All your questions answered!
What’s the difference between adoption and fostering?
Adoption is a permanent arrangement that legally transfers the parental responsibility from the birth parent/s to the adopter/s.
At the point of the adoption order, the child will usually take the surname of the adoptive family and become part of their family for life.
Fostering is a temporary, short or long-term arrangement, during which the foster carer/s can make day-to-day decisions about the care of the child, but the ultimate parental responsibility is usually shared between the local authority and the child’s birth parents.
How old do I have to be to adopt?
You need to be over 21 years and to be able to look after a child until they become an adult and ideally be there to support them until after they grow up.
Do I have to be married?
No – you can be single, in a civil partnership, married or co-habiting.
Will my sexual orientation affect my application to adopt?
Absolutely not – whether you are heterosexual, gay, lesbian or bisexual, we welcome enquiries from any person able to offer a stable, loving home, regardless of their sexual orientation.
How much does it cost to adopt?
There is no charge for being assessed as an adopter or adopting a child. There are however some costs that adopters would be expected to cover, such as your medical assessment, dog assessment and any overseas checks if required.
Will a medical condition or disability affect my application to adopt?
Many health conditions would not prevent you from parenting a child. All adopters will be asked to have a full medical assessment by their GP, and the Agency’s medical adviser will then review this information. Your social worker will discuss with you any health related conditions that may have an impact on parenting a child.
Can I adopt if I smoke?
If you smoke we will not be able to consider your application to adopt a child under the age of 5 years old. If you are a smoker at the time of your enquiry and want to adopt a child under the age of 5 we would expect you to commit to a smoking cessation programme to support you to stop. This would also provide evidence that you are trying to stop. We will talk to you about your smoking habit and your plans to give up so that we can understand whether it may be difficult for you to give up. Usually we will not be able to accept your Registration of Interest until you have been a non-smoker for at least 6 months. If you wish to adopt a child over 5 years old, we would urge you not to smoke around the child, although we would prefer you not to smoke at all. This is due to the evidence associated with passive smoking around children and the effects on their health.
If you use e-cigarettes or vapes, please speak to us individually.
Would a criminal record affect my application to adopt?
If you have certain criminal convictions, such as offences against children, or certain violent offences, we won’t be able to consider your application to adopt. Other convictions would be looked at individually, and assessed.
You will be asked to disclose information about any allegations, cautions or convictions from the very start of the process.
Your complete honesty is very important, so please talk to us as soon as possible if you have any questions.
Do I need to own my own home?
No – you can adopt whether you rent or own your own home, as long as you have stable living arrangements and the space to accommodate a child. In most cases you will need to have a spare bedroom to accommodate a child.
Will I be required to undergo any background checks?
Yes, you will need to have a Disclosure & Barring Service check and a medical with your GP. We will also undertake statutory local authority checks and other enquiries with your employer/s, personal referees, counsellors and partner agencies such as Cafcass, etc.
Will you need to look into my finances?
We will need to consider your financial situation but just to ensure you are able to provide and care for a child into adulthood.
Will I receive any financial support?
As an adopter, you will gain parental responsibility for the child. This includes being financially responsible for them into adulthood. You will have the same entitlements as other parents so we would encourage you to look into whether you would be eligible to receive certain benefits to supplement your income, such as tax credits, child benefit, etc.
Sometimes, a child’s local authority may offer financial support, for example if the child has specific or identified additional needs. This is usually means tested, reviewed annually and, if applicable, would be discussed with you as part of the child’s support package.
Will you need to contact my previous partners?
Many adopters have been married before, or have been in previous relationships. Previous partners, particularly those you may have cared for children with or set up a household with, will need to be contacted for us to ascertain whether there are any concerns that would impact on your ability to care for a child.
This would be done very sensitively and after a discussion with you first.
Can I adopt if I have pets?
Often children love animals so in most cases this wouldn’t be a problem. All dogs are subject to a ‘dog assessment’ (which you will need to fund) to ensure they pose no risk to the child. There are certain breeds of dog that would prevent an adoption enquiry from proceeding. Other pets are subject to a pet assessment questionnaire to help us to assess any potential risk to a child.
How long does the application process take?
From the point of submitting your Registration of Interest, we aim to approve you as an adopter within six months. If there are any delays, such as delays with medicals, checks, etc - we will keep you up to date. There are certain tasks you will be asked to complete and the timeliness of these can impact on the overall timescale of your application.
You can click here for more information about the adoption process.
Can I adopt a child who has a different ethnicity to my own?
Yes, but we will assess how well you could meet the child’s identified needs and promote their culture and sense of identity as they grow up.
Factors such as where you live, the people in your network and your understanding of and attitudes towards other cultures would need to be considered in this assessment. We will need to be confident that you would be able to help a child understand their ethnicity, culture and identity.
I’ve recently had fertility treatment – does this matter?
We understand that this is an emotional time for you and the adoption process can be a challenging and emotional experience. We would therefore ask that you complete any fertility treatment before considering moving forward in the adoption process. We will talk to you about this as everyone’s experience is different but we would usually recommend that you wait for a period of at least six months before you start the application stage.
If however you have any questions during that time, or wish to attend an information event, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Can I still work if I adopt?
Yes, but we would ask for you, or your partner if you are in a relationship, to be at home with the child for on average 9-12 months after they move in with you. When there are two adopters it is possible for this to be shared, provided the arrangements are based on the child’s best interests.
I have children already, can I still adopt?
Yes – we would need to consider the age of your own children to ensure that there is an appropriate age gap between them and an adopted child. This is normally a minimum of at least 2 years. We recognise that all children are different so we will discuss this with you. We usually recommend that the adopted child is the youngest child in the family.
We will speak to you about your circumstances and will need to do some work with your child during the assessment process to understand their thoughts and feelings and assess what the impact will be on them if an adopted child joins the family.
Will I receive any support after I have adopted?
Yes you will. Over the course of your family life you will need advice and support to deal with some of the complex situations adoption can bring about.
We are here to help at every stage of your journey and have a wide range of universal, targeted and specialist services that you can access, from the moment your child is placed, until they reach adulthood. This can range from support groups to therapeutic parenting programmes and you are able to request an assessment of your adoption support needs at any time. We can also put you in contact with other adoptive parents who will be able to offer you advice.
In addition, the Local Authority who placed your child with you will have a responsibility to provide a tailored package of support, for the first 3 years following the adoption order