Over the following four months you will be trained and assessed and ultimately a decision made on whether you are suitable to adopt a child.
Second time adopters will begin the process at this stage as part of the ‘Fast Track’ Assessment.
A plan will be drawn up between you and your agency detailing the assessment process: setting meeting and training dates as well as any further information that you’ll require. The agency will also set out its duties in carrying out the assessment and preparing their report about you known as the Prospective Adopter Report (PAR).
You will be invited to attend preparation groups with other prospective adopters, which will help you explore the benefits and challenges of adoption. You will also have the opportunity to meet experienced adopters and talk to them about the realities of family life. As well as key parenting skills, the preparation groups cover the special skills adoptive parents need to care for children who may have experienced neglect and abuse. The aim is to prepare you for the skills you will need in the future.
The “Home Study”
The main part of the assessment is a series of visits made by a social worker from your adoption agency to your home. During this time the social worker gets to know you and your family and spends time helping you think about what strengths you could bring to adoptive parenting.
During this time the social worker will have conversations with you about your childhood and your experiences of growing up. They will ask you about how you have dealt with past experiences, how you feel about your family and what sort of parent you want to be. Your capacity to reflect on your own past experiences may well be important in the future as you help your child reflect on things that have happened in their early years.
Family and Friends
As well as speaking with you, and your partner if you are a couple, your social worker will also meet any children you have and other people who live with you, as well as some of your wider friends and family in order to build a picture of who you are and the types of parents you would be. The agency may also want to contact previous partners, especially if there have been children involved in the relationship, and any adult children you or your partner might have.
While this might seem intimidating remember that, like the whole adoption process, this is done with the best interests of the children in mind. Former partners do not have any veto over your right to adopt, but your social worker may want to discuss with you why your relationship ended and what you learnt from it.
Prospective Adopters Report (PAR)
All the training and conversations feed into the prospective adopters report which will outline what sort of parents you would make and how you would be able to support the kinds of children in care. It will evidence how you have the the resilience and emotional maturity to be a good parent, and that you have a good support network around you in friends and family.
Once the report is complete, you will be provided with a copy and have five working days to comment on it before it is submitted to the agency’s independent Adoption Panel.
Going to Panel
The Adoption Panel is made up of adoption experts, experienced adopters and is independent of the adoption agency. They review all the evidence presented to them and then make a recommendation back to the agency on whether you are suitable to adopt a child. You would normally be invited to attend the first part of the panel’s meeting to answer questions they may have. You don’t have to attend but it is encouraged.
The adoption panel’s recommendation should be made within four months of the beginning of Stage Two of the assessment.
A decision is made
Your adoption agency’s decision maker will decide if you are suitable to adopt. The decision maker is a nominated person within the adoption agency who has the legal responsibility to make an approval decision. In most circumstances the decision maker accepts the adoption panel’s recommendation.
Making an appeal
There are rarely “surprise” decisions as agencies generally only pursue applications with people who have the experience and strengths needed to adopt a child from care.
If any issues arise that can’t be resolved, the agency may decide not to continue with your application. If this happens, the agency will produce a report which will be presented to the adoption panel who will recommend whether assessment should or the application be turned down to your agency’s decision maker.
If your application is turned down you must be notified of this in writing together with the reasons. If you disagree with the decision, you may request that your application is considered by the Independent Review Mechanism within 40 days. The IRM will review your application and then make recommendations to your adoption agency. It is then up to your agency’s decision maker to consider the recommendations and make a final decision.
The search begins
Once you have been approved you are now a prospective adopter. Your adoption agency will now begin the search for an appropriate child.