Relative adoption is when a family member adopts a child or youth who is related to them, like a grandparent adopting a grandchild. Step-parent adoption is when a step-parent adopts their spouse’s child.

Happy African American girl with short curly hair and a bright smile looking at a man with brown skin and dark hair. The man is hugging and smiling at the child.

Relative and step-parent adoption at a glance

Adoption representativeDomestic: A family lawyer.
International: A licensed adoption agency.
Typical age rangeAny.
Eligibility criteria for prospective parentsDomestic: 19 + years old & minimum 6-month resident in BC. Criminal record search and references required.
International: Depends on the requirements of the child’s country of origin.
CostsFees vary depending on the complexity of the application.
Estimated timelineDomestic: Adoption orders can be signed by a judge and sent back to the parties within several months.
International: Depends on the country.
Access to social and medical historyUsually available.
Openness of adoptionSome degree of openness is typical.
Financial supportDomestic: If eligible, adoptive parents may receive Post Adoption Assistance (PAA).
International: Not available.

Most relative and step-parent adoption applications can proceed directly through the court with the help of a family lawyer.

Sometimes the judge will request the assistance of the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD).

If you or the child you’re adopting is Indigenous, you may also wish to involve your Indigenous community or band in the process.

The relative and step-parent adoption process in BC

Your lawyer will prepare and submit court documents and gather any required consents. 

If the child is between the ages of 7 and 11, they will need to be interviewed by a registered social worker, psychologist, or psychiatrist prior to the adoption. BC’s licensed adoption agencies can help you complete this report.

Youth age 12 and up must sign consents to their adoption and to any name changes you wish to make. The same is true of adult step-children.

The international relative and step-parent adoption process

The process is different if the child you want to adopt lives in a different country.

All international relative and step-parent adoptions must be facilitated through an adoption agency.

This is because Canadian immigration authorities require a home study and other official documentation that the adoption agency will help with. The child’s country of origin will also have requirements.

Every country’s international adoption process is different. Make sure you confirm that your adoption and immigration plans meet all local, federal, and international requirements before pursuing any international adoption, including relative adoptions

We cannot stress enough how important this is. Adopters who fail to do so can find themselves unable to return to Canada with their child. 

Learn more here.


Canadian Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada – Adopt a child from abroad
BC Government: Adopt a child from another country