Gemma Gordon-Johnson is the Head of Service at First4Adoption, and we sat down for a chat with her about the company and their services.
When was First4Adoption founded?
First4Adoption was founded in January 2013. It is the first national adoption service for people interested in adopting a child in England.
What services do you offer people looking to adopt?
First4Adoption’s award-winning website and information line provide an impartial guide to the adoption process and the type of support available for adoptive parents and families. first4adoption.org.uk also offers free e-learning materials plus downloads and webcasts to help people understand the challenges and rewards of parenting an adopted child. We can also put you in touch with adoption agencies in your area and answer any specific questions you may have about adoption.
What criteria must people who are looking to adopt fulfil? Are there any people who are not allowed to adopt?
The most important things are the desire and ability to provide a safe and loving home for a child. Adoptive parents come from every type of background and community. Successful adopters can be LGBT, single, co-habiting, married/ civil partners, over 40, have a disability, hold religious views, or already have their own children. The only people automatically disqualified from applying to adopt are: those under 21 years of age, non-UK residents and anyone with a serious criminal conviction.
Are there any specific things which LGBT people should take into account when considering adopting a child?
Largely, these are the same things any potential adopter would need to consider. If you don’t have much contact with young children in your daily life, then it’s useful to get some experience before applying to adopt. This could be looking after friends’ or relatives’ children or volunteering at a pre-school or children’s club.
Single adopters, same-sex couples and trans people may want to think about their network of family and friends and where their child might find role models among adults of both genders.
Are there any advantages for a child being adopted by a LGBT person or couple?
Children who are adopted can have questions about their identity, or feel “different” at times. LGBT adopters are often able to bring great empathy to their parenting and can be very well-placed to deal with these kinds of issues.
What are the main stages in applying to adopt a child?
Firstly you need to gather information about adoption to help you decide if it’s right for you. The First4Adoption website has lots of useful reading material and case studies of people who have successfully adopted. Our information line advisers can answer any questions you might have and put you in touch with adoption agencies in your area. We advise contacting a few adoption agencies and attending their information evenings to learn more. You then need to choose an adoption agency and submit a registration of interest form.
The adopter approval process happens in two parts. Stage 1 involves the agency carrying out a number of background checks and starting your adopter preparation training. Stage 2 involves more intensive training to help you prepare to be an adoptive parent. Following this, an adoption panel will meet you, consider reports from your adoption agency, and recommend whether or not to approve you as an adopter. After approval, you are matched with an adoptive child.
From choosing an adoption agency, how long would one reasonably expect to wait before adopting a child?
Stage 1 lasts two months and Stage 2 should take four months. Approved adopters can currently expect to wait between six and twelve months to be matched with a child.
What would you say are the greatest challenges an adoptive parent or parents face?
Children who are placed for adoption come from many different backgrounds and from a range of different ethnicities and religions. All will have had unsettled lives and need parents who can offer them love and care to help them rebuild trust in adults. They will also have experienced loss and separation, even when adopted shortly after birth. Sadly, many of these children will also have been neglected or abused or have specific medical problems or a learning disability.
And the greatest satisfaction?
Adoption is a lifelong commitment requiring skill, empathy, energy, patience – and a sense of humour! But there’s no greater reward than transforming a child’s life forever and building a happy, fulfilled family.