Adoption feedback
Revisions still popping up in Adoption Act

by Glen Korstrom
Northern News Services

NNSL (Apr 24/98) - As a new-and-improved Adoption Act inches its way toward law, rumblings about what is not in the bill are surfacing.

Birth-fathers should be identified whenever possible before any adoptions go through, said Yellowknife North MLA Roy Erasmus at a public hearing April 22.

"The father has the right to know," Erasmus said. "This will help ensure the best interests of the child."

If the father is a member of one of many land claim groups, and he wants to provide custody for his child, the child may qualify for different benefits or scholarships.

Further, many diseases are hereditary, so knowing the name of the father could help determine whether the child is of higher risk of heart disease, some cancers or schizophrenia.

"It's not in the act now," Erasmus said after gesturing toward a copy of Bill 15 in the legislature.

But Health Minister Kelvin Ng is coming down on the side of privacy for the fathers.

"It would be putting somebody in a compromising position of naming somebody without their consent," he said.

"If the mother were to name somebody without them knowing about it. That's a major concern for us."

Ng said he wants to encourage the information become available but not be specifically set out in the legislation.

"We don't dispute those reasons (for having the father's name known) either," he said.

"We're saying through the adoptive process, the screening and the interviews with the mother, the onus is going to be on the adoption worker to try to determine as much information as possible."

Erasmus has other concerns, such as no stipulation to give extended family priority when adoption agents make adoption decisions.

Ng responds that though the aim is desirable in principle, he does not want to create a hierarchy where grandmothers outrank second cousins, for example.

A final concern Erasmus has about how the bill is currently written is there is no provision for a birth-parent to be able to revoke consent for the adoption after original consent but before the final order has been given.

During public hearings last fall, MLAs heard that some people found it difficult to distinguish which sections applied to private adoptions and which sections applied to departmental adoptions.

The new bill clears up the confusion.

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