There were basically two main routes we could consider – private/charity based agencies or our local authority. This may be a bit of a generalisation, but the former tend to have older children or those that are deemed harder to place. Potentially these could be children with physical, mental or developmental issues, or larger sibling groups. As we were hoping for a younger child that was as healthy as possible, we applied to our local authority in line with the guidance we were given. I have to be totally honest, after all the years of heartache and waiting, I didn’t think I would be strong enough to take on a child with more challenging needs. Writing that now actually feels really selfish. However, this is the truth of how I felt. If you do adopt a child with some ongoing challenges there are some fantastic support channels out there. I’ll cover these on a later blog.
We also had to face the fact that although we had managed to recover the financial burden of fertility treatments, we were not in a particularly strong long term financial position. We couldn’t afford for me to take more than a year off work. Thankfully, my employer provided a really good adoption leave package. Others are not so fortunate and may only receive statutory adoption pay. If you are self employed, you are not normally even entitled to this. So for us, to have a child that needed additional support for significant health issues, disabilities, behavioural or other complex needs, would have been too challenging. Not just financial, but emotionally. Not feeling confident we could provide the ongoing support they needed, wouldn’t have been fair on them. Or us.
Whilst talking about all things money, some people may be eligible to apply for some financial support through the Adoption Support Fund (ASF). This might also include paying towards things like family therapy sessions or therapeutic parenting training. This either wasn’t available, or wasn’t mentioned to us. I’m not sure which. As this is just my own blog, and I’m not affiliated to any professional bodies, I won’t say anything more about it. I just wanted to mention it in case you hadn’t heard of it either. Leading adoption charity Adoption UK is keen to ensure this financial support channel continues to those who need it.
An alternative to traditional adoption is “foster to adopt”. Something that wasn’t mentioned to us the first time around. It appears this route is considered more openly these days. You become the foster carer in the early stages of the child’s life, with the aim of moving on to becoming their adoptive parent. Currently, a child has to be a minimum of 6 months old before a placement order is granted (the court order authorising a local authority to place a child for adoption). So, unless you do foster to adopt you will never be placed with a child younger than this. Being a little ignorant to this route, I always thought it held a higher risk that the child could be returned to their birth parents. However, until an adoption order is granted and the child is legally yours, there is always this chance whichever route you take. This is a very nervous feeling. We were informed that the average time for an adoption order to be finalised was 4-6 months after your child comes home. This is a long wait. Anything can happen in this time…more about this another day though.
The other thing to point out is that the ratio of adopters to children waiting to be placed can vary significantly. It appears to be cyclical. Luckily for us, our call (in early 2012) just happened to be at a time when our local authority were short of prospective adopters and had a high number of children waiting to be adopted. Three years later, this situation was completely reversed and there were very few children being granted placement orders.
At this time, additional steps were introduced where social workers needed to broaden their searches to find any appropriate birth relatives for the child to stay with. Regrettably, this didn’t always prove to be the best route for the child. I remember reading accounts of children going back and forth in to care and between different birth family members, as placements sadly broke down. This potentially led to further instabilities for these already vulnerable children, meaning they were then older and more unsettled when adoption was finally deemed the right option. It also meant that prospective adopters at that time were warned that they were in for a very long wait.