27/11/2013 08:17 GMT | Updated 25/01/2014 05:59 GMT

The Changing Face of the Adoption Process

There's no doubt that adopting a child in England is becoming easier and quicker. Almost everyone I speak to tells me about someone they know who has had a horrendous experience of adopting years ago - whether it was the agonisingly slow process to be approved as an adopter, or the lack of support after they actually managed to adopt. And that's assuming that they actually made it through the adoption process and weren't turned away at the outset for being too old, single, gay or a different ethnicity to the majority of children waiting to be adopted in their local area. I'm pleased to say that as part of the government's reform of the adoption system this is now all changing, which is great news for both prospective adopters and the more than 4,600 children in England currently waiting for forever families.

It is now much quicker to adopt - it should now only take 6 months to get approval to adopt, which is a much better balance between the need to get more children out of temporary foster placements and into stable, loving and permanent families, and the need to make sure that would-be adopters are well prepared to cope with the challenges of parenting a child who has had a tough start in life. Once you've been approved, your adoptive child could be living with you within a few weeks or months.

Many more people can adopt now than you would think. At First4Adoption, we are working hard to bust the many myths around who can adopt. You can adopt if you are over 40 - in fact there is no upper age limit to adopting, as long as you are fit and healthy and able to care for your child until they reach 18. Also, reflecting wider changes in our society and new types of families becoming more common, you can now adopt if you are single, unmarried or lesbian/gay/bi-sexual/trans (LGBT). You can adopt if you already have children, and having a disability does not prevent you adopting either. There are a disproportionately high number of black and mixed-ethnicity (BME) children waiting to be adopted, but you can adopt a child from a different ethnic background to your own.

I'm pleased to say that we are beginning to see the results coming through already - many more people over 40 are contacting First4Adoption to find out more about adopting (around a third of the calls we take are from people aged between 41 - 50 years). We're also taking calls from more single people (a quarter of women calling us from the London area are single) wanting to become a forever family to a child who needs adopting. I've been encouraged by the response of the LGBT community to the idea of adopting and spoken to many gay and lesbian people to reassure them that adoption is a route to creating a family for them, and that they cannot be discriminated against due to their sexuality. First4Adoption, along with Home for Good, has also set up a dedicated adoption info line for faith communities on 0300 222 5950 after concerns that religious people - who are the most likely in England to adopt a child according to research we published recently - are not coming forward to adopt because of the mistaken belief that their faith will be held against them. We have also started working with BME communities to encourage more people from this community to consider adopting as well.

Many people have concerns about how they will cope after they have adopted. Part of the adopter assessment process involves making sure that you have a good support network around you for once you've adopted. But the government's recent announcement of the creation of a £19.3 million Adoption Support Fund for adoptive families who most need post-adoption support is also reassuring. We've put together an Adoption Passport to give would-be adopters information about the types of support on offer after they adopt.

Adopters - just like the children who need adopting - come from all walks of life. What they share is the ability to give unconditional love and stability to a child who has had a difficult start in life, to help them turn their life around. If you think that you could change a child's life - and your own - for the better, get in touch with First4Adoption today to find out more about adopting. Their friendly advisors - many of whom have adopted themselves - can give you impartial information about the adoption process, from whether you could apply to adopt to how to begin the adoption process. They can also put you in contact with adoption agencies in your area. You can even take our interactive quiz to find out if you could adopt. It's now much easier and quicker to adopt - give us a call on 0300 222 0022 or visit to find out more about adopting today.