The adoption assessment

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The adoption assessment makes sure applicants are suitable to adopt. Four children playing with a ball in the grass in the middle of a group of trees.
Photo by Robert Collins on Unsplash

Once you’ve identified the agency you want to go with and have been accepted by them, the formal adoption assessment begins.

This post looks at the assessment process in detail from Stage One which includes background checks to Stage Two which is the home study phase and then Panel and matching.

Stage One

The first part of the adoption assessment involves a lot of forms being filled in and checks taking place. It should take no longer than two months but will depend on how quickly all of the checks take to complete.

This stage is a full background check of you so will include a DBS to make sure there is nothing in your history that prevents you from proceeding. If you’ve had a significant previous relationship, your ex-partner may need to be contacted, particularly if there were children.

You’ll need to have a medical done by your GP. Some agencies pay for this, others will expect you to pay. If you have a medical condition, there may need to be a report obtained from your consultant to show how it is managed.

Depending on where you’ve worked in the past, you may need to obtain references from previous and current employers.

Your social worker will also ask to see some financial statements such as your mortgage or rent account, bank statements, and the like. Some see this as a formality, other social workers will go into your finances in a lot of detail.

So, if you are struggling financially, flag this to them early on so that you can get an idea as to whether it is going to be an issue. Most agencies accept that debt is a fact of life but will want to make sure that you are living within your means and aren’t in arrears with any payments.

Referees

You will also need to nominate who is going to act as your referee at this stage. You need three, one can be a relative. Ideally, your referees will be able to talk about your experience with children which may dictate who you ask to be one. Your referees won’t be contacted until Stage Two, but your social worker may want you to identify them at this stage.

You will also be required to carry out some training during Stage One. The focus of this training is to make sure that adoption is right for you, and the journey children go on to reach the point of a plan of permanence by way of adoption. This includes the implications of the lived experience of children requiring adoption.

The adoption assessment  which includes obtaining references. A fountain pen resting on a piece of paper covered in words, next to some bluebells.
Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

As part of your training, you’ll be expected to read widely about adoption and parenting children who have experienced early life trauma. You’ll be given suggested reading lists that will include podcasts and other resources to help you do this. Keeping a training log of all of your reading is encouraged so that you can show what you’ve done.

End of Stage One decision

Once you’ve completed all of the checks and training for Stage One, a decision will be made as to whether you are going to be accepted to the next part of the assessment. This decision is made based on all of the information gathered during Stage One.

If there have been concerns during Stage One, these will have been raised with you so it’s unlikely that a decision not to take you any further will come as a complete shock to you. If this is the decision, your agency should provide a clear explanation in writing of the reasons why.

You can complain about the decision – the details of how this is done will be given to you by your agency.

The adoption assessment: Stage Two

Stage Two of the assessment is the home study. Some people love this part, others don’t but the key to it being successful is being as open and honest with your social worker as possible.

That is obviously easier if you have a good working relationship with your social worker because it can be hard to open up about all aspects of your life. Talking about really tough experiences is hard, but more so when it’s someone you don’t know very well.

But, it’s a necessary part of the process as your social worker has to get to know you (and your partner if you have one), what makes you tick, how you cope with difficult situations, what you like, what your family it like to name a few of the topics you’ll cover.

They will ask you about how you have dealt with past experiences, how you feel about your family, and what sort of parent you want to be. Your capacity to reflect on your own past experiences may well be important in the future as you help your child reflect on things that have happened in their early years.

The visits usually take place at your home, although post-covid, some agencies still do some of the visits virtually. If you have a partner, most of the visits are done together, but there will be at least one on your own.

Stage Two training

In addition to the home visit, Stage Two involves more in-depth training and covers the assessment process in more detail as well as looking at things like therapeutic play and parenting, life story work, and family finding.

The training usually takes place over several days and may also include a training session for friends and family who will be part of your support network. This session will help them understand the process and some of the issues your child may face such as attachment difficulties and trauma.

You will also be expected to undertake your own learning through reading and watching videos and keeping a record of what you’ve done.

The adoption assessment: referees

Your social worker will also contact your referees and interview them to prepare a reference from each of them. They’ll be asked about a range of things from how long they’ve known you to how you cope under pressure and what they are like with their kids if they have them.

You won’t get to read the reference although your friends and family will probably tell you what was discussed.

Your PAR

At some stage during the assessment, your social worker will tell you the Panel date you’ll be working towards. This date may change, but it gives you something to focus on as the Adoption Panel will ultimately decide whether you are approved to adopt or not.

The adoption assessment includes a report about the adopters. Two women sitting at a desk working through a report, making notes.
Photo by Gabrielle Henderson on Unsplash

Once Stage Two is completed, your social worker will pull together all of the information they’ve gathered about you during the whole assessment process. This will include not just what was discussed during the home visit, but also how well you participated during the training aspects, your medicals, and information from your referees.

All of this information is put into your prospective adopter’s report (PAR) which is required by legislation and provides a comprehensive picture of you. It is what the adoption Panel members will use to decide whether or not to approve you.

Adoption Panel

An adoption panel is made up of a number of people involved in adoption and working with children. It usually consists of medical practitioners, social workers, adoptees, adopters, foster carers, and education specialists.

The Panel will read your PAR before the pre-arranged meeting. Again, some agencies still do these virtually, others do them in person.

The format of the approval Panel meeting will vary from agency to agency. You will be asked a few questions – some agencies do it so that the questions are provided in advance, others don’t and you’ll be given them on the day of the meeting.

The questions will be about something in your PAR, perhaps wanting more detail on something or clarifying a point. The number of questions asked doesn’t reflect that there’s a concern. As I said, each Panel and agency does things slightly differently.

Usually, your social worker will go in first, and then you will go in after a short time. You’ll be introduced to everyone on the Panel and the chairman will ask the questions on behalf of everyone.

Once the questions have been answered and they have everything they need, you’ll be asked to wait outside. You’ll then be told of the decision sometime later. Again, how this is done will vary. Some Panels bring you back in, others ask your social worker to tell you or the chairman will come out and tell you.

The decision

There are three possible outcomes at the approval Panel; approved, deferred, or not approved. If you are deferred it is probably because the Panel wants more detail about something in your PAR, or they think you need more time to do something.

If you are not approved, you will be given full reasons and then have the opportunity to make representations to the agency’s decision-maker. You will be given details about the process by your agency, but it’s worth bearing in mind that it’s very rare that people are not approved. Your social worker (supported by their manager) would not take you to Panel unless they believe you will be approved.

Any issues should have been aired and addressed during your assessment and if there are concerns that can’t be addressed, you wouldn’t be taken to Panel.

Matching

Once you’re approved, the matching process starts. Head over to the matching section to read articles about how it works.

The adoption assessment approves people to adopt. Five children sitting on a park bench looking across grass and trees.
Photo by Piron Guillaume on Unsplash

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