CBC News reported this week that a 38-year old Jamaican woman is seeking to stop the adoption of her son by a B.C. family, a case that is raising some interesting legal issues.

What Happened?

The child at the heart of this legal battle was born in Jamaica and spent the first few years of his life with his mother. He moved to British Columbia with his father and stepmother in 2013 when the father was offered a “dream” job. The boy’s parents believed that “maybe life would be better” in Canada.

Less than a year after the move, the mother learned that the boy had been apprehended by social workers with B.C’s Ministry of Children and Family Development after the Ministry claimed that the boy was being abused and mistreated by his stepmother. The boy was moved to a foster home.

In 2015, the Ministry requested continuing custody of the child. The mother wrote to the court and to the Ministry requesting that she be kept apprised with what was happening with the boy and asking to participate in the process. Her requests were allegedly ignored.

The Ministry’s Position

In a hearing that took place at the end of January, the Ministry argued that the mother had signed over custody of the child to the father so that the boy could travel to Canada. After the child was taken away, the mother had not filed an application to regain custody.

The Ministry also suspected that the boy had been abused before he left Jamaica, and that he had reported “hitting, ear-pulling, and spanking”.

A team leader with the Ministry testified that:

“We made the decision that pursuing [the child] going back to Jamaica was not in the best interest of [the boy]”

The Ministry did not comment further about the case, but in a written statement it noted that it makes “every effort” to ensure children are placed with their parents or with extended family whenever possible. Adoption is pursued where such placement is deemed not to be safe or not in the best interests of the child.

The Position of the Prospective Foster Family

The woman who is currently fostering the boy and who is seeking to adopt him also testified at the proceedings, arguing that she could “give him a good life”. She noted that the boy loves, trusts, and feels safe with her and that he has said on several occasions that he wishes to stay in B.C. “with his new family”.

The Mother’s Position

The mother disputes the claims of abuse in Jamaica and said that the Ministry social workers never even bothered to question her about how she raised her son. She also argues that the boy thinks he wants to stay in Canada because she has not had much access to him since he left Jamaica and that “his memories have all been completely in the absence of his mother’s presence”.

After the proceedings concluded, the mother was permitted to meet her son in a supervised visit. She told CBC News that he was really happy, and that before she even reached the door, he had waved to her through the window and that when she reached him they were “hugging, talking and laughing.”

A judge is expected to interview the boy before lawyers for all parties will submit their closing arguments. The final decision is expected in about a month and a half. We will continued to follow developments in this matter and will provide updates as information becomes available.

Lessons Learned

As with anything pertaining to children in family law, a Court’s primary goal in making a final decision will be the best interest of the child. This includes the child’s safety and well-being, and is assessed based on a number of factors including:

  • Their physical, emotional, and psychological needs;
  • Their cultural and religious background;
  • Their relationships with blood relatives; and
  • Their own preferences and requests (particularly for older children).

At Gelman & Associates, our highly experienced Toronto adoption lawyers are committed to providing exceptional guidance to our clients throughout the adoption process. With six offices conveniently located throughout Aurora, Barrie, Downtown Toronto, Mississauga North York and Scarborough, we are easily accessible by transit and off-highway. Call us at (416) 736-0200 or 1-844-736-0200 or contact us online for a confidential initial consultation.