Andrew and his wife have adopted 3 children. Andrew, who works in financial services, has offered some useful insights and tips, which are a helpful start to anyone considering adoption or going through the process whilst working.
Adopting for the first time
My wife and I made our initial enquiry about adoption whilst receiving IVF treatment as we quickly found out fertility treatment wasn’t for us. We decided that we wanted to adopt from the UK and in 2000 we approached a registered UK agency.
We filled in an application form which was followed by a visit from a social worker, Frances. We got to know Frances really well as part of the formal assessment entailed a series of home visits. She asked all sorts of questions to try to capture a realistic view of me, my wife and us as a family. It took around a year for us to receive confirmation of our approval from the date of our original enquiry. Once approved, the next step was to be matched to a child and this can sometimes take time. We were thrilled when we were finally matched with Thomas at the end of 2001 – a lovely little boy who was 7 months old at the time. A matching panel confirmed the match and we were able to arrange placement, similar to a handover period from foster carers to us. We spent a week at the foster carers home, slowly getting to know Thomas and gradually increasing the time we were with him. On 20th January 2001, we could finally take Thomas home!
In order to make the adoption legal there were court applications and reports to be filed, and of course weekly visits from Frances to make sure things were going well. We were keen to apply for an adoption order as soon as possible and were thrilled when all the legalities such as name change were finally completed. Thomas has got direct contact with his birth parents which is two hours twice a year.
Adopting for a second and third time
In 2003 we decided that we wanted to adopt another child. This time we decided to go through a local council and it took 9 months for us to get approved. The second time was much easier as we were aware of the process and the assessment and we knew of possible delays. This time we also had the experience of actually attending the adoption panel ourselves with our social worker where we were able to ask questions. We had thought it would take a few days for a decision to be made but we were asked to leave and a decision was made there and then. The same day we were shown information about Euan and 8 weeks later, now April 2005, we were ready to begin the placement. Again, we spent a week with the foster careers and were finally able to bring home a brother to Thomas. It all happened so quickly, by October 2005 all the legalities were completed.
In January 2006 we spoke to our social worker and voiced interest in adopting another child. It so happened that Euan’s half-brother, Alex, was being considered for adoption at this time. When we adopted Euan, his birth mother was pregnant, so we had known that there was a chance that his half-brother would come up for adoption but we didn’t know that the timing was just perfect. We were approved in February 2006 and by April 2006 Alex was home with us. The adoption hearing followed 6 months later.
Adoption and work
I was very fortunate to have full support from my line manager. Early on in the process, you need flexibility in particular for home visits from the social worker before the adoption approval. When you are matched with a child and the placement starts, you will need to take time off to spend with the family - bear in mind that this can be a very stressful time. Your flexibility may come in the form of working from home on particular days or for example making sure you check your emails in the evenings.
In terms of adoption leave and pay, you have the same statutory rights as birth parents.
I feel I was very lucky, because I was treated the same way as a birth parent at work. Everyone congratulated me and I was given a card, flowers and a present, which meant a lot to me. I don't think all managers / colleagues remember to treat adoptive parents the same as birth parents.
Advice to others
1. Be aware of your legal position.
It is worth finding a decent family lawyer to support you and don’t be afraid to challenge the adoption process. The social worker represents the child and the birth parents are likely to have legal representation as well.
2. Select area carefully.
If you are adopting a child from the UK, think carefully about which area you wish to adopt from – you do not have to choose your local area. A less affluent area is likely to have more children come up for adoption and the authorities in that council may want to place children away from the local area.
3. Keep your mind open and have realistic expectations.
Make sure adoption is the right thing for you and try to remain positive through the long process. Bear in mind that some children are victims of social circumstances and may have behavioural difficulties.
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