What exactly is involved in an adoption assessment to approve you to be an adoptive parent? This guide will give you an overview of the process. If you’d like to find out more detail, have a look at this guide on First4Adoption’s website.
Research, research, research
Before you start any formal part of the adoption assessment, research is the key. Read as much as you can, follow adoption accounts on social media, read blogs and stories written by people who’ve adopted or are going through the process.
I found the adoption part of Fertility Friends really good when we were starting out. You can either join and write posts, or just read and absorb. Adoption UK, CoramBAAF and all have blogs or members forums where experiences and stories are shared.
A word of warning though, I found the forums on Adoption UK’s website very dark and depressing. It’s important to read about all sides of adoption, the good and the bad, so do have a look, but they seem to be used by those who are having a lot of problems.
This do’s and don’ts’ list from the Care For Family website is a good resource to give to friends and family to help them know how to help you, particularly after children are placed.
Choosing your agency
Once you’ve decided adoption is for you, you’ll need to start thinking about which agency you’d like to use. All local authorities are adoption agencies, either on their own, or as part of a regional agency. Charities such as Caritas Care are voluntary adoption agencies.
Research is key here again. First4Adoption has a tool you can use to find all the agencies in your area. Have a look at their websites, ring them up and go along to events to get a feel for who you’d like to go with. You can speak to as many as you like before you pick one.
Although the assessment process is standardised, each agency will have their own criteria for certain issues. Some agencies won’t consider you if you have pets. Some will only consider you after at least six months post fertility treatment. Others are happy to look at it on a case by case basis. Shop around and see what feels like a good fit.
The assessment – Stage One
Once you’ve made your decision, picked an agency and formally registered your interest, there are two stages to the assessment process. Stage One involves checks such as DBS, employment, financial and health. You’ll need to provide the details of three referees, one can be a family member.
This stage also involves attending a preparation training course and completing learning logs to show the research you’ve done. The training course will give you a lot of information about adoption from birth parents to medical issues to life story work. Stage One should take no longer than two months.
A decision is then made based on the information gathered during Stage One, as to whether you are going to be accepted onto Stage Two. If the agency decides you aren’t suitable to be taken onto Stage Two, they have to give you full written reasons. If you’re accepted onto to Stage Two, you can decide to take a break of up to six months before you start.
Stage Two is the home study part of the assessment. Your allocated social worker will arrange a number of visits to meet you, usually at your home, to discuss everything about you. This will cover topics like your childhood, beliefs, relationships, work, friends and support network. Basically, your social work needs to find out what makes you tick, how you function, your strengths and weakness so that all of this information can be put into the report they prepare for panel.
The decision to approve you as an adopter is not made by your social worker or their manager, but by the agency’s adoption panel. This is made up of a number of different people who have experience of adoption or working with children.
There will be a foster carer, a councillor, a medical adviser, several social workers from different disciplines as well as adopters or adoptees and professionals with an educational background. Not all of the panel will sit each time, but there will be a range of backgrounds sitting on the day of your panel.
The panel won’t have met you before your panel date. They will, however, have read the comprehensive report prepared by your social worker. Essentially, that is what they base their decision on. That’s why it’s so important that you’re open and honest with your social worker.
No-one has led a perfect life so everyone has things in their past they would do differently with hindsight. What your social worker and the panel will be looking at, is what you’ve learned from the experience. Trauma, loss and bad experiences shape us into who we are.
Your social worker will have a panel date in mind that they’re working towards during your assessment. You’ll be told of that at some point during your home study.
Your social worker will submit their report about you to panel in advance of the date. You’ll be given the opportunity to read the report and ask for anything to be changed that you don’t think it accurate. Your social worker’s manager will have read the report too and identified if there are any gaps.
Any issues should be identified as you go along and addressed. If your social worker has concerns, they won’t be left until the end so there shouldn’t be any surprises. Panel isn’t just a rubber stamping exercise, they will scrutinise the report and ask questions, but you wouldn’t be taken to panel unless your social worker was confident that you’re going to be approved.
There are three possible outcomes at panel; approved, deferred or your application is turned down. A deferral may happen if the panel require more information about a particular issue.
Once you’re approved and the agency’s decision maker has approved the recommendation, the search begins for your child.
Matching can be done in several different ways. Some agencies involve you and give you details of a number of different children. Others don’t give you any details until a potential match has been found. Either way, your social worker will discuss this in detail with you.
Once a match is found, you will meet the child’s social worker, foster carer and the agency’s medical adviser. There may be other meetings if the child has particular needs. That is your opportunity to ask questions and find out as much information as you can about them so you can be prepared as you can be for them coming home.
The agency’s panel will need to approve the match, but this tends to be less formal than the approval panel. Once panel has approved the match, a timetable will be agreed (if it hasn’t been done already) to gradually introduce your child to you.