Can I Adopt?

Here are the questions we are asked most often about adoption, the children and us. Pick yours out here, or work through them all to learn more about what’s involved and to separate fact from fiction about whether you can adopt.

About Adoption

Adoption gives a child a new family when living with their own family is not possible. It is a way of giving a child an opportunity to start again – a legal process and permanent commitment which should be undertaken after careful examination of the head and heart. Adoption is a way of providing families for children, creating a new relationship which can provide the longterm security and love that children need.

There are currently nearly 2,500 children in the care of Local Authorities in England and Wales who are waiting for adoptive families.

Most of the children waiting to be adopted have had complex and difficult early life experiences, including abuse, trauma, and neglect. As a result of these experiences children may have a range of emotional, physical or learning difficulties.

Families are particularly needed for brother and sister groups of all ages, older children (over 4 years old), children with a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic heritage and children with additional needs. Click here to view profiles of the types of children who need families.

A total of 3,570 children in England were adopted in the year ending 31st March 2019. You can find out more about the legal aspects of adoption on the government website relating to adoption. There are very few absolute barriers to adoption but explore this page to hear the answers to some of the typical questions we are asked. 

All prospective adopters can choose between adopting via their regional adoption agency/local authority or via an independent, voluntary adoption agency like CCS. Here at CCS we encourage prospective adopters to explore both routes in determining what is right for them. Each agency will have a particular offer in terms of how they are able to help after adoption and a different feel and emphasis. The process and guidelines are set by government and are the same for both, although there are some differences that you should be aware of. The main distinction is that local authorities have a number of children in their care whom they are looking to place with adopters. The number, ages, ethnicities and needs of these children will vary over time. A voluntary adoption agency, like CCS, trains, assesses and approves adopters and then finds children for these adopters from Local Authorities around the country. At CCS we work with you to find your children whether they are near or far and have experience of working with Local Authorities across the country. The Local Authority adoption team will in the first instance look at the children in their care and then if there isn’t a suitable match, will look to other agencies.

In this region the Local Authority adoption teams from Bristol, North Somerset, Bath and North East Somerset, Gloucestershire, South Gloucestershire and Wiltshire all came together in 2019 to form one, new, separate body operating from three sites called Adoption West which is the new Regional Adoption Agency.

  • Ofsted Outstanding – CCS is the only Ofsted Outstanding adoption agency in the area and has been so for the past four inspections and eleven years.
  • We offer a unique adoption support service which is free, bespoke and genuinely lifelong. It’s what our reputation is built upon.
  • When you adopt with CCS you will be assessed and supported by a social worker who, once you are approved, will be the same person who then finds your children and takes you through all the stages of them joining your family. Our staff turnover is low and we pride ourselves on building genuinely lifelong relationships with families. Our adoption social workers and therapists have over 300 years’ experience of working in adoption between them.
  • CCS families can call on not only “their” social worker for support but also, should they need it, our in-house Therapy Service (funded through the government’s Adoption Support Fund) which is provided through The Centre for Adoption Support and Education and run by CCS.
  • CCS runs The Centre for Adoption Support and Education which operates from the same offices and all our families have access to its wide range of groups, workshops, courses and social events – all designed to support you and your adoptive family.
  • CCS employs a large number of adopters and people whose lives have been touched by adoption. Many of us have been where you are now and we understand how it feels.

We are based in Bristol and we work with prospective adopters who live within about an hour’s drive from our office. This is because once you have your child/ren at home with you we will be in regular contact for support visits and settling in and the distance needs to be a practical one for all concerned. If you are unsure whether you fall within our catchment or not then just give us a call on 0117 935 0005 or email advice@ccsadoption.org and discuss with one of our adoption advisers what might be possible.

No, CCS does not have a waiting list for beginning the assessment of prospective adopters. All initial enquiries are responded to quickly by our Advice team. Adoption advisers Jane, Lisa and Nicola are also adoptive parents and happy to talk informally about adoption and your situation, Monday – Friday 10-2pm. Outside of these hours, Monday-Friday 9 – 5pm you can talk to Jude, one of our adoption social workers. You can also arrange Saturday appointments if weekdays are difficult. Telephone 0117 935 0005 or email advice@ccsadoption.org 

Once a child’s Adoption is finalised, it is up to the parents to request help and support as and when they need it. This could be anything from needing a listening ear after a difficult time, to help with choosing schools, or finding therapy for a child. We would hope that, having built a relationship with us, you would trust us and value our experience to ask for this as you needed it. We are certainly always here for you and your adopted child from the early years to much later on in life, since we recognise that the impact of Adoption can be lifelong. We provide extensive support for adoptive families through The Centre for Adoption Support and Education

The government has laid down a suggested timeframe for the adoption process that all agencies aim to adhere to. The process is broken down in to two stages. Stage 1 is a minimum of 2 months and Stage 2 is a minimum of 4 months dependent on your personal circumstances. It is possible to take a break of up to 6 months between Stages 1 and 2, again dependent on your personal circumstances e.g. sometimes adopters take this time to increase their childcare experience, finish some house renovations or get some counselling. In a nutshell, the adoption process is considerably faster than it was a few years ago.

We know from research that it is damaging to children if they are moved any more than is absolutely necessary around the care system from carer to carer. Permanence is needed for children to thrive. Early Permanence is a practice that aims to reduce the number of moves a child in the care system potentially makes. A child, (often a young child or a baby, but Early Permanence can also be used for older children or sibling groups) is placed with adopters who are also approved foster carers and when a legal decision is finally made about the child’s future and adoption is the plan, then these adopters will go on to become the child’s new parents.

However, if the courts decide that the child should go back to their birth family then they will return the child, happy in the knowledge that they have given them a secure start and built a positive attachment.  Early Permanence is a practice that takes a very child centred person and where the adults take the risk but it has huge benefits for the children involved. CCS have led on the development of Early Permanence in the region and have a small team who work to further its take up. In March 2018 we became the first adoption agency in the country to receive the new Early Permanence Quality Mark in recognition of our excellent practice in this area of work.

For more information see our page What is Early Permanence? If you choose to adopt with CCS you will be asked to explore whether Early Permanence might be a route you would consider taking. To read about the experiences of one Early Permanence carer who went on to adopt her son click here.

To read our book of stories from people who have been down the Early Permanence route click here.

Sometimes it seems that all the media pick up on are the negative stories that arise from Adoption. Positive news is always less headline grabbing. From a large piece of research carried out by the University of Bristol in 2014 (Beyond the Adoption Order) the adoption breakdown rate in England runs at between 3 and 9%, that is 3-9 in 100 children leave their adoptive families before they are 18. Over the last 20 years CCS’s disruption rate has been 6%. It is certainly true that while parenting is demanding, adoptive parenting is even more so and it is why so much time and effort is put in to assessing and educating adopters about what they might encounter and supporting them as they need after adoption. Anecdotally, many adopters will tell you that while it has been no easy ride they are very happy indeed that they have taken this path and can’t imagine life without their children.

Gone are the days when children weren’t told they were adopted until they were 18. We realise now that it is important for children to grow up with an understanding of their roots and their past, so talking about adoption and birth family is an important part of an adoptive parent’s role – and something that we can help and support you with. However, it is the courts who decide the nature of the contact that a child should have with their birth family. Typically this would be indirect letterbox contact between the adopters and the birth family, perhaps once or twice a year. Direct face to face contact is less common, although sometimes it is arranged for siblings who have not been adopted together, or with foster carers or with birth family prior to adoption. The plan for contact can change over time and must take in to account the needs of the child and the adopters’ views. We encourage all adopters to be willing to meet birth parents/s at a one off meeting around the time their child/ren are moving in with them, as this is beneficial for all.

No, you don’t have to pay to use the services of CCS Adoption. Undertaking the adoption approval process is a free service and apart from paying your GP for an adoption medical (GP’s usually charge around £120- £140 for each medical, however the specific amount is set by your GP practice) and taking time off work to attend training and interviews with your social worker there are no fees from us. However, we are a charity and we fundraise to make up the difference between what we receive from central government for our work and what we need to cover the true cost of providing lifelong support to adopted children and their families – a responsibility which we take very seriously.  We are extremely grateful for all the support we receive from adoptive families and their supporters, which comes in many forms. Whilst we would be unable to accept a donation from you if you were undertaking the approval process, once approved and before receiving your adoption order we are allowed to receive small donations. After the adoption order our fundraisers would love to hear from you, whether you wanted to donate some money, take on a sporting challenge, involve your church or workplace in fundraising for us, or have another idea about how you might help.

The majority of children waiting for adoption do so with at least one brother or sister. It’s the reason why we ask prospective adopters to keep an open mind about how many children they might adopt and how large they see their family finally becoming. During assessment we will discuss with you the right number of children and ages for your particular family and situation, whether that be a single child or several.

The children who need adoptive families range from newborns to ten year olds – some have additional needs, some have a BAME background and some would benefit from staying with their brothers and sisters – all are different. Because of recent changes in social work practice there is a move towards trying to give children Early Permanence with foster parents who would become adopters if a decision is taken further down the line that they cannot live permanently with their birth family. This Early Permanence route has major benefits for the baby/child who is no longer at risk of moving around the care system and receives good parenting from as early as possible.  As a result there are more babies who potentially need adoption. But equally there are more risks for the Early Permanence carer in that the child might return to the birth family and there will be more unknowns in terms of a baby’s future development. Here at CCS we find families for children of all ages, including babies. The average age of the children we found families for in 2018/19 was just under three years old. Many prospective adopters, for understandable reasons, start their adoption journey with a fixed idea of wanting a child as young as possible, ideally a baby. We ask them to try and keep an open mind and to explore what is really right for their particular family and situation. What adopting a baby and becoming an Early Permanence carer might feel like is something that we would want to explore in depth through the adoption assessment and training process and discover if that is right for you.  You can read the story of an Early Permanence carer who went on to adopt her baby son here. And we have produced a book of Early Permanence stories which you can read here to get a feel for what’s involved. In March 2018 CCS became the first adoption agency in the country to receive a new Early Permanence Quality Mark in recognition of our excellent practice in this area of work.

 

Home and Family

CCS works with prospective adopters who live within about an hour’s drive from our office in Bristol. This is because once you have your child/ren at home with you we will be in regular contact for support visits and settling in and the distance needs to be a practical one for all concerned. If you are unsure whether you fall within our catchment or not then just give us a call and discuss with one of our adoption advisers what might be possible.

You do not need to own your own home in order to be considered for adoption. What is important is that you can demonstrate that you would be able to offer a secure and stable home for a child. However, Local Authorities usually expect you  to have a separate bedroom for each child you were hoping to adopt.

Yes you definitely can. The last ten years have seen huge changes in adoption.  Whether you are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is not a factor in your right to be considered, or indeed your ability to adopt. At CCS we recognise the strengths and skills that LGBT adopters bring and positively welcome enquiries from Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender adopters. If prospective adopters have transitioned in terms of gender it would be important that they were established in their gender identity and had a secure sense of self before applying. In the last year, a third of our approved adopters have been people from the LGBT community. You can read an adoption story from a same sex couple here.  Our entire team have received training from New Family Social on best practice in this area. CCS run a regular social group for LGBT adoptive families through The Centre for Adoption Support and Education. We are also members of New Family Social.

There are a disproportionate number of children from a BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) background waiting for adoptive families and these children, sadly, often still wait the longest. Whenever possible adoption agencies will always try and find parents for children who match their ethnicity and cultural background. Local authorities will often be looking for adopters who match the ethnicity of the children in their care, which can fluctuate. Voluntary Adoption Agencies – like CCS – are not responsible for a particular group of children but can look for children who best match the parents from around the country. So, if you have a BAME background you are likely to be very valuable to an adoption agency like us and here at CCS we would love to talk with you. However, while adoption agencies try to make ethnic matches as closely as they can for children, permanence for the child is the most important need to be fulfilled. As a result when agencies can’t match the child’s ethnic background they can also place children transracially i.e. with parents of a different ethnicity to the child, provided the adopters are able to demonstrate their ability and commitment to supporting the child in all aspects of their identity.

Yes you can. This is what is known as transracial adoption. When new parents can’t be found for a child that match their ethnicity and cultural background local authorities will consider parents of a different ethnicity provided they can take on the extra task of supporting the child’s racial and cultural identity. In practice this usually means white parents adopting children of colour and involves a level of education and engagement as a parent around what it means to grow up and live in our society as a person of colour.

Yes you can. Part of the adoption process would explore your support networks as these are going to be very important to you, whether you are adopting as a single, or a couple. CCS provides extra support for single adopters in the form of our Singles network , currently an online monthly meet up. If you are in a couple then we would expect you to have lived together for at least a year before starting your adoption journey.

You don’t have to be a British citizen to adopt a child, but you (or your partner, if you’re a couple) must have a fixed and permanent home in the UK and must have lived in the UK for at least 1 year before you begin the application process.

If you have a criminal caution or conviction for offences against children, or certain sexual offences against adults then you will not be able to adopt but, with the exception of these specified offences, a criminal record will not necessarily rule you out. The key is to be totally honest in your application, and this will enable us to explore any criminal cautions or convictions with you and what these may mean in terms of adoption.

Yes you can. You can adopt a child if you have birth children or before you consider having birth children. If before then it would be important for the adopted child to be settled before considering birth children. And you would need to recognise the possibility that it could potentially be something not in the best interests of that child. If you already have birth children, it is usually the case that an adopted child would be the youngest in the family by around 2 years at the point the adopted child is being placed. Your children (whether they still live with you) or if they are adults will be included as part of the assessment.

Children over 16 will usually be DBS checked, as will any other adult member of your household.

It is a good idea for adoptive parents to be reasonably fluent in English so that they can advocate for a child once that child is with them and so that the concepts of adopting a child can be fully understood. We would recommend that you attend an English course prior to enquiring about adoption.

Finances

Yes, you can. Your financial circumstances and employment status will always be considered as part of an adoption assessment and we would encourage you to have considered how you will manage financially. Openness and honesty about financial pressures is encouraged right from the outset of your application. However, having a low income, debt, or being unemployed does not rule you out and there is no minimum income required. Being able to support your family financially is important but so too is being able to spend enough time with your child/ren as part of building attachment and both would be explored in the adoption process. What we are looking for is stability and security in your situation.

If you are employed you may wish to look at your adoption policy at work, to understand what adoption leave and pay rights you have. You may be eligible for Tax Credits or other benefits such as Child Benefit, Disability Living Allowance and Carer’s Allowance (if you adopt a disabled child). And in exceptional circumstances there may be financial support from the placing local authorityClick here for further information on this from First4Adoption

No, but the main carer will need to be able to take at least six months and preferably twelve months off in adoption leave, sometimes longer. This is driven by the needs of the child. A child will need time to build a relationship with their new family and it will take time for them to feel safe and secure. The leave can be shared if you are adopting as a couple. If an older child is being placed and attends school then after a period of settling in it may be possible to work and still be there for the child at either end of the school day. Sometimes a child may need a parent to be off work longer and in exceptional circumstances financial support may be available from the placing authority. For people who are self-employed and not entitled to adoption leave allowances then we would need to discuss how to balance the need for work and offering a child the stability that they need.

If you are employed you may wish to look at your adoption policy at work, to understand what adoption leave and pay rights you have. You may be eligible for Tax Credits or other benefits such as Child Benefit, Disability Living Allowance and Carer’s Allowance (if you adopt a disabled child). And in exceptional circumstances there may be financial support from the placing local authorityClick here for further information on this from First4Adoption

Health

Yes, you can. There is no upper age limit, but as caring for children is demanding you will need to be able to demonstrate the energy and emotional and physical health necessary to care for a child through to adulthood. The majority of our adopters these days are in their 30s and 40s.

Yes, you can. Many people come to adoption after having tried to have children through fertility treatment. And to help people learn more about what it’s really like to adopt a child, CCS Adoption now have adoption advisers who are adoptive parents and some of whom have experienced fertility issues themselves. They are very happy to talk informally about what it’s like to adopt, about the types of children waiting for families and about the adoption process here at CCS. You can explore adoption with us whether you are considering, or having fertility treatment now, or if it is something you are moving on from. We have no hard and fast rules about a period of time between the end of treatment and starting the adoption process, however many adoptive families tell us that waiting at least 6 months before starting the formal assessment process was helpful for them, but give us a call to discuss at any time. We only want people to begin the process when they are emotionally ready and positive about the opportunity to start or complete their family through adoption. Click here to read the story of Susan and Matt who made their family with CCS Adoption after fertility treatment.

None of these facts would necessarily prevent you from adopting. And many adopters successfully adopt whilst having some of these issues. However, we would want to explore with you, your own GP (all applicants must arrange and pay for a medical with their own GP) and our medical adviser, whether or not any of these things would significantly reduce your life expectancy, or prevent you from being able to effectively parent a child throughout their childhood. If it’s a health condition, the main considerations will relate to the frequency with which you are unwell, how that manifests itself and who is there to offer support at such times. If the health issues are lifestyle related then we would expect you to demonstrate a commitment to making positive change. And if the issue is an intermittent one then we would explore with you whether or not there were strategies that could be developed to support you and ensure your child was not affected during these times. For more reflection on this question see the NHS page on adoption.

Smoking/vaping will not necessarily rule you out from adopting. However, smoking/vaping poses significant health risks and passive smoking impacts children. Local Authorities placing children will not prioritise families where someone smokes or vapes so we would expect a commitment to changing this.

Belief

We welcome everyone, people of all faiths and none. Many of our adopters have come to us because of our historical connections with the Church. Others have told us that while they feared they might meet prejudice around their faith this has not been the case. Your faith is not under scrutiny when you go through the assessment process. What would be explored is your ability and attitude to parenting a child, who may or may not end up sharing your faith.

The roots of our organisation are in the Catholic Church. It was founded in 1904 as the Catholic Children’s Society and for many years the children who were adopted through the organisation were the children of “unmarried mothers”. In 2005 the law changed, permitting same sex couples to adopt. Subsequently the agency broke its formal connections to the Church and in 2008 changed its name to Clifton Children’s Society. We are now simply good neighbours.

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