What’s the Difference Between Adoption and Permanency?

Adoption is a legal definition for placing a child/youth with parents other than their biological parents. Historically this was the only way for children/youth to be placed in a different family from their birth family and have legal status within public, private, or international adoptions.

Permanency is a new idea/word that has been introduced in the past few years to recognize that different approaches to creating a stable and permanent living situation and connections are occurring, many of them in response to the voices, experiences, and needs from children/youth.

Let’s explore what that looks like:

Adoption has changed. Children in Ontario who need families are older. There are very few adoptions of babies and youth, and older youth are becoming interested in different ways of being part of a family that may not involve a legal adoption. 1st voices of children/youth are sharing that knowing their history and who their birth parents and families are is very important to them. The shift from adoptions being closed with little or no information or access to birth families seldom exists today. Children/youth who are legally adopted usually have some openness within the adoption where more information is shared, and often there is connection or contact with birth parents/families. This trend is also beginning to occur within private and international adoptions.

These changes have led to a trend in public adoption where kin/kinship/customary care families are considered as caregivers for children/youth who are not able to be parented by their birth parents prior to pursuing adoption with strangers. Kin/kinship/customary care occurs when other relatives within a birth family are considered for children/youth. This approach can ease the changes for a child/youth and has been part of family planning with Indigenous communities as it maintains the extended family circle and is expanding into CAS organizations within Ontario.

Foster parents also provide placements for children/youth, and depending on the situation, this may be a longer-term arrangement.

Youth and older youth may want contact and stability with adults in their lives, and this may not involve a full-time living arrangement or a full or legal adoption.

All of these changes and creative approaches are ways the children/youth are finding the stability, security, and sense of belonging that is important to them.

Permanency is a term that recognizes all the ways that children/youth find connections and families that work for them.

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