Fostering to adopt usually means a child is placed with adopters straight from hospital. The adopters are also approved foster carers, and that’s the role they take on, until court proceedings conclude.
This type of placement puts the uncertainty and risk of disruption on adopters, rather than the child. If the plan for adoption is approved by the court, the child won’t have any moves. They’ll have been with their new parents more or less from birth. If they do move, it will usually be so they can live with their birth family, rather than into another foster placement.
For adopters, fostering to adopt comes with a degree of uncertainty. While court proceedings are ongoing, there is the possibility the child could move to their birth family. It does happen. That’s why if you’re considering fostering to adopt, you know exactly what it means.
I’m very grateful to @fpd5 for sharing her family’s experience of fostering to adopt. It gives a great insight into what the process entails.
Introduce yourself and your family
Hi, I’m Fleur – my family consists of me, my husband and our daughter A who we adopted three-and-a-half years ago. We are an international family with British, Kiwi and Dutch passports!
Was your agency a local authority or voluntary agency?
We went with the local authority we lived in.
What was your biggest worry before you started?
That I wouldn’t be able to meet the needs of the child(ren) we would end up adopting. The focus of the assessment process is the difficult aspects of children in care and adoption. Everyone needs to be sure that any potential adoptive parents will be able to cope. But I do think there could be some extra focus on the positive outcomes of adoption.
Why did you decide to go down the fostering to adopt route?
We didn’t actually 100% decide to go down this route. It’s something we discussed with our social worker during the assessment process. We had some reservations as we weren’t sure if we could cope with the possibility of a child being returned to their birth family.
However, when the situation arose, we realised we could give a child a really good start to their life in a warm and loving environment. This would hopefully put them in good stead if they were returned to their birth family.
How did the matching process work?
We were approved as adopters in March 2018. We looked at lots of profiles on LinkMaker and profiles that our social worker sent to us, and had expressed interest in a couple of children.
I work in pharmaceuticals where things move at the speed of light and everyone needs things immediately. I was getting frustrated by how slowly everything seemed to be taking.
Then one day in May 2018 I received a phone call from our social worker asking if we were interested in fostering to adopt a baby girl who was born the previous day.
She was born on the Wednesday, we had the phone call on the Thursday and she was home with us on the Friday. They offered a bridging foster placement in case we couldn’t be ready in time, but we went ahead with it. We wanted to keep the changes to a minimum for A and felt there was no point in her getting used to other people for a week or so then coming to live with us.
We literally had 24 hours to get everything we needed! Luckily a lot of our friends had had babies in the six months prior so I phoned them all, they clubbed together and lent us everything we needed. That helped a lot and we are forever grateful to them!
How old was your child when they came home?
She was two days old.
From your point of view, what are the main differences between fostering to adopt and a traditional adoption placement?
There is more uncertainty in a fostering to adopt situation. Less is known about potential development issues because these often come about over time. There is always the possibility that the child can go back to their birth family until the adoption order is granted.
For various reasons and hold ups, A’s adoption order wasn’t granted until just under a year after she came to live with us. Obviously it’s all consuming looking after a baby, but that tiny bit of worry would sometimes creep into my mind that she’d end up leaving us.
We’d obviously grown very attached to her and reminded ourselves that if she did end up back with her birth family, at least we had given her a good start to life.
How did contact work with birth family?
There was no contact with A’s birth family.
How did you find the fostering to adopt process?
Hugely positive so far. A has been with us since she was two days old so we’ve experienced nearly her entire life. When she’s older, we can tell her exactly what she was like as a baby (stubborn from the very beginning! 😊)
How long was your child home before the care and placement orders were made at court?
Nearly a year. The adoption order was granted a couple of weeks before A’s 1st birthday.
How did adoption leave work?
Given that I was only able to give my work 24 hours notice that I’d be going on adoption leave, very smoothly!
In the end, my husband & I did shared parental leave. I did the first nine months and he did the last three months. Both our companies had very generous policies, which helped financially.
I then dropped down to working four days a week when she went to childcare when she turned one, so we could have Fridays off together. She’s three-and-a-half years old now and we still have Fridays off together.
Were you entitled to any allowance or payment as foster carers?
Yes, we got a foster care allowance and a settling in grant as well.
What has been the most difficult part about the process?
I didn’t really find the process difficult. I think the difficult bits will come in the future when A realises the reasons for her adoption. She is beginning to understand what it all means, and obviously we are open and honest with her in an age-appropriate way.
We are big on talking about how we feel, so I hope this gives her the ability to talk to someone in the future (if not me or my husband then a counsellor) about how she feels about it all.
Have you needed to access additional help and support from your agency since your child came home?
We haven’t needed anything yet.
What has been your best memory since your child came home?
This keeps changing. There are pros (and cons!) about each age we’ve experienced with A so far. She is a happy smiley girl and strikes a great balance of being obsessed with pink / princesses / unicorns (we did try to keep it gender neutral but the pink got her in the end!) and getting as muddy / dirty as possible when we’re in the park or painting etc.
She’s at a great age right now because we can have proper chats with her. She is stubborn as hell and reckons she’s right about everything. I really hope she holds on to these traits as she grows up because she will definitely become a strong, independent woman who can change the world.
If you could go back and have a conversation with yourself about the process before you started, what would you tell yourself?
To be patient and to just trust that what is meant to be will happen.
Obviously it’s not fair for A that she’s been adopted. No-one deserves the pain and loss of being separated from their birth family, no matter how young. However, she has been the perfect daughter for us and I hope the start we’ve given her in life will mean she has a happy life as she grows up.
We will support her 100% in whatever she wants to do when she’s older, and if/when she wants to find her birth family, we will be with her holding her hand the entire way.
If you’d like to read about more adoption experiences from adoptees, birth parents and adopters click here