What is adoption?

Being adopted means living and growing up in a new family and it may happen if you can’t live with your birth family – the family you were born into. This may be because your parents might feel that they can’t look after you, and think it would be best for you to live with a new family. Some children might have been hurt or not looked after properly. If this happens, children’s social services and the Courts of Law might decide that the children should live with a new family.

Who gets adopted?

Hundreds of children are adopted every year. Some are babies, some older, some are adopted with their sisters and brothers, some are adopted from different countries, and some are adopted by people they know – like relatives and friends of the family.

How do I get a new family?

Northumberland Adoption Service is part of Northumberland County Council. We think that you should grow up in a family, who loves you and makes you feel safe.

We will find you a new family and organise your adoption.

People who will help you include:
  • your social worker – someone who tries to help children and their families when they have difficulties. Part of your social worker’s job is to help you understand the things you are worried about. You could be worried about changes that have happened in your life or changes that might be happening in the future. You can talk about these and lots of other things with your social worker.
  • your children’s permanence worker or family finder – a social worker who knows a lot about adoption and who looks for new families for children who need a new family
  • an adoption social worker or family placement social worker – a social worker who checks  families who are looking to adopt a child or children and makes sure that they are good enough to adopt.
First they find out all about you:

Your social worker will ask you and your family some questions. You should tell them the really important things about yourself, such as what you like and do not like; things that make you happy and things that make you sad; and things you are good at.

This is all written in a report called a children’s permanence report. When this is done your social worker will talk to a group of people called the ‘adoption panel’ to make sure that adoption is the best plan for you.

While you are being looked after by us, we will help collect important things as you grow up, so you can look back at photos and read about special memories from when your early childhood – these will be kept in a life story book or box.

Your life story book

A life story book is an important book all about you. Your birth family, your foster carer and your social worker will have collected things about your life for your life story book.

These things usually include photographs of your birth family, any other special people and your favourite places. Other things included can be school certificates, DVD recordings, special letters, leaflets from places that you have visited or anything else you think is important to keep.

It might include a birth family tree and the details of places you have lived since you were born and who has cared for you.  The life story book is yours and will go with you to your new family, so that you can continue to add things to it in the future.

It is a very special book and your new family will keep it in a safe place so it will be there whenever you want to see it. We keep a copy of your life story book on your adoption file in case it gets damaged or lost.

How do they decide if adoption is best for you?

There are a lot of people that your social worker talks to, and there are many steps they have to take to make sure that they find the best family for you.
  • Your social worker will talk to you, your birth parents and maybe your grandparents, aunts and uncles about your future. Sometimes birth families agree that adoption would be best for their child and sometimes they disagree.  What your family thinks is very important and everyone will listen very carefully to what they have to say.
  • The adoption panel then decides if adoption will be best for you. Then, a place called a Court of Law will make the final decision about you being adopted after hearing what everyone has to say.
  • You will be visited by someone called a guardian who is there to tell the court what they think should happen after listening to you, your family, Northumberland County Council and the adoption panel.
  • The court will then decide whether your social worker should try and find a new family for you. If the court decides that they should, it will also decide to make a care order and a placement order  (a care order means that we share looking after you with your parents, so you may stay with a foster family for a while, a placement order means that we can place you with a new family).
  • When the children’s permanence social worker finds a family, they will tell your social worker. The family that has been found for you will have told an adoption social worker all about themselves. This is written in a form called a prospective adopters report. Your social worker and family finder will visit the family to see if they’re right for you.
  • When the social workers think they have found the right family for you, they check with the adoption panel and the head of children’s services.

How do I find out about my new family?

After all of the above things have happened you will be able to ask questions about your new family. They may send you a book with photographs or a video so you can see them and where you will live.  You will meet your new family lots of times before you live with them. The first meeting will probably happen at your foster carer’s home. You will be able to visit your new home before you move there.

What happens when I go to live with my new family?

You will go to live with your new family when you have got to know them and you are ready. You may need to go to a new school and see a new doctor. Your social worker will make sure that these things are arranged for you.

Your social worker will still visit you until you are officially adopted. You can tell them how you feel and how you are settling in. It will be strange for a while until you get used to all the new things in your life.

You and your new family will have a meeting together with a reviewing officer to make sure that you are all happy – this is called a formal review. If you want the reviewing officer to know something but don’t want to talk to them, you can ask your new family or your social worker to say things for you.

If you want to, you can write it down or draw a picture about it. If the reviewing officer thinks that you or your family need some extra help, then they will ask your social worker to arrange this. The reviewing officer will come again to visit your new home every now and again until you are adopted.

When you and your new family are ready, your family will ask the court if they can adopt you. The judge will talk to you, your social worker and your new family. If the judge decides it’s best for you to stay with your new family, they will make an adoption order. This will be a very special day and you may have a celebration. Some families celebrate this day every year.

Your birth family will always by important to you, they are part of who you are. Your adoptive family will be just as important because they will share new things with you.

What about my birth family?

Just because you do not live with your birth parents does not mean they do not love you. They just cannot look after you.

If you are  living with a foster carer you will probably be having some contact with your birth family.  How you feel about contact is very important and your social worker and foster carer can talk to you about this.

After you’re been adopted there are different ways you can keep in touch with your birth family. Sometimes your birth parents and adoptive parents can send letters to each other through our post box system.

Sometimes you can also send letters and cards to your brothers and sisters. This is called indirect contact. In a very few cases you can meet with some members of  your birth family, for example a brother or sister. This is called direct contact. Contact usually takes place once or twice a year.

By using the post box system your birth family can continue to share information about your background and pass on news about what’s happening in your birth family. This can help you feel comfortable about who you are and can help you settle with your new family. If letters cannot be passed on, the post box will keep the letters. When you’re over 18 you can ask to see them. Your birth family can also ask.

If you have anything to say, we want to hear it

You can choose a person to be your advocate – this is a person who will listen to what you want to say, and who you want to say it to, and will tell them on your behalf.  An advocate could be:
  • your social worker
  • the person who is looking after you
  • Robin or Anya from the advocacy team
  • an adoption support worker
  • your social worker can organise an independent visitor for you
Northumberland Adoption Service is here to help:
  • children who need adopted families
  • children who have been adopted
  • adults who have been adopted
  • birth families
  • people who want to adopt
  • families who have adopted
If you have any questions about adoption, you can contact us through your social worker.