The good news is that practically everyone who is assessed by OFS and presented to a panel with a recommendation is approved to adopt.
Adoption is a major decision with lifelong implications for you, the child, and your family. Because of this, there are a number of key factors an agency must consider before approving your suitability to adopt, and your adoption assessment or home study needs to be really thorough. Whether the assessment is directed by the court in a private adoption application or through an adoption agency (Local Authority, Private or Voluntary organisation) you will be asked lots of personal questions, which may feel at times intrusive. Remember that the aim is to find the right family for a child or group of children, so it is important to be as open and honest as possible.
The assessment is undertaken by a qualified social worker who is allocated to you throughout the process. During your assessment, your allocated social worker’s task is to consider whether you are suitable to adopt, and what type of child or children you would best be able to care for.
Your social worker will ask you about your feelings towards a future adopted child, and the experiences they may have had. You will also need to think about your feelings towards a future adopted child’s birth family, the reasons the child needs a new family, and how you would feel about maintaining some level of contact between the child and their birth family.
The social worker will make a number of visits to your home – approximately 6–8 visits over a period of 2-3 months. They will meet with everyone in your immediate family, talk to you in detail, and look at your living arrangements. They will also need to know about your family structure and support network (such as relatives, friends and neighbours).
It is important that your family structure is stable and secure and there are no major changes or upheavals expected. They will explore aspects of your childhood, employment, and relationships past and present, including any past break-up or divorce. They will look at your strengths and limitations, and identify any possible areas needing development. Your social worker will also ask about any children you already have, and how they feel about you adopting a child.
At the end of the assessment, your social worker will prepare a written report which you can see and comment on but may not be able to keep a copy except agreed by the client or agency (Local Authority or Court) who contracted OFS to undertake this assessment. The completed report then goes to the agency’s adoption panel which will consider the report and recommend whether or not you should be approved as adopters. The panel is made up of approximately 5 to ten people, with knowledge of and an interest in adoption such as adoptive parents or adopted adults. You would be invited to attend panel.
The panel will make a recommendation as to whether or not you should be approved as an adoptive parent. It may also give advice about the type of child or children you may be most suited to, for example a child between the ages of two and five, although there is some flexibility, and this is not a condition of your approval. The agency’s decision-maker will make the final decision to approve you as an adoptive parent based on the panel’s recommendations.