Starting your family through adoption is not a decision to take lightly, so congratulations on taking your first step in the adoption process by seeking information!
If adoption is right for you, then begin your journey here by seeking the basics of the process. Also, it is a great idea to learn about the children that are looking for parents like you as this should help you on your journey.
Who can adopt?
For more information, see our advice note: Adoption – Some questions answered.
How do people apply to adopt?
They will need to go through an adoption agency. Some agencies are voluntary organisations (see the website of Consortium of Voluntary Adoption Agencies). Most are part of the local authority children’s services (in England and Wales) or social work (in Scotland) department. You can find an agency near you in the agency directory or find your local authority or voluntary adoption agency’s contact details in your phone book. People are not limited to their own immediate locality but most agencies work roughly within a 50 mile radius of their office. Although it is only possible to follow through an application with one agency, several can be contacted at this early stage.
How do people get approved to adopt?
It usually takes at least six months for social workers from an adoption agency to get to know prospective adopters, assess them and help prepare them for the task ahead.
Confidential enquiries will be made of the local social services or social work department and the police.
Applicants will be examined by their GP and will be asked to provide personal references from at least two friends.
The agency’s independent adoption panel will consider a report on the application and recommend whether or not applicants should be approved as adopters who will be given the opportunity to meet the panel.
You can read more about assessment and adoption panels in past issues of Be My Parent News & Features.
What if you don’t get approved to adopt?
In England and Wales, if an agency is planning not to approve the prospective adopters, the applicants can make representations to the agency asking them to review their determination. In England, as an alternative, applicants can request that an independent body (Independent Review Mechanism) undertake this review and make a recommendation to the agency. In Wales there is the IRM Wales.
In Scotland prospective adopters can also ask for a review – and a number of the agencies have established robust procedures for doing this. For advice on this please contact BAAF’s Scottish office.
How are approved adopters matched with a child?
After prospective adopters are approved, their agency will try and match them with a child. They can also enquire about children being profiled in Be My Parent and other family-finding publications, like Adoption Today and The Scottish Resource Network newspaper or in local media.
In England and Wales, agencies also refer prospective adopters to the Adoption Register for England and Wales which links waiting children with waiting approved adopters.
The proposed match will be presented to an adoption panel who will recommend whether to proceed with the placement.
Read about experiences of finding a child in past issues of Be My Parent News & Features.
What happens when the child moves in?
The child will move to live with their new parent/s after a planned period of introductions, which lasts a few weeks or a month or two, depending on the child’s needs.
Social workers will remain involved to support the new family and the child at least until an adoption order is made.
Be My Parent News & Features has articles on settling in and on therapy, counselling and support.
How is adoption made legal?
There are certain minimum periods for which the child must live with the adopters before an adoption order can be made, or, in England and Wales, before an application can be made to the court. The precise details vary very slightly depending
on the country concerned and the circumstances in which the child came to live with the adopters.
A birth mother cannot give consent to adoption until her child is at least six weeks old. Where birth parents do not agree, there is a process for the agreement to be independently witnessed. The detailed process varies according to the legislation of the particular country in the UK.
If birth parents do not agree to adoption, there are circumstances in which the court can override their wishes. Again the detailed process will depend on which country is involved. In many cases the question of consent will be considered by the court before the child is placed for adoption. A children’s guardian (England and Wales) or a curator ad litem (Scotland) or a Guardian ad litem (Northern Ireland) will be appointed by the court to investigate and give advice to the court on the child’s best interests. In some circumstances, it will be necessary for the question of consent to be considered when the adopters actually apply for the final adoption order.
For more information see our advice note Adoption – some questions answered.
Should children be told that they are adopted?
Yes. Children should be raised knowing they were adopted. Adoptive parents should give appropriate information to the child from the time the child is little and as they grow up.
Do birth parents and other relatives have any contact with their child after adoption?
It is common for there to be an exchange of written information, perhaps once or twice a year, via the adoption agency.
There will be unique arrangements for each individual child which may mean direct contact for some children with various members of their birth family, including grandparents and brothers and sisters who may be placed elsewhere. Sometimes there will also be contact with birth parents – if this is best for the child.
For more information and real life stories, see a list of articles about contact with birth relatives from Be My Parent News and Features.
Do adopted children want to trace their birth parents?
Most adopted children are curious about their origins, but this doesn’t mean that they don’t love their adoptive parents.
Since 1975 adopted people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have had the right to see their original birth certificate when they reach the age of 18 (in Scotland the age is 16 and this right has existed since legal adoption was first introduced).
Some people are satisfied with the fuller knowledge and understanding gained in this way, while others want to try to trace their birth parents or other family members.
What about adopting from abroad?
Often people hear about the distress of children in other countries and want to offer to adopt one of them. But children’s best interests are not necessarily served by being adopted away from their own countries, their culture and their extended family.
BAAF’s Advice Note on Intercountry Adoption, covers the procedures, legal requirements and where to obtain further information.
The Intercountry Adoption Centre can also offer help and advice. Their number is 0870 5168742.
What about adoption by step-parents?
Sometimes step-parents want to adopt the children from the previous relationship of their new partner. If this happens, the child’s legal links with their absent birth parent and wider family will be broken. Alternative ways of settling the child’s situation may be better for some children – see BAAF’s Advice Notes, on Step children and Adoption in England and Wales and Step children and Adoption in Scotland.
My child has been or is going to be adopted. Where can I get help?
The Family Rights Group provides advice and support for families whose children are involved with social services.
The Natural Parents Network is a national contact and support organisation for birth parents living with the memories and feelings surrounding the adoption of their child. www.n-p-n.fsnet.co.uk/ Call 0161 287 8737.
You also might like to order If your child is being adopted and Pregnant and thinking about adoption? from BAAF’s Advice Notes series. Both of these are largely targetted at families who consent to the adoption. If you don’t consent to the adoption, you should get legal advice as soon as possible.
I am an adoptive parent. Can you advise me where to get support?
Adoption UK was founded by adoptive parents to offer support, information, advice and encouragement to prospective and established adopters.
Call 0870 7700 450 11am to 4pm (answerphone at other times) or visit www.adoptionuk.com for more information.
You can read about therapy, counselling and support in past issues of Be My Parent News & Features.
CASA is another option. It is a group of independent Adoption Support Agencies (ASAs) who are registered under the Adoption and Children Act 2002. They provide support services to all parties affected by adoption or long-term fostering throughout the UK. Click here to go to CASA website
Free information pack
You may find it useful to download a free information pack from the Be My Parent website . The pack contains will contain contact details for agencies in your area, and tells you more about our Be My Parent newspaper which has articles and stories that might help and lists children waiting for adoption.
Our advice note Adoption – Some questions answered contains more information on all the above areas, plus information about:
If you are interested in adopting a child from another country you may wish to buy our intercountry adoption advice note.
Our book Adopting A Child also has this information in more detail, plus much more
Also see Resources for adopters and fosterers
If you need further help and advice, please call BAAF advice lines.
Source: BAAF (British Association for Adoption and Fostering)
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