Most people have the capacity to be parents and we have no blueprint of the ideal parent. People bring different life experiences and qualities, and your own capacities will often be enhanced by what your extended family offers. Like other parents, adopters will learn a lot about parenting and children "on the job".
You bring your own experiences of childhood, of family relationships, coping with teenage years, leaving home and close friendships. Understanding what your experiences have been, and what you have learned from them helps us understand what you will bring to adoptive parenthood.
Your support networks via family, friends, church/temple/mosque, or other community links are important in helping us understand who will be there for you and what your child’s wider network will be.
It would be helpful if you have experience of caring for children of different ages and abilities – you may have other children, stepchildren, godchildren, nieces or nephews, friends’ children – or you work with children. If you don’t have much experience with children we strongly advise you to arrange to spend time with children on a regular basis – baby-sitting for friends, volunteering on a regular basis for e.g. at a local playgroup or nursery or helping in a local infant school with reading. This will be invaluable to you and also helps build up local links and contacts.
Understanding how you have coped with sadness, difficulties or stress in your life helps us to anticipate how you might cope with a child who will have upset and angry feelings. It will demonstrate a capacity to try to understand the child’s behaviour and actions and to make sense of it for the child. We are looking for evidence that you are flexible and that you have negotiated change well in the past, and have managed conflict well.
If you come to adoption because of infertility issues, or if you have experienced some other serious loss or bereavement, it is important that you have given yourself sufficient time to grieve and to feel emotionally ready to embark on adoption. If childless, it is important that you have accepted this in a way that has not marred your relationship, and understand that an adopted child is not the solution to your childlessness.
Adopters need to understand and accept their child’s history and birth family. Your child will need to make sense of the past and why they needed to be adopted. Their story is likely to be painful and we will help you think about how to share it, and to accept that your child may feel loss, sadness, confusion and anger at times. We are looking for a capacity to accept the child’s history without being haunted by it or feeling the need to use it as the explanation for all of the child’s future behaviour.
You will probably have the opportunity to meet your child’s birth parents before placement. Some children have contact with birth parents, siblings or other relatives after adoption. Most adopters are asked to write to their child’s birth parents (via letterbox contact arranged through the adoption agency) from time to time to let them know how their child is progressing. All of these possibilities need careful discussion about what is in the child’s interests and we need adopters who think they can cope with this.
We expect adopters to value their children’s family background and racial, religious and cultural background. Adopters who value difference and respect individuals from a range of backgrounds will find it easier to accept their children’s background and promote a positive sense of identity.
If you are a couple we look at the strength of your relationship, as it is important for children who are adopted that their new parents can cope with difficulties and disagreements, and will support each other as parents.
If you are applying as a single parent we look at your strengths and it is particularly important to be sure that you have good supports and people with whom you can share difficulties honestly, as well as sharing the good times.
The assessment is also an opportunity to discuss what your hopes and expectations are as parents and how that fits with the children who need families. - their age, gender, ethnic background, religion, their family history and other needs. If there is not likely to be a fit between your hopes and the children available, we may not be able to help you.
Caring for children: child care experience, knowledge of child development, ability to provide a good standard of care and meet the child's individual needs.
Providing a safe and caring environment:
Working as part of a team: an ability to work with social workers, health, education and other professionals, to communicate effectively, keep information confidential and promote an anti-discriminatory approach to parenting.
Adoption as a life long process: an ability to meet a child's needs in relation to their birth family and past history, and seek support.
Own development: an ability to understand your own past experiences, develop a support system and sustain relationships through periods of stress.
Research suggests the following are positive indicators for successful adoptive parents.