Here, we answer some of the most common questions asked by people who want to become adoptive parents. However, if the following answers don’t cover the issues that are causing you concern or you need further clarification, please get in touch. Call 0345 155 1076 or email adoption@devon.gov.uk

I’m thinking about adoption, but how will I know if I am ready?

A great place to start is to take a look at some of our resources and links to national adoption support agencies. If you think adoption might be right for you, please contact us for an informal chat on 0345 155 1076.

Read through our Information Pack, it is a good starting point.

Come along and meet us at one of our monthly information sessions. Our events are a great way to find out more about adoption and will give you the chance to talk direct with specialist social workers and an experienced adopter.

Will I get adoption pay and leave (similar to maternity/paternity)?

Yes, please read our factsheet Download document9. Adoption leave and pay factsheet PDF download and refer to the information on our website here https://www.devonadoption.org.uk/adoption-leave-and-pay/

I have been adopted. Where do I find more information?

Many adopted people decide, at some point in their lives, to find out more about the circumstances which led to their adoption and to seek information about their birth families.

We have developed two guides for children and young people who have been adopted or are going through adoption, and want to know more about the process.

You can find more information on the Children and Young people’s support web page.

If you have been adopted we can offer help and support

Do you have a query about your birth history? Call 0345 155 1076 to speak to Devon Adoption who can help. Alternatively, email adoption@devon.gov.uk

What qualities would I need to have to adopt?

You would need to be patient, flexible and have, or be willing to gain, an understanding of children who have had a difficult and disrupted early start to their life. You will need great resilience and be prepared to look after the child to adulthood and beyond.

Come along and meet us at one of our monthly information sessions. Our events are a great way to find out more about adoption.

Do I have to have training before I can adopt?

Yes. Even if you are an experienced parent of birth children, parenting adopted children can require a very different set of skills or mindset. We believe it is vital that you have the opportunity to be as prepared as you can be for what might happen.

Come along and meet us at one of our monthly information sessions. Our events are a great way to find out more about adoption.

In Stage 1 of the process there is a mandatory Foundation Workshop as well as e-learning opportunities, all of which will feed into your Portfolio.

In Stage 2 you will be undertaking your assessment as well as attending two more mandatory workshops. In reality, this is probably only the start of your learning experience around adoption and we provide a rolling programme of post-approval workshops to address many areas of interest around you and your adopted child.

See our resources.

What kind of support will I get from Devon County Council during the adoption process?

Firstly, you will have access to a duty social worker for any initial enquiries, you will be sent all the information you need to help your initial thinking. When you are completing your Registration of Interest forms there are fortnightly clinics held at each of the area offices – you can make an appointment to meet with a social worker to get help filling in the form, as well as discuss any particular issues that may have arisen for you.

During Stage One of the process you will be given learning opportunities both on line and at a foundation workshop, and will receive a home visit from a social worker once all your checks and references are complete.  During Stage Two you will be allocated a social worker to undertake your assessment and take you to panel for approval. This social worker will continue to work with you right through to you having children placed.

Also see the Passport to Adoption, a guide for prospective adopters.

If at any point you are unhappy with the process, please feel free to contact our Devon Adoption Practice Manager to discuss further, or you have your say.

What kind of support will I get from Devon County Council after I have adopted?

We believe in good post-adoption support. Have a look at our support web pages.

Your assessing social worker remains with you right up until you apply for the Adoption Order in court. If needed in that time, they will introduce you to a social worker in the Devon Adoption Support Team who can advise on supporting your child on an emotional level and understanding their behaviour. 

You will be given access to further training in Therapeutic Parenting, and other relevant workshops, as well as links to other adoption specialists as needed.  We will give you a login and password to the ‘Approved Adopters’ Zone’  – here you can access newsletters, contacts, updates, and events available for adoptive parents and their children.

I’m currently having fertility treatment (IVF). Does this matter?

Adoption is emotionally tough and requires total commitment and we need you to have come to terms with any infertility issues you may have experienced before embarking on the adoption process.

In our experience, most couples need a good 12 months after their last fertility treatment to come to terms with their loss, and finally draw a line on having birth children. If this time isn’t allowed, the assessment process or worse, having a child placed, can trigger intense emotional responses around unresolved grief.

You might wish to consider counselling before you begin the adoption process. After the assessment has been completed and we are actively considering a child for you, we will ask you to use contraception, if appropriate.

Are there any restrictions on health or disability?

We are looking for people who are fit and agile enough to meet the needs of the child or children and welcome applications from disabled people.

You should tell us about any health issues early in the assessment process so that we can consult a medical professional and advise you appropriately. All adopters undergo a medical assessment.

We will not place children under five years old, or children with any health difficulties, with smokers. We prefer all our adopters to be non-smokers, and you are not considered a non-smoker until you have given up smoking for 12 months. The medical advisor is happy to give you advice on giving up smoking or you can see your GP for support.

Naturally, we would have concerns about life-threatening illnesses or serious chronic health problems that could affect your ability to care for a child.

Those who are seriously overweight should consider the impact of this on their own long-term health and any possible implications for child care.

With regard to weight, your BMI is checked during the medical. The medical advisor is looking for medical reasons that may indicate possible significant health issues in the future and impact on your ability to care for a child until they reach adulthood. They will want to know that you can offer a fit and active lifestyle to children, so if being seriously overweight, or underweight, is a risk you may want to think about discussing this with your GP or our medical advisor .

In terms of other health conditions there is no blanket bar on any condition unless it is significantly life-limiting. We look at each individual on a case by case basis and with your permission our medical advisor can discuss your particular health concern direct with your GP or Specialist to get full information to make a recommendation.

What is the difference between adoption and permanent fostering?

Adoption is a legal process where all the rights and responsibilities of the birth parents are transferred to adoptive parent(s) so that the child becomes a fully integrated member of the new family, with all the accompanying legal and emotional stability.

Permanent fostering is an arrangement where children who cannot return home to their birth family live with a foster family on a permanent basis while still having contact with their birth family members. The ‘parental responsibility’ remains with the Local Authority and the placement is monitored under set regulations and rules.

The permanent foster family is paid an allowance to provide for the care of the child and a social worker will support the child and the foster family.

Find out about Fostering for adoption ( concurrency care scheme).

Who may adopt or permanently foster?

  • You must be over the age of 21.  There is no upper age limit but we do have to consider the needs of the child when placing them for adoption.
  • You can be single or married, divorced, living with a partner or in a civil partnership.
  • You can be straight, lesbian or gay – sexuality is not a barrier to adoption.
  • You can be childless or already a parent.
  • You can be renting or a home owner, and have enough living space to be able to bring up a child.
  • You must have lived in the UK (domiciled or habitually resident) for at least a year before applying to the court for an adoption order.

Some experience of parenting or caring for children is useful.

I have a low income. Will I be able to adopt?

Yes. You do not need to have a high income. You may be entitled to other benefits available to any other family, depending on your means and circumstances.

Your financial situation will be assessed during the assessment and matching processes and financial assistance may be considered depending on the child’s level of needs (subject to means testing). You may also be entitled to specific benefits and allowances for adopters.

You will be able to access benefits for families.

You may be eligible for Statutory Adoption Pay.

You may be able to access income support.


Will I get any financial help?

As the child’s parents you will be expected to meet the costs of bringing up an adopted child, however in some circumstances, such as taking a large sibling group, or a child with additional needs, you may be eligible for an adoption allowance and supplementary support package. These tailor-made support packages are designed to meet the individual needs of the children and will be discussed with you at length at the point of matching.

Where can I find out about pupil premiums for adopted children?

Parents should contact schools direct or check the Department for Education website:

From April 2014, schools in England can receive the pupil premium for children adopted from care or who left care under a Special Guardianship Order (SGO) on or after 30 December 2005. Schools can also claim the pupil premium for children who left care under a Residence Order (RO) on or after 14 October 1991.

To claim the pupil premium for adopted children, and those who are the subject of a SGO and RO, parents will need to inform the school and provide supporting evidence, for example, the Adoption (Court) Order.

Eligible pupils should then be recorded in the January 2014 School Census under the new category ‘Adopted from Care’. The data collected will be used to calculate, alongside other data (eg, FSM Ever6), the 2014 to 2015 pupil premium allocations for schools.

Although changes to the pupil premium have been widely communicated, schools may wish to ensure their parents are aware of the changes, particularly as adoptive parents will need to self-declare that their child was adopted (or the subject of an SRO/RO) before 16 January 2014 when the school census must be completed. Schools should reassure parents that the information about their child will be treated in the strictest confidence.

Do I need to have a big house?

No you don’t. What you do need is secure, warm, and comfortable accommodation that is appropriate for the child or children that you wish to adopt. This could be a flat or a house, but you do need to have a spare bedroom.

It is difficult for adopted children to come into a new family and share a bedroom with another child, especially your own birth child. However, it is possible for adopted siblings to share a room if they are being placed together and have previously shared a bedroom when in foster care.

The accommodation needs to be safe – for example, if you have on-going building works, fast-running water at the end of the garden, lack of banisters on high stairs – things like these need to be discussed and possibly addressed before children can be placed.

You will need to know if your accommodation is flexible enough to grow and change as your children grow and change.

Will I have to give up my full-time job?

No – we all have to live in the real world and many of us have rent and mortgages to pay.  Like all parents you will need to look at the demands of your work commitments and how caring for a child will be managed on a day-to-day basis.

However, we do expect that you are able to commit some time away from work for a reasonable period to enable your child to settle with you and establish a routine in their new home.  You can discuss your Adoption Leave entitlement with your employers and think about good use of annual and unpaid leave if necessary.

Some children will require more time to settle in than others, and a flexible approach to working is always useful.  Many adopters find that they want to spend time at home with their children, and opt to alter working hours after their official adoption leave to fit in with school, for example. You can of course discuss your individual circumstances with a social worker at any time.

I’m unemployed. Can I adopt?

Yes, we’re more interested in the experience and skills you can offer to a child in need of a loving and permanent home. We will talk to you about finances to help you plan realistically for the child. Some agencies that we work with may offer financial assistance if a child has special needs.

You will be able to access benefits for families.

You may be eligible for Statutory Adoption Pay.

You may be able to access income support.

What if my past isn’t straightforward?

Your past is what will have shaped the person you are today. We consider adopters from all kinds of backgrounds.

We will talk about your family background with you so we can appreciate how you have dealt with any difficult experiences in the past and what you have taken from them. It is an area we will discuss at length with you during your assessment, and look with you about what you have taken from your early experiences and what your understanding is of them.

For many people, having difficult childhood experiences will have equipped them with empathy and understanding for the child they adopt, at a really fundamental level.  If you are still suffering from emotional trauma as a result of early childhood difficulties, you may want to consider having some counselling around these issues – as you will need to be emotionally robust to adopt. And living with children who are themselves traumatised can trigger emotional responses in their parents, if their own issues have not been addressed.

What if I have a criminal record?

If the criminal record involves offences against children then you will not be able to adopt. As part of the official checks, we will conduct an enhanced police check through the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). The DBS fee will be paid by us.

We fully understand that people may have minor offences on record, and particularly there may have been youthful misdemeanours in the past – we will always look sympathetically at any record in terms of what it was, when it occurred, how regularly and how long ago. The important thing is that you let us know up front if there is likely to be something on your DBS, and also that you tell your partner (if adopting as a couple), as if something serious comes up, it might prevent you from being accepted, and we wont be able to tell your partner why.

Do birth parents and other relatives have any contact with their child after adoption?

It is common for there to be an exchange of written information, perhaps once or twice a year, via Letterbox contact.

There will be unique arrangements for each individual child which may mean direct contact for some children with various members of their birth family, including grandparents and brothers and sisters who may be placed elsewhere. Sometimes there will also be contact with birth parents – if this is best for the child.

Do adopted children want to trace their birth parents?

Most adopted children are curious about their origins, but this doesn’t mean that they don’t love their adoptive parents.

Since 1975 adopted people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have had the right to see their original birth certificate when they reach the age of 18 (in Scotland the age is 16 and this right has existed since legal adoption was first introduced).

Some people are satisfied with the fuller knowledge and understanding gained in this way, while others want to try to trace their birth parents or other family members.

For more information, see our adopted adults web page or visit the Adoption Search Reunion website www.adoptionsearchreunion.org.uk.

Should children be told that they are adopted?

Yes. Children should be raised knowing they were adopted. Adoptive parents should give appropriate information to the child from the time the child is little and as they grow up.

I am child going through adoption. Where can I find information?

We have developed two guides for children and young people who have been adopted or are going through adoption, and want to know more about the process.

You can find more information on the Children and Young people’s support web page.

Need to know more?

You can contact us to find out more 0345  155 1076 and email adoption@devon.gov.uk

Come along and meet us at one of our monthly information sessions. Our events are a great way to find out more about adoption.

We’ve tried to anticipate the questions that most people would ask, but if there’s something we’ve missed there are more questions and answers here.