Commonly asked questions about Adoption
Recently I have reviewed the information and enquiries I have been getting on my blog and I was interested to see that some of these questions around people looking to adopt and wanting to know more about the adoption process.
Many people speak about their uncertainties about adoption and what it really means. So I would like to take this opportunity to help answer some of the questions that I have been asked.
I am aware that the adoption process can seem daunting and at times I still have questions that I have to go and find the answer to. If I can help to make this clearer for a few people I definitely think it’s worth doing.
Questions I will be answering;
- What is adoption?
- How old can a child be adopted?
- How young can a child be adopted?
- How long can the adoption assessment take?
- Once I have been approved to adopt how long can matching take?
- How old do I have to be to adopt a child?
- Do I have to be a British Citizen to adopt in the UK?
- Can I adopt if I am not married/ single/ same sex couple or widowed?
- Can I adopt if I have a disability or health problems?
- Can I adopt if I have mental health issues?
- Can I adopt if I smoke?
- Can I adopt if I rent?
- Do I need to have a spare room to adopt?
- Can I adopt if I have pets?
- Can I adopt more than one child?
- Can I adopt if I have children?
- Can I adopt if I don’t have children?
- Can I adopt if I’m having IVF?
- Can I adopt a child of a different origin?
- Can I adopt if I have a criminal record?
- I work full time can I adopt?
- I don’t work can I adopt?
So let’s tackle some of these questions;
1. What is adoption?
Adoption occurs when it is not possible for a child to return to their birth parents or family’s care.
It provides children with an opportunity to have a new family who are able to meet their needs and safely care for them.
The child’s birth parents will no longer have legal responsibility for the child and this is transferred onto the adoptive parents.
This is a final legal order whereby the child will become a member of the adoptive family.
2. How old can a child be adopted?
Any child can be adopted as long as they are under the age 18 years old before the application is made to Court. If the individual has previously been married they cannot be adopted.
3. How young can a child be adopted?
As long as the Court has made a Care Order and the decisions has been made for the child to be adopted the Social Workers and adoption workers will be looking to match a baby/ child with adopters as soon as they can.
It is important to be aware that there can sometimes be a significant delay with the final order being made and timescales can vary.
In the UK there is now the Foster to Adopt scheme which helps to place the baby/ child with the possible permanent carers on a fostering basis so that the local authority can seek the Placement Order from the Court.
The aim is to offer further stability for the child and to try and prevent additional placements and moves.
4. How long can the adoption assessment take?
At the end of stage one the agency will determine whether or not you can progress to the next stage.
Stage two takes around 4 months. This would include; more visits from the social worker, further preparation classes and then finally your case would be heard at the adoption panel.
These timescales can vary between agencies and is also dependent on the Social Worker’s availability and when the case can be heard at panel for the final decision to be made.
5. Once I have been approved to adopt how long can matching take?
Once you have been approved as a potential adopter the matching process which helps to determine whether this placement would be suitable for you but also the child.
This is where the different timescale can vary from family to family. There are a number of things that can delay the final placement such as the final order being made by a Judge.
This is where the social worker will be looking for a child who is waiting to be adopted. For some this can happen quickly but for others it could take around 6-12 months and sometimes longer.
6. How old do I have to be to adopt a child?
Within the UK to adopt a child you need to be at least 21 years old. Currently there is no age limit set to prevent you from adopting. A health assessment would be completed and consideration would be given to your age (to prevent a child suffering additional loss). It is important that you are able to meet the needs of the child and the day to day parenting that they require. If you are an older adopter it would be likely that an older child would be recommended to you.
7. Do I have to be a British citizen to adopt in the UK?
No, you do not have to be a British citizen to adopt a child within the UK but you need to have lived in the Country for at least 1 year prior to any application being commenced. You will also need to have a permanent home to be considered as an Adopter.
8. Can I adopt if I am not married/ single/ same sex couple or widowed?
You can adopt if you plan to be a single parent or if you are in a long term, stable relationship.
If you are a same sex couple or widowed you can adopt and the same criteria applies to you.
9. Can I adopt if I have a disability or health problems?
Yes, you can adopt if you have a disability of health problems.
As part of the assessment process a medical will be completed on any prospective adoptive parent/s. They will be looking into whether your health will impact on your ability to appropriately parent a child.
Your GP may also be contacted and further clarification.
Having a disability does not mean that you cannot adopt a child. In some cases having an understanding and awareness of a disability is a positive attribute.
10. Can I adopt if I have mental health issues?
Yes, you can adopt if you have had mental health issues.
Again, clarification may be requested from your GP around how you currently are? and whether they had any concerns around your mental health impacting on a baby/child?
You can show that you have been able to resolve issues in the past and that you were able to manage and deal with the problems that you had and move on from that time.
You can also evidence that you are well, regularly taking your medication and always engaging with your health professionals and reviews.
11. Can I adopt if I smoke?
It is highly preferred if an adoptive parent does not smoke. You will not be excluded because of this but the agency will really encourage you to stop and will offer advice and guidance around this.
The agency will look into the associated health risks during their assessment. It is very unlikely that you would be matched with a child under the age of 5 due to the concerns around passive smoking.
If you want to adopt a child less than 5 years old you would be expected to stop smoking around 6 months before the assessment take place. However, it is known that this is not a legal requirement but some agencies do enforce this.
Yes, you can adopt if you rent. You will be asked to show proof that your landlord has given permission for you to care for a child in the address or you will be expected to state what you are planning for if you adopt.
You need to be able to offer a permanent home and stability for a baby/child.
13. Do I need to have a spare room to adopt?
Yes, it is usually an expectation for you to have a spare room in your home for a baby/child.
However, in some circumstances it may be appropriate for a child to share a room. This can be discussed with the Agency you have selected.
It is important to note that it is important for any child to have privacy and space that they require especially as they get older.
14. Can I adopt if I have pets?
Yes, you can adopt if you have pets.
An assessment will be completed on any pets that you have within the family. If the assessors have any concerns of queries around you pet they may request for an additional assessment to take place.
The will look into your relationship with your pet, experiences, behaviours, training and any risks it may pose to a vulnerable baby/child.
Yes, you can adopt more than one child. Sometimes, the Local Authorities try to place siblings together and this is referred to as sibling Adoption. You can discuss this with the Social Worker if this is something you want to do.
Alternatively, once you have adopted one child you may later be approached again and informed that your adopted child is going to have another birth sibling. If it is the view of the Local Authority that the likelihood that this child will also be adopted you may be approached and asked if you would be interested.
16. Can I adopt if I have children?
Yes, you can adopt if you have children.
It is often preferred that there is a minimum of 2 years between the age of your youngest child and the age of the child you want to adopt.
Assessments and discussions will be held with your other children and consideration will be taken as to how adopting a child will impact on your children.
17. Can I adopt if I don’t have children?
Yes, you can adopt if you don’t have children.
Assessments will help to determine your ability to manage and meet the needs of a baby or child.
18 Can I adopt if I’m having IVF?
It is an expectation that if you are looking at adopting a baby/ child that you have stopped any fertility treatment 6 months prior to your adoption application being made.
It is highly recommended that if you have had fertility issues and are looking at adopting that you seek counselling or support around this.
It is important to acknowledge that very few babies are relinquished at birth and therefore a very limited number are adopted at this early stage.
Typically, the higher percentage of children to be adopted within the UK is between 1-4 years old.
Yes, you can adopt a child of a different origin. It is really important that children grow up with a supportive family where they understand their ethnicity and this is recognised by those around them.
It is important that they are living within a multi ethnic and cultural environment and have opportunities to learn about their identity and are supported with any questions around this.
20. Can I adopt if I have a criminal record?
It is clear to say that if you or your partner has ever had a criminal caution or conviction for any offences against a child or some sexual offences against an adult then you will not be able to adopt a child.
If you have other offences on your criminal record this does not mean that you are not able to adopt. This will need to assessed and discussed as part of the application process so that all the relevant information is gained before a decision is made.
21. I work full time can I adopt?
Yes, you can adopt if you work full time.
It is important that you are able to evidence a safe place for the baby/child to stay whilst you are working.
22. I don’t work can I adopt?
Yes, you can adopt if you are not working.
During the assessment your financial circumstances will be discussed and explored. Adoptive parents can be on benefits and you have to evidence how the child will be cared for and how you plan to do this and meet their needs.
These are a few of many questions that people are asking around adoption and the adoption process. If you have any further questions around adoption or would like some support around the steps you should take please feel free to contact me.