At the end of last year the government announced that adoptions had fallen drastically by 12%.
Many reasons were given one being misinterpretation of a Court judgment which said that adoption should be the last resort. Others were the growth of family placements and another being the other ways upon which those who cannot have children naturally can now explore matters such as IVF and surrogacy.
There was also a recent article that suggested that the reduction in adoption may be that those who adopt are now accepting that the children who are likely to be adopted will come from families where they will have suffered some form of neglect or abuse which makes them less attractive to adopt.
There may be truth in all these, but the government is doing their best to try and highlight adoption as being a real option for children rather than remaining in the care system. There is a bill going through parliament at the moment called the Children and Social Worker Bill which will look at adoption being highlighted when it is felt to be in a child’s best interest.
What is adoption? Simply it is a process where a child who is not your biological child becomes your child legally.
It is a mistake to believe that you have to be married or in a relationship to adopt (unlike surrogacy) but you do have to be over 21 and have lived here for at least a year. Step parents can also adopt. There is a rigorous process to go through in relation to adoption. Even if you wish to adopt your step child you will still be subject to investigation and assessment by the Local Authority of suitability to adopt to ensure that a child’s future will be safeguarded. “Stranger adoption” is where there is no connection whatsoever between the child and those who will become his or her parents.
If you wish to be considered to adopt you would need to give notice to the Local Authority that you would wish to consider becoming adopters. An assessment would then be undertaken which would then make a recommendation to an independent panel who would decide whether to approve you as adopters. If approved you then go through what is called a “matching process” where children’s profiles will be matched to those of yours and then the process of whether or not that is a suitable match will then take place. The process is not short and can be both time consuming and emotionally draining.
Similarly if you wish to adopt your step child there has to be a rigorous process to go through and you would need to give notice of your intention to Social Services at least 3 months before making your application to Court. You would then still have to be assessed.
Some people find being under the microscope challenging. However the process is there to protect both the adopters and the child from there being a mismatch which could cause an adoption breakdown in the future. Adoption breakdowns whilst reasonably rare do happen and can cause the child in particular great distress as not only will they feel they have already been taken from one family but of course as most adopted children are led to believe they have been “chosen” can lead to a very serious feeling of rejection and abandonment.
The process itself is not to be entered into unless there is a level of commitment and motivation which accepts that there will be setbacks along the way.
It is vital for anybody who wishes to adopt to take legal advice in respect of the same. Similarly if you wish to be considered as a foster carer who will also take a child with a view to adoption in the future, you need to be aware that there is also an assessment in relation to this.
In adoption, the Court will only make an adoption where it believes it is in the best interest of the child to do so and where, if it needs to, it feels it is able to dispense with the consent of the natural parents. Until that order is made of course it is not a “done deal”.
Good, timely legal advice is always important to prevent there being difficulties along the way.
Adoption can be a rewarding and an emotionally enhancing experience if handled appropriately. Take all steps to ensure that is the case and hopefully, in the future, things will go smoothly.