When a child or children cannot be brought up by their own parents, they are taken into care and put on the adoption register. Adoption means that all parental responsibility is taken away from the parents and passed on to the adopters.
People adopt for many reasons either because they can’t have their own children or they want to adopt a child or children, rather than having their own, or as well as having their own.
If you want to adopt a child in the UK, there are, according to the British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF), over 6,000 children waiting to be adopted. They are from all ethnic and religious backgrounds. Some may have physical disabilities and some may have challenging behaviour due to the abuse and neglect they have suffered in the past.
Many of the children have siblings and wish to be placed together. Most are of school age.
Who can adopt a child in the UK?
Although you have to be 21 to adopt, there is no upper age limit. Some agencies prefer there to be an age gap of no more than 40 years between the child and the adopter. However this is flexible. You don’t need to be married either. You can be a single person or living with your partner and you can adopt separately or together. This also applies if you are in a lesbian or gay relationship.
You don’t need to be British citizens, but you do need to have lived in the UK for at least a year and have a permanent home.
What is the adoption agency looking for?
They are looking for couples or single parents who can give a child a secure and happy upbringing. The needs of the child always come first. You don’t need to own your home or have a good job to adopt. Agencies also welcome people who live in rented accommodation and are on benefits, as long as they can make loving stable parents.
A child’s ethic background is taken into consideration as the adoption agencies prefer to place a child with someone who reflects their own culture. But, this is not a barrier to adopting a child from a different culture to your own, as long as you can meet the child’s identity needs.
What checks will be made?
Firstly the agency will check to see if you have a criminal record, offences against children will obviously rule out a person from adoption. If, you have a record for something minor, this might not go against you, it depends on the offence and when it was committed.
Health checks are also important. You need to be healthy enough to bring up an adopted child. This is normally done by your GP. Disabled people are welcome to adopt and a disability isn’t a negative point.
References will be required from personal referees. They will need to talk about you directly to the social worker handling your case.
Other checks will be done which include the local authority and your employer.
What is the Process?
- You contact an adoption agency and they will send you information.
- The agency will ask to meet you
- The agency will then give you an application form
- You will then be invited to preparation classes
- The adoption agency will carry out the necessary checks and interview your referees
- The social worker will visit you at home on a number of occasions
- An assessment report will be written and sent to an independent adoption panel
- The adoption panel will say yes or no to your application – if they say yes, you can begin the process of looking for a child. If they say no you can challenge their decision, or start the whole process again with another adoption agency.
The whole process should take between 6 to 8 months, but sometimes it will take considerably longer. Have a look at this article from the Daily Telegraph. To find an adoption agency near you, ask at your local library or put in your postcode on the Adoption UK site.