Here you can find our most frequently asked questions about adoption, broken up into the following categories; General, Children Waiting, Qualities Needed to Adopt, Health Issues, The Adoption Process.
Children who, for whatever reason, cannot live with their birth parents/family need the security, permanency and love of a new family. Adoption is the best way of doing this as full legal Parental Responsibility transfers over to adoptive parents and away from the birth parents at the point of a court given Adoption Order, and cannot be revoked.
FFC is a specialist adoption agency with a highly experienced staff team who have many years in recruiting and assessing adoptive parents and placing children. FFC is independent of the Local Authorities and Regional Adoption Agencies, but offer the same service in terms of your application and assessment, plus we are able to place children from all over the UK from the outset and are not bound by area restrictions.
We have expert knowledge in adoption and have developed a unique support service called Atrium, which provides a wide range of support from coffee mornings to more in-depth assessment of need and therapeutic intervention. Our Atrium workers are additionally trained in a variety of therapeutic interventions and will work alongside you to find the right support at the right time.
When a child needs to be placed outside of their birth family, the chances are they will initially go into foster care. Foster Carers provide a family home for a child whilst decisions are made about the child’s long term future, and the expectation is that, where possible, work will be done with the birth family to enable the child to return home. However if it is not deemed appropriate that the child goes back to their birth family, decisions will be made about the future placement of that child, and what official court order that would come under.
These orders include (i) Care Orders (which means the Parental Responsibility stays with the Local Authority) and the child will stay living with Foster Carers who work either for the Local Authority or a private fostering agency, and the child will have a Social Worker, and independent reviews until they leave care at 18; (ii) Special Guardianship Orders (where Parental Responsibility is shared between the Special Guardian(s) and birth parents) where either a birth family member, friend of the family or Foster Carer can apply to have permanent responsibility for the child, thus removing them from the Care system; or (iii) Adoption Order – where the child is placed with a totally new family of trained adopters and Parental Responsibility is removed from the birth parents and passed to the adopters permanently. The child is no longer then within the care system and his/her adoptive family have full legal rights and responsibilities for them.
Therefore Foster Carers have responsibility for a child whilst they remain in the legal care of the Local Authority.
Anyone over the age of 21 can be considered as an adopter, regardless of marital status, disability, gender, religion, sexual orientation, income or whether you have parenting experience or not.
There is no such thing as an ‘ideal’ adoptive family and when we are looking for families we are interested in what you can offer a child and how you can best fulfill their individual needs.
We are looking for families from a wide variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds who can offer a permanent loving home and a secure environment to a child.
No you cannot apply unless you or your partner are a UK resident. Your permanent home must be in the UK at the time of assessment.
Yes. We normally recommend that there is at least a two year gap between the age of your youngest child and the child you adopt. The adopted child needs to be the youngest in the family – within a family dynamic it does not work for all concerned to try and place a child as the oldest, or in between existing siblings.
There is no upper age limit when determining who can adopt. However the assessment will take into account your physical ability to look after a child and the child’s needs. In turn this may have a bearing on the age of the child you will have to consider.
Yes you do not have to be in a relationship to apply to adopt. Families for Children has a good network of single adopters both women and men.
There can be any number of reasons that an adoption agency will not accept a Registration of Interest, or that during Stage 1 they decide not to move you onto Stage 2. For this reason we would need to discuss with you the particular circumstances in your case. To reassure you, it doesn’t automatically exclude you from applying to us – but in some circumstances we may need to discuss with the original agency about their reasons for not accepting you. However, we are independent of the Local Authorities and Regional Adoption Agencies, and make our decisions based on our own criteria and assessment.
It is entirely down to you! There will be a monthly newsletter advising of all activities and events and news from FFC plus of course our website holds all the new information as it comes in. So keeping in touch can be as simple as receiving our regular newsletter. We believe that adoptive families function best when they are part of a wide network of support – it helps to have people around you who understand your experiences. Adopted children who may struggle at points with their personal identify benefit from knowing that they are not the only children in the world who are adopted, and for this reason we try to arrange regular support groups and activities with other adoptive families for you to link into if you wish. We also understand that at various points in your child’s life (such as transition points in school, or reaching puberty) there may be additional stresses and strains on you all when you may value input from professionals who know adoption, and know what can help. Some children will have been more effected by their early traumatic experiences and need a higher level of therapeutic parenting or input over the years, and FFC through its ATRIUM service is able to offer a wide range of interventions which we can help you access as and when you need them.
Children who need adopting FAQs
In days gone past, there was a social stigma around children being born to unmarried mothers and so many children were relinquished for adoption because of this. Nowadays, it is rare for babies to be relinquished, and over 90% of children needing adoptive families are those who have been removed from their birth families through a Court Order. These Court Orders are granted following a wide investigation into the care of the child by their family, and work will have been done to identify whether there were any members of the extended family network who might have been able to care for the child appropriately. The children who need adopting are those who are at risk of “significant harm” and this will be down to lack of care (neglect), or abuse experienced in their family home. Normally the children are removed from these families and placed in foster care whilst the investigation is undertaken and subsequent court hearings are heard.
Due to the emotional (and sometimes physical) trauma these experiences will create, the children needing adoptive families often require additional help and support. They may have been in an abusive situation, but the loss of the familiar, including birth mother, has a big effect on them emotionally. They will also possibly experience multiple moves to different family members or foster families. Each one of these moves is an additional trauma and loss. By the time they come to live with their permanent new family, it can be difficult on an emotional level for them to accept that they are now going to belong in one place, believing deep down inside they are likely to move on again. They may also feel that these events are “their fault” so may not feel that they “deserve” a new happier, safer family.
Helping them unpick this emotional turmoil takes time and commitment, and needs adoptive parents to think slightly differently about parenting. It isn’t really like parenting your own birth child – it requires more proactive, conscious thinking about where the child is coming from and what their experiences may mean to them. It requires what we have dubbed “therapeutic” parenting – which sounds complicated but really means understanding behaviour from the child’s perspective and reacting in a way that re-wires the emotional and neurological pathways into a position of trust and attachment. All of this is discussed in much more depth in the adopter preparation training and other workshops. When you have a child placed with you, you will have the chance to obtain funding for a Therapeutic Parenting course too.
The numbers of children requiring adoptive families fluctuate over the years, but there is always a need for adopters who will consider older children (by that we mean children over the age of 4), sibling groups, or children with additional/special health or developmental needs. These three groups of children are called “priority” children – the numbers of children under the age of 2 go up and down – but there is ALWAYS a need for adopters for these children. Interestingly there is also a high number of boys needing adoptive families at any given time.
All over the UK Local Authorities are looking for adopters for children needing a permanent new family. The vast majority of these children will be in foster care whilst the search is on. At Families for Children we are not restricted to looking for children in certain areas and can search broadly UK wide to find the right children for you.
The short answer to this is “it depends”! Contact plans are put together in the best interest of the child and should reflect their needs in terms of who they would benefit from having contact with and how often. For the vast majority of children there will only be an annual newsletter exchange between you as parents and the birth family member. You will get support to pull together your newsletter, and also on how to feed back any information to the child from their birth family.
For other children they may really need to have direct contact with birth family, this is not often the birth parents themselves, but more likely to be siblings or grandparents. All of these potential plans will be determined prior to placement so you will know from the outset what the expectation will be, and of course as children grow and change, their contact needs may also change, in either direction, so you as adoptive parents will need to offer a flexible approach over time.
This is an inevitability – and one you must be prepared for from the outset. Depending on your child’s age at placement this question may come up sooner rather than later – but come up it will. You will not be able to ignore the fact that your child had a family of origin and nor should you because ultimately it is an important part of their individual history – not a taboo subject. You as their parent will be the main source of information for them about their birth family, and children should never remember a time when they were told that they were adopted – it should be a natural part of their thinking as they grow up within their new family.
You as parents need to comfortable with the narrative that you tell them about their history, and this can feel a bit tricky at best, and overwhelming in some circumstances, depending on what happened within that family. Some stories are very difficult to tell, and children will need over time to be drip fed the bits of information they can digest depending on their age and developmental understanding. DON’T WORRY!! You will be given support on this, and the Local Authority from where the child is being placed should give you a child friendly Life Story Book containing information and photographs of the birth family and foster family explaining to the child how they have come to be part of your family. This is a book that you will read with them and share information. There should also be a Later Life Letter written by the Social Workers responsible for the decision making about removing and placing the children, which should outline (pitched at a mid-teen age) the process and thinking in more detail. Your Families for Children Social Worker will chase relevant Local Authority personnel to ensure this information is given to you in a timely fashion, as it is a vital part of your child understanding their identity and background.
The number of babies available for adoption fluctuate, however there are always fewer babies than children who come under the “priority” category. Many Local Authorities and Regional Adoption Agencies across the UK prefer to place their very young babies (under 2) under what are called Fostering to Adopt regulations (also called F2A, Fostering For Adoption or Early Permanence). Fostering to Adopt means that a child who is in Care Proceedings moves to live with F2A Carers (approved adopters) before the final Court Order is given. These carers are signed up as temporary foster carers for that Local Authorities for that child, and they operate as foster carers for the duration of the care proceedings (including taking the child for contact, reviews etc). At the final Court Hearing the Judge may decide to issue a Care Order, in which case the child remains with the F2A carers and goes on to be adopted by them, OR may decide to return the child to birth family. F2A carers have to go in to this arrangement understanding that the latter IS a possibility…it’s rare but it is possible….and that the outcome for the baby has to be felt to be positive if they are returned to their birth family. Because it requires a particular approach, if you are interested in Fostering to Adopt our Families for Children Social Workers will guide and support you through the thinking and process, and you may need to undertake some additional workbook tasks to really work it through to be sure that this is right for you. It sounds daunting, but babies are not considered for this type of placement unless placing social workers are over 70% sure that they will not return back to birth family.
During your assessment your Social Worker will discuss with you the number, and age of children that feels right for you. As well as single children, there are many groups of 2, 3 and 4 children who need to stay together if possible and the feasibility of you taking a sibling group in one go will be fully discussed between you and your assessing Social Worker. Some adopters prefer to adopt a group all at once, and others prefer to adopt one child at a time.
After a successful adoption many of our families will go on to adopt again.
Qualities needed to adopt FAQs
Communication is the key…there will undoubtedly be times when things feel a bit overwhelming, it happens to all parents. When you are parenting a child who has had a traumatic start to their lives, it may sometimes feel like pushing water uphill or wading through mud. The important thing will be to talk to someone…talk to us. We have a Duty Social Worker available on the phone or email every weekday, and we can link you into our ATRIUM Adoption Support Services as soon as you need. We have a variety of services available from Peer Link Volunteer Mentors, Family Support Workers through to Therapeutically trained Social Workers and a range of therapeutic professionals. Don’t let things grow into something unmanageable – talk to us as soon as you are feeling concerned and we will do our best to help.
As part of the process you will be subject to a variety of checks and references, including medical, and DBS. In terms of medical information, there are no blanket “no’s” as every medical condition is considered in the context of adoption. However – to put it bluntly - we need to know that you are fit enough, and healthy enough to see a child through to adulthood. Recent health issues (such as cancer treatment or similar) will be discussed with our agency Medical Advisor who may ask your permission to discuss further with your GP or Specialist before agreeing to you moving forward. In some circumstances you may just be asked to wait a while before proceeding. Either way, these will be discussed fully with you.
In terms of your DBS criminal records check, the obvious ban would be a history of specific offences such as child abuse or serious fraud. Other than this, all DBS recorded history will be looked at in context of the time it happened, how recently and how frequently. We accept that people make mistakes in life – it’s all about context.
Basically anyone over 21 can be considered.
At the point of applying to be an adopter you will need to complete a financial record – just to evidence that you are able to afford a reasonable lifestyle and that you do not have unreasonable amounts of debt. You will need to consider in the context of your job (if you are employed) issues such as adoption/paternity leave, and what happens if after placement your child needs one of you to NOT return to work full time…can you afford this and is your employer flexible on this? All of this can be discussed with your assessing Social Worker, who will at an agreed time ask for an employer reference (we do this when you are ready as we appreciate you may not wish your employer to know from the outset that you are considering adoption).
This is something you will need to discuss with your partner (if adopting as a couple) and/or your employer. You will need to know what adoption/paternity leave you are entitled to, and what you can afford to take. The child placed is likely to take a fair while to settle in, and it is not good early in that relationship- development phase with you that this is disrupted by sending them to day care or nursery, or even school, too soon.
You are entitled to the same benefits as if the child was your birth child. In exceptional circumstances Local Authorities can provide an adoption allowance but these are very limited.
No. Families for Children has its’ roots as a Christian Organisation, and although maintaining a broad Christian ethos (in terms of the importance of love, family life, and acceptance of individuals) we fully welcome enquiries from people across all faiths, and none. This is also reflected in our staff team who come from a range of belief systems.
There are things we know about parents of children with disabilities - that they are resourceful, resilient, practical and great advocates for their children – all of these make great qualities as adopters! The needs of adopted children can be complex, maybe in a different way to your own child’s needs, and an assessment will be made with you on how this will impact on all parties concerned and the type of adopted child you may want to consider. If you were considering adopting a child WITH disabilities, again you will need to look at the impact for you all, but there is a desperate need for adopters for children with additional needs – so if it something you are interested in please do call us for a discussion.
Yes absolutely. Being a parent has given you a great insight and experience of what it is like to care for children 24/7 so you bring a lot to the process. However adopting a child IS different, and the parenting required of that child may be different to what you have already done with your own children. You will also need to consider the impact of a child coming into an established family, who may have experienced emotional trauma and who may take up a lot of time (certainly initially) whilst some of those difficulties are worked through. We always recommend that the adopted child needs to be the youngest in the family by at least two years, if not more, we never place children in between or above children already in the family – it creates havoc with the family dynamic! Your Families for Children Social Worker will assess all of this with you in terms of the potential impact on your children, and work will be done direct with your children already in the home during the assessment part of the process.
Many people come to adoption having discovered that they are not able to have birth children, and this can have already been a difficult process for them. We know that undertaking fertility treatment can be stressful and difficult and there are not always the support services around it to help you process the emotional side of the interventions. We would suggest that you need some time post your last IVF treatment to fully understand your emotional response to what has happened as well as some physical recovery time. Counselling can be helpful, talking to others likewise. If you are adopting as a couple you BOTH probably need some “grieving” time. Having said that, we at Families for Children are aware that the process is not the same for everyone, and that some people have already done a lot of this processing before maybe having a final IVF attempt, so perhaps do not need so much time afterwards. The best thing is to have a discussion about your particular set of circumstances with one of our Social Workers and we can look at the best time for you to start the adoption process with us. As a broad generalisation, it is often felt best that you give yourselves 6-12 months post your last treatment before starting the adoption process.
So to answer the question – yes of course you can be considered. We would expect that as prospective adopters even if you don’t have your own children, you will have gained some experience of children, either through family or friends, or by volunteering with local schools or Brownies etc. Particularly try and get experience of children of the age group you are considering adopting (don’t say you want a two year old if you have no idea what a two year old does!) and if possible through borrowing friends children, see what it is like having children in your house – you might not react too well to muddy handprints up your white wall or you might not care!
Families for Children have many same sex couples who have adopted through us. We welcome applications from same sex couples as well as single people from the LGBT community in general. We have good links with New Family Social, which is an organisaiton for supporting adopters in UK from the LGBT community, and if you wish we can always put you in touch with other same sex adoptive couples for advice and networking.
No you do not need to be a home owner, but you will need a stable household to bring a child into. If you are renting it is worth checking out with your landlord that they would be happy (if there aren’t already) for children to live at that address, and that any property is suitable for children to be there (no glaring health and safety issues with open stairways or accessible ponds in the garden!). You will need the child to have their own bedroom. Your living arrangements will be assessed as part of your application.
Your finances will be assessed as part of your application but there are no hard and fast rules and you don’t need to be rich. At the point of applying to be an adopter you will need to complete a financial record – just to evidence that you are able to afford a reasonable, normal lifestyle and that you do not have unreasonable or prohibitive amounts of debt. Given that you will need to take parental leave, or even maybe leave work altogether you will need to evidence how you could do this, and this may include support from family or savings.
As a starting point it is important that you tell us up front if you have a criminal conviction of any sort. We undertake an enhanced DBS check, and this will show up not just convictions, but also cautions or spent convictions over your whole history. Even if the previous offence feels like it’s nothing to do with adoption, or is a long time ago, let us know so that we don’t have a surprise when the DBS is processed.
The second thing to say is that if you have a criminal conviction that you haven’t told your partner about (if you are adopting as a couple) you might want to advise them up front – if something comes up on your history that would prevent you from proceeding, we would not be able to move forward, and not be able to tell your partner why due to confidentiality.
In terms of your DBS criminal records check itself, the obvious outright ban would be a history of specific offences such as child abuse or serious fraud. Other than this, all DBS recorded history will be looked at in context of the time it happened, how recently and how frequently. We accept that people make mistakes in life – it’s all about context.
Of course. You can withdraw your application at any point, including even once you have been approved. It is important that you do not proceed if you are not feeling this is right for you. For couples, if one of you is really feeling anxious or unwilling, it is important to raise this issues with the social worker so that they can be discussed fully. It is better to put a halt on proceedings if one party is significantly unsure about wanting to go ahead than continue hoping that things will get better. It is not unnatural however, for anyone going through the process to have doubts at some point – the trick is to talk them through to see if the doubts are temporary or terminal.
Health Issues FAQs
Many people experience occasional bouts of depression. Some of these may be linked to a traumatic experience such as bereavement or relationship breakdown, or stress at work, for others it may be a more regular occurrence not linked to anything specific. Whatever the reasons for your depression the key when it comes to adoption is around how it affects you, and how you have dealt with it, or continue to deal with it. Be upfront with the Social Worker and discuss what this has meant for you and if necessary the Social Worker can have an additional discussion with our Agency Medical Advisor to consider this in context of other factors in your life.
This is going to depend on the nature and significance of the disability, how it impacts on you, and what your own support network is like. Having a disability per se is not an excluding factor – you will be assessed according to your ability to parent a child and meet their needs like any other adopter. A full medical is part of the assessment process.
Due to the effects of passive smoking on babies and children, Local Authorities are wisely very cautious about placing children in a smoking household. Certainly no children under 5 years old, or with a history of respiratory problems would be placed with you. You need to have given up smoking for 12 months to be considered a non-smoker, and so we would be unlikely to consider assessing you for adoption until you had given up for at least 6 months prior to the start of the process.
Due to the lack of current research into the effects of electronic cigarettes/vaping - there are no clear indications as to the long term effects of vaping on children. However there are still high levels of concern about the role modelling of smoking and therefore consideration will be given to this in that context.
We know that undertaking fertility treatment can be stressful and difficult and there are not always the support services around it to help you process the emotional side of the interventions. We would suggest that you need some time post your last IVF treatment to fully understand your emotional response to what has happened as well as some physical recovery time. Counselling can be helpful, talking to others likewise. If you are adopting as a couple you BOTH probably need some “grieving” time. Having said that, we at Families for Children are aware that the process is not the same for everyone, and that some people have already done a lot of this processing before maybe having a final IVF attempt, so perhaps do not need so much time afterwards. The best thing is to have a discussion about your particular set of circumstances with one of our Social Workers and we can look at the best time for you to start the adoption process with us. As a broad generalisation, it is often felt best that you give yourselves 6-12 months post your last treatment before starting the adoption process.
Yes – you will be asked to have a medical assessment quite early on in the adoption process. This will be done by your own GP and they may charge for this. Your GP will then forward their reports onto us and we will pass these on to our medical advisors. They will be looking for any conditions that may affect your ability to look after a child and will make a recommendation. If you do have any concerns about health conditions which you think may have an effect on whether you can adopt which you would like to discuss please call us on 01364 645480.
Looking after children is a physically strenuous experience and our Medical Advisor is looking to see that physically you are robust enough to care for children including taking them out for exercise, or running after them if they are heading towards a busy road. Our Medical Advisor will be checking your BMI as part of the medical process and will make any recommendations necessary around seeking support to lose weight if this is felt to be relevant. Being overweight can bring a secondary wave of health concerns including potential for heart and breathing problems or sleeping difficulties, and these will be discussed with you depending on the particular issues you may have.
The Adoption Process FAQs
Sadly yes occasionally they do. This can be for any number of complex reasons from both the children’s side or the adopters. Due to the fact that Families for Children has such a highly experienced staff team all of whom have many years working in adoption, our disruption rate is much lower than the national average (which is 1 in 5). The key factors which often contribute to adoptions breaking down is around poor adopter assessment, lack of information on the children at the point of placement, rushed introductions and poor placement support – and at Families for Children we address all of these areas with professionalism and care throughout, and offer high level of expertise on all of these points. Our assessments are considered to be of a very high standard and are very much a process that is done with you rather than to you. This way you get the most out of the assessment process yourselves as adopters, and are aware of your strengths, any limitations and your own support needs from the outset. We fight hard to get the right information from the placing authorities about the children being placed, and negotiation on your behalf to ensure that introductions are done well and timely, not rushed or badly organised. Our post placement support through to longer term support is recognised as significant in maintaining families and keeping them together.
Towards the end of the Stage 2 assessment you and your assessing Social Worker will already be thinking about the type of family you are hoping to create. You will be considering single or siblings, additional needs or not, ages, gender and any number of specific conditions to rule in or out. Your assessing Social Worker will know you very well by this point and you will need some honest discussions about what you all consider will be the best match for you. Once you are approved by panel, there are various ways to search for your child. Your Social Worker and the Families for Children Placement Co-ordinator will work together to ensure that your profile is sent out to all Local Authorities and Regional Adoption Agencies in the immediate localities, and more broadly across the UK. Both your Social Worker and the Placement Co-ordinator have a lot of professional network links across the different regions and your profile will be put forward for any child that fits your agreed criteria. Your information will also be sent to the SWAC (South West Adoption Consortium) into their linking process, if you live in Dorset you can be added to Aspire Regional Adoption Agency matching matrix, and you can sign up to Adoption Link which is a web-based tool for looking at profiles of children yourselves. You can also sign up to Adoption UK and have sight of their website and magazine.
You will also be invited to what are called Exchange Events – usually run by SWAC – where you have the chance to view profiles of children needing adopting from across the South West and meet with their Social Workers and sometimes their foster carers too. Additionally many of the Regional Adoption Agencies run Activity Days to which you will be invited where you will have the opportunity to see and play with children who are attending the day with their foster carers.
The Families for Children Adoption panel is a body of people (consisting of professionals, adoptees, and adopters) whose role it is to scrutinise your application and the report written by the Social Worker and who make a recommendation to the Agency Decision Maker whether to approve you as adopters. You are invited to the panel.
When you are matched with a child there will be a Local Authority Matching Panel who will consider the match and make a recommendation as to whether you can proceed the match with that child.
In Stage 1 of the process you will need to attend a mandatory training programme which is three days. This Preparation Course covers a wide variety of material around child abuse, grief and loss, attachment theory, PACE parenting, developmental trauma and lifestory work. You are also expected to undertake some self-learning and will get guided tasks/workbooks to help you do this. In Stage 2 you will apply all this learning to your own assessment and understanding, and there are opportunities to attend additional workshops from this point on. You need to read as much as you can, reflect on everything you learn and discuss with your social worker any points of learning you feel you need. There is a further mandatory training day in stage 2.
Yes – very early on in the assessment process you will be asked for a number of references from people that know you. We will write to them and visit them to help us get to know you better. We may also contact members of your wider family as well.
You will also be subject to an enhanced DBS (formally CRB) check which is a legal requirement.