If you or someone close to you is being adopted, you may be feeling all sorts of things – sad, happy, angry, relieved or just confused. No matter how you’re feeling though, you probably have lots of questions that need answers. Here are some questions that young people often ask about adoption.
Adoption is when a court makes the adults who are looking after a child or young person their legal parents. The child’s last name usually changes to become the same as theirs. The people who adopt a child are given ‘parental responsibility’ for that child and can make decisions for them. Adoption is permanent and means that from then on a child or young person is legally part of that family.
A court is where magistrates and judges work. These are people who are specially trained and whose job is to make important decisions.
There are lots of different types of courts. The court that will be asked to make decisions about children and young people is called a family court because it only makes decisions about children and their families. This is not the same as a criminal court which decides if people have broken the law and done something wrong. A court has to make important decisions and it can sometimes take a long time for it to make a final decision about who should look after a young person.
Yes. Some adoptions mean that a step-parent adopts a child or young person who already lives with them.
Sometimes a young person may not be able to live with their birth parents because a court has decided their parents are not able to look after the young person properly. The young person may then live with a new family who are not related to them but who want to become their legal parents.
When you are adopted by a stepmother or stepfather they become a legal parent to you and can therefore make decisions about you. The parent who you live with will still be able to make decisions about you and look after you. The parent that you don’t live with will no longer be able to make decisions about you.
Cafcass aims to make sure that the court knows how you feel about being adopted and what you want to happen.
If your biological parents agree to you being adopted then Cafcass will appoint a Reporting Officer who will visit them. The Reporting Officer will make sure that your parents understand what adoption will mean for you and them, and that they really do want you to be adopted. If they do want to agree to your adoption then the Reporting Officer will ask them to sign a consent form. This form will be sent to the court as proof that your parents agree to you being adopted. You would not normally meet the Reporting Officer, as they only need to see your parents.
One of your birth parents may not agree to you being adopted, or there may be special circumstances such as when one of your parents cannot be found. Cafcass will then send someone called a Children’s Guardian to see you. The Children’s Guardian is there to make sure you understand what is happening and to find out your wishes and feelings. They will tell the court what you would like to happen. The Children’s Guardian will speak to you and your family, as well as the people who want to adopt you. They may also speak to your social worker and teachers or other people who know you well. The Children’s Guardian will write a report for the court.
The report will tell the court what you want to happen. It will also say whether the Children’s Guardian thinks the adoption is in your interests. They will obtain this information by interviewing all the adults and children involved in the adoption and may also contact your teachers, doctor or social workers. The Children’s Guardian is then able to form a balanced opinion as well as cover other matters that the court needs to know.
Your family will have to go to a family court to find out whether or not the adoption will actually happen. The judge will read the report written by the Children’s Guardian and will also listen to the views of your family and the people who want to adopt you. If you have a social worker then the judge will also want to know what they think should happen. Based on this information the judge will make a decision on what they feel is best for you.
You may be able to speak to the judge yourself and let them know how you are feeling and what you want to happen. If you would like to do this then it is important to let your Children’s Guardian know, so that they can tell the court that you would like to speak to the judge. Sometimes a judge will allow a young person to talk to them before they decide if they should be adopted. Whether or not a young person is allowed to speak to the judge in court often depends upon the age of the young person and what the circumstances are.
After the judge has listened to everyone, including the Children’s Guardian, they will decide if you should be adopted. If the judge decides that it is best for you to be adopted then you will go to court with the people who are going to adopt you and the judge will make an Adoption Order.
The length of the adoption process varies, but it can take between six and 12 months.
The Children’s Guardian will listen carefully to the reasons why you do not want to be adopted and will tell the judge how you feel. The judge’s decision may not always be the same as what you want, but it will be what the judge thinks is in your best interests. If the judge thinks that you are right not to want to be adopted then they will not make the Adoption Order.
You may not be able to see one of your birth parents as much as you might like to after adoption. Your Children’s Guardian will want to discuss with you who you want to see after the adoption, and the best ways in which this can be arranged. If a young person and their birth parent do still see each other after an adoption then it may only be once or twice a year. If meeting up is not possible you may be able to stay in touch through phone calls, letters or cards. The judge will consider what would be the best way for you to stay in touch with people who are important to you before they make an Adoption Order.
Lots of young people tell us that they sometimes feel guilty if they get on well with their stepfamily. You don’t have to feel that way. It is OK to get on with the people looking after you and still care about your biological mother or father.
Living with a new family may take some time to get used to but remember that your new family are also trying to get used to you. There may also be other children in the family who are getting used to all the different changes that are happening.
It is important to remember that people do not always get on within a family all the time. All families have disagreements and adoptive families are no different. However, it is important that you talk to someone about how you feel, especially if you feel very unhappy about something. If you don’t feel able to talk to the people looking after you, then please talk to your Children’s Guardian if they are still involved. If not, then try to find someone who you can talk to, perhaps a teacher, a relative or a social worker. If you cannot find anyone you can talk to, then you could contact one of the organisations listed on the link to further information.
Remember, your Children’s Guardian is there to help you and to answer any other questions you may have that are bothering you. The Children’s Guardian is only allowed to stay involved until the court has made its decision. After this they will no longer be able to visit you.