Many of the children placed for adoption are very vulnerable, having experienced trauma in their short lives. ‘For this reason our selection procedure has to be thorough,’ says Esther Freeman of the British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF).
But, don’t be put off. Legislation passed in 2005 relaxed the criteria to make it easier to adopt. Below are some frequently asked questions of would-be adopters…
Do I have to be married?
No. Cohabiting couples, singles, gay men and women can also adopt. Whatever your personal circumstances, you’re encouraged to come forward.
Am I too old?
You have to be over 21, but there is no upper age limit. However, many local authorities recommend that the parent should be no more than 45 years older than the child. ‘We need to be confident you’ll be around long enough to see your child into adulthood,’ says Freeman.
Do I have to be working?
There are no financial restrictions, so unemployed people on benefits or those on low incomes are welcome. ‘Financial help might be available,’ adds Freeman.
Do I have to be a home owner?
No, but your home must be big enough to provide a bedroom – separate from your own – for the child (though they can share with siblings).
Would I need a medical?
Yes. ‘Looking after a child is demanding,’ says Freeman. ‘And we need to be sure that you’re up to the job. However, we wouldn’t want to discourage those with a chronic illness or disability from applying, as many conditions can be successfully managed.’
I’m a smoker. Does that rule me out?
There are no blanket bans on smokers, and the same goes for those who are overweight. ‘People are rarely rejected for one reason alone,’ says Freeman. ‘We look at the bigger picture.’
I have children of my own. Can I adopt?
Yes, though adoption agencies stress the importance of discussing it with your children before you go ahead.
I’m having IVF treatment. Can I adopt?
Most adoption agencies ask that you have a break of at least six months between stopping fertility treatment and starting adoption. ‘Giving up on the idea of having your own child can be painful,’ says Freeman. ‘We want to be assured that you’ve come to terms with that and don’t regard adoption as the second-best option.’
What about a criminal record?
‘You can’t adopt if you’re on the sex offenders’ register,’ says Freeman. ‘But otherwise each case is assessed on its own merits.’
Contact the British Association for Adoption and Fostering.