A parent who wishes to temporarily place a child in agency care or permanently surrender guardianship of a child may ask a child and family services agency to enter into a written agreement to do so.
What is a voluntary placement?
Parents who are unable to temporarily care for their child may enter into a written agreement with a child and family services agency to have their child placed in care for a period of time (voluntary placement agreement). Such agreements allow the agency to care for the child for up to 12 months. The parents must give the agency financial information and may have to contribute all or part of the costs of caring for the child.
A voluntary placement agreement can be renewed until the child reaches age 18, if the child:
- has a mental disability defined in The Vulnerable Persons Living with a Mental Disability Act; or
- is suffering from a chronic medical disability requiring treatment that cannot be given if the child remains at home; or
- is 14 years of age or older and beyond the control of the parent or guardian entering into the agreement.
When an agreement is in place because of a temporary illness, misfortune, or other circumstance likely to be of a temporary duration, the agreement and any renewals cannot last for more than 24 months in total.
The parents or the agency may cancel a voluntary placement agreement at any time by signing the required form.
What is a voluntary surrender of guardianship?
A parent may agree to give up care and custody of their child permanently by signing a written voluntary surrender of guardianship agreement with a child and family services agency.
Once such an agreement is signed, the agency becomes the legal guardian of the child. That means the agency takes the place of the child’s parents and makes decisions about the child’s care, including placing the child for adoption.
A parent can withdraw from this agreement within 21 days of signing it, but only if written notice is given to the agency. If the parents of a child are married or are common-law partners, both must sign the agreement. A mother alone may sign the voluntary surrender of guardianship if she meets the criteria as set out in the Act.
Where the mother alone signs a voluntary surrender of guardianship agreement, the agency cannot place the child for adoption if the father has applied to court for an order that he be declared the father of the child. The birth father has the right to be given notice of the adoption proceedings unless a court decides otherwise.
To qualify as common-law partners under this law, the couple needn’t have lived together for any particular length of time, but need only have cohabited in a conjugal relationship of some permanence.
A decision to enter into a voluntary surrender of guardianship agreement is very serious and should be made only with professional assistance and careful consideration of all other options. Help is available from the child and family services agencies listed in the Resources section of this website. It is also wise to seek legal advice about such an important decision. For more information visit the Legal Help section of this website.