Stage Two Assessment, Training & Approval
This marks the beginning of Stage Two which is a 4-month long process during which time you will be assessed and a decision will be made on whether you are suitable to become an adopter. Second time adopters will begin the process at this stage as part of the ‘Fast Track’ Assessment.
The training and assessment part of the adoption process has two functions: to confirm that you are the right kind of person to adopt; and to give you the skills you need to be an adoptive parent.
Once you have notified the agency that you wish to proceed to assessment, you’ll begin by agreeing with them a plan detailing the assessment process, 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.
People make a lot of the time from application to placement, but we thought the time was well spent. It prepared us for what to expect and how to deal with different situations.
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.
This process involves conversations 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 who are your personal referees. The assessment process is designed to help the agency get a rounded picture of you and your family.
Before I went through the adoption process my main fear was being judged and subject to intense scrutiny by a stranger who would doubt my ability to parent. However, the reality was an interesting, almost therapeutic experience with my social worker who wasn’t in the slightest bit judgmental about me, my small house, or about my attitudes, beliefs and hopes.
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.
The agency may well 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.
Remember, the whole process is focused on finding the right homes for the children in care, so understanding the kinds of children you could support is very important. The agency is trying to establish that you and your partner have 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 assessment process is complete the social worker will gather all of the information together into a Prospective Adopters Report which is what is taken to the agency’s independent Adoption Panel. You will be provided with a copy of this and have five working days to comment on it before it goes to panel if you wish.
Going to panel
Your adoption agency’s independent Adoption Panel will review the information prepared by your social worker and consider it in detail. You would then normally be invited to attend the first part of the panel’s meeting should you wish to do so.
We were pleasantly surprised at how smooth the process was… It helped that the panel chair came out to meet us before commencing the meeting and helped calm our nerves.
The adoption panel is made up of adoption experts and experienced adopters and is independent of the adoption agency. It is their job to make a judgement on your suitability to be an adoptive parent. The panel meet to consider all the evidence presented to them and then make a recommendation back to the agency.
The adoption panel’s recommendation should be made within four months of the beginning of Stage 2 of the assessment.
Making a decision
Once the adoption panel have made a recommendation 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.
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.
Your agency should inform you about the role of Adoption Match and with your permission refer you as soon as possible and no later than three months.
What to do if you don’t agree – problems and appeals
Adoption agencies generally try to ensure that the applicants that they accept for assessment have the experience and strengths that would enable them to meet the needs of the children who are waiting to be adopted.
Your adoption agency will try to resolve any issues that arise during the assessment, however if difficulties cannot be resolved, they may decide not to continue the assessment. You should be kept fully informed, and offered advice and counselling if this happens. You may decide to withdraw, in which case you can take time to reconsider and decide whether to apply to a different agency. Any new agency would need to seek information from the agency you previously applied to. However, if you don’t wish to withdraw, your adoption agency will prepare a ‘brief report’ containing the information gathered up to that point, which will be presented to the adoption panel for a recommendation. Your agency’s decision maker will then decide whether the assessment should continue or the application be turned down.
Following either a ‘brief report’ or a full Prospective Adopters Report, if your application is not approved by the adoption agency’s decision maker 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, an independent body within 40 days. In these cases the IRM undertakes a review of your application and then makes recommendations to your adoption agency. It is then up to your agency’s decision maker to consider the recommendations and make a final decision.