Adoption and Fostering
Adoption or fostering is not something anyone should enter into lightly. But many people in the UK may, unknowingly, have a lot to offer the thousands of children currently in the care system.
Social services departments across Britain are especially desperate for more adopters and foster carers for groups of brothers and sisters, youngsters with special needs and older children, particularly those from ethnic minorities for whom there is an acute shortage.
Many local authorities now offer improved allowances and support to make it easier for people to provide a permanent and secure home for these vulnerable children.
And it is not just the "perfect couple" they are after.
Single people may also have a lot of offer. For some children, because of their past experiences, it is actually preferable that they are placed with a single foster carer or adopter.
Age is much less important than it used to be and you can even, in some cases, adopt if you have a criminal conviction - though not if it involves children or violence.
What is most important is the ability to love and to have the time and energy to put a child's needs first within a stable home environment.
If you are thinking about adoption or fostering. Do plenty of research - read about other people's experiences - to find out if this could be the right step for you.
Adoption and fostering may not be the easiest path in life, but for some people it can be the most rewarding.
Adopting in England and Wales
Who can Adopt in England and Wales?
Single people and married couples can currently adopt in England and Wales. Adoptive parents in England and Wales mustbe over 21 years of age. There is no upper age limit but the placing organisation must be confident that anyone adopting a child will have the energy required and be in good enough health to offer a stable home.
You do not need to be 'wealthy' or a homeownerin order to adopt in England or Wales but when you apply you will need to give details of your income and prove that you could afford to support a child. Depending on circumstances and the needs of the child or children, you may be able to receive financial support from the local council. You can apply for means tested benefits and tax credits just like any other family.
If you have a criminal record you must disclose this when applying. It will not automatically disqualify you from adopting but the law will not permit anyone to adopt or foster if they, or a member of their household, has been convicted or cautioned for offences against a child.
Due to the effects of passive smokingon babies and children, some adoption agencies will express caution over placing a young child within a smoking household, particularly a child with a history of heart or respiratory problems. Smokers are not automatically discounted from adopting, however an adoption agency will consider the possible effects and discuss the associative issues with prospective adopters.
Initial interview applicants are asked some fundamental questions and learn key facts about the adoption process. This is an exploration about the issues of adoption and an opportunity for the prospective adopters to ask questions.
You must then fill in an application formwhich puts many of the issues into writing, asks for references and, most crucially, authorises statutory checks. These checks are with GPs, the police, local authorities and the Department of Health.
Prospective parents must agree to a health check-up, an examination of their medical history and a police check. Local authorities are called on to uncover any problems they might have had with previous children.
At least two, sometimes three referees must be provided. These can be friends of the applicants, who are interviewed face-to-face by the adoption agency and are also invited to prepare a written reference.
Prospective adopters are invited to attend familiarisation group workshopsto learn about parenting and the additional problems associated with bringing up an adopted child. They will also have the opportunity to meet people who have been through the process, to learn of their experiences. If their application is accepted, prospective adopters can expect a social worker to make about six home visits, in order to complete the Home Study.
Everything learned so far is pulled together in an assessment report known as a "Form F". The prospective adopter can read it, correct factual inaccuracies and register comments. The home study report goes to the agency to be accepted or rejected.
An adoption panel, of 6 -10 members’ typically comprising social workers, the agency medical adviser and management representative, and also at least three independent members who might be professionals or people with direct experience of adoption. Their recommendation to accept or reject is then passed to the agency decision maker for ratification. There is an appeal process for rejected applicants.
As soon as the adopters are approved, the agency will try to find a suitable match with a child or children. It may also be possible to respond to a child featured in Adoption UK’s publication Children Who Wait. Any match must initially be agreed by the adoption panel.
The introduction period can vary from a week to a month, depending on the age and needs of the child. An introduction programme is decided upon at a planning meeting.
A child will move in with their new parents and receive regular visits from a social worker. Three months after placement, an adoption order can be applied for, but during the review process, everyone involved will discuss the right time to make this application to the court. The adopters will then become the child's legal parents.
Agencies should continue to offer supportafteradoptionthrough their support structure. Adoption UK also has a range of support services to offer members like an online community of 3,000 people willing to help, and the Insight section full of real life experiences.
For more information:
www.adoptionuk.org– Adoption UK’s online community provides a safe, supportive, friendly environment, accessible 24 hours a day.
Also for information about adoption and foster care see www.adoption-net.co.uk