Your health and adoption

You need to have energy and will be expected to give care and support for your adopted child throughout childhood and into young adulthood.

What the agency needs to know

dadandboysfootball_rsbodyimageDuring the first assessment stage of the adoption process, you would need to have a medical.

Agencies are trying to assess two things:

  • your longevity so as to reduce the chances of an adopted child suffering further loss of a parent.
  • the impact of health issues on your ability to raise and parent a child who may have been adversely affected by their earlier experiences.

As well as existing health conditions, an agency will want to discuss lifestyle issues such as weight, smoking and alcohol consumption. These issues are not barriers to adoption but they could present health risks in the future. If you have resolved any problems with such issues in the past, the agency may consider that you have shown strength and motivation to deal with problems which would enhance your application.

If you have any anxiety about health issues you can discuss your concerns with the agency when you make your first approach.

Can I adopt if I smoke?

Although you may not be automatically excluded from adopting, most agencies will strongly encourage you to give up because of the known medical risks of passive smoking for young children.

If you hope to adopt a child aged 0–5 years, it is likely that you will be asked to give up smoking at least six months before the home study phase of the process starts because of the medically recognised associated health risks to children. Although this is not a legal requirement some agencies will implement this as it will be seen as being in the best interests of the child’s health.

If you are interested in adopting a child aged 5 or over agencies will ask you to consider how you will ensure your smoking does not impact on a child placed with you and how you will encourage them to follow a healthy lifestyle.

Agencies will engage with you to provide information, advice and access to support to help you give up smoking or you can approach your GP for information about smoking cessation programmes.

What about serious illness?

If you have had treatment for a serious illness, you may want to speak to your GP first about whether they feel this could impact on your ability to adopt a child. The agency will seek full information from your GP and will want to establish the impact of the illness and future prognosis and their Medical Adviser may want to contact your hospital consultant for further details before being able to make a recommendation. If there is a significant risk that you may not be able to care for a child throughout their dependent years, the Medical Adviser will seek further information and advise the Adoption Agency accordingly.

Can you adopt if you’ve suffered from mental health issues?

If you have experienced or are currently experiencing a mental health problem you would not automatically be ruled out as an adopter. An agency would need to carefully consider all the factors around the condition before making a decision.

For example, if you have suffered from depression in the past, it would be advisable to talk to your GP before making an adoption application to find out their views and whether they would support your application.

What the agency needs to know

The Agency’s Medical Adviser will want to understand the circumstances that led to depression and be reassured that you will be sufficiently robust to cope with the inevitable stresses of adopting a child.

Positives in recovery

Some applicants have used medication, counselling and other therapies during stressful times in their lives, particularly when going through the sadness of unsuccessful treatment for infertility. The agency would look at how you had used support and this could be considered a strength in your application. If you are continuing to use some medication this will not automatically rule you out but further information would be needed from your GP about your agreed medication plan and your resilience to manage future stress.

Next Steps

If you’d like any further advise about any of the issues raised above please email or contact a few adoption agencies and attend a few informal information evenings.