Scottish Adoption was the first Adoption Agency in Scotland to host information events specifically for the LGBT+ community. Since Scottish Adoption’s first LGBT+ event, they have gone on to support all of their LGBT+ families throughout their adoption journey and that support is life-long, thanks to their After Adoption Team.
WJM Associate Emma Letham spoke with Karen Watt, a Senior Practitioner at Scottish Adoption, about the process for anyone thinking about adopting.
Emma Letham (EL): If someone from the LGBT+ community is thinking of adopting, what should they do first?
Karen Watt (KW): I would recommend that they look at the Scottish Adoption website first of all. Over half of our adopters are from the LGBT+ community and therefore we have a lot of experience in supporting people from the LGBT+ community to adopt.
After looking at our website, if they were interested in taking things further, there is an online initial enquiry form to complete. This form is then passed to a duty practitioner who will be in touch with the prospective adopter(s) within two working days and will arrange an initial interview with them. Everything is online at the moment due to COVID-19, so that meeting would be via Zoom.
”Over half of our adopters are from the LGBT+ community…”Karen Watt, Scottish Adoption
The initial meeting would be with a senior practitioner at the agency – we are all senior practitioners; we are all social work-trained with many years of experience.
During the initial meeting, we will ask why you are interested in adoption at this time. We will ask about your personal circumstances, your family background, and about your personal relationship (if it’s a couple looking to adopt). We do have a requirement that if it’s a couple looking to adopt, they have been in a relationship for 3 years or more.
This initial meeting is also an opportunity for the prospective adopter(s) to ask us any questions which they may have about the adoption process. We ask people to be as open as possible with us at this meeting.
EL: Then what happens after that? do they have to attend any further meetings?
KW: At the end of the initial meeting, the social worker who has spoken to the prospective adopter(s) will make a recommendation to their manager about whether they think the prospective adopter(s) have enough strengths to be invited to the next stage of the adoption process. If the manager agrees for the prospective adopter(s) to progress to the next stage, then they will be invited to the next available place on the Preparation Groups.
EL: What happens at the Preparation Groups?
KW: The Preparation Groups consist of four separate full-day sessions with pieces of work to complete in between the sessions. These groups are led by two senior practitioners and will be attended by other prospective adopters also. These groups have input from people who have already adopted and teenagers who have been adopted themselves. These groups involve drilling down deeper into prospective adopter(s) motivation to adopt, thinking about the children who are waiting to be adopted, looking at attachment issues, adverse childhood experiences, how to parent an adopted child effectively, looking at specific issues such as Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, etc. We also look at post-adoption contact between children and their birth families.
EL: What happens after the Preparation Groups?
KW: After the Preparation Groups, prospective adopters are encouraged to reflect on the groups and think about whether they wish to move on to the next step of the process, the Home Study process. A lot of information is provided during the Preparation Groups and it is therefore important that time is taken to reflect and consider this information.
If the prospective adopter(s) wish to continue with the process, they would complete a form and would then be allocated a Senior practitioner from the Family Placement Team. The Home Study assessment would then begin. This assessment usually takes around six months from start to finish. The Home Study is essentially a story of the prospective adopter(s) life. All the information is pulled together into a PARS (Prospective Adoptive Report Scotland).
This is a collaborative process with the prospective adopter(s) writing lots of the report themselves, looking at their family background, the supports they have around them, their education, health, work, leisure interests, relationship with significant other (if adopting as a couple). This assessment will also involve a discussion of their motivation to adopt. There will be local authority checks completed, PVG checks, a medical assessment with their GP and six references will be requested from their family, friends and employer. It’s important to highlight that this process is all about safeguarding children. We always act in what we think is in a child’s best interests.
The second half of the Home Study involves a discussion about the children who are placed for adoption. We talk about the kind of child who the prospective adopter(s) think they may be best matched with and we also talk more about post-adoption contact between a child and their birth family at this point in time.
At the end of the Home Study, we normally have a long list of strengths of the prospective adopter(s) which evidence why we think they will make good adopter(s). We usually have a few vulnerabilities too – that is normal.
Our manager will then read the report and carry out a second opinion visit with the prospective adopter(s).
If we are all in agreement to proceed, the prospective adopter(s) are invited to the Agency’s Adoption Panel.
EL: What happens at the Adoption Panel and who sits on the panel?
KW: The panel members are independent and are from a wide variety of backgrounds. They all have some experience of adoption, some have adopted, some have been adopted, some are social workers etc.
The panel will start off by asking the allocated senior practitioner about the Home Study and might ask the senior practitioner to expand on some information from within the report. The prospective adopters will then be invited in and asked a few questions.
The prospective adopters will be asked to leave and then a discussion will take place with the panel advising whether they agree with our recommendation that the prospective adopters should be approved as adopters or not.
If they are approved, the information is sent to the Agency Decision Maker who must review matters and confirm the Panel’s decision.
At this point, the prospective adopters become fully approved adopters and can start family finding!
EL: Amazing! How do the prospective adopters start family finding?
KW: We suggest that they have a look on Link Maker which is an online nationwide platform with details of children placed for adoption. Prospective adopters can set up their own profile which allows them to look at profiles of children who have been placed for adoption.
Once prospective adopters are interested in learning more about a child, they can request further information about the child from the child’s social worker. The child’s social worker will ask for the prospective adopter’s PARS also.
If both parties wish to move forwards with the potential link, the prospective adopters will meet the child’s social worker. This gives both parties a chance to ask any questions which they may have. The prospective adopters will be supported by their allocated practitioner during this meeting.
There is then the opportunity for the prospective adopters to speak to the child’s foster carers, school/nursery and medical adviser.
EL: What happens next?
KW: There will be a Linking Meeting arranged. This meeting is for the professionals involved to attend and explore the potential match between the prospective adopters and the child. If everyone is in agreement that this is a strong link, a Matching Panel will be arranged.
EL: What happens at the Matching Panel?
KW: This is similar to the Adoption Panel which the prospective adopters attend but it is arranged by the local authority where the child is based. There would be a discussion between everyone about why the match between the child and the prospective adopters is strong and we would hope the Matching Panel agrees.
If the match is agreed and the Agency Decision Marker confirms matters, the introductions between the child and the prospective adopters would be arranged and commenced.
Once the child is living with the prospective adopters, an adoption petition can be lodged by the prospective adopters via their solicitor with their local sheriff court. An Adoption Order cannot be granted until the child has been living with the prospective adopters for 13 weeks.
That is where Roger Mackenzie and Emma Letham can assist, with their expertise in adoption matters. They have dealt with many adoption petitions in Courts throughout Scotland, from very straightforward cases to those which are more complex and take slightly longer until the Adoption Order is granted.