An in-depth guide to adoption

Last updated: 18 March 2022 Adoption information pack (pdf, 1.2 MB)
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Post-adoption support

Assessment of adoption support needs

Part of the assessment and the report to Panel will focus on what adoption support services prospective adopters may need if they adopt a child. When a child is matched with adopters, any adoption support required by both the adopter and child will be explored and an Adoption Support Plan will be agreed. There are regulations that set out the- range of adoption support services that local authorities must establish and maintain. The local authority has a duty to carry out an Assessment of Needs for adoption support services. They must also carry out the assessment to decide whether to provide services. Adopters can ask for an ‘Assessment of Need’ after the adoption order is made.

The range of services that local authorities are required to consider includes:

  • counselling, advice and information
  • financial support (in the main established at the start of the adoption placement)
  • support groups for adoptive parents and adoptive children
  • support for contact arrangements between adoptive children and their birth relatives
  • therapeutic services.
  • services to ensure the success of the adoptive placement for example specialist training

The local authority placing the child may pay for the application fee that accompanies the adopters’ application to the court to adopt the child placed with them. They may also pay expenses related to being introduced to the child. These payments are made regardless of the income of the adopters. Other forms of financial support are means tested and relate to the needs of the child being adopted – adoption allowances.

When a child is adopted into a new family, this new family is expected to take on the usual financial responsibility of caring for a child. Part of the preparation for adoption will be gaining information about state and tax benefits related to all children which can be claimed as soon as a child is placed with adopters. There will also be potential eligibility for adoption leave (similar to maternity leave and paternity leave). It is also important that prospective adopters begin to prepare financially for a child.

While the local authority has the lead responsibility for arranging adoption support services, other agencies especially Health and Education have a significant part to play. We support adopters to access all these services from these agencies.

Adoption support services

As an adoption agency we provide some adoption support services to all adoptive families after the child is adopted which include:

  • two social events per year
  • quarterly newsletters
  • adopter led support groups to which professionals are invited
  • an assessment of adoption support needs by experienced adoption support workers, where this is requested
  • training workshops
  • Quarterly Activity for adopted Children and Young People separated by age groups

Your adoption social worker will be part of a team that specialises in adoption and there is a system in place that enables you to access a member of the team during office hours and to the County’s out of office hours service should the need arise. The Adoption Support Advice line is 01494 586 626 and the email address for the team is [email protected].

Adoption UK

Many adopters find membership of the charity, Adoption UK beneficial. Adoption UK was founded in 1971 by adoptive parents to offer support, information and encouragement to prospective and established adopters. This will give adopters access to the support services of Adoption UK, including local groups of adopters and buddy support as well as information and advice.

More information about Adoption UK is available on their website.

Child appreciation days

Child Appreciation Days enable adopters or foster carers to meet with significant people from a child’s past. They provide a unique way of gaining an understanding of the child’s view of the world, how their past experiences have affected their current behaviour, and the potential impact of a new placement or other transition on all concerned. These can occur at any stage leading up to a placement, or even once the placement has started.

Connections to birth relatives

Meeting the child's birth parent(s)

When a child is being placed for adoption, wherever possible, a meeting with the child’s birth parents happens on a one-off basis, in a neutral setting, with workers present. Adopters who meet birth parents often find this to be a positive experience and will enable them to talk to their child more openly when he or she asks questions about their birth family.

Letterbox exchange

Where face-to-face contact is not in the child’s best interests after adoption, the agency has in place a 'letterbox exchange'. At the time the child is being ‘matched’ with adopters, the need for future contact with those significant to the child will be assessed. In all cases there will be a letterbox exchange between the adopters and members of the child’s birth family. This involves exchanging information by letter, via the agency, without giving an address or second name. This provides a way of ‘keeping the door open’ for questions the child may have, which can be asked through the letters.

It is also so that the birth relatives know that the child is alive and well and to hear of their progress. Children placed for adoption do often worry about their birth family, remembering the difficulties that existed when they lived together.

It can be reassuring for children to learn of updated information. These arrangements have been well established over many years, involving exchanges in Bucks of over 300 cases. During preparation groups, experienced adopters and our letterbox co-ordinator share their experiences of this and answer questions from prospective adopters about contact issues.

Staying in touch with others

In some instances, older children may continue to see members of their birth family (or others significant to them) after adoption, where this is in the child’s best interests and where the adults can work cooperatively with this plan. Some children continue to see brothers and sisters placed elsewhere.

As well as brothers and sisters, there may be others the child needs to stay in touch with – grandparents, aunts and uncles and/or foster carers. They will be people who have played a significant part in the child’s life and if they have, it will be important for the child to understand that they have not ‘disappeared’. The child’s needs for contact with others after adoption will be assessed before the child is ‘matched’ with prospective adopters. The assessment process for prospective adopters involves discussion about contact issues and the prospective adopters’ views about these arrangements. There is support available over contact arrangements where this is required and if a face-to-face contact with others is involved after adoption, this may include a worker being present.

This is an exciting stage. You will be given detailed guidance about how to prepare for placement in the time that you are waiting after approval. After the Agency Decision Maker has agreed the match, a date will be set for an Adoption Placement Planning Meeting where you, the child’s foster carer, together with the workers will agree the adoption placement plan and a series of introductory visits to the child. These will start by meeting the child in their foster home and spending time getting to know them and enabling them to get to know you and to begin to develop trust. This will need to progress at the child’s pace, according to their age and understanding.

If you are adopting as a couple you will both have to be available for these introductions which usually take place over 1 to 3 weeks or longer depending on the age and needs of the child.

You will be taking the child out and visiting your home. It will be important for you to be able to care for the child at all stages of their daily routine and building a relationship with the foster carers will be an important aspect of a positive transition.

If the child is in education, the introductions will need to take account of this and meetings with others for example teachers, new school. The introduction programme will be reviewed part way through and a date agreed for placement. The agency must notify your GP, Health Visitor/Education Services (according to the age of the child) of the placement date. Legally the child cannot be known by a name other than the one they were registered with at birth without the agreement of all those who have parental responsibility for the child or the court, until such time as a court makes an adoption order.