Education & Family

Adoption: Personal experiences of the system

Figures reveal adoption figures in England have fallen to a 10-year low, while the average length of time children wait to be adopted is now two years and seven months.

Here, three people tell of their experiences of the adoption system.

Adopted from abroad

Anita, a civil servant, is British-born Indian and her husband is white British. They are both Christian.

"We started to consider adoption about two years ago," she said. "When we telephoned the local authority to make initial inquiries we were turned down straight away.

Image caption In total, 3,050 children were adopted in the year to March 2011 - 5% lower than the year before

"We were told they wouldn't have any children suitable. We could only adopt Indian or part-Indian Christian children - and there aren't very many of them."

The couple then contacted two other local authorities and three agencies. Each time they were told their ethnicity would be a barrier to adoption.

"A social worker told us adoption was a competitive marketplace and you had to market yourself.

"We had thought we brought with us a lot of positives because of our diversity, but our ethnicity was seen as a barrier."

A year ago, after the government announced it was removing some barriers to adoption, the couple tried again - but got the same response.

So they decided to adopt from India. "I have just returned with our little girl," she said. They don't know her religious background.

"We are extremely lucky because we are able to have a little family now, but we are also sad because we would have loved to have adopted a child here and we didn't have that opportunity.

"We will go on and have a very nice life, but there will be a child who stays in the care system. And that's very, very, very sad."

Trying to adopt

Rebecca and her partner Graham recently went through the initial stages of adoption, to be told a month ago to come back in two years.

"We are both in our mid 30s, have good jobs, a nice house and are willing to take on siblings.

"But were told that because we had only been together for three years (even though we have known each other for 12), and the fact that we could have our own birth children, was a problem.

"We were extremely upset by these comments as this is something as a woman I have thought long and hard about over the last few years.

"They questioned our motivation. But I have never wanted to have my own children. We don't want to have a baby, but we do want to be parents. We would like to take on older children.

"We have since moved out of London to be closer to some of my family and are going to go through the process again with a different council and hopefully will be more successful.

"We are prepared to do this and to put the work in. But so far it feels like it's been 'Thanks but no thanks'."

Social worker

Amy Withers, a social worker in Birmingham, deals mostly with children going for adoption.

"In my experience, the court system sides with the parents and is not child-focused at all.

"It takes on average two years to get through a case from start to finish and that does not include waiting for a family finder to be allocated and then a family to be found for the children.

"This next process then takes, depending on when a family is found, at least another six months and the children still won't have been placed with their new family.

"The whole system is not child-friendly, never mind how the prospective adoptive parents feel about being interrogated.

"So much unnecessary time is wasted, and it's not down to the individual workers, it's the court system and the other processes that we have to follow. I personally know of two couples who wished to apply to adopt a child and they found the process far too long and daunting.

"The process to get to adoption can take very long. In April 2010 I removed a two-year-old and a one-year-old from their parents because of violent behaviour towards the children.

"I had to go to court for an order to keep the children in care and that case is still not finished and we're nearly at October 2011, nearly 18 months later.

"Until the court proceedings are finished we can't place the children with the right team to find them a family."

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