Organizations and Associations:
Certified Agencies

    In Québec, only certified organizations can legally act as an intermediary in international adoption projects 1. Moreover, the expression "certified organization" (organisme agréé) comes from the Québec law applicable but most people prefer other expressions like "adoption society" or "adoption agency". We use "certified agencies" to insist on the fact that they have to be approved and we leave out the "adoption" which is the subject of this site. Even if private adoption is still possible in Québec, the vast majority of international adoption is now done through the agencies.

What are these certified agencies? What does the law has to say about them? How can I contact them? Here is some basic information concerning these organizations:


What is a certified agencies?

    The agencies certified in Québec to realize international adoptions are the only ones who can legally act as intermediaries in these projects. They get there approval from the "ministre de la Santé et des Services sociaux du Québec" (Minister of Health and Social Services), following a favourable recommendation by the Secrétariat à l'adoption internationale (SAI), which is the governement body responsible for international adoption in the province. These agencies are private non profit corporations: hence you should not be worried that your money might be used for improper or personal use.

These organizations are more than often managed by adoptive parents on a voluntary basis, people giving great consideration to the well-being of children. The certified agencies establish and maintain contacts abroad in order to obtain child proposals for future adoptive parents. Some agencies also offer services outside Québec.

You should know that the agencies are different in size; some may do only 10 adoptions a year while the biggest might complete around 150 adoptions per year.

The operational methods and the quality of services varies from one agency to the other but the typical adoption agency:

  • informs you about the way to proceed, their requirements, costs, duration and adoption conditions in the country of your choice and the agency answers all the questions that bother you at the beginning of the process. These informations are often givent during information meetings organized by each agency;

  • puts your name, if you are interested to adopt through their intermediary, on its waiting list (more or less long depending on the country) and ask that you pay, membership charges or fees, of 25 to 600 $ depending on the agency, to cover administrative expenses and, in certain cases, the first steps of the process;

  • sends you a list of documents that you must prepare or obtain;

  • helps you in the preparation of the dossier that will be sent in the foreign country, for example by proposing translator's names if required or by telling you how and where you can get some documents if you don't know;

  • forwards your dossier to the authority responsible in the foreign country and maintains follow-up;

  • offers support during the wait and transmits you the child proposal;

  • guides you in the process abroad; many agencies regroup parents for the trip abroad and have them accompagnied by guide-interpreters;

  • sends you a newsletter or information sheet and invites you to varied social events.

In this very tricky process, there are many steps where problems can show up and, in international adoption, the unexpected rules. To help prevent possible conflicts between adoption agencies and parents and, more generally, to ensure respect of the Québec's laws and the Hague Convention on international adoption, the agencies have agreed on a code of ethics, after discussions with the SAI and parent support groups.

Let us add that, because they are not government bodies, the certified agencies cannot negociate or sign agreements with foreign governments

Top of the page

The certified agencies and the law1,2

    It is the Youth Protection Act that includes provisions related to the certified agencies. The law gives them great autonomy of action and delegates responsabilities which put the agencies on the same level than the SAI with regard to the realization of international adoptions.

The articles 72.3.3 to 72.3.6 govern the granting, refusal or the revocation of the approval of organizations who intercede in international adoptions. They state that a consent to operate can be granted on a temporary or permanent basis to an organization that " has for mission to defend the rights of chilfren, to promote their interests or to improve their life conditions so that it carry out adoption procedures for adopters ".

To obtain this approval to operate, the agency must respect the conditions determined in a ministerial order. The minister can suspend or revoke the approval "in case of default by the organization to conform to the obligations imposed on it ". In the case that the minister refuses to grant its consent, the decision must be justified and pass on in writing to the applicant organization. The latter has a right to appeal in court.

To obtain and keep its approval, the agency must:

  • be a non profit corporation legally established;

  • demonstrate a good knowledge of the laws and the acceptable way to operate in Québec and in the country in which they want to work;

  • have a board of directors of at least five persons;

  • deposit in a trust account the amount of money entrust by the adopters;

  • commit to abide by law and regulations applicable;

  • inform the minister of the name and address of the persons responsible for adoption in the foreign country and to unvail these only under the conditions provided for by the law;

  • conclude a contract with the adopters in order to realize an adoption;

  • present annually to the minister a copy of its financial statements, a duplicate of the contract signed with each adopter, information on the completed adoptions, on the results of its contact with foreign representatives, on the evolution of the foreign country's requirements, on the activities, other than adoption, that it has accomplished abroad and its projects, the average costs of an adoption, detailed by expense item, with costs margin for each, and finally its recommendations and comments about international adoption;

Top of the page

How to file a complaint if something goes wrong.

    The certified agencies have adopted a voluntary code of ethics to guide their operations especially in regard to relations with the parents. This code makes provision for the creation of a follow-up committee formed of representatives of the agencies (2), parent support groups (1), Secrétariat à l'adoption internationale (1) and of a fifth person chosen by the other four members. At present, this person is Mr. Serge Turgeon, well known as former president of the "Union des artistes du Québec".

The code of ethics follow-up committee can hear the disputes and complaints of the adopting parents. It will try to settle these through arbitration, by asking questions or making recommendations to the parties. It is not a court but representations made before it may build up significant pressures so that the agency may give you satisfaction.

Up until now, parents tend to hesitate to present their problems to the committee, being afraid that the agency will react badly and delay their adoption. This situation is unfortunate because it goes against the spirit of the code of ethics. It would be unacceptable for an agency to use retaliation because a parent files a complaint. The majority will not do that, understanding this complaint for what it is: a wish to solve a problem and improve the service for all adoptive parents. So, be courageous, complain if you have good reason to do so and if your efforts to solve the matter with the agency (in writing and documented) have not been to your satisfaction.

Besides, at any time, you can also file a complaint to the "Secrétariat à l'adoption internationale du Québec (SAI)". Do it in writing. If a certified agency doesn't behave properly, it is the responsability of the parents to tell it to the SAI. It is the responsability then of the SAI to take appropriate actions to correct the situation.

If you are not satisfied with the services of the SAI, you can file a complaint to the "Protecteur du citoyen du Québec" (ombusdman).

To embark upon these steps, it is useful to have the support of a parents associations, if you had the good idea to become a member of one of them. If many parents have problems with an agency, the associations can present a dossier in their name to the follow-up committee, which may have more impact.


  1. Review our law page: international adoption Québec's laws.

  2. Source: «Qu'est-ce qu'un organisme agréé et comment le devenir?», Secrétariat à l'adoption internationale du Québec, no date;, 13 pages.

  3. Source: Liste des pays ouverts en adoption internationale (22 pays desservis par 17 organismes agréés), Secrétariat à l'adoption internationale du Québec, 30 juin 1999. (Note: Mexico was removed from this list by the SAI)

Go to the french page

Home Page
Top of the page

©  Copyright 1997-2006 Gilles Breton Tous droits réservés.

Publication: December 1997