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Local Authority or a Voluntary Adoption Agency?

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Hi everyone,


After many years of thinking and healing, we are now ready to start the exciting and scary process of adoption. We have approached our Local Authority (the Council) but we have been extremely disappointed with the initial meeting. We left the meeting feeling somehow guilty of something terrible and that in order to be successful in the adoption process we will need to "prove our innocence".


I am now learning that there are other options, aside the Council, and I have found a few charities and trusts linked to our area. I will now book a few information events with these agencies and will go for there...Even though I searched quite a bit, I do not seem to figure out the differences between using the Local Authority or a Voluntary Adoption Agency.


I gather that the process is pretty much the same, only that the people helping you get to the Panel are quite different in skill and compassion, and on this point, I concluded that the Voluntary Adoption Agencies are much more suited to us, especially after that meeting with the council. However, if we do get approved, will there be a difference between the children available through the LA or the VAA?


Ay other differences that you know of?


Many thanks and happy New Year!


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I’m not sure it’s quite so simple as you describe regarding the people involved. There are good, less good and indifferent individuals wherever you go. You might find a different LA has an entirely different approach - regardless the process will be as rigorous whether you go through an LA or a VA. Some VAs offer better post adoption support but if you’re in England then the ASF will be open to you anyway.


Traditionally VAs have tended to place the children considered more difficult to place for a variety of reasons. They don’t have their own children to place - they place the children that the LA hasn’t been able to place. In simplistic terms.


What are you looking for? Age of child, abilities, disabilities etc. What are you able to offer. I’m not entirely sure what you mean by proving your innocence? About what?


Some VAs will be a better match for you possibly. Possibly a different LA but a lot will depend on what sort of child yoi envisage parenting.


Good luck.


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Thank you very much for your response Donatella. I wasn't aware that we can approach LAs that are in a different county than the one we live in, so this is very helpful. Thank you.


We have not got much experience with children, aside spending days out with our friends' children (form 0 to 13) and the occasional babysitting for a few hours. I understand that there will be very few babies available for adoption and I guess we will make a decision as to what child we will be looking to parent later on down the line. Ideally, as young as possible but open to adopt a child of 3 or 4 years old. Or even siblings...we do not know much at this point. It seems that the social worker will be helpful in assessing us and our circumstances to be able to advise us of the most appropriate match?


Because we do not have that much experience, the requirement to "evidence" our experience and have three references from people who can attest our abilities to look after children seemed to us a bit daunting. We got the impression that we have to be "supervised" whilst volunteering in a nursery. Perhaps we are too sensitive and having had so many knockbacks over the many years of trying for our own child made us feel like we are some sort of "criminals". Sorry, I just cannot explain it any clearer.


We understand the process is hard and the children in care will be a challenge but perhaps we were expecting a bit more empathy and support in that initial meeting. Perhaps just a bad day for the person meeting us then, or we are just too sensitive...I will be looking at the neighbouring counties as well now, so thanks again for the information.


All the best.


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It’s likely that any agency you approach will expect you to get some childcare experience under your belt - both of you. There are plenty of options open and it doesn’t just have to be nurseries. Look at contact centres, reading in schools, rainbows, cubs etc. Try to get some experience of children with additional needs - it’s highly likely that any child you adopt will have additional needs of one type or another.


Ultimately- and this isn’t meant to sound harsh - adoption is about finding families for children rather than children for families. I’m not saying that’s necessarily always the most empathic approach to prospective adopters but that’s the way it is so in order to be approved and matched you will have many hoops to jump through along the way. It’s absolutely worth it - have done it three times - but it may well involve a shift of expectations on your part. Adoption is challenging, the children in the care system are on the whole quite complex. Many will present with issues at some point during placement - issues which may not be evident at placement, especially if you’re looking to adopt a baby or toddler. Many of the children comes from families with very long histories - favtir in genetics, in utero abuse (alcohol/drugs/dv etc) and it’s hardly surprising really.


My children are amazing - three easy to place babies with no issues. Well, hmmm. Two are now diagnosed with autism, one with an adhd add on and one awaiting assessment for fasd. One now in 6th form and doing well although can b3 extremely temperamental - over and above the usual teenage stuff. You just have to be open and flexible. We said a definite no to autism when we were doing home study. Hmmm. In reality it’s a far easier diagnosis to manage than others.


Read, research. Then prepare some more. Look at finances. Consider the possibility of one of you reducing hours or not being able to easily return to work. What’s your support network like? Research schools, what activities and Support might be available locally. And go with it!


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Hi Misty - welcome! I remember being very surprised at the reception my husband and I received when we first approached an adoption agency. I think having seen various things aiming to recruit adopters I'd anticipated that the social workers might in some way be excited to see us (I know, it sounds daft as I write it down!) but our experience was like yours - that first information evening felt like an attempt to put people off and put barriers in the way. I suspect that was deliberate - as Donatella has said, the adoption process is about finding parents for children, not about finding children for parents, and I think many agencies use these introductory sessions as an initial filter to see which prospective parents are 'serious'. That said, both agencies and individual social workers vary significantly, so you are wise to talk to several different local authorities and VAs to find people you feel comfortable with.

I also wanted to comment on the experience with children thing, which comes up a lot. I remember feeling it was most unfair that we had to prove childcare experience when 'we wouldn't have had to do that to get pregnant'! If you've been through a number of years of trying and failing to have birth children putting yourself out there with other people's small children and babies can feel particularly tough. But I found it invaluable. I used 5 days' annual leave to work 10 mornings in a nursery school. It firstly gave me confident that I actually did enjoy being around young children (!) but equally usefully gave me a sense of how a 2 year old is different to a 4 year old, gave me some experience of, for example, saying 'no' to children, and gave me practical ideas of things to do with young children. We also went on holiday during our home study with my brother and his 3 young children - a good reminder of how knackering young children can be. Anyway, all of this was practically useful, was helpful for getting us approved, but also meant that when we were eventually being considered for a sibling group we could talk in a really specific way about how we envisaged family life based on some experience with real children.

Good luck!

LB


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You are being interviewed for one of the toughest jobs in the world - that of adoptive parent. It costs thousands to take adopters to approval so social workers don't want to spend that time, money and effort on people who aren't able to go the distance and do whatever it takes to nurture and raise children who are damaged, hurting and often have little empathy for their carers. I came back from my introductions evening in tears at the negativity I felt was thrown at me. By morning I had resolved to fight and prove I was up to it - the change of perspective made all the difference. Once I started home study I found my social worker very insightful and helpful, so I would agree with little bear, it may be about seeing who is serious about making the adjustments to their lives that adopted children need. If you are very new to the world of adoption, Sally Donovan's No Matter What is an excellent read. Good luck!


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Aww thanks so much Heavensent and little bear! It means so much to know that I’m not crazy feeling like this and that you had similar experience.


I have already arranged to start helping at a local playgroup for children under 5 and now I’m really excited. Indeed this will help me personally in this journey and not just ticking a box for the Panel.


Thanks so much for taking the time to share your experience and validate my feelings a little bit. You really lifted me up. Thank you.


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