Fostering for adoption
What is fostering for adoption?
Fostering for Adoption aims to place children with their potential adoptive family as soon as possible when they cannot live with their birth parents or other family members.
It allows those who want to adopt a child to foster them while they are waiting for the court to decide if adoption is the right plan for the child. If the court agrees that the child should be adopted and the adoption agency approves the 'match' between the carers as adopters and the child, the placement becomes an adoption placement.
How is the process different to adoption?
Your assessment will follow the same process as that of adoption up to your approval at panel (see adoption section for more detail). If you are interested in fostering to adopt we will explore this with you as you are assessed and, after being approved, would discuss a specific child's needs with you in more detail. If the scheme is right for you and your family we would ask panel to approve you as a foster carer as well as an adopters.
You will need to be prepared to manage the uncertainty of having a child placed in your care for whom the final decisions have not been made, which can be stressful. However, we are asking fostering for adoption carers to take on the uncertainties in order to ensure that the child experiences as little disruption as possible.
The process can vary as there are differences between each fostering to adopt case which we would help you to understand and manage. You may need to support the child you are caring for to continue seeing their birth family regularly until the placement is made an adoptive one. You will need to complete daily recordings and other tasks foster carers must do, up until the point the placement changes.
What is it really like? Adopters tell their story:
"From an adopter's perspective there is of course the element of risk to consider in FfA placements and a lot of thought needs to be given around how adopters and their existing children would cope / deal with a child being returned to their birth family and the impact this would cause on the wider family / support network. We believe it is paramount that the adoptive family have contingency plans put in place, giving them clear access routes to support in the event of a child being returned.
The most emotional bit was the run up to having our baby placed as there did appear to be some uncertainty in the first few days of her life both socially and medically. It was a worrying time as naturally the placement we were planning and preparing ourselves and our children for felt out of reach at some points. We had consciously made the decision to commit to our baby regardless of the outcome, (in a very similar way to how we had about our two elder children in the time between linking and matching) so whilst she was poorly we worried, fretted and considered all the worse case scenarios imaginable.
In our experience the positives have outweighed any doubt of negatives. Our daughter has settled in brilliantly and with ease as she was placed so young (15 days old), having her placed so young has also made a dramatic difference to our two other children who found the transition of a newborn moving in much easier to deal with than that of an older baby. We experienced a more significant impact on our eldest daughter when her sibling joined us at 8 months old, yet our youngest joining us has had a totally different effect on our oldest and she has welcomed a newborn (less threatening in terms of following her about and stealing her toys!) into the family with open arms which also encouraged our second daughter to do the same. The whole experience has been a very positive one for us."
What support is available to us if we take this route?
At Bury we provide excellent support to adopters and foster carers, and would provide the same level service to those who are fostering to adopt. We are on hand from the start to answer your questions, suggest training that may be useful to you, provide advice, social and support events and advocate for your family to access specialist support where necessary.
"We were aware that we were one of Bury's first couples to do this but we understood and were prepared for the fact this may cause some confusion or time delay whilst they were able to figure it all out. However we were impressed that the staff were open and honest about this and this helped reinforce our trusting working relationship with them."
Tips and stories from people who have fostered for adoption
Fostering for adoption: an adoptive mum's story
"After we were approved as adopters we were on such a high it was amazing! It was so exciting to think that we finally would soon be parents. Our social worker had spoken a little about the new fostering for adoption (F4A) scheme but initially we thought that we wouldn't be suitable for this. Normally with adoption, you have to wait until a placement order has been granted by the courts before a child can then be placed with prospective adopters, but with this new scheme a child can be placed before this so you actually foster them for a short while until the placement order is granted.
This is obviously much more beneficial for the child as they are going to be with the people who will potentially be their adoptive parents from a much earlier age, reducing the disruption of being moved from temporary foster placements. It gives more time to bond and more chance of the early months of the child's life being what they should be. It's also great for adopters as it allows them to adopt a much younger child, something which you never think will be the case with adoption.
There is however more uncertainty with fostering to adopt because a placement order hasn't actually been granted. Social workers can never be 100% certain that a court will grant a placement order so there will always be the risk that another plan will be made for the child rather than adoption. This is something that potential adopters need to be aware of with fostering to adopt as there is always that risk.
Anyway, we had ruled the scheme out due to work so were surprised when we were approached with a potential fostering to adopt match with a 7 week old baby girl named Charlotte*(name changed). We read her file and history and believed she was a perfect match for us. Our social worker explained that a date had been set for the court to see about granting a placement order for Charlotte but it was several weeks away. She asked if it would be possible for us to speak to work, who thankfully agreed that I could use my remaining holidays and take the rest unpaid leave since adoption leave couldn't start until later on, at the point of being matched at adoption panel.
...and so began our frenzied preparations! It was all quite a rush as her current foster carers had a holiday booked and so the local authority wanted to place her with us as soon as possible to prevent her having to go into respite care with another foster carer. Obviously, we didn't want this as she would have the disruption of an extra move.
We started sleeping with a blanket so we could leave it with the foster carers to give to Charlotte before we met so she could start to get used to our smell and a large photo of our faces too. The introductions worked out fine and the foster carers were brilliant telling us all about her routines and answering any questions we had. We were nervous but we needn't have been because they were very welcoming and made us feel very relaxed straight away. Our first meeting with Charlotte was just magical and no words can really describe the emotions we felt when we saw her for the first time.
We hadn't even contemplated buying any baby items once we had been approved as we believed that the child we would eventually be adopting would be a toddler. The next evening, along with a car full of baby equipment borrowed from the foster carers, we brought Charlotte home. The foster carers had left us their mobile number and said we could ring any time if we needed any advice or had any questions, regardless of them being on holiday so this was very reassuring for us for the first few days.
That first night was very strange and nerve racking but it did go smoothly (although we forgot to eat that night!) Charlotte settled in and eventually went to sleep. We just couldn't stop looking at her and we both felt extremely lucky to have her with us. The first few weeks were very hectic but fantastic as we had to get used to caring for a newborn baby with not much time to prepare for all this entails. Our family and friends were very supportive by doing various things such as popping out to get all the essentials we needed or even bringing round food. It took a lot of willpower but they did give us space for the first few days as we didn't want to overwhelm Charlotte.
As we were under 'fostering rules', there were a few extra things that we had to do that you don't normally if doing a straight forward adoption. For example, we had to keep a daily diary of what we had been doing with Charlotte and how she was getting on. We did think this a bit odd as we knew she would hopefully be staying with us but it's something that foster carers have to do. It was a little strange at first as we just wanted to get on with caring and bonding with this little girl, but everything was very informal and our social worker was in regular contact with us so we just went along with everything. Charlotte didn't have any contact arrangements with her birth family but if she did, then we would be expected to adhere to these. Although we would not be expected to take her to the meetings, this could be done by a social worker. A bonus that we didn't expect was that we got paid as foster carers during this time which was a great help to us, especially as I was taking some unpaid leave from work!
To be honest though, it didn't feel like we were fostering, we were just getting on with the daily routine of caring for our new baby girl. When we were alone with Charlotte, it was very easy to forget that we were still waiting for a placement order to be granted. To us, it seemed like she was ours already and had been with us forever. We did have a few moments though where we started to feel anxious about the looming court date for the placement order but we tried to keep this in the back of our minds. Thankfully, the placement order was granted. I can't honestly imagine what we would have done if it hadn't been. This is the risk that comes with fostering to adopt though.
The next formal stage was the adoption matching panel. It seems a little bizarre that when you already have a child living with you and you are getting on with parenting and bonding with your child, there still has to be a matching panel. Normally, the matching panel will have already taken place before a child is placed with you but this happens afterwards with fostering to adopt. Again, we were a little nervous about it but we needn't have worried as we were formally matched with Charlotte at the panel and it was then that we became under adoption rules and not fostering ones.
Charlotte is now 6 months old and we are just waiting for our court date for her to be officially adopted. The whole process for us couldn't have gone any better really. We felt very supported by both our social worker and Charlotte's throughout the whole process as both kept in regular contact. They were always there if we needed them and their visits felt more like a friend popping in rather than anything official or intrusive. We have been to coffee mornings which gives us an opportunity to meet other adopters and their children and have been on courses run by the post adoption team. We also went along to the Christmas party which was great fun, especially seeing our social worker dressed as an elf! Charlotte loved seeing Father Christmas and watching all the other adopted children running around and having fun. Whilst there, we caught up with another couple who were on our preparation groups and it was lovely to see them with their new daughter.
We would highly recommend the fostering to adopt scheme to other potential adopters. There are risks with it and these need to be considered and discussed before committing to it but the rewards are well worth it if things turn out positively. Charlotte is just a joy to be with and we are so privileged that we have been there with her to hear her first giggle, see her roll over for the first time, try her first solid food and so many more. We are still in contact with her brilliant foster carers who have passed on all the photos they took of her first few weeks along with a little memory book of her time with them. All our family are besotted with Charlotte. We enjoyed a truly magical first Christmas together and look forward to a happy future. We are so lucky to have her and can't imagine life without her."