10 Common Misconceptions Quashed
1. I’m single, so I can’t adopt
Single people can adopt, whatever their gender. Many single people and unmarried couples have successfully adopted children.
2. I’m too old to adopt
Adopters need to be over 21 but there is no upper age limit. Agencies will expect you to have the health and vitality to see your children through to an age of independence. Consideration will be given to your age comparative to the age of the child you want to adopt; younger children are more likely to be placed with younger parents.
3. I can’t adopt because I’m gay
Whether you are heterosexual, lesbian or gay is not a factor in your right to adopt.
4. I work full time so I’m not allowed to adopt/I’m unemployed or too poor to adopt
Your financial circumstances and employment status will always be considered as part of an adoption assessment, but low income, being unemployed or employed do not automatically rule you out. You can be an adoptive parent while on benefits.
The agency will want to discuss how the responsibility of caring for a child would be managed. Some agencies want a child to have their own bedroom but this is not a requirement and in some circumstances sharing can be considered.
Your local authority may provide support, especially for adopters of sibling groups or of children with a disability or special need of some kind.
You would also be encouraged to look into what benefits or Tax Credits you may be entitled to. A number of other allowances are available for children with disabilities such as Priority Housing, Disability Living Allowance and Carers Allowance.
5. I can’t adopt because I have a criminal record
If you have a criminal caution or conviction for offences against children or certain sexual offences against adults then you will not be able to adopt but, with the exception of these specified offences, a criminal record will not necessarily rule you out. The key is to be totally honest in your application.
Agencies will give consideration to the type of offence, when it was committed, the extent to which it has a bearing on being a parent and whether it was revealed at the time of application and how you have reflected on your past actions.
You cannot apply to become an adoptive parent if you or anyone living in your household has a criminal conviction or has been cautioned for specified criminal offences against children and/or some sexual offences against adults.
Checks are taken up through the Disclosure and Barring Service, local authorities and other agencies. Agencies will discuss with you any convictions that are recorded against you.
6. I have children living at home, so I won’t be able to adopt
Not true. Having children of your own (of any age) will certainly not exclude you from adopting, whether they are living at home with you or have grown up. Consideration will, however, be given to the age gap between your own children and the age of the child(ren) you wish to adopt and the position of each child within the family in accordance with the child(ren)s’ needs.
Children over 18 will usually be DBS checked, as will any other adult member of your household.
7. It is a big risk to adopt a child because so many adoptions break down.
Not true. The vast majority of adoptions are successful and the experience of ordinary family life gives children the opportunity to rebuild their trust in adults. Some adopted children have more complex needs, but the commitment of adoptive parents is remarkable in gaining support for their children. In our podcast, Professor Julie Selwyn, an experienced adoption researcher, found that in more than 37,000 adoptions she studied over recent years, there was a breakdown rate of only 3%.
Many of the adoptive parents in this group whose children were no longer living in the family, continued to be involved it their children’s lives, although no longer living together.
There is advice and support for adoptive families after adoption for children who have more complex needs.
8. I can’t adopt because I smoke
Smoking will not necessarily rule you out from adopting. Consideration will be given to this and to all health- and lifestyle-related issues, and the agency will want to know of any specific health risks to you or to the children who may be placed in your care .
There is no single national policy on smoking, but all agencies will apply some restrictions. According to national medical advice children under five and those with particular medical conditions should not be placed in smoking households. You will usually need to be smoke-free for at least six months before adoption from these groups can be considered.
9. I am disabled so will not be allowed to adopt
Being disabled should not automatically exclude anyone from becoming an adopter and it is widely recognised that disabled people can often provide a very loving home for a child.
Disability is only one of the many issues that will be considered by an adoption agency so don’t rule yourself out before you have had a conversation with your agency of choice.
Even if you believe that you might need some additional assistance to adopt a young person, social services may be able to provide this support.
It is recognised that the life experiences of disabled people can give them a unique insight into the lives of children in care, who often have a sense of themselves as ‘different’ or who may also have a disability. Living alongside disability in the context of positive relationships can teach children the importance of inclusivity and how to value difference.
The Medical Adviser will assess the information provided through a medical on a disabled applicant and an assessing social worker will also explore with you any potential impact this may have on parenting and how these would be managed.
10. I can’t adopt a child from a different ethnic background
Not true. You can be matched with a child with whom you do not share the same ethnicity, provided you can meet the most important of the child’s identified needs. All families should be able to get support to help their adopted child to understand and appreciate the important cultural, religious or linguistic values of their birth community.
The following questions will prompt you to contemplate the important issues that you and the child would need to face:
- Do you live in an area where there is a diverse population? Would there be other children in the nursery or school that reflect a range of ethnicities?
- Do you have people in your network of different backgrounds that could help you support a child to develop knowledge and understanding about their ethnic and cultural background?
- How would you support a child to be confident about feeling different from other family members because of their ethnic and cultural background?
- How would you help a child to understand and connect to their ethnic heritage?
Our elearning programme, First Steps, explores this further in the module ‘Identity, Heritage and Life Story Work’.