How long is the process likely to take?
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One of the most frequently asked questions from members of the public is "How long would it take to adopt?". When considering this issue there is the time it takes to become an approved adopter, and the time it often takes to be matched with a child or children.
Time Scales for being assessed and approved.
Currently there are no fixed time scales in which an adoption agency must get you through the assessment / approval process although the Government has stated their expectations for the future.
All adoption agencies try to complete their assessment and approval process for any applicants as speedily as possible. They usually consider the time it takes them to do this as starting from the moment you make a "serious application" until the approval panel and decision maker decide.
What is a "Serious Application"?
Agencies generally do not consider an applicant as having made a serious application until after they have attended any information and preparation groups. The argument being that until you know quite a lot about adoption and the children for whom adoption is the plan, you will not be able to to have a realistic idea if adoption is for you.
The time it takes for an application to be processed is also likely to depend upon what the agency feels you will ultimately be able to offer. Applicants who want to adopt older children, sibling groups, or children with disabilities will be very likely to be given a priority over those who want to adopt a young child.
Some adoption home studies are more complicated, and take longer to complete than others. For example, if you have a household where a number of friends and relatives visit you frequently the assessment will have to include additional checks and information about them.
Why does it take so long?
An adoption home study report is a very lengthy and detailed document, it also needs to gather information from a wide range of sources such as your GP and references. A rushed report is likely to be rejected and is not in the interest of the agency OR the applicant. The good news is that once you have started the home study both you and the social worker will be keen to complete it in as timely a fashion as possible.
How do I get to know the time a home study and approval might take?
Assessment and approval time scales are very often discussed at the first information meeting that prospective adopters are invited to. At this stage you will be given only a rough indication, after all the agency workers will not know how many from the group are likely to proceed and what adoption opportunities they might provide to the agency.
When you have completed the adoption preparation group the agency will be able to offer you a far more accurate idea of how long the approval process is likely to take in your case. They may also be able to give you a very rough guide to the time it might take to match you with a child or children.
Time Scales for being matched with a child or children
Perhaps the most frustrating stage of the adoption process is after you have been approved and are waiting a child to be matched. Generally speaking the younger the age range you are approved to adopt, the longer you are likely to have to wait. The very best rough guide to how long this is likely to take will be obtained from your support worker. They are likely to only be able to give you a very rough guide.
The Government has been so concerned about approved adopters not being utilised that they have created the National Adoption Register (Currently applies to England and Wales). Most adoption agencies are taking part in this scheme, although it is up to voluntary adoption agencies if they choose to join in. The basic idea of the National Adoption Register is to make approved adopters available to social workers who work in other areas, if they need to find adoptive families for children. Usually an approved adopters will only be considered by the agency that approved them, then if the agency is part of an adoption consortium, by the member agencies of that consortium. Later, if no child has been matched, agencies from further afield can consider them as prospective adopter/s through the National Adoption Register.
The National Adoption Register was first proposed by The British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering. We were very much against the idea as we felt that the reason why there were approved adopters waiting, and children still needing new families, was because the waiting adopters were primarily waiting for younger children and the children that needed to be placed with new families were older. At present our viewpoint appears to have been justified as the National Adoption Register has not led to very many children being placed with adopters. However, it is still very early in the development of this scheme so we may be proved wrong in the longer term.