There are currently over 67,000 children in England’s care system. The majority of these are being looked after by their local authority because they’ve experienced abuse or neglect. While the majority of these children will eventually return home, many are in need of a ‘forever family’.
Across the UK, around 4000 children are adopted every year. If you’ve got kids already you may never have thought about adoption, but a large number of parents who have had their own birth children then go on to adopt. Could this be the right choice for you?
Katie*, who already has three of her own birth children, recently adopted two daughters, and found the experience to be completely life-changing: “I feel honoured to have been given the opportunity to parent these children as my own and believe it has made me a person I would never have become without them. I am determined to make the most of my time with my daughters as the years go by so quickly and I am excited about my future with them in it. I have learnt that you really do ‘get out what you put in’”.
Many also come to adoption after experiencing infertility issues. Lauren* knew from an early age that she wanted to adopt: “I was adopted myself and found out when I was 17 that I would never be able to carry a child to full-term pregnancy. I therefore always knew I would adopt a child. Although I loosely toyed with the idea of surrogacy at one point I felt the financial and emotional costs too great and so I explored adoption with my partner.”
The Adoption Process
To adopt a child in the UK you need to be accepted by an adoption agency and go through a series of checks before you are approved to adopt and finally matched with a child. Adoption agencies responsible for placing children with their new families look for adopters from all walks of life. Gender, marital status, disability and employment status will not automatically exclude you from adopting a child. What matters most is your ability to provide a permanent, caring and stable home, to meet the needs of a child from the care system. All children looking for adoptive parents will have gone through a number of changes in their lives and some will have experienced abuse and/or neglect and their resulting behaviour may be challenging.
You can contact more than one agency about adoption – and request information packs or details of their next information session on the adoption process. Once you have picked an agency you feel comfortable with the home study process begins. A social worker will visit you in your home asking detailed questions about your family background, relationships, childhood and current circumstances as well as interviewing anyone else that lives with you. The aim of this is for the social worker to get to know you, gauge your potential and for you to consider issues relating to parenting an adopted child.
You will also undergo a health check up, an examination of your medical history and police check. References are also collected from people that know you well and previous partners may also be contacted, particularly if there are any children from that relationship.
All this information is put together in a Prospective Adopters Report before a panel decide whether you can be approved as an adopter. Once approved, the wait begins for a suitable child who needs a family. Sometimes this will be a child in the care of your local authority, sometimes from another local authority.
Once a suitable child is found, the agency will meet with you to discuss the placement and assess your needs for an Adoption Placement Report. You can also make your comments on this report which then goes to an adoption panel which makes a recommendation on whether the match should go ahead. The child’s agency (often different to the adopters’ agency) makes the final decision, within seven working days of the panel’s recommendation.
If successful, the agency then holds a placement planning meeting to produce the Adoption Placement Plan detailing introductions, contact and adoption support.
Once this is all in place, the introductions can begin, when you get to meet your new child for the first time, usually in the presence of the child’s foster carer. A series of meetings takes place giving you and the child the chance to get to know each other.
After the introductions, the child moves into your home. Once the child has been in placement for at least ten weeks, you can apply for an adoption order giving you full parental responsibility. The child is now a full member of their new family, and can take the family’s surname.
Adoption UK is a national charity that supports adoptive families before, during and after the adoption process. It provides access to a range of services including a national Helpline, local support groups, an active online forum, a Family Support Service, training courses and a lending library.
With the majority of children adopted from the care system coming from an abusive or neglectful background, it is unsurprising that many struggle to overcome the consequences of this difficult start to life.
Adopting a child can be one of the most demanding, yet rewarding life choices you can make. One Adoption UK member describes the process of adopting her 16-month-old daughter as “a very challenging, but wonderful time. Your child is your child from the moment you know about them, whether they are a birth child or an adopted child.”
Adoption UK believes that when properly supported adoption can offer a fantastic opportunity for children from the UK care system, providing children with a permanent, stable family that many of them might not have if they remain in the care system.
If you would like further information on the adoption process, visit Adoption UK’s website: www.adoptionuk.org or call our helpline 0844 848 7900.
*Names have been changed