The journey to adoption starts at many different places for each person, and it is an important part of the whole process.
Even before the process officially starts, you need to take stock of why you want to adopt.
There may be many different reasons for prospective adopters wanting to legally adopt one or more children, but it is important to always bear in mind that the primary reason for adoption is the welfare and safeguarding of vulnerable children.
Of course, adoption can be a wonderful experience for both children and their adoptive parents, but your satisfaction is not the chief goal.
Once the official process begins, part of the in-depth discussion process will focus on your motivations for adopting. If your primary purpose is to have a ready-made, trouble-free “shopping list” family — perhaps because your circumstances prevent you from conceiving birth children naturally — then you will really need to think again.
That’s not to say that adoptive parents don’t have a say in the kind of children they adopt (particularly in situations where there are more children needing new homes than available adopters) but this should be primarily motivated by character and practicalities.
Most social services and private agencies will recommend that you take time to process and come to terms with recent bereavements involving children — perhaps a miscarriage or death of an older familial child — before applying to adopt.
It’s also important that there are no attempts to conceive naturally or via treatments such as IVF once the adoption process begins. This is primarily because your attention needs to be focused on the adopted children who will come into your family. It would be quite unfair on both you and the children involved if you conceived and gave birth to a child just before or after you had been matched for adoption, particularly as there are often many additional challenges for adoptive parents to deal with in the initial stages.
You’ll also want to bring your thinking about the adoption process up-to-date, as it’s possible you may have an understanding based on how the adoption process worked 15-20 years ago.
If you are expecting to adopt a newborn baby, you will either need to adjust your expectations or be prepared to wait for a long time, potentially being disappointed. The fact is that far fewer newborns are put up for adoption (though it does still happen). This is primarily because social services do what they can to keep children with immediate or extended family wherever possible.
While I don’t have exact statistics, and things change between regions and over time, it’s a reasonable assumption to make that the youngest age at which children will be placed with an adoption family is at around two years old, and upwards from this age of course. Exceptions may be when a mother chooses to give up her child at birth, or if siblings are removed from a mother just after she has given birth and where it is desirable that they be placed together as a single family unit.
Adoption can be an immensely rewarding experience but it is not without its challenges — both those which any parent might face plus those which are only borne of caring for children who have faced some form of abuse or neglect for part or all of their lives.
That means it’s not for everyone. The official adoption process tends to act like a funnel, meaning that you can investigate the possibility of adoption — even if you’re not 100% sure (and that’s OK) — without feeling like you are wasting yours or anyone else’s time or resources.
As people travel through the process of training, applications, interviews, panel, matching, placement and legal adoption, those who are unsuitable will gradually fall away. The process itself is quite demanding but its ultimate reward can be the rescue of children and the building of new, stable, loving family units.
The first step to take after you (and partner, if applicable) decide to see if the adoption journey is right for you, is to contact either social services or a private adoption agency. They can then have an informal chat with you and advise you of the next steps to take.
Our journey is focused on UK-based children and we’re working with social services. We hope to add more information from other adopters, including those looking to adopt British and overseas children, in time.
Stick with us to read more about this exciting, life-changing journey.