- Make an application
You can contact your local authority or voluntary adoption agency in your area. To locate one near you, you can use BAAF’s Find an agency directory. They will welcome your interest and send you an information pack about adoption, the way they work, and the children needing new families.
- Preparing to adopt
Your agency will have probably invited you to an open day, and then to join a preparation group. This is like a training course, along with other prospective adopters, that will give you an insight into what adoption means today. It will tell you what children need from an adoptive family, and will help you explore what you are able to offer.
- You are assessed
Every prospective adopter has to go through a formal assessment process. A social worker carries this out, and sometimes it is also called a home study. The assessing social worker will visit you at your home to discuss and explore why you want to adopt, the kind of child you would best be able to care for, and your overall suitability. References will be sought and checks will be made.
- Going to panel
The report written by your social worker about you is given to an adoption panel for them to recommend whether or not you should be approved as a prospective adopter. The panel will make the recommendation, but it will be the agency that will approve you.
- Being linked with a child
Once you are approved, the agency will do its best to link you with a child. This could be with a child in the care of the local authority, or, if that doesn’t happen, a child featured in a family-finding publication like BAAF’s Be My Parent, or Adoption UK’s Children Who Wait, or a referral to the Adoption Register.
- A match is made
Once a link is made between you and a particular child or children, you will be given background information about the child. This would include information about the child’s family background, a history of their early years, why the child came into care, the child’s characteristics, and any particular needs the child may have. Once the match with a particular child or children has been made, you will attend the “matching panel”. This will determine whether or not to recommend the match. Once again, the final approval will be given by the agency.
- Meeting the child
Once the match has been approved, introductions to the child can finally begin! These will be well planned by the social worker, and with yourself and the foster carer who may be looking after the child. There will probably initially be visits to the child at the foster carer’s house, outings, and visits by the child to your house, including overnight stays. Gradually, you and the child will be getting to know each other, and soon the child will move in.
- Moving in
An exciting time, and a daunting time for all concerned! Moving can be stressful at the best of times, so it doesn’t take much to imagine the mix of emotions that this could evoke. Most importantly, it marks the beginning of your life together as a family.
- Making the adoption legal
An adoption is made legal only after the making of an adoption order in a court. This finally means that you are the legal parent of the child, and nothing can revoke that. The child will be “yours”, as if born to you. That day will mark a momentous occasion in your lives.
- Your life together
Like any other family, you will enjoy watching your child grow and develop. Also like any other family, there are bound to be ups and downs! Adoption support is available to see you through.
You can find out more about each one of these steps the book Adoption: some questions answered.