When you contact us to express an interest in adoption, a member of the team will contact you the same day to provide any information you require and to discuss your circumstances. An initial interest pack will be sent to you at this stage if you would like one, and this will contain information about the assessment and application process. Once you have received and read through the pack, you should complete and return the Initial Interest Form if you wish to proceed with the process..
Meet our social workers
Once we have received your Initial Interest Form, you will be contacted by a social worker from the team within one week who will arrange a visit to meet with you and your partner or spouse if you have one.
The purpose of this visit is to provide you with an opportunity to find out more about adoption and the adoption process. It also allows us to make an initial assessment regarding whether there are any potential barriers to adoption for you in terms of your background or current circumstances.
Preparation and support
Preparation groups normally take place 3-4 times per year. There may be a short wait for preparation groups to take place, perhaps two months on average. If you are keen to speed up your assessment there is scope for you to begin some of the work you will need to undertake when an assessment begins (e.g. family tree, family history, chronology of employment etc).
Preparation groups usually take place at weekends, with three Saturdays and one midweek evening being the usual arrangement. The purpose of preparation groups is to provide you with the information you need to make an informed decision about whether adoption is right for you and your family. The preparation groups provide lots of information about the adoption process, the types of children who require adoption, and some of the areas of uncertainty and difficulty which may arise.
Preparation groups also cover:
- How children learn to feel secure - child development and attachment
- Overcoming the effects of neglect and abuse
- Keeping family links alive for adopted children
- Identity and self-esteem
- The matching process
Following the completion of preparation groups, there is an opportunity for you to consider whether you wish to proceed to the next stage of assessment. The agency will also consider at this time whether to accept your application. An application would be refused if there were significant concerns about your suitability to adopt or information had emerged which suggested that it would unlikely that approval would be granted following an assessment. An assessing social worker is normally allocated within four weeks of you confirming that you wish to continue with the adoption process.
This is the core of the assessment process and assessments for first time adopters would be expected to take around six months. If you have adopted before, or have been assessed as a foster carer within the past few years, it is likely that your assessment will progress more quickly.
Your assessing social worker will meet with you very regularly to compile the assessment and there would usually be around ten visits to you as part of this process.
Applicants will be asked to complete some work on their own as part of the assessment process, such as putting together a family tree, writing about their recollections of being parents or compiling a chronology of the major events in their lives. This work is critical to the assessment and helps it to proceed more smoothly and quickly.
During the assessment references will be collected and visits made to key referees. If you have previously been married or in a long term relationship it will usually be necessary for us to contact these people for a view on your suitability to adopt. This requirement has been introduced due to investigations into cases where children have been harmed by carers and where information could have been provided by ex-partners which would potentially have prevented this situation from arising.
A Disclosure Scotland check will be completed for all applicants so it is essential that all previous offences or warnings are declared at this stage as failure to disclose offences which later come to our attention will result in the assessment being terminated.
When your assessment and all required checks are complete, a date will be set for you and your assessing social worker to attend the Adoption Panel. This should not be more than 4 weeks following completion of the assessment. This is a Panel arranged by the Adoption Agency to consider your application and assessment. It is the job of the Panel to ensure that you are suitable to become an adopter and to make a recommendation to the Agency Decision Maker.
The Agency Decision Maker will make a decision on your application within 14 days of the Adoption Panel making a recommendation.
They will take on board the discussions minuted from the Panel but are not bound to accept these. You have the right of appeal if you disagree with the outcome of this process and this will be heard by a differently constituted Panel.
It's a match!
This stage of the process can vary depending on how wide an age range you are approved for, and if there are any other matching considerations which may limit the pool of children to whom you can be matched. It is in everyone’s best interests, but especially those of the child, that the matching process is carried out with the utmost care. It is not unusual for adopters to be approved and to wait for anything from 3-9 months for a match to be identified, sometimes longer if the matching criteria you select are very narrow.
When you are approved as an adopter your assessing social worker will begin the process of identifying children with whom you could possibly be matched. This will be based on the details of your approval at the Adoption Panel, i.e. age range, and gender if appropriate, as well as the number of children who can be placed.
The initial search for a match will be conducted by looking at children from East Ayrshire who are currently waiting for adoption. If no suitable children are currently waiting, we would then have discussions with our colleagues in North and South Ayrshire with whom we run a mini consortium to share adopters if any of the three Ayrshires are unable to find a match internally.
There is also the option of referral to Scotland’s Adoption Register, which is a national register and database of children across Scotland who require adoption. Due to the level of need for adopters in East Ayrshire at present we are usually able to find a suitable match for our adopters internally in a reasonably short timescale.
Your assessing social worker will discuss possible children for matching with you, and you will have the opportunity to read information about the child, to ask questions of the child’s social worker, and if appropriate of the Agency Medical Adviser regarding the child with whom a match is being considered.
If you, your assessing social worker, and the social worker and team manager responsible for the child agree that a proposed match is looking positive, a Linking Meeting will be convened, usually within 3-4 weeks. The Linking Meeting is attended by the child’s social worker and their team manager, the foster carer for the child attends the part of the meeting which is focussed on the child, and your assessing social worker and team manager will also attend. The purpose of this meeting is to consider in detail the child’s needs and what they require from prospective adopters. Areas of developmental uncertainty and resilience for the child will also be explored at this meeting.
The second part of the meeting focuses on the prospective adopters and their strengths and vulnerabilities with a view to reaching a decision about the suitability of the proposed match. If a match is recommended, an Adoption Panel will be arranged within 2-4 weeks to consider formally matching the child to the prospective adopters. Adopters are required to attend this meeting, as are the social worker for the child, their team manager, and the adopter's assessing social worker. The Panel will make a recommendation to the Agency Decision Maker regarding the suitability of the proposed match.
The Agency Decision Maker will reach a conclusion within 14 days of the Panel.
Becoming a family
Once a proposed match has been agreed by the Agency Decision Maker, the next step of process, which is the most exciting and potentially nerve wracking part of the placement, needs to be planned - the placement of the child or children. How long this will take will depend upon the legal route being followed for the child. If the child is subject to a Compulsory Supervision Order from a Children’s Hearing, we will need to seek an Advice Hearing to advise the Sheriff on whether a plan of adoption is in the best interests of the child. Usually this Hearing will also be asked to agree to the child moving to the adopter's care, initially on a foster care basis until an Adoption application is made and an Order hopefully granted.
This stage of the process can involve some uncertainty as the Children’s Hearing is an independent tribunal and is not bound to agree with the plans put before it by Social Work. In some cases there can be a delay if for some reason the Children’s Panel members do not feel able to reach a decision. From the point of being approved as adopters for a child, there will usually be a gap of several months before a child is able to move to the care of the adopters whilst legal processes are followed and an Advice Hearing arranged.
As an adopter you will be able to access ongoing support from the adoption team until your child turns 18. We have a range of supports provided by ourselves and by other agencies on our behalf.
Even if you feel you do not need support immediately, or soon after an Adoption Order is granted, you can come back at any time and request an assessment in relation to adoption support.