What to Expect When Adopting: Interview with Adoption Matters

Image of Jenny from Adoption Matters with caption 'What expect when adopting'.

To mark National Adoption Week, we caught up with Jenny from Adoption Matters – a registered children’s charity and one of the largest voluntary adoption agencies (VAA) in the UK. On a mission to recruit, train and support individuals and families as adopters, they are committed to offering them ongoing support and training for as long as they need it.

National Adoption Week is a chance for every single person touched by adoption to feel seen, heard, valued and understood. It helps to raise awareness of adoption and works to bust adoption-related myths.

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How does adoption work?

There are many reasons why children in England require adoption. Children enter care for a variety of reasons; unfortunately today the most common reason is abuse and/or neglect. If social work teams cannot assist families to make it safe for children to return to live at home or with live with extended family, the decision may be made by courts that children require long term care through adoption. There are just under 1,900 vulnerable children waiting for adoption who need a stable, caring home right now across England. All prospective adopters will need to go through an adoption assessment with an approved adoption agency. There is no profit in adoption in the UK and a lot of agencies are also registered charities, like ourselves.

What should I consider when adopting a child?

Your support network is a big one and having support is vital, just as it is for any parent. Friends or family that you can call on to help out is something you need to think about.

You may be worried that you do not have the right skills and/or experience to adopt a child, well don’t! Your agency will explore with you how your life experience and skills will help you become a parent through adoption. You will receive a LOT of preparation, support and training too.

How long does the adoption process take?

The adoption assessment is in two parts, the first part which involves a lot of checks, medicals, references and training for you takes around two months, the second part is your assessment which will be with a social worker. Adoption Matters takes this at your own pace but we aim to complete this in around four months. Don’t worry about being worried about what questions we ask or what is written about you, any issues or queries will be raised with you and you get to input and see your final assessment report which is called a ‘Prospective Adopters Report’ or PAR for short.

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What adoption agency should I use?

This is a question only you can answer. There are a number of Regional Adoption Agencies and Voluntary Adoption Agencies across England, Wales and Scotland all working hard to find families for children. We usually advise our enquirers to ‘shop around’ and choose the agency they feel most comfortable with, ask for information packs and attend information events. All approved adoption agencies are monitored by Ofsted and all operate under the same regulations but some offer more than others. We would advise to ask a few key questions on top of the usual obvious queries such as: ask for their latest Ofsted report and rating, ask what support they can offer adopters now and in the future and also ask about staff retention and vacancies. If you live in the North of England, Stoke, Shropshire or Staffordshire, we would of course love you to check out our website which offers all of this information. For other agencies, you can find them at YouCanAdopt.co.uk

How does adoption work for gay couples?

There are no barriers for LGBTQ+ people to adopt, we actively encourage enquiries. You do not have to be part of a couple to adopt, we have approved many single adopters from the LGBTQ+ community. Adoption Matters was voted a commended adoption agency in 2021 by New Family Social, the UK’s charity for LGBTQ+ adopters and foster carers.

How does adoption work for single parents?

We have lots of single adopters!

How does adoption work for parents with existing children?

We welcome and encourage enquiries from people who have children. You can adopt if you have grown up children or children still living at home.

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What are the main difficulties of adopting a child?

This is a difficult one to answer as this is different for every child and or family as every child has different circumstances and backgrounds. However, what we do know is that every child who has spent any time in care has experienced trauma, separation from their family, no matter what the circumstances, is traumatic to a child. Ongoing support and training for both adopters and the children is vital. Sometimes adopters do not access training or support with us for many years after a child is placed, perhaps when they reach their teenage years.

What happens when adoption falls through?

When an adoption breaks down the child can be placed back into foster care. It can happen early on in a placement or it can happen months or even years after placement. Whenever it happens, it's obviously an incredibly traumatic experience for everyone involved. It is rare, there are no national statistics on adoption disruptions as the figure is so low but it does happen. Full support would be given to the child and family involved.

How do you explain adoption to a child?

At Adoption Matters, we work very closely with our adopters in how to speak to children about adoption and offer full support and guidance including books for children. Gone are the days when children are not told they are adopted or their past hidden. Experience has shown that having a strong sense of their history and family roots is very beneficial to a child’s well-being and building a sense of their identity for the future. You can view a film all about the importance of identity, here.

For many adopted children, it is important and appropriate for them to keep in contact with people from their past too. This could include birth family, siblings, previous foster carers and other significant people in their lives. Every child’s circumstances and contact arrangements will be different but it's important for you to think about this now as contact is a very important aspect of adoption.

Thank you Jenny.

For anyone looking for support or expert advice, visit Adoption Matters' website and follow them oInstagram.

You can also visit You Can Adopt to find out more about this year’s National Adoption Week campaign.