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Alberta law gives power to adoptive parents.

Edmonton Journal. Edmonton, Alta.: Jan 27, 2008. pg. A.3

It may be the only case among developed countries.

An unidentified Alberta family has won a ministerial order to keep its adoptee, an adult, in the dark about his or her adoption.

"Alberta has one feature in its adoption law which is different than any other law that I'm aware of in the western world," Dr. Michael Grand, a prominent adoption researcher, said in an interview from the University of Guelph, Ont.

That feature is in a section of the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act that lets adoptive families apply for a veto so biological parents can't see the adoptees' files. The veto can be used if the adoptive parents have not told their adoptees they are adopted, and where enlightening them "would be extremely detrimental to the adopted person."

The government has granted just one veto for an adoptive family, Children's Services spokeswoman Cathy Ducharme said.

Grand, a clinical psychologist who was co-director of a national study of adoption policies, said the provision is wrong-headed, particularly because it is aimed at adoptees who are now adults and who should be allowed to find out about their origins. Adoption records are closed until adoptees reach adulthood.

"Alberta has something unique that nobody else would even contemplate putting in," he said. "Why such a bizarre provision that doesn't appear anywhere else in the western world?"

He said he is familiar with adoption policies internationally, and has yet to come across anything like it.

Alberta opened its records to adult adoptees and their birth parents in 2004 so they can learn about each other and possibly reunite. As with other jurisdictions that have taken such a step, the province provided that it can veto access to the records, on request from the adoptees or birth parents.

British Columbia, Newfoundland and the Northwest Territories have also opened their records to birth parents and adoptees, and Ontario is developing similar legislation. None of them have taken Alberta's step of granting veto rights to adoptive parents, and no other province has such a veto provision.

"It was put in place to respond to public concerns," said Cathy Ducharme, spokeswoman for Children's Services. "When these types of vetoes are granted by the minister, there needs to be a lot of evidence that it would be in the best interest of the adoptee not to have this information released."

When the government introduced the veto provision, it suggested adoptive parents might use it where adoptees were conceived through incest or rape. Grand said such adoptees in Ontario have demanded to see their files. In Alberta, while there has been just one veto granted for adoptive parents, there have been 3,000 vetoes for birth parents and adoptees since the adoption reforms took effect.

If an adult adoptee or a birth parent request a veto, the veto ceases when that person dies. But vetoes placed by adoptive parents are permanent, unless their adoptees somehow discover they are adopted and ask to lift them. Vetoes are possible only on adoptions that happened before 2005.

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