Adoption in Ontario

This study, titled Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, and two-spirit adoption in Ontario: Policy, practice and personal narratives is a partnership between the LGBTQ Parenting Network at the Sherbourne Health Centre and the Re:searching for LGBTQ Health team.


  • Little is known about the experiences of LGBTQ people who have adopted children in Ontario.
  • In a 1995 Charter challenge, four lesbian couples challenged the heterosexual definition of “spouse” to mean only a man and a woman. As a consequence of this Charter challenge, the policies guiding adoption in Ontario were revised in 2000 to allow any two adults to adopt an unrelated child; this was understood to include lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people.
  • The goal of this research was to examine whether this legislative change has translated into increased access to adoption for LGBTQ people.

Team Members

This project was a research partnership between Dr. Lori Ross at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and Rachel Epstein of the LGBTQ Parenting Network, Sherbourne Health Centre, Toronto, Ontario. Research Coordinator: Scott Anderson

What did we do?

This project had two parts:

  • Part A: We surveyed 97 public, private and international agencies licensed to handle adoption in Ontario to examine their policies and procedures related to LGBTQ adoption.
  • Part B: We interviewed 43 LGBTQ people from across Ontario who had completed, or were in the process of completing, an adoption to understand what the experience of adopting was like for them.

What did we find?

  • Only 13 agencies had a policy regarding adoption by LGBTQ people, most of these were public, secular agencies in larger urban settings; only 16 actively recruited LGBTQ adoptive parents, i.e., table at community organizations or events (i.e., Pride); and only 3 of 44 agencies/individuals who participated indicated that they had received education about specific needs and concerns of sexual and gender minority prospective parents.
  • Many LGBTQ adoptive and prospective adoptive parents, specifically participants in the study, had positive experiences with the adoption system and many adoption workers have an understanding of how to work with lesbian and gay adoptive parents.
  • Some adoption workers recognize the potential strengths of lesbian and gay people as adoptive parents.
  • Adoption workers may lack an understanding of bisexual and transgender people and their potential strengths as adoptive parents.
  •  People in smaller communities are more likely to encounter workers who are unfamiliar with LGBTQ people.
  •  Many adoption workers hold the belief that LGBTQ people need to provide gender role models for their adopted children. Requiring gender role models undermines LGBTQ people and families.


Queer Parenting Info Brochure Series: LGBTQ Adoption

Outlines different types of adoption (public, private, international), a guide to the adoption process, issues related to race and culture, and challenges and positive experiences that LGBTQ people may face in the adoption process. Includes list of LGBTQ parenting and adoption resources. Download this brochure from our library.

LGBTQ Adoption – A Booklet about LGBTQ Adoption for Adoption workers

Outlines key findings from the project. The booklet samples personal narratives on the positive/supportive and negative experiences of LGBTQ persons in the adoptive process and provides practical suggestions on how to be supportive of LGBTQ persons engaged in the adoption process. Download this booklet from our library.

Ross, L.E., Epstein, R., Goldfinger, C., Yager, C. (2008). Lesbian and queer mothers navigating the adoption system: The impacts on mental health. Health Sociology Review 17, 254-266.

Ross, L.E., Epstein, R., Goldfinger, C., Yager, C. (2009). Policy and Practice regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual and Two-Spirit adoption in Ontario. Canadian Public Policy, 35(4), 451-451.

Ross, L.E., Epstein, R., Anderson, S., Eady, A. (2009). Policy, practice and personal narratives: Experiences of LGBTQ people with adoption in Ontario, Canada. Adoption Quarterly, 12(3/4), 272-293.

Eady, A, Ross, L.E., Epstein, R., Anderson, S. To bi or not to bi: Bisexuality and disclosure in the adoption system. In Who’s Your Daddy? And Other Writings on Queer Parenting, R. Epstein (ed.)