Recently, our social worker spoke to us about whether we'd be interested in considering Fostering to Adopt as a way of starting our family.
Fostering to Adopt is a form of Early Permanence (EP) which also includes Concurrent Planning. We were made aware of concurrency early on in the process but very quickly disregarded it as not being suitable for us. But we thought it was worth finding out a bit more about fostering to adopt.
The following information is what I’ve gleaned from social workers, my own reading and my own opinions. Please don’t take it as gospel and if you require any further information you should speak with your social worker.
Fostering to adopt is when a child is placed with an approved adopter who initially acts as a foster carer, taking on the many responsibilities that come with that job (see below), but with the long-term plan being they then go on to adopt the child. This situation occurs when a child has been removed from his or her birth parents by social services and is very likely to be adopted, but the placement order from the court has yet to be issued.
Fostering to adopt obviously has huge benefits to the child, including:
So with these benefits, why isn’t this the standard way in which children are adopted? Well, I suspect it’s the uncertainty of the placement for the prospective adopters.
It’s my understanding that whereas in concurrent planning it is the primary plan of Social Services for the child to be returned to the birth parents, in fostering to adopt Social Services have already ruled out a return to the birth parents and the prospective adopters are the primary plan. However, the courts may have a different idea or a distant family member may come forward and request they want to be considered to adopt the child. You could be caring for a child (that you think may be staying with you forever) for up to six months and then have them taken away – and that’s something that could, and I suspect does, put people off.
There is also the fact that during the initial period of fostering, the child is a ward of the state so you have very few actual parental rights, and you would be very much expected to work alongside Social Services in the same way as any foster carer does. This includes (not an exhaustive list by any stretch of the imagination):
All this on top of being a parent to a traumatised child. But it’s not all doom and gloom for the adopters though:
So for us adopters there are both pros and cons. But really, that’s neither here nor there, because adoption should be all about the child’s needs rather than the adopters. It’s taken a year of prep days and assessment meetings for me to get my head in that place, and now it is, but still…am I prepared to take that risk? How altruistic can I be?
I think another reason for people not signing up for fostering to adopt is the utter confusion that surrounds it at the moment. It’s still in its infancy and as such there is very little research into its effectiveness other than anecdotal evidence.
A few weeks ago, Tom and I went to an information meeting about EP and what we were told was in stark contrast to what our social worker had told us or what I had discovered online and in books. We left feeling utterly baffled.
It turns out that different local authorities use the legal framework for EP in different ways and some don’t use it all, and this has caused all sorts of issues. Surely a standardised approach to a system that is potentially so amazing for our children should be developed and used in all local authorities.
So where does that leave Tom and me? Well, we have a fabulous social worker who has a good knowledge of fostering to adopt and who has promised to be with us every step of the way. We completely trust Denise’s advice and know that she would never put us in a situation where we could end up losing a child we had fallen in love with. So we’ve decided that if a fostering to adopt placement comes up we’re willing to be considered. I appreciate that’s not a resounding yes but it’s not a definite no either. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.
What is your experience of fostering to adopt?
My husband and I have adopted two wonderful children. Duckling is 5 and Gosling, her little brother, is 3. I'll be keeping track of our journey here...