The pre-adoption process:
Explaining the principal criteria
of the psychosocial assessment

  1. Motivation
  2. Personal history
  3. Married life
  4. Parental aptitudes
  5. Carrying out the adoption plan
  6. Documents required
  7. Recommendations

    The social worker or the psychologist who performs the psychosocial assessment of a person or a couple is professionally trained specifically for this kind of work; his evaluation is not a mere formality. He must analyse various aspects of your personality, your life as a couple if applicable, and your social relations.

To complete his work in accordance with the standards set by the directors of youth protection and by the professional corporation of social workers and the professional corporation of psychologists, the evaluator must meet with you individually and visit you in your home with the purpose of obtaining an accurate sense of your life environment. The professional must then make recommendations in his report. The psychosocial assessment can also be seen as a further step in self-discovery and a guide that will allow you to reflect seriously on your life plans.

This assessment is thus a vital step for your adoption plan. The evaluator will have to judge your capacity to carry out your adoption plan. The country that entrusts a child to international adoption takes on a serious responsibility and must be fully satisfied that it can do so confidently and that it is acting in the best interests of the child.

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1. Motivation

    Before considering the practical aspects of adoption, it is very important to reflect on the underlying motivation. This calls for introspection.

Why do you wish to adopt a child? What are the reasons that steer your choice toward international adoption? You must also make sure that your motivation is shared by your spouse, if applicable. There is surely a specific context or situation motivating your decision to adopt. Can you identify it?

What are the sociocultural influences, the psychological reasons, the physical conditions that motivate your wish to adopt? You must try to answer these questions to better understand the motives that incite you to adopt. Infertility is one of many reasons that may lead people to adopt a child. Infertility must be fully accepted in your personal life and your life as a couple.

Through adoption, you become the child's second parents; you must understand your role, accept it and feel comfortable in it. You must reflect on the real expectations you have with respect to the child. There is invariably a discrepancy between the "dream" child and the "real" child; the one you dream of having and the one entrusted to you. You must be honest with yourself and see yourself with a "desire to have a child" rather than with a philanthropic impulse.

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2. Personal history

    Giving a child up for adoption is a major concern for the country of origin in light of the abandonment, the rejection or even the mourning for his biological family with which the child must deal. It is thus important for that country to ensure that the future well-being of the child is particularly secure and assured.

This is why, in studying your adoption plan, the evaluator will examine both your financial situation and your psychosocial and moral disposition. This evaluation will reassure the authorities in charge of adoption in Québec and the child's country of origin that you have sufficient financial resources to provide for the child and that you are in good physical and psychological health, both of which will foster the personal growth of the adopted child.

The assessment will also provide a picture of the sociocultural environment in which the child will grow up. The evaluator will ask you to talk about your personal experiences, your relations with your parents and other family members, the education you received, the obstacles you have encountered in the past and your main professional achievements.

In short, he will reconstruct your personal history to help you identify the main stages of your life, as well as the people and relationships, that may influence your adoption plan.

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3. Married life

    You must be prepared to discuss the nature of the interpersonal relationship you have with your spouse, the level of satisfaction you draw from it, your capacity to communicate with your partner, as well as your infertility problems if applicable, and their impact on your emotional and sexual life.

Couples living together without being married, as well as gay and lesbian individuals or couples, face obstacles in trying to adopt since most countries reject these applicants. If you find yourself in this situation and you decide to adopt as if you were single, you must still mention the kind of relationship you have.

Whether you are married or single, a study will be made of how you deal with your affective needs and of your support network. The evaluator must evaluate the latent risks of physical and sexual abuse of the child. Since he always works in the best interests of the child, the evaluator must detect any suggestion of abuse in your past or in your current emotional life, including in the way you express your sexuality.

Neither the Secrétariat à l'adoption internationale nor the certified international adoption agencies can promise to send the files of heterosexual couples living together without being married or homosexual couples to the countries of origin without first having asked the foreign authorities if the applications are acceptable.

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4. Parental aptitudes

    If you already have children, the assessment provides an opportunity to reflect on the family dynamics in your home and think about the attitude and behaviour of your children and their implication in your international adoption plan, for such a decision requires a commitment from each of the family members.

Whether you already have children or not, you must ponder your capacity to become attached to another couple's child. You must be ready to tell him of his true origins and accept the fact that he may one day find his biological parents. In other words, adoption requires that you accept the child for what he is while trying to make him happy and ensure his personal growth. You must examine yourself as a future parent responsible for the physical, affective, social and intellectual needs of a child.

In cases of international adoption especially, you must think about the implications of adopting a child from another country. You must be open to other cultures and be ready to support your child as he deals with new faces, odours and sounds, as well as different food, clothes, a new way of life and a new set of values in most cases.

You must also think about specific cases that may arise. How will you react if you are offered a child who is not in the age range you specified? The child could be older or younger than you wished for. Would you still welcome him? If he is older than expected, how much older would be acceptable?

It is important to bear in mind the increased trauma an older child experiences. Would you agree to adopt two siblings, or even more? Would you accept twins? Often the child's past is unknown. He can be suffering from various deficiencies, sometimes severe. You must also consider your reaction to the possibility of adopting a disabled child; you must ask yourself what degree and what kind of disability you could deal with.

If you apply for adoption in more than one country simultaneously, two countries could offer you a child within a short time of each other. Would you be able to answer the needs of two children who have different states of health and ages, knowing that they will require special care, and devoted, sustained attention, especially during the first months following their arrival?

The ideal dream child is not always the one that is ultimately entrusted to you. The child you accept is already suffering from rejection. You must consider the difficulties that may arise as a result. It is difficult to imagine that an adoption could end in failure, nevertheless, some children are rejected by their adoptive families. You must know your strengths and your limits. You must understand that the child you will adopt needs to be accepted for who he is and not solely for what you wish he were.

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5. Carrying out the adoption plan

    You must also anticipate the reactions of your family, friends, co-workers and even your neighbours when your child finally arrives. You must be prepared to deal with the foreseeable and unforeseeable difficulties associated with this important event in your life.

Furthermore, in most cases, your child will make your status as adopting parent obvious everywhere you go. Are you ready to deal with this? How will you react when you are confronted with it on a daily basis? Will you be able to help your child accept his differences and supply him with the answers to the questions people will ask?

Are you aware that the new Québec Civil Code permits an adult or anyone over 14 years old who was adopted to obtain information which could help him find his biological parents, if they later have consented to this? The same holds true for biological parents who want to contact their child, if he consented to this after coming of age. The Québec Civil Code also states that an adopted child under 14 years old is entitled to obtain information which could help him find his biological parents, if both the adopting and the biological parents haven given their consent to this.

How do you feel about the possibility of a search for your sociological records that could lead to a reunion between your adopted child and his biological parents?

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6. Documents required

    The professionals or the Youth Centres will ask you to provide them with the originals of documents to complete your adoption application. These documents will be returned to you once they have been examined by the evaluator. You will need them to complete your adoption file. These documents are:

  • your birth certificate;
  • your marriage certificate, if applicable;
  • your medical certificate;
  • a certificate, from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or the Sureté du Québec, attesting that you do not have a criminal record;
  • your statement of income;
  • a solvency certificate;
  • letters of reference.

This list can be longer, depending on the requirements of the child's country of origin.

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7. Recommendations

    The evaluator will make recommendations with respect to your adoption plan. This evaluation is performed in the best interests of the child offered for adoption and it will tell you whether you should pursue your plans.

Whether they support your adoption plan or not, these recommendations are sent to the Secrétariat à l'adoption internationale, as provided for in the consent form for the disclosure of the recommendations of the psychosocial assessment, which the evaluator will ask you to sign before the assessment process begins. Three types of recommendations can result from the psychosocial assessment:

  1. approval of your adoption plan, which will allow you to go ahead and prepare your adoption file;
  2. postponement of your adoption plan because the evaluator has identified some difficulties in carrying out your plan and requests that you overcome them before continuing the process;
  3. rejection of your adoption plan because it does not constitute a desirable life plan, either for you or for a child.


  1. This text is part of the following document: The psychosocial assessment: a guide for parents applying for international adoption, prepared by the Secrétariat à l'adoption internationale (SAI) and adopted by the comité de coordination en adoption du Québec, Octobre 1996. This document is available in english from the SAI.

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