In the last few years, the UK has seen a huge increase in those applying to become adoptive parents. This has led to a misconception that there is no longer a need for adopters to come forward. Sadly, this is wrong. There are still thousands of children in England waiting to be matched with parents who can give them the care they need. We know from calls to our information line that many people who could potentially give these children a home are discouraged from applying to adopt because they wrongly believe they are not eligible to do so. I hope this list will challenge some of those assumptions and encourage people to find out more.
1. I'M SINGLE, SO I CAN'T ADOPT
Single people can adopt, whatever their gender. Many single people and unmarried couples have successfully adopted children.
2. I'M TOO OLD TO ADOPT
Adopters need to be over 21 but there is no upper age limit. Agencies will expect you to have the health and vitality to see your children through to an age of independence. Consideration will be given to your age comparative to the age of the child you want to adopt; younger children are more likely to be placed with younger parents.
3. I CAN'T ADOPT BECAUSE I'M GAY
Whether you are heterosexual, lesbian or gay is not a factor in your right to adopt.
4. I WORK FULL TIME SO I'M NOT ALLOWED TO ADOPT/I'M UNEMPLOYED OR TOO POOR TO ADOPT
Your financial circumstances and employment status will always be considered as part of an adoption assessment, but low income, being unemployed or employed do not automatically rule you out. You can be an adoptive parent while on benefits.
5. I CAN'T ADOPT BECAUSE I HAVE A CRIMINAL RECORD
If you have a criminal caution or conviction for offences against children or certain sexual offences against adults then you will not be able to adopt but, with the exception of these specified offences, a criminal record will not necessarily rule you out. The key is to be totally honest in your application.
6. I HAVE CHILDREN LIVING AT HOME, SO I WON'T BE ABLE TO ADOPT
Not true. Having children of your own (of any age) will certainly not exclude you from adopting, whether they are living at home with you or have grown up. Consideration will, however, be given to the age gap between your own children and the age of the child(ren) you wish to adopt and the position of each child within the family in accordance with the child(ren)s' needs.
Children over 18 will usually be DBS checked, as will any other adult member of your household.
7. I WON'T BE ALLOWED TO ADOPT BECAUSE I CAN'T HAVE MY OWN CHILDREN
It is really important that anyone wanting to be an adoptive parent understands their own motivations. Agencies will expect you to discuss both emotional and medical issues with them.
If you have had or are undergoing fertility treatment most agencies will expect you to complete any medical investigations and fertility treatments before considering adoption. The emotional demands in pursuing either route to parenthood can be great and doing both in tandem is not encouraged. Most agencies specify a set timescale between infertility treatment ending and formally applying to be approved as adopters - usually about six months - but this can be discussed at the start of the process.
8. I CAN'T ADOPT BECAUSE I SMOKE
Smoking will not necessarily rule you out from adopting. Consideration will be given to this and to all health- and lifestyle-related issues, and the agency will want to know of any specific health risks to you or to the children who may be placed in your care.
There is no single national policy on smoking, but all agencies will apply some restrictions. According to national medical advice children under five and those with particular medical conditions should not be placed in smoking households. You will usually need to be smoke-free for at least six months before adoption from these groups can be considered.
9. I AM DISABLED SO WILL NOT BE ALLOWED TO ADOPT
Being disabled should not automatically exclude anyone from becoming an adopter and it is widely recognised that disabled people can often provide a very loving home for a child.
Disability is only one of the many issues that will be considered by an adoption agency so don't rule yourself out before you have had a conversation with your agency of choice.
Even if you believe that you might need some additional assistance to adopt a young person, social services may be able to provide this support.
10. I CAN'T ADOPT A CHILD FROM A DIFFERENT ETHNIC BACKGROUND
Not true. The aim for everyone in the adoption system is to find loving families for each child in need of a happy future, even if there is not a perfect ethnic match. Ethnicity is relevant however and you must have an understanding of the challenges that raising a child of a different ethnicity can provide. Your agency will help prepare you for this if it applies to you.
Gemma Gordon-Johnson is Head Of Service at First4Adoption www.first4adoption.org.uk You can help raise awareness of adoption by sharing #SupportAdoption .