Warning to parents: adoptions cost money

Are you thinking of making a adopting a baby from another commmunity? Be prepared to pay.


MONTREAL — Prospective parents who want to custom adopt babies born outside their communities should be prepared to reach deep into their pockets to spend a lot of money on air fares.

That’s because health and social services boards will only pay travel expenses for official patient escorts.

Two new adoptive parents from Puvirnituq discovered this the hard way recently, when they decided to fetch their new baby from the Montreal hospital where he’d just been born.

They returned with the new-born baby — and a hefty, $8000 bill for their roundtrip airfare and other expenses incurred in the city.

“I think it’s wrong,” said the new father who doesn’t understand why he and his wife have to foot the bill to get their adopted son home. “We’re both beneficiaries.”

Benefits under the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement are substantial, but the Module du nord, which supplies patient services to Nunavimmiut, never picks up the tab for adoptive parents’ travel to Montreal, unless one of the parents is the natural mother’s official escort.

The same policy applies at the health centres in Puvirnituq or Kuujjuaq.

If those involved in a customary adoption don’t make plans ahead of time, they have to make the decision to wait for someone willing to travel with an infant — or else pay their own travel expenses.

This dilemma faces all residents of the Arctic, no matter where they live and whether or not they are beneficiaries of a land claim agreement because it’s always up to the adoptive parents and natural mother to make all the arrangements for the baby’s exchange and travel.

When natural mothers and adoptive families live nearby, the mother can simply return to her home community with the baby.

Third parties must be found

But when the two parties live in different communities, as is increasingly the case, prospective parents have to dig into their pocketbooks for air fares, or they have to find another person to travel with the new-born baby.

Carolyn Aublin, a social worker with Nunavik’s patients’ service in Montreal, said that, ideally, one of the adoptive parents will come along with the expectant mother as her escort. Otherwise, a third person who is already traveling to Nunavik is found to bring the baby back to its new home.

A signed “declaration of authority” that patient services requests from all mothers who give birth in Montreal allows the Module du nord to find a third person to bring the baby back to Nunavik and its adoptive parents.

But sometimes babies have to wait several days, or even longer, before traveling to their new families.

“We scramble around for someone who is going up North,” Aublin said. “Usually it’s a doctor or nurse who’s traveling. We ask them if they wouldn’t mind holding a baby. It’s really complicated.”

Nunavut parents on their own

In Nunavut, adoptive parents and natural mothers make their own travel arrangements, without the assistance of a social worker. This can be difficult for the natural mother and the baby.

One woman from Iqaluit had a long wait before she could find someone to bring her baby up to the north Baffin community where his adoptive parents were living. The delay made the final separation that much harder to bear.

“I had to wait nine days, and I started to breastfeed him,” she said. “It was very hard.”

But Jarvis Hoult, the CEO of the Baffin Regional Health and Social Services Board, said it’s unlikely that his board would ever have the money to pay for escorts involved in custom adoptions.

“Given our present financial situation at the Baffin board, there would be very few, if any, exceptions made,” Hoult said.

But Rankin Inlet midwife Chris Siksik said she’s troubled when mothers go to the airport themselves with their infants to find someone willing to take the baby to its adoptive family.

She’s worried about what could happen if the connections between the baby and its new parents weren’t made, due to a misunderstanding or travel delays.

“There hasn’t been a problem yet, but I’m waiting for one,” said Siksik. “It’s very haphazard.”

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