Stowe Family Law has launched a new adoption services department. Here Senior Solicitor Amy Foweather outlines the different stages of adopting a child – and changing a life.
Adopting a child is one of the biggest and most life-changing decisions that anyone can make. But, as many of our clients will confirm, making that decision is only the start. The process can be daunting, stressful and at times confusing and difficult. Whilst most cases will result in a smooth process with a successful outcome, you may hit bumps in the road.
Having spoken with several families, we know just how difficult it can be to manage this process when emotions are running high. If you are thinking about adoption or have already made the decision, it is advisable to speak to an expert to find out in advance what is involved and thereby make sure that you have a clear understanding from day one. You should know what you are committing to and be clear about your rights throughout. A reliable expert will keep you fully updated.
What is the first step?
Once a decision has been made, the next step is contacting an adoption agency. They will arrange to meet you and they will want to make sure that you are making an informed decision. If you decide to proceed, you will then receive a formal application form. It is important that this is completed correctly as the agency will review this and cross-refer the details to their adoption assessment and criteria. If your application proceeds, the assessment process usually lasts around six months. You should seek in-depth advice on the criteria to ensure you are eligible before applying.
This assessment process will normally include:
- Preparation classes.
- Visits from social workers, who will be conducting as assessment on your suitability.
- Police checks.
- Reference checks.
- Medical examinations.
- Any other assessments deemed appropriate to your case, including investigations of other immediate family members.
Once the assessment has been completed, the resulting report will be sent to an independent adoption panel. Prospective adopters will be given the chance to ask questions, and likewise be asked questions at this stage.
It is important that you are happy with the assessment and that it is factually correct. It is also important that you are prepared.
The panel will deliver their recommendations to the agency in due course and the latter will base a final decision on whether to allow you to proceed with the adoption on that recommendation. Adopting a child into your family is truly life-changing event.
If you are successful, the next stage of the process will then start. This includes finding a child that matches your criteria, introductions, a placement and ultimately applying to the courts for an adoption order formalising the child’s relationship to you. At any point in the process delays and issues can arise. That is why it is such a good idea to seek assistance from an expert.
In the event of an unsuccessful assessment, you may wish to explore the reasons for the refusal and find out whether there is anything you can do. Challenging the decision in writing and seeking referral to the Independent Review Mechanism may be worthwhile. It is also possible to start the whole process again through another agency. But if you opt for the latter so seek advice to ensure that you are not simply heading for the same outcome.
So there you have a brief overview of the assessment process. If you require help, assistance or just someone to help guide you, please call us to arrange an appointment.