Legislation to allow for open adoption records

Legislation introduced today, March 12, will change the way the province treats adoption records.

The new Act to Open Adoption Records in Nova Scotia allows adopted children, once they turn 19, and birth parents to access adoption information if they want to. The change will apply to all adoption records.

The act also includes measures to protect the privacy of the adoptee or the birth parent. Both will have the option to file a disclosure veto, a document stating they do not want to share information that can identify them. Either can also file a contact notice agreeing to share information that can identify them but stating their preferences on if or how they want to be contacted.

“Adoption records are a sensitive and deeply personal matter,” said Kelly Regan, Minister of Community Services. “In modernizing this legislation, we worked to create a balance that takes all perspectives into account, recognizing the profound impact this information may have on the lives of Nova Scotians.”

The Act to Open Adoption Records in Nova Scotia will take effect fully as early as April 2022. This timeframe will allow the department to make software changes so it can receive this information. It will also allow parties to an adoption six months to apply for a disclosure veto or contact notice. Parties to an adoption should contact the department’s Adoption Disclosure Services Program for more information on their options. When the legislation is in effect, disclosure vetoes and contact notices will continue to be accepted as long as the identifying information has not already been released.

The new act will also include the types of information that can be shared with relatives or birth siblings, as well as the definition of a potential birth father.

Currently the province’s Adoption Disclosure Program can conduct a search for an adopted person or a birth parent at the request of the other party to the adoption. When that person is located, they must consent to their identifying information being released before it can be shared. If they do not consent, the identifying information cannot be shared.

Quotes:

Today is a monumental day for those searching for their life story. These changes will make a fundamental improvement to thousands of families impacted by adoption in the past and in the future. – Scott Pyke, administrator, Nova Scotia Adoptee Advocacy Group

We have fought hard and this is an emotional day for many. We wish to thank the minister and her staff for the hard work and dedication to this change. We look forward to seeing the bill pass in a timely manner with the support from all parties. – Monica Kennedy, administrator, Nova Scotia Adoptee Advocacy Group

Quick Facts:

  • adoptions have been recorded in Nova Scotia for more than 100 years. The Department of Community Services holds the records for about 31,800 adoptions granted during this time
  • over the last 11 years, an average of 150 children were adopted each year in Nova Scotia
  • the development of this legislation was guided by public consultation in which Nova Scotians were asked to share their views about the opening of adoption records. Over 2,700 responses to the online survey were received and over 100 participants attended in-person sessions held across the province
  • the department partnered with the Association of Black Social Workers in spring 2020 to engage with African Nova Scotian communities on this topic
  • the department also received feedback from Mi’kmaq Bands

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