 67 per cent were actively searching for
information, and 96 per cent favoured changes to legislation that
would allow more open disclosure of information.

Some of the groups involved in the development of the act feel
that it does not go far enough. "Again, the importance of balance
between the right to privacy and the opportunity for contact was
stressed," said Ms. Drysdale. "A lot of these adoptions took
place a long time ago, when the perception of adoption was not
the same as it is today. Having the search conducted in a
discreet manner by a professional social worker will help people
deal with a very emotional situation."

The Department of Community Services sees the Adoption
Information Act as a positive step forward. The act acknowledges
the change in public perception regarding adoption. It is no
longer a subject people are afraid to talk about, the act
contributes to this openness and creates a means for people to
put an important piece of the puzzle into place.

Applications for the Adoption Disclosure Services Program will be
available on January 2, 1997. People can request forms by writing

              Adoption Disclosure Services Program
              Department of Community Services
              P.O. Box 696
              Halifax, NS
              B3J 2T7


Contact: Tom Peck  902-424-4038

trp                         Dec. 30, 1996 - 11:15 a.m.