According to statistics released for National Adoption Week, there are more than twice as many children waiting to be adopted in England as there are approved adoptive homes.
If they are all to find new families, there is an urgent need for more adopters to come forward, but many people do not know they are eligible to adopt – or as some might say, become a hero.
We therefore tackle some of the common myths about Adoption in this country and share some lesser known facts that might help you to start your adoption journey.
Myth: You have to be a ‘traditional’ family unit to adopt
Anyone over the age of 21 can be considered as an adopter. You can be single, married, in a civil partnership or living with a partner. The stability and permanency of any relationship you are in is the only concern. The main criteria for all local authorities is simply that you are able to provide a stable and loving home.
Myth: You cannot adopt if you are older than 40
There is no upper age limit, but you will need to have the health and energy to see your children through to an age that they could reasonably become independent.
Myth: You have to adopt through your local authority
You can and should “shop around” for the organisation that you feel most comfortable with. We recommend that you do your research and speak to a number of organisations before making a decision. You will need to be really open about your life, so it helps to have a good relationship with the team that is supporting you. You can find a list of agencies on First4Adoption, which is run by the government, or the charity Adoption UK website.
Myth: The social worker is against you
You will be assigned a social worker to prepare and assess you for the task ahead. The social worker is on your side. They want to find adopters. They will need to speak to you about some very personal matters including your finances, who you are as individuals, what your interests are and your past relationships. Some people view this with suspicion. Be assured that they are not trying to trip you up, they need to know you properly to prepare you properly, so try to embrace this process and be honest. Remember, it is the social worker who will represent you at the Adoption Panel, to do this well they need to know you well.
Myth: You need to be perfect
Nobody expects you to be perfect, very few people are, so be honest. Your skeletons will come out of the closet but, unless you have been convicted of certain serious criminal offences, it is unlikely that they will sabotage you. The key is to be completely honest.
Fact: You need to be resilient
Adoption is a life-long journey filled with emotion, so resilience is key. One of the things the social worker will be most interested in is how you work through your problems and how you will make your family resilient.
Fact: The Adoption Panel is unlikely to turn you down
It is natural to feel nervous before your Adoption Panel meeting, but if you have got to this stage the chances of getting turned down are low. Remember you have the support of the social worker, they would have told you by now if they did not think you were ready to adopt. If you are turned down, it is not the end of the road as you can appeal, or you could apply again at a later date.
Fact: You will get matched quicker with priority children
The majority of people want to adopt a “healthy baby”, but there are relatively few babies waiting for adoption. Most adopted children will come to their families as toddlers, pre-schoolers or primary children. Older children, those with additional needs, groups of brothers and sisters who need to stay together and children from minority backgrounds are considered to be priority children as they will usually wait longer to find a permanent home. These children have often experienced violence, abuse or neglect and are in great need of a loving and supportive home.
Fact: You are in control
When you are matched with a child, or children, it is important to remember that you do not have to say yes. It is ok to say no. If you have doubts you are having them for a reason, so share them with your social worker. It is not always an easy decision, but in the long run it can be better to wait for another match than to move forward if it does not feel right.
Fact: You will receive ongoing support
Adoption is a challenging journey, arguably more challenging than biological parenthood. Although your love can help a child to heal, it cannot erase the scars of their past. They may struggle and you may struggle, it is completely natural. You will not be expected to go it alone, you will have access to ongoing specialist support.
Fact: You will change more than one life
A charity leader was quoted as saying that adopted children are among the most “complex and vulnerable in society” and that “adoption can have a transformative effect on these children.” This is because children do better when they feel safe and loved. With adoption, it is not just the children’s lives that are transformed. In exchange for the gifts of love and stability, you receive the life-changing gift of parenthood.