While 400 children and youth, including many with special needs, wait to be matched with permanent families in New Brunswick, newly released survey results suggest most parents who are eager to take them in are waiting two years for adoptions to be completed and others more than four years.
The New Brunswick Adoption Foundation released the results from a questionnaire that had been done almost a year ago for New Brunswickers involved in the adoption process. The surveys were completed last year in May and June and released on Monday.
Out of the 121 surveys completed, 64 per cent of surveyed couples wanting to adopt in New Brunswick waited more than two years, while 36 per cent waited more than four years.
The survey doesn't capture extreme wait times as the questionnaire did not make that option available to surveyors.
- Fredericton couple told they were too old and overweight to adopt demand changes
It's also not not clear how many people gave up because the survey was mainly sent to people who had already adopted or were in the process of adopting.
However, four per cent of the respondents were known to have quit.
"Some people are waiting a very long time," said Suzanne Kingston, executive director of the New Brunswick Adoption Foundation.
Krista Mitton of Moncton said the public report is just a small snapshot of the full survey and feels 121 respondents is a very low number.
"They didn't get everybody answering that survey," said Mitton, who filled out the survey herself.
Mitton and her husband spent eight years trying to adopt but quit in 2015 because the process took too long. She feels there are others who didn't bother to fill out the survey.
"I think those people just wanted to be done with the process," she said. "Where they were done with the process they either didn't get notification of this survey or were just so fed up they just didn't want to respond."
But Kingston said it took some time to give the data context.
Kingston said some of the most encouraging results reveal that many adoptive families are willing to take youth with special needs, as well as children between the ages of two and 12.
Longer waits for some
However, interest in adopting children over the age of 12, drops off dramatically.
And yet, more than 60 per cent of the children in care in New Brunswick are over 12.
Social Development spokesperson Anne Mooers said the department is "working on a recruitment strategy that will address the important need to recruit adoptive parents for a wider range of age groups."
Kingston said there also seemed to be some regional differences.
She said couples who register in Moncton seem to wait longer for their 27 hours of pre-adoption training — Parent Resources for Information, Development, and Education, or PRIDE — yet their home studies are completed more quickly.
Mooers said the department is looking at methods to have more provincial co-ordination of PRIDE training, as well as other options for delivery of the province, including possibly on-line training sessions.
Kingston says it's easier to understand the disparities in the part of the process that actually matches approved parents with waiting youth.
That's because it's a delicate and complicated process, she says, that has to prioritize the needs of the child.
But she says there should be more consistency across the province when it comes to getting parents adoption ready.
That means, all the steps involved in vetting the parents should be more consistent.
While the survey did ask questions about how couples felt they were treated during the process, those subjective comments were not released.
More than half of the respondents indicated a willingness to adopt youth with developmental delays and learning disabilities.
Meanwhile, more than 60 per cent were willing to adopt children with a history of physical or emotional abuse.
Committed to change
Kingston says the foundation has submitted its findings to the Department of Social Development and is anticipating some reaction or commitment to changes.
Kingston said it would fall to the department to better explain why some couples wait longer than others.
For example, Kingston doesn't know whether any of the waiting times are the product of an unusual spike in demand in any given region that would have taxed available resources.
Kingston said the foundation also shared the subjective comments with Social Development but chose to limit its public report to the numbers.
"Certainly there were some people who were very frustrated. You know it's an emotional journey. And there were other people who had a really great experience," said Kingston.