What do the adoption and fostering processes involve? How are they different?
Adoption in England
The adoption process is divided into three stages once an interested potential adopter has completed an initial registration-of-interest form with an agency. This is usually done with their nearest local agency. You can find your nearest local LGBT-friendly agency that’s joined New Family Social here.
Stage 1: This is adopter-led and is usually completed within two months of signing off an registration of interest form. Stage 1 is about completing basic background checks and references. You’ll be asked to undergo a medical examination with your GP and a criminal records check. All potential adopters complete a self-assessment form at this stage that provides an overview of their life to date, outlining where they’ve lived, key moments in their life, etc. As part of stage one all potential adopters are expected to attend preparation training. At the end of Stage 1 your agency will contact you to let you know whether you’re accepted on to Stage 2.
Stage 2: This stage is agency-led and will be completed within four months, starting immediately after Stage 1 has concluded. In this stage a social worker will work with you and your family, assessing your strengths before presenting it in a report to the Adoption Panel. This stage is a more in-depth assessment of the information gathered in Stage 1 and includes face-to-face and telephone interviews with referees. Potential adopters are expected to attend further preparation training and attend the Adoption Panel to answer questions based on the information gathered in your social worker’s report.
Stage 3: Unlike in previous stages there is no requirement for Stage 3 to be completed in a set time. In this stage your adoption agency works with local authorities to find the right child for you. If your agency is delivering services on behalf of your local authority they may ask that you wait for a few months before looking beyond the region’s boundaries for potential matches. They will discuss the suitability of children with you and a matching panel makes the final decision.
Once a successful match has been made a social worker will support you and your children as you get to know each other, start living together and become a family.
The adoption process in Scotland follows a similar process to the one in England. For more detail visit Scotland’s Adoption Register.
In Wales the adoption process similarly follows a slightly different format to the one in England. You can find out the detail at the Welsh National Adoption Service.
In Northern Ireland the law only recently changed to allow same-sex couples to adopt, although LGBT single people were able to do so. The process is similar to that in England, with some slight differences. For more information visit the NI Direct website.
Fostering in England
The application and approval process for foster carers in England is similar to the adoption process in terms of interaction with social service teams.
People who want to become foster carers need to go through thorough preparation and assessment. They attend groups where they learn about the needs of children coming into foster care. Alongside this, they receive visits from a social worker.
The social worker prepares a report that is presented to an independent fostering panel, which recommends whether this person/family can become foster carers.
Training continues when a person becomes a foster carer. All carers have an annual review and any training that’s needed to make sure they are suitable to continue fostering.
Training is linked to the training and development standards for foster carers set out by the Training Support Development Standards (TSDS) which have to be met by the end of the first year of fostering. There are slightly different expectations for family and friends carers and short break carers.
Foster carers are supported to continue to attend training following approval.
For more information on fostering in England visit the CoramBAAF website. You can also call Fosterline on 0800 040 7675 for free, confidential, impartial advice, information and support on all issues related to fostering.
For information on fostering in Wales, visit the Fostering Network’s site. If you’re interested in fostering in Scotland, you can contact the Fostering Network Fosterline Scotland. For more information about fostering in Northern Ireland you can visit the HSC Adoption & Foster Care’s site.