FIRST4Adoption is the national information service for people who are interested in adopting a child in England. It is supported and funded by the Department for Education. If you are considering adoption in England, First4Adoption’s website is a good place to start. The service runs a telephone information line, which can answer questions on the adoption approval process, funding opportunities, and post-adoption support. The line has handled nearly 10,000 calls since the service’s launch in 2013.
This year, First4Adoption began a series of monthly “Meet the Adopter” webcasts, in which adopters tell their stories and enquirers can ask questions online. To date, the webcasts have been viewed by 5500 people. First Steps, the e-learning section of the service’s website, is a free resource designed by experts to help adoptive parents find out about important topics such as why children come into care; attachment; and life-story writing.
Adoption enquiries in Scotland are handled by St Andrew’s Children’s Society. In Wales, they are covered by Adopt Wales, and Northern Ireland is served by the Northern Ireland Regional Adoption and Fostering Agency. All three have websites with further information, support, and news on events for prospective adopters or fosterers.
In May last year, the Government set up the Adoption Support Fund (ASF) to provide adoption support services for adoptive families. Local authorities have a responsibility to assess for adoption support, on request. For the first three years after an adoption order is complete, the local authority that placed a child is legally responsible; thereafter, it is the responsibility of the local authority where the child lives, if that is different. If a child has therapeutic needs, the local authority applies to the ASF to fund treatment. Psychotherapy, and play and music therapy, are some of the treatments available.
Private adoption agencies provide their own package of post-adoption support, and this is an important factor in choosing whether to adopt through a local authority, or a private agency, and deciding through which agency to adopt.
Home for Good
AT THE Christian charity Home for Good, the support manager, Joanna King, says that they aim “to walk the journey with everybody, from start to end”. A telephone enquiry line and online chat service are available for advice and prayer during office hours. The majority of the staff team have fostered and adopted themselves; so they understand what is involved. “It’s about creating a safe space where people can ask the questions that feel sometimes a little bit difficult to ask,” Miss King says.
The charity’s vision is “A home for every child who needs one”, and churches play a vital part in achieving this. By signing up as Home For Good churches, they make a commitment to encouraging fostering and adoption, praying, giving, and being supportive and welcoming places for adoptive and foster families. Adoption Sunday, on 6 November, is a further way in which churches can promote adoption and fostering.
Home for Good also appoints church “champions” in congregations, who may be fosterers or adopters, or members of the caring professions. “If someone is considering adoption, they can chat informally to their church ‘champion’ after a service,” Miss King says. Or, if she gets a phone call from someone who is struggling, she can put them in touch with a champion for support, prayer, or advice.
Miss King suggests that congregations can also offer practical care. “It can be as simple as taking on an adoptive or foster parent’s ironing for a few weeks so they can spend more time with their child, or taking round meals. Churches often do this when a baby is born, but it is not so common for someone who has recently taken a child into their care.
“Our aim is that fostering and adoption becomes part of the worship of churches. Churches then become a centre-point for foster carers and adopters, and they become the extended family for that child. We all have a spiritual responsibility to the children who find themselves on their own.”
Home for Good also runs regional “movements” to help raise the profile of fostering and adoption in churches, and to help form support networks for foster carers, adoptive parents, and their children. Melissa Smart* is the charity’s “local movement co-ordinator” for Suffolk, and deals with a series of “connect groups”.
There are now several volunteer-run daytime and evening meetings in the Suffolk area, involving about ten families. While the children play, the adults build relationships and swap ideas about parenting. “The groups tackle issues that you wouldn’t normally talk about in a normal parent-and-children session,” Ms Smart says. “The network can make a real difference at grass-roots level.”
School was an area that all members struggled with; so, working with teachers, the parents asked the charity Adoption UK for some training on the difficulties faced by adopted children. For one family in the group, Ms Smart says, “there was a worry that their placement was going to break down, and I think [the] connections with the people in the group have just kept them going. Things are still tough, but had that support not been in place, it could have fallen apart.”
* Not her real name
Peer-to-peer support is central to the work of Adoption UK, which has existed since 1971 to support adoptive families and their children. It now has 9000 members. The charity has 65 volunteer-run support groups nationwide for members, and runs an online forum with 40,000 registered users. Its website features a range of resources, articles, and research.
CoramBAAF Adoption and Fostering Academy is a membership organisation that trains and supports social-care professionals, lawyers, and researchers, and adoptive and fostering families. The CoramBAAF website features advice and real-life stories about adoption and fostering, and sells publications for professionals and parents.
Adopters, fosterers, and adopted people can attend their training at reduced rates: for example, a day conference on the neuroscience of adoption and fostering is being held in Birmingham on 28 November at a reduced rate of £105+VAT.