Stage one Registration & Checks
When you have found an agency that you are comfortable with it’s time to formally register your interest to become an adoptive parent and undergo the first round of checks, now known as Stage One. This stage will usually take no longer than two months.
Although you can make contact with as many agencies as you like, you can only make a single formal application to adopt (Registration of Interest). This means picking an agency that you trust to go through the adoption process with you. Remember, the agency you pick will be responsible for getting to know you and your family, assessing your strengths and preparing you for the task ahead. Most agencies will offer you an informal meeting with a social worker before you complete the Registration of Interest. This is a great opportunity to get a feel for each other and will hopefully flag up any potential issues before you get too far into the process.
Getting turned away
If the agency says they cannot help you after this meeting don’t despair! Make a note of the reasons they give and then speak to another agency. Adoption agencies all have their own immediate needs and priorities, and being turned away by one does not necessarily mean you are unsuitable to be an adopter. If you are unsure, give our information line a call and one of our advisers will talk you through your options.
There is no standardised form to submit your Registration of Interest for the adoption process in England but there are some things that you can expect from each agency. You will start by agreeing a Prospective Adopter Plan with the agency. This will set out both your own and the agency’s responsibilities and expectations for this stage of the process. The agency will then collect basic factual information from you such as:
- factual information about you and your household – such as names and dates of birth
- basic information on you and your partner – such as income, occupation and health
- the names of three referees the agency can contact, two of which must not be related to you
- basic information on the kinds of child you are open to adopting
There are likely to be legal disclaimers for you to sign, including one that states you are not in the process of applying to be adopters with any other agency.
Checks and references
Your application form will include permission to take up references and to request a medical report and a criminal background check (DBS) as well as contacting your local authority. The agency will probably want three written references, two of which will need to be from non family members. The medical report is completed by your GP then considered by the agency’s Medical Adviser, and is simply to ensure that you are fit enough to cope with the rigours of parenting. Any medical issues that arise from this report will be discussed with you, and sometimes further information will be sought. The police check is simply to confirm that you have no convictions or cautions that would prevent you from being an adoptive parent. Remember, having past convictions doesn’t necessarily exclude you, but it is important that you share anything that might come up with your adoption agency. They can then work through any potential issues with you.
You will be invited to attend preparation groups with other prospective adopters, which will help you explore the benefits and challenges of adoption. These may start during this stage. 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 give you the skills you will need in the future.
End of stage one decision
Based on the information gathered during this period, the agency will make a decision on whether you can continue to Stage Two.
If the agency decides that you are unsuitable to adopt at the end of Stage One they must provide in writing a clear explanation of the reasons why. Should you wish to complain about this decision you can make a complaint using their local complaints procedure.
Taking a break
You can choose, if you wish, to take a break of no longer than six months between Stage One and Stage Two of the process. Sometimes an adoption agency may recommend a break, to give time to resolve any housing, employment or other issues that may arise.
Stage Two is undertaken by the same agency that carries out Stage One, unless in exceptional circumstances, such as the agency not having capacity to do this or the prospective adopter unexpectedly having to move to a different location. In these circumstances, a new agency may agree to undertake Stage Two, and any records will need to be transferred to the new agency.