Support is available every step of the way

Choosing to adopt is one of the biggest decisions you will make in your life so it’s not surprising that you may feel overwhelmed at the start and wonder what support is available. Adopted children will come with their own level of need and many have experienced early trauma and separation so it’s important to ensure you have a support network around you, this often comes from many different sources.

The first step when looking to adopt a child is to find an agency and ask them about the type of adoption support they can offer you. You can start your adoption journey with a Regional Adoption Agency (RAA), a Local Authority (LA) or an independent Voluntary Adoption Agency (VAA). When you adopt, you are welcomed into a new family, who are there for you throughout the adoption journey.

The children waiting to be adopted

Adopters are desperately needed for brother and sister groups, older children, those with additional needs and children from ethnic minority backgrounds. It’s often likely that these children may require additional adoption support so it’s best to speak to your adoption agency to understand their needs and any additional support they can offer.

  • Children over 5 wait 13 months longer to be adopted from care
  • Children with additional needs wait 9 months longer
  • Children in a sibling group wait 4 months longer
  • Children from an ethnic minority (excluding white minorities) wait 2 months longer to find their permanent home

Support available for adopters

For many potential parents, there are worries about practical and financial support and being an adoptive parent is no different. You do have to seriously consider what it will mean for you as a family, but there is support available and your chosen adoption agency will be able to advise you on what support they can offer. Like all routes to parenthood, of course there will be challenges along the way but lifelong support is available at every step, support can include:

  • Training and preparation workshops
  • Support from your dedicated social worker
  • Practical and financial support
  • Peer support from other adopters
  • Therapeutic support
  • Education support

Accessing support when adopting

There are close to 2,000 children waiting to be adopted in England and chances are, if you can provide a safe, stable, loving home, you can adopt.

The first point of contact should always be to speak to your adoption agency about what support and training they can offer. Agencies have universal services available for adopters and act as a central hub for information and tailored advice. Agencies will also offer their own bespoke range of support services including training and workshops, family days and meet ups with other adopters

Support from the sector and your adoption agency

Your chosen adoption agency will be your main point of contact when providing support so it’s best to speak to them at the start of your journey about the lifelong adoption support they can offer you. As a minimum, all agencies will offer preparation training for adopters as part of the process. This will cover various topics to help you to understand what is involved when adopting a child and develop your parenting skills. They will also assign you with a dedicated social worker who will get to know you throughout the process and help with any questions you might have. Some agencies may also provide specialist training on dedicated areas such as, therapeutic parenting and adopting a child of a different ethnicity.

Various charities and organisations, such as PAC-UK, may also be able to offer specific training and resources to people going through the adoption process.

Adoption Support Fund

The Adoption Support Fund is provided by the Department for Education (DfE) and makes funding available for regional adoption agencies and local authorities for therapeutic services to help achieve a range of positive outcomes for adopted children and their family. The fund will provide support to adoptive and eligible special guardianship families up to March 2025. The amount per child per year is £5,000 for therapy, as well as a separate amount of up to £2,500 per child if special assessments are needed. Adopters must first speak to their adoption agency about accessing the fund and then have an assessment of the family’s adoption support needs, more information can be found here.

Practical and financial support

Financial support is assessed on an individual basis and will often depend on the needs of the child(ren) you choose to adopt and how much of a suitable match you are, as well as available funding. If concerns about finances are holding you back from adopting, please speak to an adoption agency about any tailored and specific financial support they’re able to offer you. In some cases, it may be that the agency are able to help with financial support for an extension to your home or to support buying a larger car, for example.

You will also be entitled to adoption support leave and pay once you’ve been placed with a child, more information can be found here. One main adopter will be entitled to up to 52 weeks of statutory pay when taking time off work to adopt, if you’re looking to adopt as a couple then the second person may also be entitled to up to 2 weeks paid leave. You will also have access to the same range of national financial support, such as child benefits, that are available to all parents. There is also access to discretionary housing payments for certain adopters while you wait for a child to be placed, more information can be found here.

It’s also worthwhile to speak with your employer if you’re considering adopting a child. Many adopters find their employers a great source of support throughout their journey, with employers often having dedicated adoption policies and allowances, such as paid leave for training and preparation days etc.

A young child with additional needs wanting to be adopted

Therapeutic support

As mentioned above, The Adoption Support Fund exists to provide funded therapeutic adoption support to adopted children and their families and can be applied for via the agency that the child was adopted from. The agency that you choose to adopt with may also provide additional bespoke therapeutic services, such as a dedicated psychologist or in-house therapist, so it’s best to speak to your agency about the specific options available to you. There’s also lots of charities and organisations available to provide therapeutic and mental health support, the NHS and the Samaritans has dedicated services for helping with mental health, such as a free 24-hour helpline, more information can be found here. You can also reach out to organisations such as Children and Adolescent Mental Heath Services (CAMHS) and Young Minds for support, more information can be found here.

Education support

School can be a challenging time for many children and adopted children often find it particularly difficult. It’s important to explain your child’s circumstances and let the school know that they have been adopted so they can be understanding to any behaviour that may occur at critical times in their development. Adopted children and children living in care can often get priority access to schools to choose a school that best suits the child’s needs, more information can be found here. They will also have access to Early Years Pupil Premium which gives access to up to £300 of extra funding for every adopted 3 and 4 year old child in education, more information can be found here. General Pupil Premium funding is also available for state-funded schools and extra funding can be made available for adopted children, more information can be found here.

Peer support

Many adopters find their greatest comfort and support from speaking to others who have already adopted or who are going through the process at the same time. Your agency should be able to advise you on any existing peer support groups that you’re able to join and will help you in accessing these. Many agencies host days out and special trips for adopters and their families to connect and build a stronger support network.