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1 BAAF Adoption Service of the Year 2012

2 Your introduction to adopting Bournemouth Bournemouth Borough Council s Adoption Services Team are dedicated to finding permanent and loving homes for the many children who cannot live their birth families and consequently have a plan for adoption Our children range from babies to toddlers through to school age children. They include sibling groups, children from different ethnicities and children special needs. We welcome enquiries from anyone who is interested in adoption, and will assess those living in the Borough and those in an approximate mile radius from Bournemouth. We fully inform prospective adopters about the realities of adoption and are committed to providing ongoing training and support to adoptive families from a team of experienced adoption social workers and support staff. This booklet will provide you information you need to help you decide if adoption is for you. It will tell you about the children who need loving homes. It will tell you about an adopter s journey and their experiences. We will also be giving you information about the adoption process and the type of support and advice you can expect from us The adoption journey is full of highs and lows and it has been so reassuring to know that Bournemouth were just at the end of the phone. If we needed a listening ear or a reminder of our parenting skills, Bournemouth were there for us. They fought our corner and spoke other professionals on our behalf. We could always guarantee that whatever we called about, the matter was dealt quickly, professionally and humour. Mr & Mrs H, adopters 2

3 Contents What is adoption? Could you adopt? Who can adopt? The children Why Bournemouth? Adopters story A step-by-step guide to the process Adoption Support Further information Contact Bournemouth Borough Council Adoption Services North Bournemouth Local Office, 27 Slades Farm Road Bournemouth, BH10 4ES BAAF National Adoption Service of the Year

4 What is adoption? Adoption is a way of finding new families for children who are not able to live their own parents. Adoption may be the only means of giving some children the opportunity to experience a happy, loving, family life. A child who is adopted becomes a permanent member of their new family and the adoptive parents take on full responsibility for bringing up the child. This arrangement is formalised by a legal process through the courts by means of an adoption order. From this point on the child ceases to have any legal tie the birth family. The child takes on their adoptive parent s last name and has the same rights as any birth child in relation to the adoptive parents. Once an order is made it cannot be revoked. 4

5 Could you adopt? This is a question you are likely to have been considering long and hard before you read this booklet. Here are some things to consider. Why you want to adopt? Are you ready to completely change your life and prioritise a child s needs? Do you feel you are ready to become a parent? Maybe it is your first time or maybe you have parented before. Do you not only have a place in your heart for a child, but also a place in your home? Can you provide an emotionally and financially secure environment for a child? It is never easy bringing up a child, so do you have friends and family you can go to for advice, help and support when needed? You dont have to be in perfect health, you just need to be fit enough to look after children Dr J. Gould, Agency Medical Adviser 5

6 Who can adopt? Adoption is open to everyone in the community and all sorts of people different skills are needed to adopt children. The one thing that all approved adopters have in common is the desire to give a child a secure, loving and permanent home that can meet the needs of that child. All adopters have to be over the age of 21 but can come from any walk of life and background. It is important that any prospective adopter is in good physical and mental health and will be able to nurture a child through to adulthood. Adopters will need to have an appropriate and safe home which will meet the needs of a child. They will need to be able to promote the child s identity, including their cultural, racial and religious identity and also be able to promote a child s health and education and provide opportunities for hobbies, interests and a social life. All prospective adopters are treated fairly and respect throughout their involvement us. There are a number of myths about who cannot adopt, so let s redress the balance. 6

7 Mythbusting The process does not take forever. Assessments are usually completed in 6 months. You don t have to be married to adopt, you can also be in a civil partnership, long term relationship or single. We welcome people from all religions and ethnic origins. Disabled people are not excluded. In fact we are always looking for people experience of living disability. Applicants from the LGBT community who are in a civil partnership, long term relationship or single are very welcome. There is no upper age limit to being able to adopt. You just have to be healthy enough to be able to care for a child through to adulthood. Some offences automatically preclude a person adopting but not all. As part of the assessment we make enquiries about all applicants police records but depending on the misdemeanour, would not necessarily rule someone out. It is advisable that you tell us as early as possible if you do have a criminal record so we can advise you to the relevance of the information in relation to adopting. Having said all that, above all what we are looking for are people who have the patience and time. People who are caring and understanding. People who are flexible and are full of energy and fun and able to give a lifetime commitment to a child. People big hearts who are able to make not only a difference to a child s life, but also their own. The way that the service promotes equality and diversity is outstanding...publications and online materials display the promotion of a diverse range of adopters both in terms of race and ethnicity and in single or married status. The adoption service has approved several applications from single and same sex adopters Ofsted report

8 Who are the children? There are all kinds of children who need adopting, but the one thing that they all have in common is that they all need a secure and loving home. The vast majority of children who have a plan for adoption have been removed from their birth families due to some form of neglect. They would have been removed from their birth families after a series of court proceedings, due to concerns about the level of care they were or would have been receiving. They would all be in the care of foster carers. Only very occasionally do birth parents request that a child is adopted, but this is not very common nowadays. Older children Once a child is attending school it is very difficult to find permanent homes for them. Sadly, many prospective adopters do not consider older children and they are overlooked, but more often than not older children can be very rewarding and a lot of fun to be. Older children as well as babies and toddlers will need lots of love, care and attention, particularly as many would have spent some time living their birth families before going into foster care. Children from different ethnicities We have a variety of children from different backgrounds. Our children are from diverse ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds. We do our best to try and find families who can reflect or promote a child s heritage, therefore, we are always looking for adopters from different backgrounds, including families dual and multiple heritages. It is not always possible to have the perfect cultural, ethnic or religious match, so we would always consider any of our adopters, regardless of their ethnic and cultural background if we feel they can best meet the overall needs of a particular child. 8

9 Children special needs Some children who have a plan for adoption may have special needs. We are always happy to talk to people who feel they can care and love a child who may have a physical disability or a child multiple special needs or a child a learning disability. We regularly have children who have problems having been exposed to drugs and alcohol before birth. Occasionally we will have a child, who, sadly, has a life limiting condition and will need a loving carer who will be dedicated to them and be able to work all sort of medical professionals. Despite all the varying problems many carers for children special needs find it incredibly rewarding and gain a lot of fulfilment knowing they have made such a positive difference to a little one s life. Can you be that very special person? Babies and toddlers Here in Bournemouth we are always looking for potential adopters of babies and toddlers. Young children are usually placed for adoption early on as the birth parents may have a history of either drug or alcohol abuse, learning disabilities or mental health issues. Some babies and toddlers have a plan for adoption as they may have been neglected and not be meeting their developmental milestones. Occasionally do we have a baby who has been relinquished, where the birth parents want that baby to be adopted, but this is not common nowadays. Sibling groups It is not unusual that we have siblings groups of 2, 3 or even 4 who need adoptive homes. It is usually very important that brothers and sisters stay together as they have grown up together extremely strong bonds when so much has changed around them. 9

10 Why Bournemouth? The Adoption Services Team at Bournemouth Borough Council welcomes enquiries from anyone willing to consider adoption. We are very proud that we were named the National Adoption Service of the Year for 2012, which was recognised for our innovative support for adopters and children and extremely successful placements. If you feel you are able to welcome, through adoption, a child into your home, then there are two routes you can take. You can contact a voluntary agency or a local authority, like Bournemouth, who not only assess adopters but also find families for the children who have a plan for adoption in the town. Our adoption journey was very thorough and challenging at times. Our social worker, and in fact, everyone in the team, were very dedicated, friendly and supportive, which made all the difference. We had approached other agencies before, and are really glad we chose to go Bournemouth. Mr & Mrs E, adopters 10

11 Bournemouth were named by BAAF (British Association of Adoption & Fostering) as joint winners of their inaugural National Adoption Service of the Year in November BAAF highlighted our emphasis on preparing children for adoption through creative lifestory work and moving calendars not only for children being adopted but also for any children already living in the household. This in turn is a factor in Bournemouth s very low adoption placement breakdown rate. w i n n e r s a d o p t i o n s e r v i c e o f t h e y e a r Bournemouth has an adoption team not only years of experience but who have also been recognised for their creativity and innovation. In 2012 Ofsted judged us as outstanding as an adoption service, no recommendation to improve. We will provide you a professional and efficient information and assessment process, in legal timescales, which prepares and equips you to be an adoptive parent. Our prospective adopters also attend preparation workshops which give you the chance to reflect on the realities of adoption and the implications for yourselves and your families. Thank you for taking a chance on us and looking beyond the exterior. We couldn t have done this out you. Mr & Mrs C, adopters 11

12 Adopter s story Sheila and John were approved to be adopters in the autumn of 2012 and a couple of months after approval they were matched Daisy, their new daughter, who is now living them. This is their story We will never forget entering the foster placement to meet our little girl for the very first time just three months after receiving her profile and photograph. She heard us enter her house and our hearts melted when we heard her ask her foster carer; Is that my new mummy and daddy? Within just two days we had all managed to bond and now it feels as though Daisy has always been here. It is only as significant dates in the calendar recur that we realise she has only been here living us for four months. Our first visit to meet the adoption services team was on a cold and rainy November evening. Now we have just enjoyed basking in the hot July sunshine at our first summer picnic for adoptive families! It was truly one of the most heart- warming experiences of our lives to see so many happy families out together having a great day and especially to see the couples we got to know so well on our adoption course playing their beautiful new children. 12

13 Despite a lengthy journey from initial thoughts about adoption to having Daisy here living us, we can genuinely say that every minute of the process was entirely worthwhile and the time it took was definitely needed by both of us to get our heads around everything. Our reasons for looking into adoption were very straightforward; we wanted to care for a child and knew we could offer one of the many children needing a family a stable and loving home. As we learnt more about adoption our thoughts became hopes and finally a beautiful reality and now we enjoy all the positive delights of having adopted our lively two year old daughter. You could have searched the whole world and not found a more perfect child for them. Daisy s nanny & Sheila s mother We were startled at how thorough the adoption process was, preparing us for all manner of situations. In doing so, through our interviews our assigned case worker and on the intensive course, it really caused us to evaluate our motives for adoption and helped us realise our strengths as a couple and in our family. Equally, we discovered that our family, friends, neighbours and work colleagues all afford us a fantastic network of support, practical and emotional which has already proved invaluable as we grow as a family. The network of support throughout our journey was nothing less than first class! The foster carers were wonderful people- both so kind and supportive and they really had done a fabulous job in bringing up Daisy and then preparing her to come and live mum and dad. Introductions were so much easier than we could have anticipated and how we laughed together too. Also, we felt as if we were incredibly lucky to have such lovely and clever social workers involved in our process. The entire team have helped us understand the needs of looked after children and encouraged us when we needed a boost of confidence along the way. Our own case worker and her manager along Daisy s worker were always a delight to see. Knowing we had and continue to have their support and being able to ring them whenever we need to has been wonderful. They have crossed some challenging emotional issues us! Thank you to all those involved who have helped us along the way. Every day Daisy is a joy and our concerns that bonding a non-biological child might be a problem for us or the members of our family is a long forgotten worry. Sheila & John, adopters 13

14 Step by Step guide In the adopter s story, Sheila & John mentioned various aspects of their adoption journey. As of 1 July 2013, reforms were introduced by the government that meant that the process would become speedier and more adopter-led. The new process is split into an information sharing stage, and then two formal assessment stages. Stage 2 ends a decision by the Agency Decision Maker regarding your suitability to adopt. This is detailed below. Finding out about adoption Initial Enquiry Either contact us by phone or us expressing an interest about adoption. One of our experienced social workers will speak to you in 24 hours, you can ask questions and share information about adoption Information Evening Our information evenings are held every month, usually towards the end of the month. During the evening, one of our team s adoption social workers will give you more detailed information about the adoption process and you will have an opportunity to meet one of our successful adopters and ask questions. Initial Visit If, after the information evening you have expressed an interest to continue the adoption process, one of our experienced social workers will come to visit you at your home. The worker will put together a report based on their interview you and they will talk to you about your hopes for adoption, your motivations, your jobs and finances, your home and anyone else who may be living in your home. You can also discuss any personal worries or concerns about the process them. 14

15 Stage 1 Statutory Checks If, after learning of the recommendations in the initial visit report you decide to formally register your interest, we will reply letting you know if we are in a position to take up stage 1 of your assessment. We will begin to make checks to ensure that it is appropriate for you to look after a child. You will also need to have a full medical. Your Social Worker If we are able to accept your registration of interest, an adoption social worker will contact you. They will arrange to visit you in 2 weeks of acceptance of the Registration of Interest form. During this visit your social worker will help you to fill in some forms, including the police check, and will tell you what information we need from you in Stage 1. They will advise you who would be best to seek personal references from and the other references that will be required e.g. employer, previous partners, adult children. Training During Stage 1 there will also be a day of training in conjunction prospective adopters from other local adoption agencies. Application Decision At the conclusion of Stage 1 you will know whether adoption is right for you and we will have a much better idea too. You will be asked if you wish to continue, and we will confirm whether we are able to accept your application. 15

16 Stage 2 Full assessment If we are able to accept your application your social worker will begin to undertake a fuller and more in depth assessment in Stage 2. The purpose of the assessment is not only to consider whether you are suitable to adopt but also to prepare you for adopting a child who has needed to come into care. The assessment will cover all aspects of your life and your potential to safely care for children. We will identify your strengths and help you any areas you feel unsure about. Your social worker will also visit your personal referees and talk to your children, if you have any, and any previous partners if you parented together. Training During Stage 2 there will be three further days of training and preparation other prospective adopters, again in conjunction other local adoption agencies. The training will include input from a clinical psychologist, adopters, a birth family member and others personal or professional experience of adoption. The overriding requirement is that a new family must be able to offer a safe, loving environment for the child to develop to his or her full potential, and that these new families will fully support this new individual for the rest of their life, staying happy and secure in the knowledge that they are loved and supported in whatever they may choose to do in the future Panel Your assessment will then be presented to an Adoption Panel, to which you would be invited. The panel comprises of social workers and other professionals working children and young people, adults who were adopted, a birth parent, adopters, an elected councillor and a medical adviser. The panel will consider your assessment and suitability to adopt, and make a recommendation to the Agency Decision Maker, a senior manager in Children s Social Care, who will make the final decision. Cllr Lynda Price, Adoption Panel Member 16

17 What happens once I have been approved as suitable to adopt? Family Finding Once approved, your adoption social worker will then look for suitable children for you. They will keep you updated details of any possible children or events such as Adoption Exchanges, DVD presentations or activity days, which you can attend to try to identify children you might wish to be considered to adopt. Panel Once you have been linked to a child, then the match will be presented to the Adoption Panel of the child s authority to consider. Again, they will make a recommendation to the Agency Decision Maker, who will make the final decision. Placement Planning Once the Agency Decision Maker has agreed to the match then a placement planning meeting will take place. The meeting is attended by yourselves and your social worker, the children s social worker and foster carers. This meeting will plan the placement process from the point of your first introductions, through to the day your child will be placed permanently you. You will have time to meet and get to the know the child, learning their routines and building a relationship before they are finally placed you. The meeting will also look at how we can support you to make sure your child is happy and settled in their new home. Adoption Order After a minimum of 10 weeks has passed since your child has been placed you, and the agreement of all involved parties at a formal review of the placement, you can apply to the court to legally adopt your child. The court will set a date for the adoption hearing, and the court will make the final decision. When an Adoption Order is granted, your child will legally become a full member of your family. You and your child will be invited to attend a ceremonial hearing at the court confirming your new legal status as an adoptive family. This is a special day which your family members can come along and share you. 17

18 Adoption Support Bournemouth s Adoption Services team offer a wide range of support for all those affected by adoption. The age and background of the children placed for adoption mean that many adoptive families will continue to need support after an adoption order has been made. The effects on many children of their early lives mean that some will have suffered physical or emotional damage, which will inevitably affect them through their childhood and beyond. We can support you in a variety of ways. They can be educational, practical or fun. Some are listed below. Access to NHS clinical psychologists and agency medical adviser in person or by phone. An experienced team of adoption social workers and support staff on the other end of the phone. A regular newsletter giving up to date news about adoption and regular information about support groups. A support group for approved adopters which includes relevant regular talks by guest speakers. Fun activities for children during school holiday periods. Adoption picnic and Christmas party for adoptive families at secure locations lots of fun things to do. 18

19 Further Information You can obtain further information about adoption from:- British Association for Adoption & Fostering Saffron House, 6-10 Kirby Street London. EC1N 8TS Adoption UK Linden House, 55 The Green, South Bar Street Banbury, OX16 9AB First4Adoption 48 Mecklenburgh Square London. WC1N 2QA

20 For further information about adoption contact 20

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