Ask the Expert… Adopting

I live in South West London, but I work in a different borough. I don’t really know if I can look at more than one borough for fostering and adoption or whether I should just go to a London-wide or national adoption place? Rachel, Wimbledon

laughing small kids

Local Authority adoption agencies are looking for adoptive families for children who have been removed from their birth families that live within that borough. For this reason, many Local Authorities will not consider offering you an adoption assessment if it is your home local authority. Instead they would suggest that you speak to the neighbouring authorities or contact First4Adoption, the government national gateway to adoption information. Some Local Authorities are part of a consortium, such as the South West London Adoption Consortium where many local authority adoption agencies have joined forces to pool resources and provide shared services to speed up the placement of children waiting for adoption.

From a practical point of view 90% of the visits and meetings which take place during the adoption assessment process take place in the adopters home. So it doesn’t really matter which adoption agency you choose because the social workers will do the majority of the travelling. And as a generally rule social workers will travelling anywhere within one hour of their offices, so don’t let location stand in your way.

 

…I’m not sure what children are available to adopt…

These are the BAAFCoram Adoption Statistics for the End of Year 2016

  • Gender: 53% (2,490) of children adopted during the year ending 31st March 2016 were boys and 47% (2,200) were girls.
  • Age: The average age at adoption in the year ending 31st March 2016 was 3 years 5 months, 2 months older than in 2015.
    • 5% (230) of children adopted during the year ending 31st March 2016 were under 1 year old
    • 72% (3,370) were aged between 1 and 4 years old
    • 22% (1,020) were aged between 5 and 9 years old
    • 1% (70) were aged between 10 and 15 years old
    • None were aged 16 and over (to nearest 10)
  • Ethnicity:
    • 83% (3,880) of looked after children adopted during the year ending 31st March 2016 were white
    • 11% (490) were of mixed racial background
    • 2% (120) were Black or Black British
    • 2% (80) were Asian or Asian British
    • 1% (40) were from other ethnic groups
    • 2% (70) were other (refused or information not yet available)

Nationally there is a shortage of adopters for children who are age 3 plus. Most adopters wanted to adopt a baby or toddler, and therefore there is a lot of competition for these children. Now we are seeing many adoption agencies closing their doors to prospective adopters who will not consider ‘ harder to place children’ – 71% (1,750) of the children with a placement order waiting to be placed at 30 June 2015 were considered ‘harder to place’ compared to 73% (2,050) at 31 March 2015 . This means the child is any of the following: 5 years or over, BME, disabled or part of a sibling group.

 

…and how long it might take to adopt?

Historically adoption was a very long and arduous process which took around 2 years. In 01 July 2013 the Coalition government introduced Statutory Guidance – An Action Plan for Adoption: Tackling Delay and one of the outcomes was a new faster assessment process that aims for prospective adopters to be assessed and approved within 6 months.

 

…I think I’m ready but I don’t know how long the process would take…

  • Exploration: All journeys begin with finding out about the road ahead; your adoption journey starts with reading background information, and speaking to experts and people who’ve made the journey before.
  • Stage One:  The start of a formal evaluation process when you will complete initial background checks, references and registration. This stage will take no longer than two months.
  • Stage Two: The Assessment and training: This is a four-month stage, where a social worker will work with you and your family, assessing your strengths before presenting it in a report to the Adoption Panel.
  • Matching: Your adoption agency works with local authorities to find the right child for you. They will discuss the suitability of children with you and a matching panel makes the final decision.
  • Moving In: Once a match has been made, you spend time getting to know the child with the support of your social workers. A series of visits and short stays lead up to the child moving in. After a while, you can apply to the court to become their legal parent.

 

…and do I need to own my own home?

It does not matter whether you are a homeowner or live in rented accommodation.

 

… Do I have to have a minimum salary?

Your financial circumstances and employment status will always be considered as part of an adoption assessment, but low income, being unemployed or employed does not automatically rule you out. You can be an adoptive parent while on benefits.

The agency will want to discuss how the responsibility of caring for a child would be managed. Some agencies want a child to have their own bedroom but this is not a requirement and in some circumstances sharing can be considered.

Your local authority may provide support, especially for adopters of sibling groups or of children with a disability or special need of some kind.

You would also be encouraged to look into what benefits or Tax Credits you may be entitled to. A number of other allowances are available for children with disabilities such as Priority HousingDisability Living Allowance and Carers Allowance.


About the Expert

Candice Siddle, Publicity and Information Officer – Merton Council Adoption and Permanence Team

Candice Siddle has worked with the Merton Adoption Team for 14 years. As Publicity and Information Officer her role is all things marketing, publicity, events, recruitment and retention. She works within and supports a small team consisting of 6 adoption and post adoption support social workers.

merton.gov.uk/adoption | southwestlondonadoption.org.uk


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