First4Adoption Busts 10 Popular Misunderstandings

1. Being Single Does Not Prevent Adoption

There is no requirement that adoptive parents be married or in a relationship, and being single does not disqualify someone from adopting. Many single individuals and unmarried couples have successfully adopted children of various ages and backgrounds.

Learn more about adopting as a single individual

2. Advanced Age Is Not an Absolute Barrier

To adopt, you must be at least 21 years old, but there is no upper age limit. Adoption agencies will consider your overall health and ability to see your child or children through to independence, regardless of your age. They will also take into account the child’s age and needs, and whether you’re physically and emotionally capable of caring for them.

3. Sexual Orientation is Not a Factor in Adoption Eligibility

Whether someone identifies as heterosexual, lesbian, gay, or bisexual is irrelevant with regard to adoption eligibility. As long as an individual or couple meets other criteria, such as providing a stable and supportive home environment, having financial stability, and demonstrating a genuine love for children, they can become adoptive parents.

Learn more about LGBT adoption

4. Financial Circumstances and Employment Status are Considered, But Not Disqualifying

When considering prospective adoptive parents, agencies will examine their financial situation and employment status, but these factors alone typically do not prevent someone from adopting. Adoptive parents can work full-time or be unemployed, and they can receive government benefits. The agency will assess every aspect of the parent’s situation to ensure that the family can provide a secure and loving home for the child. Additionally, there are a number of government allowances and programs available to support adoptive families.

Find out more about the support available to adoptive families

5. Criminal Records Are Not Always Disqualifying

Having a criminal record does not necessarily preclude someone from adopting. If the criminal offense was against a child or was a specified sexual offense against an adult, however, the individual will not be able to adopt. Applicants must disclose all prior offenses, and the adoption agency will consider factors such as the nature of the offense, when it occurred, and how the individual has made amends.

6. Having Children of Your Own is Not a Barrier to Adoption

Having children of any age does not automatically exclude someone from adopting another child. Adoption agencies recognize that every family situation is different, and will consider factors such as the age gap between the existing children and the ages of the children being adopted, and the individual needs of each child. The agency will work with the family to ensure that all children are cared for and provided with a loving home.

It is common for adults who wish to adopt children to have to undergo a DBS check, and this includes any member of the household who is over 18 years old.

There is a misconception that adopting a child is a very risky undertaking because many adoptions end up breaking down. However, this is not true. Most adoptions are successful and provide children with the opportunity to rebuild their trust in adults. While some adopted children may have more complex needs, adoptive parents' commitment is remarkable in gaining support for their children. In a recent podcast, adoption researcher Professor Julie Selwyn found that the breakdown rate of over 37,000 adoptions studied was only 3%. Many adoptive parents whose children no longer lived with them still remained involved in their children's lives.

Adoptive families with children who have more complex needs can receive support and advice after adoption.

Another misconception is that smokers cannot adopt. Although smoking is taken into consideration, it is not a definitive rule. The adoption agency will want to know about any specific health risks and lifestyle factors that may affect the health of both the adoptive parent and the child. While there is no single national policy on smoking, agencies will generally apply some restrictions in line with medical advice. Children under five and those with particular medical conditions should not be placed in homes with smokers. Also, prospective adoptive parents must usually be smoke-free for at least six months before children from these groups can be considered for adoption.

One misconception that can discourage some relevant prospective adoptive parents is the belief that being disabled automatically excludes them. However, this is not true. Adoption agencies consider all factors, including disability, before making a decision. Disabled individuals can often provide a loving home for a child, and if additional assistance is needed, social services may provide the necessary support. Such individuals' life experiences give them unique insight into children in care, who often have a sense of themselves as being "different" or share a similar disability. Positive relationships with disabled adoptive parents can help teach these children the importance of inclusivity and value for difference.

It is also a common misconception that adoptive parents must share the same ethnicity as the child they adopt. This is not true. Families can be matched with children from different ethnic backgrounds, provided they can meet the child's most important needs. Adoptive parents receive support to help children appreciate or understand the culture, religion, and language of their birth community. Adoptive parents should be prepared to face difficulties such as possible isolation of the child, a lack of diversity in school and their local area, and implementation of culture, heritage and life story work. These issues and more are explored in the "Identity, Heritage and Life Story Work" module available in the e-learning program "First Steps".

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