Preparing for the adoption process

Preparing for adoption. A heart shaped sparkler against a black background
Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

If you are thinking about adoption as the way you’d like to create your family, there are some things you need to think about before you start the process. This post highlights six things you can spend some time on to make sure you’re prepared and as ready as you can be for the assessment:

  • grieving
  • finance
  • getting your property ready
  • childcare experience
  • research
  • paperwork


People decide to create their family through adoption for a variety of reasons. It sounds obvious but you need to be clear about why you want to adopt before you start. It can never be your backup plan. Adoption is a choice, but it isn’t for you if you think it’s a last resort.

Some have never tried to have a birth child so adoption is the first way they’ve tried to create their family. Many consider adoption after dealing with the brutal disappointment of infertility.

Whatever steps you’ve taken to try and have a baby whether it’s naturally, via surrogacy, or fertility treatment, if it doesn’t work, it’s devastating. If that’s the case for you, your heart and soul have to be committed to adoption before you start. If you’re still hoping that you’ll fall pregnant, you may not be ready. 

For a lot of women, their dream is to one day become a mum. The human race has been going for a lot of years and it has survived because women give birth. It’s a natural assumption, therefore, that all women can have babies. Finding out that you’re one of the ones that can’t is extremely hard.

Preparing for adoption. A stormy sky over a field with tyre tracks down the middle
Photo by Vijendra Singh on Unsplash

It takes time

You need to give yourself time to grieve the fact that you can’t have a birth child.  It’s something that your social worker will ask you about in a lot of detail, so you need to be prepared to open wounds you thought were healed. If you don’t feel that you can, you probably need some more time.

If you’ve had treatment, most agencies want you to wait for at least six months before you approach them.  That said, each person is different and deals with grief differently and each agency is different as to how rigid they are about this timescale. 

We’d been thinking about adoption for a long time and as I’ve said, I think I always knew it would be how we created our family.  We did go for tests and the one appointment we had was enough for me to know that treatment just wasn’t for us. 

A lot of agencies would have wanted us to wait for six months after our appointment, but we were accepted onto Stage One, two months later.  For us, the testing was the end of the grieving process to enable us to move on to adoption.  I wanted to know that there was a reason why I hadn’t got pregnant as I knew I needed to draw a line under why it hadn’t happened.

Preparing for the adoption process: Finances

It’s a good idea to get your finances in order before you start the adoption process. There are a lot of things about adoption that make you think “if I was having a birth child, I wouldn’t need to do this”.  I thought that a lot and finance is one of those things.

The point is though, you aren’t having a birth child. You’re taking over the care of a child who can’t live with their birth family and you need to be in the best possible shape to do it.

A lot of people who adopt have been through fertility treatment which is an expensive process and can leave you with little or no savings and debt.  Not having much money or being in debt doesn’t mean you can’t be considered for adoption.

Parenting is expensive however you come to it so agencies are realistic about this but want to be sure that you can manage your finances.  If you have debts, you need to be able to show that they are manageable and that you aren’t struggling to make payments.  If you are, you need to take some time to sort that out so that things are manageable. 

Financial support for adoption leave

Most agencies want one parent to take as much time as possible off work once a child is placed, so you need to be able to show how you would fund that. 

Find out what your employer’s adoption policy is in terms of leave and pay. That will help you work out how much you’ll need in the way of savings to be off work for the length of time you’d like. If saving isn’t an option, think about what other options you could consider. Shared parental leave is worth looking into if you have a partner. If you are unemployed, you’ll need to make inquiries as to what types of benefits you’ll be entitled to.

Preparing for adoption. Man's hand using a calculator
Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

Getting your property ready

Your property needs to be able to accommodate children and must stable in terms of you being able to stay there. You don’t need to own your home, but if you do rent, the tenancy will need to be up to date, whether that’s a private rental or with a housing association.

You will need at least one extra bedroom and ideally two if you’re hoping to adopt more than one child. If you live in a one-bedroomed property, can you extend or is there a way of creating a second bedroom with the rooms you have? If not, you’ll need to consider moving. The time to do that is before you start the assessment process. 

Each agency is different about planned building work but most will start the assessment as long as building work is going to be completed before Panel.

If you are planning to do extensive work such as an extension that requires planning permission or building regulations, it’s best to do this before you approach an agency. This type of project will often take far longer than you anticipate with delays being caused by material or labour issues, removing large quantities of rubble, or waiting for planning permission.

Finding skip hire in Dover or your local area can be a problem so using a recommended firm can remove this type of delay.

Childcare experience

You need to have some experience in looking after children to be considered for adoption. If you’re lucky enough to have children in your life, great. Spend more time with them, take them out on your own, and have them for sleepovers if that’s feasible.

But childcare experience doesn’t have to come from being involved with your family or friend’s children though. Not everyone has friends or family with children. If you don’t and your job doesn’t involve children, you need to look at getting some experience elsewhere. This could come from volunteering with children’s groups such as Beavers or Brownies or at a nursery.

You’ll need to be DBS checked. This is something that is carried out by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) to see whether you have any previous convictions.

Whether you need to do this and pay for it yourself or the group you’re going to be working with will vary from organisation to organisation.  You need to do DBS checks as part of the adoption process so you may as well get started with them beforehand to make sure no surprises are lurking. 


I can’t stress enough how important research is. There are lots of books out there from reference books that provide facts, figures, and theory, to books written by adopters about their adoption journey such as “No Matter What” by Sally Donovan. I’ve written a book about the process and what it’s really like which is a great place to start.

There are many blogs and social media accounts written by adoptive parents who are sharing their journey. They are well worth reading because they tend to give an honest account of the highs and lows of parenting an adopted child.

Instagram has an extremely supportive adoption community. Follow #ukadoptioncommunity and you’ll be able to see posts from lots of UK adopter accounts.

I would also recommend reading about topics like attachment issues and therapeutic parenting. Attachment problems are common in adopted children so it will help to have an idea about it before you start. Having an understanding of things like fetal alcohol syndrome will also help, particularly when it comes to looking at your matching criteria.

Research the different agencies in your area and get a feel for the ones you might want to look into.  First4Adoption is a good starting point as they provide details of all the agencies in your area. 

Preparing for adoption. A row of open books on a bed of leaves
Photo by Laura Kapfer on Unsplash

Preparing for the adoption process: Paperwork

You need quite a bit of paperwork in the early stages of the assessment, so it’s a good idea to get everything sorted before you get going. We had a panic and had the house turned upside down because we needed a copy of my husband’s decree absolute.

You’ll need things like your marriage certificate, a decree absolute if either of you has been married before, a valid passport/driving licence or some other form of photo ID, and birth certificates of any birth children. 

Also, spend some time thinking about whom you’ll ask to be your referees.  You need three, one can be a close family member. 

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