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Honourable Diane Finley,
Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development,
the expansion of Employment Insurance parental benefits for adoptive parents
January 4, 2012
Check against delivery
Good afternoon everyone.
Thank you very much, Mary, for that kind introduction.
And thank you to the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies for hosting us today.
I’m also pleased to see Rod Potgietor, Executive Director of Family and Children’s Services of St. Thomas and Elgin, and his team, and Pat Convery of the Adoption Council of Ontario.
I’m so glad you could all join us so early in the New Year.
I’m proud to say that we’re getting 2012 off to a great start.
Over the past holiday season, many of us have exchanged presents.
But more important than any material gift has been the warm embrace of family and friends.
Today, I’d like to talk about a very special group of families in our communities – adoptive families.
We’re honoured to have a number of adoptive parents with us today.
Please welcome Jolean Saxton and Mike Anderson; Julie and Geoff Robins and Kelly and John Wyatt.
At little later, Jolean will tell you about her family’s experience with foster-to-adopt.
I have the greatest admiration for adoptive parents, but I know they aren’t looking for praise.
They aren’t looking for medals. They aren’t hoping for publicity or awards.
All they want is to create a safe and loving home for a child.
Today, the Government of Canada is going to make it easier for parents who are adopting a child in their care.
Before I make my announcement, let me give you some background.
For most of the past 25 years, Family and Children’s Services of St. Thomas and Elgin has had a ‘foster-to-adopt’ policy.
Under a foster-to-adopt or similar policy, once a child becomes a ward of the Crown, the parents automatically become the adoptive family.
This means that these children are placed only once.
And this gives them the stability they so desperately need.
By the way, Jim Hummel, who’s here today, was the Resource Manager for Family Services of Elgin-St. Thomas in the 1980s and the driving force behind the development of the foster-to-adopt policy in this area.
I know Jim has quite a story to tell.
The foster-to-adopt model is a wonderful concept.
But sometimes, good programs like foster-to-adopt require that other programs be adapted.
Under the EI program, both biological parents and people who adopt a child are eligible for a maximum of 35 weeks of parental benefits.
However, until now, adoptive parents had to submit their application for adoption to a provincial or territorial court, before they could be eligible for these EI benefits.
Recognizing that adoption programs vary by province and territory, the Government of Canada will now allow these parents to be eligible for EI parental benefits as soon as they commit to adopt a child in their care.
This government supports Canadian family values.
By increasing flexibility in EI parental benefits, we are putting the best interest of the child first, ensuring they are placed in a stable family environment as early as possible.
This change brings the EI program in line with current, more progressive adoption practices.
After all, the arrival of a child is a life-changing event for any family.
But when that child comes from a troubled environment, it’s even more vital to give the family time to adjust.
Our government is strengthening Canadian families by making the necessary change to EI to help parents in these situations.
This change is the latest in a series of improvements we’ve made to the EI program.
We’re ensuring the EI program is fair, that it meets the needs of Canadians, and continues to help people adjust to labour market changes while balancing work and family responsibilities.
So, I am delighted to make this announcement.
As I said, I can’t think of a better way to kick off the new year.