Adoption provides a child with a new family and a new, permanent home when living with their biological family is not a possibility.
There are a number of different reasons for why a child may not be able to live with their biological family. Sadly, the majority of children are taken into care due to abuse or neglect. The statistics for UK adoption during 2014 show that 72 percent of children were placed for adoption due to abuse or neglect, 15 percent due to family dysfunction, and 5 percent because the birth family was in ‘acute stress’.
Many of the children placed into care are older children, sibling groups and children with disabilities, and the majority of children who are adopted are of White origin. However, children of all ages and all origins are in need of adoption.
In the year 2002, adoption became a possibility for gay and lesbian couples.
Adoption is now a possibility for anyone over 21 years of age, regardless of their marital status, religion, race, disability, gender, sexual orientation, whether they are in or out of work or whether they are already a parent or not, as long as they can provide a child/children with a stable and loving home. Being able to provide a child with a stable home until they reach adulthood and beyond is essential.
Same-sex couples can apply to adopt through a local authority or through an adoption agency. Applications can be made within any local authority, not just the one you live in.
Couples who are considering adoption must be aware that the adoption process can be lengthy and demanding. Couples must also take into consideration that many of the children waiting to be adopted in the UK may have had traumatic backgrounds and often have behavioural problems as a result. Therefore, couples must be confident that this would be something they could manage before considering adoption.
The Adoption Process
Firstly, you will need to explore adoption and find out as much information as possible about adoption and what it involves before starting the adoption process. This includes reading through the vast amount of information that is available out there, finding out if you are eligible, talking to experienced adopters, reading about real adoption experiences, attending information sessions, choosing and contacting an adoption agency or your local authority and asking any questions you may have.
After you have thoroughly explored adoption, you will need to register your interest to become an adoptive parent with your chosen adoption agency or local authority and undergo your initial checks. You will also need to attend a one day training course and provide your agency/local authority with some written information including factual information e.g. names and D.O.B’s, basic information e.g. income and occupation, you will be asked to give the names of three referees which the agency can contact (two of which cannot be related to you) and you will also be asked to give information regarding children you are open to adopting. This is known as stage one and should take no longer than two months.
Stage two involves an assessment, training and approval. This stage should take no longer than four months. During this stage, the social worker that has been allocated to you will make visits to you at home. This is so that your social worker can get to know you and your family personally and get an insight into whether you would make a suitable adoptive parent/parents. Further training will also be required during this stage. The social worker will gather all of the information together into a Prospective Adopters Report when the assessment is complete, which will then be taken to the Adoption Panel. You will have the opportunity to view and comment on the report before you attend the panel with your social worker.
The Adoption Panel will consider all of the evidence presented to them in the report and make a recommendation back to the agency whether to approve you to adopt. The agency decision maker will decide whether to formally approve you as adoptive parent/parents within a week of the Adoption Panel’s recommendation. You will be able to attend the Panel and contribute to the discussion if you wish to do so.
You will become a prospective adopter once you are approved and the search for matching you with the right child/children will begin.
During this process, you will be ensured that you have all available information about the child(ren) you wish to adopt. You will attend the Local Authority Matching Panel for the match to be approved.
Once the right child has been found and the match has been approved, an Adoption Placement Plan is put in place. This involves managed introductory meetings where you will get to know the child(ren) and the child(ren) will get to know you - their potential new parent/parents. This process often takes 10 days – 2 weeks. This leads to the child being placed with you and moving into their new, permanent home with you.
You will share parental responsibility with the Local Authority up until the Adoption Order is made. An Adoption Order is typically made within a few months once your child has settled with you.
Before your child moves in with you, you will meet with your social worker, the child’s social worker, the child’s foster parents, teachers and anyone else significantly involved in the child’s care to discuss the moving in process and to agree the details of your Adoption Placement Plan.
Your social worker will still support you during the processes of you and your child getting to know each other and when your child moves in with you and you become a family.
You will be eligible to take statutory adoption leave and pay (unless you are self-employed) once your child has moved in with you, and it is requested that adoptive parents spend a minimum of six months at home when their child is first placed with them (depending on the child’s age) in order to take time to get to know your child and spend some quality time together.
When the time feels right, you will apply to the court for an Adoption Order. However, you can only take up to ten weeks before you do this. Once you have done so and it is granted by the court, the child is legally adopted by you and you have full parental rights and responsibilities for the child and they are now able to take your surname and be an official member of your family.