Written by: Toni Foot
Adoption offers the opportunity for children to find new families that can provide the love and stability their birth families are unable or unwilling to give them. Those new families can take many forms and who they are is not as important as their ability to provide a loving home for the child.
Can I adopt?
In England anyone can adopt, regardless of their gender, sexual orientation or marital status. Single persons may feel that they would not be allowed to adopt alone, but in fact they are welcomed by adoption agencies in the same way as married couples. For some children a single parent is actually the most appropriate placement since a single parent can give a child undivided attention that other family members can make difficult. Many children in need of adoption have had traumatic early experiences, often involving neglect or abuse, so a close relationship with a single parent can be just what they need to see their world in a different light and begin a new life.
What may stop me from adopting?
It is important that you can provide a home for an adoptive child, although you do not have to own your home to be considered. Nor do you have to be a millionaire: you just have to be able to support a child. Adoptive parents are entitled to many benefits in the same way as birth families (such as child tax credits). Adoptive parents have certain rights too, just as new birth parents do. They are entitled to take parental leave to help an adoptive child settle into their new family and time off to care for their child should they need it.
The safety and wellbeing of children is the most important consideration when deciding on the suitability of potential adoptive parents. For that reason, persons with cautions or convictions involving harm to children are unlikely to be allowed to adopt. However, a criminal record involving other circumstances does not necessarily mean you would be unable to adopt, if the family or individual was deemed otherwise suitable.
Potential parents with disabilities or illnesses are also considered suitable for potential adoptive parents providing they can demonstrate that they can care for a child appropriately. The same applies to older people: as long as they can provide a stable family for the child they may be considered, although it is important that they think carefully about their decision to adopt as children can be physically and emotionally demanding in a way that older individuals may find difficult to manage.
Where do I start?
If you feel that you may be able to offer a child the support, stability and love they need, the first step on your journey is to contact an adoption agency (through your local authority or charities such as Barnardo’s) who will be able to guide you through the process. You may also wish to consider joining support communities such as through Adoption UK where you can find out more about what is involved and speak to families in similar circumstances to your own.