Hi. I’m Rebecca, and I’ve been invited by Cath and Elly to write a guest post for the blog. I hope you won’t consider me an impostor. You see, I understand that ‘Having Kittens’ is all about being a parent and the highs and lows and ‘aargh, which choice do I make’ moments that come with that honour. Elly and Cath have both shared their experiences from the early dilemmas of pregnancy, to first birthdays and beyond. They have loved their sprogs since the pink line appeared, and have cooed over each little milestone. I’m going to tell you about a different route into parenthood, from a different angle. You see, I’m what they call a ‘prospective parent’ – in other words, I’m not actually a parent at all. There’s no pink line, no scan picture, no cute photo of a child pulling a silly face, and no anecdotes to share yet. But I hope one day there will be – some of those things at least.
I’m preparing to be a parent. I’m preparing to adopt.
As readers of this blog, you may know little or much about adoption, so I’ll start by sharing some of the basics, and if you’re interested, maybe I’ll be invited back again to tell you more!
Becoming ‘Approved’ as a Prospective Adopter
The first step in the process is undoubtedly reaching the conclusion that you want to adopt, or at least think you might want to. Once you’ve had that thought, and maybe read a few books about it (the ‘What to Expect’ series has one on adoption that gives a good overview), you need to contact an agency. There are a huge range of agencies out there, from local authorities (LAs) to voluntary agencies (VAs) such as Barnado’s. You can contact a few of these, and arrange initial meetings. Some will invite you to an information evening, others may visit your home or invite you to their offices for a 1-1 chat, some may just send out a pack and chat with you on the phone. Ultimately, you are required to decide on one agency that you wish to proceed with, and if they are happy to accept your application you will be given a registration of interest form (ROI) to complete. You are legally only allowed to apply with one agency, so once this form is submitted and accepted, you are committing to that agency unless you have good reason to withdraw.
When your ROI is accepted you begin ‘Stage One’ of the adoption process. You may have heard about new government targets, and how the process is now much faster than in the past. This is semi true. Government targets now say stage one (S1) should be complete in eight weeks, but S1 includes all sorts of checks being done, including a DBS (the Disclosure and Barring Service – this recently replaced CRB) which regularly takes up to and exceeding sixty days for the police to complete. So if the form is not submitted until part way through S1, then an eight week target is unrealistic. Other things to happen in S1 include medical checks, personal references, and usually a day of preparation training (the process includes four days in total; agencies vary as to how these are split between the two stages).
Once S1 is finally complete, a meeting is held to decide whether you will be accepted onto ‘Stage Two’. LAs in particular, with the changes to the system and the amount of interest generated by advertising in the last year, are massively understaffed and social workers (SWs) have huge caseloads; it is not unusual to meet another blip in the target meeting if you have to wait around to be assigned a SW. Agencies work around the targets by not officially starting your S2 until there is a SW available – the no man’s land between S1 and S2 can then be any length without affecting their targets!!
As soon as you start S2 officially, things become more intense. The government’s target for this stage is four months. The further three days of training include learning about the abuse and neglect that children may have experienced leading to them being taken into care, activities to get you thinking about the loss involved for all three players in the adoption triangle (child/birth parents/adoptive parents) and lots of talk about the impact on everyone, especially the child. Attachment is a big word in child development these days and, as well as the training, prospective adopters are expected to do a lot of reading around the subject. Alongside these preparation days, you begin a series of assessment sessions with an assigned social worker, known as the ‘home study’. The purpose of the home study is for the SW to gather all of the information they will need to write the Prospective Adopter’s Report (PAR). At the end of S2 this document is presented to a panel who will make a decision on whether to recommend you for approval as adopters. This approval is then formally granted a few days later once the panel’s decision has been ratified.
The journey from first contacting an agency, to formal approval as adopters, can take as little as 6 months, but it seems to be common for it to be more like 9-12 months. In some cases, prospective adopters may be asked to take some time out of the process to deal with a situation or have counselling, and so it can be extended to even longer. And then, once approval is granted, in so many ways the journey really begins…
Next week is National Adoption Week. If you’d like to find out more about the process click here