Many people who have struggled to get pregnant decide to build a family through adoption.
This gives you the children you crave, and provides a loving, stable home for kids who really need it. Here’s a guide to what’s involved.
At a glance
- Anyone aged 21 or above can adopt
- Contact your local adoption agency first
- Many children adopted from care will have experienced trauma and loss, even if they were adopted shortly after birth
Can I adopt?
The good news is anyone aged 21 or above can adopt – single, married, in a civil partnership or living with a partner. You don’t have to own your own home and you don’t have to be in work - what matters the most is giving the child a loving, happy family.
What does adoption involve?
Children who are available for adoption are usually being looked after by a local authority. So you’ll need to apply to an adoption agency, who will need to approve you as suitable adoptive parents, match you with a child (or children) and support you through the whole adoption process.
Because it’s so important to get it right, adoption agencies do everything they can to make adoptions work. This means the process can be pretty lengthy and demanding. You’ll need to have medical checks, in-depth interviews with a social worker, police checks and home visits. It might feel intrusive at the time, but it’s all in the interests of getting it right.
Are you right for adoption?
Do you have what it takes to be an adoptive parent? We hear from the The Blackpool Council Adoption Services team around the traits which they deem to be fundamental in prospective adoptive parents...
In the UK, up to 39 weeks' statutory adoption pay is available to eligible employees. An employee who is entitled to adoption leave can take up to 26 weeks' ordinary adoption leave, followed by a further 26 weeks of additional adoption leave.
Adoptive parents need to be flexible in terms of work to have the necessary quality time to bond and form a strong relationship.
Calming and understanding
A good a listening ear is a must. We always look for people who are willing to learn and seek support but that are willing to give their new adoptive child the physical and emotional support they need.
Being kind is fundamentally crucial. It’s important to be as approachable and honest as possible and provide reassurance as the child’s new forever family.
Recognition and awareness
It can be extremely helpful to allow your child to have a good understanding and awareness of their identity and background. We encourage the use of a life story book, which explains their history in an appropriate way as a means of them learning and becoming comfortable with their history and subsequent adoption journey.
Their past will always have an impact on their present and their future; however by recognising this and bearing it in mind, whilst being open and approachable can help both parents and children move forward.
Do I need special skills for different types of adoption?
As mentioned above, there are certain skills which we look for in candidates who want to adopt. There are however, certain types of cases or times in a child’s life that are special and require slightly more consideration.
One of the most underlying issues with adopted children when reaching their teenage years is helping them to understand their identity. All teenagers struggle with the concept of “Who am I?” and “What is my purpose?” but this can be extremely hard to understand and answer as the questions adoptive teens face are more complex than their non-adopted peers.
Give your teenager the information they need, help them learn more and be there to support them through the process.
Give them a voice in decisions, independence and most importantly, talk openly about issues.
Adoptive parents need to have the same qualities as any other new parent. It is a lifelong commitment that will bring out many sleepless nights, feeds and nappy changes.
The bond between you and the baby can take a little time to develop, so be patient and reassured that this is completely normal.
Children with disabilities
It’s crucial that a prospective parent who wants to adopt a child with learning or physical disabilities is fully aware and able to cater to their needs.
Alternative approaches to communication may be required and additional skills may be needed for intellectual, sensory or other impairments.
You don’t necessarily have to have experience with disabled children as long as you can demonstrate interest, commitment and willingness to care whilst undertaking research on the issues that need to be considered.
What are the first steps if I want to adopt?
The first thing to do is to contact your local adoption agency – visit The British Association of Adoption & Fostering (BAAF), or your local authority at the DirectGov website.
You can then read all about adoption, chat to people who have already adopted and have some counselling to help you understand the needs of children who may have been neglected or abused. Then, if you and the agency are still keen to go ahead, you can start applying!
What support is there for adoptive parents?
You’ll get advice, information and counselling for adoptive parents from your local authority. Also, charities like Adoption UK and BAAF offer support too.
Getting the timing right
Everyone is different, but some people who haven’t been able to conceive feel real grief and loss, so it’s a good idea to come to terms with your situation before getting ready to move on and embrace a different kind of parenting.
For this reason, most adoption agencies ask you to wait several months after ending fertility treatment before you apply for approval. This gives you time to read up on adoption issues, chat to other people who are adopting, and hang out with kids to help you prepare!
Caring for your adopted child
Many of the children adopted from care will have experienced trauma and loss, even if they were adopted shortly after birth. Some may have additional needs resulting from physical, mental or emotional problems or disabilities. So it makes sense to talk to your partner, close friends and family about your thoughts and feelings, helping you prepare for the adoption process itself and also for coping better when you have children placed with you.
Finding a match
It’s an exciting and emotional time when a possible match is suggested for you and a child. You need to find out as much as possible about the child's health history and needs, so if you decide to go ahead you will be as well informed as possible. Having realistic expectations will increase the chances of the adoption working well.
The British Association of Adoption & Fostering (BAAF)
The Blackpool Council Adoption Services