What is adoption?

Introduction to adoption

All children deserve the best start in life. Adoption offers children the opportunity to grow up in a family that can give them the love, care and security their birth family were unable to provide.

Adoption is a legal process which transfers all legal responsibility for the child to their new parent(s). It is a permanent, life-long commitment which offers children who have not had the best start in life the opportunity to live happy, healthy, fulfilling lives with their new families.

Adoption can be challenging but it can also be very rewarding. It gives you the chance to help a child whose early life has been disrupted, and to watch them develop within the stability and security of a permanent family.

The Brighton & Hove adoption and permanence team recruits adopters for children of all ages that are unable to stay with their birth family and have a plan for adoption. Children come into care because their parents are unable to cope, they have experienced abuse or neglect or they are at risk of abuse or neglect. The abuse may have been physical, sexual, emotional or a combination of these.

The most severely neglected children have not had their basic needs met – physical care, security, affection, stimulation, guidance and control. They are likely to have suffered emotionally because of their parents problems, such as drug and alcohol abuse, mental health problems or domestic violence. A child’s reaction to these experiences can be expressed in different ways and adopters need to be sensitive what has happened to in their life.

We place the needs of the child at the heart of the adoption process. We are looking for people who can show an ability to care for children and who have some understanding of the needs of children who cannot live with their birth families. Please see our Who can adopt? page for more information.

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Three routes to adoption

There are three routes to adoption – the regular route, concurrency care and foster for adoption.

The regular route to adoption

When a child is taken into care, they are usually placed with foster carers while the social work team works with their birth parents and family network to find a suitable home for them.

If the child is unable to return home, or find a home within their family network, the court may make a placement order, which allows the child to be placed with an adoptive family. The child’s social workers will look for adopters for the child. This is often known as matching. If a suitable family is found the child will move in with the family.

The Brighton & Hove adoption team continue to support the adoptive family after the child has moved in, and there are regular reviews of the placement. After a minimum of ten weeks, the prospective adopters can apply to the court for an adoption order, making the adopters the sole legal parents to the child.

When the adoption application is made, the birth parents are notified. It is not uncommon for them to oppose the application. This is not usually successful, although it can delay the adoption order and can be stressful for the adopters. If this happens, our legal team will offer support.

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The concurrency route

A concurrency placement means that two plans are considered for a child at the same time: a return to their birth family or adoption. The child will live with a carer or carers in the meantime who are approved for fostering and adoption. Social workers will work with the child’s parents to try and return the child home.

During this time the child will meet with their parents up to four times a week. This relationship is very important at this stage. Carers may also meet with the birth parents to talk about the child’s needs, supervised by a social worker. Due to these regular contact sessions, concurrency carers are only recruited from a 30 mile radius of Brighton & Hove.

If the court decides that is not suitable for the child to return to their birth family, the concurrency carers go onto adopt the child. This means that the child has already got to know their adoptive family. As foster carers, the concurrency carers do not have a say in whether the child returns home. This can be difficult for concurrency carers to accept.

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Foster to adopt

A foster to adopt placement is made when a child cannot be cared for by their birth family, and the local authority want to find a permanent home for the child as soon as possible. If the courts have not granted a placement order (see above), a child can be placed with foster carers who will then go onto adopt the child once the order is made.

We have a duty to consider this option for every child with a plan for adoption. It can be used for children who have had older siblings recently placed for adoption or babies whose parents are in care themselves. Unlike concurrency care, not every child has contact with their birth parents.

Fostering for adoption allows the child to get to know their new family from an early age. Whilst there are no plans under a foster to adopt placement for the child to go home, the adoption may not be approved by the courts – for example, a family member might be found for the child to live with. This is a risk for foster to adopt carers.

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Which route to choose?

Foster to adopt and concurrency both came about because children were waiting too long to find a permanent family while decisions were made about their future. Children who are placed with permanent carers earlier will experience less disruption and are likely to have better outcomes.

These two routes involve a level of risk to the carers – they may lose the care of the child they are hoping to adopt. It is important that carers are able to cope with the risk and uncertainty without passing on their anxiety to the child. In the regular route to adoption, it is the child who bears the uncertainty and disruption, in foster to adopt and concurrency it is the adult.

It is important to think about what feels right for you. You can do this during the assessment process. We will not ask for a commitment to a particular route until you are ready to go to the adoption panel for approval.

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