Few would deny that adoption and fostering are wonderful things to do. And yet many are put off from considering it themselves due to some commonly held misconceptions. In light of this, we thought we’d use this week’s post to debunk some of the common myths surrounding adoption and fostering.
I recently went to the Home For Good Summit; a conference for Christians about adoption and fostering. It was really informative and eye-opening.
There seems to be a lot of misconceptions about adoption and fostering – I had many incorrect preconceived ideas myself – so here’s my effort to debunk some of the common myths and to pass on what I learnt.
Myth #1 It’s impossible to adopt a newborn baby in the UK
It is possible to receive a newborn baby straight from hospital with a “Concurrency Placement”.
With concurrency planning adoption, you are approved as a foster carer and adoptive parent simultaneously. You are matched with a newborn baby who comes to live with you for the first six months of their lives (in this time period you are their foster parent/s, and you get paid accordingly). The child comes to live with you because there is a very strong chance that they will not be able to return to their birth family. During these six months you will need to meet with the birth mother/parents weekly at a neutral environment with a social worker.
After six months a judgement will be made in court as to whether the child can safely return to their birth family, or whether you can legally adopt them. This is seen as a win-win for the child. Either they have always lived with you and therefore escape any unsettling moves. Or else their birth family have proven that they can provide and loving and safe home for their child – which is a wonderful scenario too!
This form of adoption isn’t for the faint-hearted as there is a chance that you will have to give up the baby that you’ve grown to love. However, if you are convinced of the worth of early permanency for the sake of the child then it’s a very worthwhile thing to do, and can have wonderful outcomes! The social worker who I spoke to works for an adoption agency which specialises in concurrency adoption. She said that around 9 out of 10 babies get to stay with their adoptive parents.
Barnados do concurrency placements nationwide as do some local authorities. You can call up as many local authorities and agencies as you like and ask them if they do concurrency adoption, and then go through the application and assessment process with one that does.
Find out more info here:
Myth #2 I can’t foster if I have young children
You can foster if you have young children, you can even foster if you have a baby. However, the needs of all children, your own and those you are fostering must be met. Your assessing social worker will need to be confident that this will be the case.
If you are approved then your social worker will be very careful about which children they match with your family. Your assessing social worker may even interview your own child(ren) to try and understand their personalities and needs to try to guarantee the best possible outcome from a placement.
The two people who were running my seminar at the Home For Good conference were (I’m guessing) in their late 20s/early 30s. Both had 2 young biological children and were also long-term foster parents.
If you are concerned about the impact of long-term fostering on your own children then you could consider respite fostering (perhaps looking after the same child one weekend a month for example) or mother and baby fostering. With mother and baby placements, the mother is often a teenager who needs some support in learning how to look after her baby and how to prepare for independent living in the future. Both respite and mother and baby fostering are options which we would like to explore, as we think they might be a good fit for us as a family.
Myth #3 I can’t adopt/foster if I’ve got a disability or mental health issues
Fostering and adopting can be very demanding and so your physical and mental health will be discussed during the application process.
That being said, they won’t necessarily preclude you and may be of benefit. If you have a physical disability then you may be able to be more compassionate and understanding towards a child with a disability. Likewise, if you had a mental health issue in the past then you may be able to relate better to a child who struggles with it currently. The assessment process with determine whether you’re deemed suitable for fostering/adopting. If you are approved then you will be matched with suitable children in light of your disability or mental health issues.
Myth #4 Foster parents get paid, adoptive parents don’t
Foster parents get paid an allowance and fee to cover the costs of looking after a child. The amount this is depends on a number of different factors. A fostered child is under the care of a local authority while an adopted child is a legal member of their adopted family, therefore the adoptive parents do not receive a fee for looking after the child.
However, there is money available to adoptive parents when they adopt a child with a disability, or a sibling set. This is because the government recognises that sibling sets or disabled children need more care and time from their adoptive parents, and therefore they won’t necessarily be able to support their children as much through paid employment. This financial assistance is known as “Adoption Allowance”. You may also be entitled to Disability Living Allowance for Children, Carer’s Allowance and money through the “Adoption Support Fund”. Adoptive parents are also entitled to Adoption Leave and Pay from their employer and Child Benefit and Tax Credits.
If you are considering adoption, make sure you ask what financial assistance would be available to you if you were matched with a disabled child or sibling set. Do not be shy about this – it is much cheaper for the local authority to have you adopt the children under their care, than for you to foster them. The Adoption Allowance is there to enable children with more challenging needs to still have a good chance of adoption – so don’t be coy about asking!
Myth #5 Social workers are intrusive, anti-Christian and interfering
This is a horrible but widespread stereotype of social workers – I’m guessing that this typecast alone puts a lot of people off even making the initial phone call. However, the reality is that the social workers would be thrilled to hear from you! Social workers do their job because they care about children and want them to have the best possible life chances. They certainly aren’t doing it for the money, prestige or for an easy life! Their utmost concern is for the safety and wellbeing of vulnerable children and so they have to be thorough and diligent in their assessment of you as carers (not simply for the children’s benefit but also for yours). But there’s an enormous shortage of foster families – 9,600 children are currently in need of foster homes, so please don’t preclude yourself based on a false impression of social workers or the assessment process (which is quicker than you think).
As far as the anti-Christian bias goes, this simply isn’t the case. Social workers are very positive when prospective adoptive and foster parents mention their connection with Home For Good. Home for Good is an overtly Christian charity, encouraging Christians to adopt because of God’s adoption of us, and because of the biblical mandate to care for orphans. Home For Good has also been at the forefront of petitioning the government for the care of Syrian unaccompanied minors . In the area of adoption and fostering Christians have been well represented at 10 Downing Street in recent years – so don’t falsely assume that the system discriminates against Christians. Check out our review of the book Home For Good here.
One final thing about social workers – they have a wealth of knowledge, access to helpful resources and are highly motivated for placements to work out. If you foster you will have to work closely with them. But if you adopt, don’t be too quick to get rid of them. Their support, experience and knowledge could still be invaluable once the child is legally yours.
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
So there you have it. Adoption and fostering could be more of an option for you than you previously thought.
Here are the different types of fostering placements:
- Children with disabilities
- Mother and Baby
And the following list of eligibilty criteria shows that lots of different sorts of people can do it:
- People over the age of 21
- Who have a spare bedroom
- Residents of the UK
- Single or Married
- Of any religion
- Of any sexual orientation
- A tenant or home-owner
- Employed or unemployed
You don’t need to be a super-parent to do this, super-parents don’t exist. But are you willing to rely on the only super-parent in existence (God) to give you the strength to care for a vulnerable child?
There’s a huge shortage of foster and adoptive parents. Even if the timing isn’t right for you but you’ve found this post informative then please share it to help us debunk the myths. The more children who can find a home with loving families, the better!