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I’m an adopter

All parents struggle and need support at times. Adoptive parents are no different. The majority of adopted children will have experienced some form of early loss or trauma, which can make parenting even more challenging.

Voluntary adoption agencies are experts in understanding what adopters need to be the best parents possible. Our agencies pride themselves on the lifelong adoption support they provide to families, which is part of what makes voluntary agencies unique. They have deep and varied experience in providing all kinds of support, from training to therapeutic support to group/peer sessions. They recognise that every family is different, and there is no one time that families might need support. Unlike other agencies, they ensure that adopters can come back to the agency at any point for help.

The first port of call for adopters needing support should be your adoption agency. They are best placed to understand your situation and decide what support would be best for you and your family.

There is also a wealth of information online to support adopters. We have outlined some key topics below with links to further information and guidance.

National organisations dedicated to supporting adopters

Adoption UK has a helpline, online forums, support groups, and other special social and training events to help adopters build links with each other.

We Are Family is a peer to peer support community by adopters, for adopters.

PAC-UK offers a wide range of services to adopters and permanent carers throughout the country, as well as those thinking of adopting.

First4Adoption provides a broad range of resources for adopters ranging across therapies, education, funding and housing.

Developmental trauma

Multiple and/or chronic adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) in a child’s early life can harm every area of a child’s development and lead to serious difficulties across a child’s life. These events affect a child’s brain development and function, impacting everything from their attachment to mood and ability to learn.

The Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families offers specific resources for adoptive parents and special guardians about childhood trauma, building secure attachment and resilience, and support services.

The UK Trauma Council has accessible resources (including videos and animations) for parents, carers and professionals supporting young people who have experienced trauma.

Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)

Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a term used to describe the permanent impacts on the brain and body of individuals prenatally exposed to alcohol during pregnancy resulting in a spectrum of physical, neurological, emotional and behavioural regulation characteristics (FASD Network). It has been estimated that between 2-5% of the population are affected by FASD, and a disproportionate number of adopted children – as well as in foster care and kinship care – are affected.

For more information on FASD you can contact:

National FASD website – Helpful information and resources about FASD. – A site for children and young people with FASD, which includes games, information, music and stories. The site has been created with input from people with FASD, families and experts.

FASD awareness – Offers support, education, training, research and information on FASD.

FASD Hub, Adoption UK – Resources, webinars and information

Understanding FASD – The Fostering Network FASD and Trauma – blogs, tips for foster carers and further information.

The FASD UK Alliance which has a Facebook group for those connected with FASD.

Financial support

Unlike foster carers, adopters do not currently receive any standard financial support for caring for their child/children. However, depending on factors such as the needs of your child and your income, you may be eligible for the following:

Statutory adoption leave and pay: Adoption pay and leave entitlements are similar to those available to birth parents. Statutory adoption leave lasts for up to 52 weeks, and the eligibility criteria is available here. Statutory Adoption Pay is paid for 39 weeks.

Adoption Allowance – An allowance may be available depending on the needs of the child, if there are additional costs associated with looking after them. The allowance will be based on your income and decided by the local authority – adopters should agree this before the Adoption Order is made.

Settling-in grant: Adopters are sometimes able to apply for financial help to cover one-off costs such as for car seats. This is at the discretion of the local authority, and again, should be discussed as early as possible.

Disability Living Allowance (DLA): If your child is under 16 and has a disability which requires a greater level of care, adopters may be eligible to claim for this benefit. More information and the eligibility requirements for England and Wales can be found here, Northern Ireland here, and Scotland here (called Child Disability Payment).

Carer’s Allowance: Adoptive parents may be eligible for carer’s allowance in addition to the DLA in some cases. Carer’s allowance could be an additional £69.70 a week if you care for someone for at least 35 hours a week and they receive other benefits, like the DLA. More information is available here. If you live in Scotland and get Carer’s Allowance, you may also get Carer’s Allowance Supplement.

In addition to the above, depending on your circumstances, you may be entitled to child benefit and tax credits.

The Adoption and Special Guardian Support Fund (ASGSF)

The ASGSF (previously the Adoption Support Fund) was established for families in need of therapeutic support following adoption. The Fund is available for children living in England up to and including the age of 21 (or 25 with a Statement of Special Educational Needs or Education Health & Care Plan) who:

  • Are adopted and were previously in local authority care in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
  • Are adopted from overseas.
  • Are under a Child Arrangement Order (CAO) to enable the assessment of a potential special guardian, while the CAO is in force.
  • Are subject to a Special Guardianship Order and were previously in care. Comprehensive online information for special guardians has been published by the Family Rights Group

The full funding criteria can be found here, as well as the maximum funding allocations for each child, and the criteria for match funding.

If you would like to know more about the fund, you can contact your agency.

First4Adoption provides a useful summary of how the fund works and the different types of support available through the fund. Support includes (but is not limited to):

Kinship charity explains how the fund works for Special Guardians.

Education support

Education is a very common area where families feel they need more support. Your voluntary adoption agency can provide support on this, and may have its own resources which can help, especially those that have online support hubs for adopters such as PACT’s CATCH hub.

In addition to this:

Adoption UK has range of resources including videos, factsheets and articles covering essential information about education in England and the needs of adopted and care-experienced learners. ranks as a top concern for adoptive families.

BraveHeart Education – Educator and adopter Nicola Marshall offers free guides to parents and teachers about helping children thrive in educational settings.

Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs)

An Education, Health and Care Plan is legal document which outlines any special educational needs (SEN) that a child has and builds a plan to help them reach their full potential. This plan is for children who need more support than is available through special educational needs support.

Your child may have special or additional needs if they experience emotional or cognitive difficulties, trouble with language and communication, and/or sensory or physical difficulties. A child would also have SEN if they have a learning difficulty or a disability that needs special educational provision.

Adoptive parents can request an EHC assessment if they think their child might need a plan. Again, this is something your agency can help support with. More information about EHCPs can be found on the Department for Education website here.

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