Multi-Parent Families – Considerations for Health Care Providers and Institutions

By Clancy Catelin

A new study published by the Canadian Medical Association Journal (“CMAJ”) explores the experiences of Canadian polyamorous families during pregnancy and birth. The participants of the study were self-identified polyamorous women or partners of women who had had a child in the last five years. Each participant family reported some level of marginalization when accessing pregnancy and birth care and a general lack of knowledge by health care providers about families with more than two parents, or “multi-parent” families. The issues identified by the participants included having negative or judgmental interactions with health care professionals or hospital staff, as well as logistical problems such as forms or procedures not being able to accommodate their familial arrangement.

Multi-parent families arise in a variety of other contexts as well, such as same-sex couples who are parenting with a biological parent, or family or friends who have platonic parenting arrangements. Awareness and recognition of multi-parent families is growing, and in 2016 Canada took steps to recognize multi-parent families by enacting the All Families Are Equal Act (“EFCA”). The EFCA amended existing statues regarding parentage rules to allow a variety of multi-parent families to be formally recognized in law.

As Ontario families continue to become more diverse, health care providers and health care institutions should do what they can to ensure that they provide respectful, equal treatment to this growing demographic. Health care institutions in particular should consider reviewing their policies, forms and procedures and ensure that their staff are prepared to provide care to multi-parent families.

If you have any questions about how to accommodate multi-parent families into your practice, please contact us.

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