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Historical Background of Adoption

Why Search?

Starting Search

Starting Your Search

In November 2005 the Ontario government passed Bill 183, which was amended in 2008. This bill makes sweeping changes to adoption disclosure legislation in Ontario. The changes took effect on June 1, 2009. The new law is called the Access to Adoption Records Act, 2008.

People beginning their search may wish to consult the ACOP Search Manual, which ASK has bundled as a PDF and made available here. Though it was written in the 1990's at a time when the available search resources were fewer, many of the tips and strategies are still applicable today.

Starting in June 2009:

These changes are good news because they will allow adopted adults to learn the names of their natural parents at the time of the adoption. The changes will also allow natural parents to learn the name that the adoptee received after adoption. Knowing the other person's name will make searching much easier.

(* Individuals who surrender children for adoption are known by many names. These include natural parents, original parents, first parents, birth parents and biological parents. The first three terms are used on this website.)

Summary of Search Resources

The following summarizes the search resources currently available. For more information, see the question-and-answer sections below.

Resource Description Who can apply Where to apply
Original Birth Certificate
(OBC)
The birth certificate filled out by the natural mother at the child's birth. It provides the adoptee's name at birth, the name of the natural mother at the time of the birth, and, sometimes, the name of the natural father. Adopted adults (aged 18 +) and natural parents (of adoptees ages 19+) named on the OBC. Applications are available at Service Ontario.
Amended Birth Certificate
(ABC)
The birth certificate filled out by the adoptive parents after the adoption took place. The version available to natural parents will provide the name of the adoptee after adoption, but the names of the adoptive parents will be blacked out. Natural parents (of adoptees aged 19 +) named on the OBC. Applications are available at Service Ontario.
Non-Identifying Information Compiled by a social worker at a Children's Aid Society or other licensee, based on information found in the adoption file, it will come to you as a copy of the original documents (with identifying information removed) or as a summary written by a social worker. It will not contain any information that can identify the other party. [Read more] Adopted adults, natural parents, birth grandparents, adult birth siblings, adult birth siblings of the natural parents, adult children of deceased adoptees, adoptive parents.

If the adoption was handled by a Children's Aid Society, apply directly to that CAS.

If the adoption was handled by a licensee, the Ontario government will provide the information. Applications available at Service Ontario.

Adoption Disclosure Register Registry that allows certain individuals to place their name on a waiting list. If a relative also registers, the Ontario government will notify both parties and arrange for an exchange of information. [Read more] Adopted adults, natural parents, birth grandparents, birth siblings. Applications are available at Service Ontario.
Contact Preference Form A form that permits adopted adults and natural parents to indicate their preferred method of being contacted and provide their current contact information. [Read more] Adopted adults and natural parents named on the OBC. Applications are available at Service Ontario.
Severe Medical Search Adoptees and their descendants, and birth relatives may apply to the government for a search done for medical reasons. This is only done in cases of severe mental or physical illness. A health care professional must also provide information. [Read more] Adoptive parents of minor adoptees, adult adoptees and their descendants, and birth relatives. Applications are available at Service Ontario.

Service Ontario

To access adoption-related services:

How can I apply for my original birth certificate or my child’s amended birth certificate?

The application forms and additional information are available from ServiceOntario:

What information will the original/amended birth certificate contain?

The Original Birth Certificate

The adoptee’s original birth certificate is also known as the long form birth certificate.  In most cases the natural mother filled it out after her baby was born.  It lists the adoptee’s name at birth, the name of the mother at the time of the adoptee’s birth, and in some cases the name of the father at the time of the child’s birth.

It will not tell you the parents’ current addresses or names. It will only list the names used by the original parents at the time of the adoption.

Important Suggestion: file a Contact Preference Form (see below) if you want contact. Filing the form will provide the other party with up-to-date contact information which will make the search much easier.

The Amended Birth Certificate

When a child is adopted, the adoptive parents fill out a new long form birth certificate that identifies them as the child’s parents.  This form is known as the amended birth certificate. It contains the name that the adoptive parents gave to the child at the time of adoption.

It will not tell you the current name of the adoptee if s/he has changed it since the adoption (e.g. after marriage.)  The government will black out the names of the adoptive parents before the form is released.

Important Suggestion: file a contact preference form (see below) if you want contact. Filing the form will provide the other party with up-to-date contact information which will make the search much easier.

What is a Contact Preference Form?
man in 1940's

A Contact Preference Form allows adopted adults and their original parents to indicate how they would prefer to be contacted.

Some adoptees and natural parents prefer to be contacted by letter for the first time. Others prefer a phone call.  The contact preference form allows them to make their wishes known.

When a searching adoptee or natural parent receives the original and/or amended birth certificate(s) from the government, s/he will also receive a copy of the contact preference form if the other party has completed it.

You can find copies of the forms and more information here:

What is a contact veto?

Some adoptees and natural parents may not wish to be contacted at the present time.  They may file a No Contact Notice, also known as a contact veto.

This veto forbids the recipient from contacting them but it does not block access to their name via the amended or original birth certificates.

When an adoptee or parent applies for the original and/or amended birth certificates, s/he will receive it along with a notice telling him/her that the other party has filed a contact veto.  Before s/he receives the birth certificate, s/he will have to sign a document indicating s/he understands that s/he cannot contact the other party.  Violation of the veto can result in a $50,000 fine.

Can an adoptee or parent block access to information?

An adult adoptee or natural parent can file a disclosure veto to prohibit the release of identifying information. You can include medical information with your disclosure veto. Your identity will stay confidential but your adult child or natural parents could still know about your medical conditions and history.

Based on real experience in other jurisdictions, we anticipate that very, very few people will choose to take out a disclosure veto.

I want to search.  What can I do now?

Non-Identifying Information

Adoptees have a right to Non-Identifying Information about their natural family. Original parents have a right to non-identifying information about their child and the adoptive family. Adoptive parents can apply for their child's non-identifying information. Some other family members may also apply for non-identifying information (for example, natural siblings, natural grandparents, child of a deceased adoptee - see link below).

The non-identifying information will give adoptees information about the first family; it will give the first family information about the adopting family. Identifying information will not be given. Non-identifying information is based on the information collected at the time of the child's birth and adoption. There is rarely anything more recent in the file. Information given about a first family might include such things as the age of the first parents, their interests, their occupation, religion, ethnic background and level of education. Information given about an adoptive family might include their interests, religion, other children in the family and information on file about the health and development of the adopted child. Usually there is more information available about a child placed through a Children's Aid Society than one placed privately.

Children's Aid Society Adoption

If the adoption was handled through a Children's Aid Society, write to the agency that handled the adoption and request the non-identifying information. If you do not know the agency, use the link below for an application for non-identifying information.

In your letter, ask for all available information and include the adoptee's birth name (if you know it), birth date and birthplace. You may also want to include the name of the adopting parents. This will help the worker find the file.

Private Adoption

If the adoption was arranged privately (for example, through a doctor or lawyer) or if you do not know which agency handled the adoption, use the link below for an application for non-identifying information. Information and application forms are available here:

Severe Medical Searches

Adoptees, descendants of adoptees, and natural family members may apply to the government for a search done for medical reasons. A government-appointed physician will determine whether a search will go forward. Applicants must demonstrate that they need information vital to the diagnosis or treatment of a disease or that they have information vital to the diagnosis of a disease to pass along to the other party.

If you are an adoptee or the descendent of an adopted person and have or had a severe mental or physical illness, you can apply for a Severe Medical Search. If you or another natural family member has or had a severe mental or physical illness, you can apply for a Severe Medical Search. Information and application forms are available here:

The goal of a Severe Medical Search is to exchange medical information, not necessarily to have a reunion, although sometimes reunions do occur.

Registries

Place your name on the Canadian Adoptees Registry. This is a registry developed and maintained by volunteers within the adoption community. It makes several matches each month. Go to canadianadopteesregistry.org and register yourself.

The government is still running the Adoption Disclosure Register (ADR) that it ran for many years. Adult adoptees and some natural family members can apply to be on the Register (e.g. natural grandparents, natural siblings). If both parties apply, a match will be made and the parties notified.

Private Searchers

There are individuals who will search for adopted adults and/or natural parents for a fee. ASK recommends that you only hire a searcher who specializes in adoption searches.  Please contact us for further information on reputable searchers.

Search Manual

Several years ago, the adoption community produced a manual that explains how to do a search in Ontario.  If you plan to undertake a search on your own, you may want to consider purchasing it. Please contact ASK for more information about the manual.

I am an adoptee. What else can I do?
An adoption order is a court-issued legal document that makes your adoptive parents your parents for all purposes of the law. It shows the original name and adopted name of an adoptee, as well as the names of the adopting parents.

Adoption orders are available to adult adoptees and adoptive parents only. Application forms are available here: