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Do you fulfil the set requirements to become adoptive parents?

To become suitable potential adoptive parents (PAPs) there are a few criteria that you must fulfil.


Maria who runs the corner shop at the end of my street laments every time I go in.  She is the same age as me and wanted to adopt about ten years ago. Her intially query was met with strong negativitiy and she was mis informed by being told that at 41 she was too old to adopt.  There are millions of children in the world who need parents and parents of every shape size and colour! And it breaks my heart that Maria was misinformed and another child will age out of the system withouth every having had the opportunity to know family love.

The main criteria for assessing if someone is suitable for adoption is that they will be better parents then the child's own, and that the child will be better off then in the institution in which they are presently living.

It is the social services or voluntary adoption agency's role to assess if you will make suitable potential adoptive parents for these children in need and that you have the tools in place to provide a loving, supporting and safe environments for an adopted child.

To this end there are some criteria that you need to fulfil.  Each local authority or agency works in a different way but essentially the intitial meeting between yourself and the social worker will be to ascertain if there is any obvious reason they would not begin the Home Study process in other words any glaringly obvious reason why you would not be suitable to adopt.

In the following  pages  you will find some of the issues that they will initially examine before they go ahead. These issues are things such as your age, your health, if you smoke, if you have any criminal convictions etc.


If you do smoke try very hard to stop before you start your homestudy.

Smoking does no exclude you from adoption but many social workers do not look to kindly on smoke in the home.  In any respect they will not permit you to adopt a child under two if you smoke.  Even if your SW accepts that  you smoke, the panel may not.  It is best if you quit altogether or restrict yourself to only smoking outside.  Of course it is in the best intersts of the child that it grows up in a houshold free from the toxins that are found in cigarette smoke and I am condfident that once your child comes home you will not want to jeopardise her health in any way.

 Health Issues

One of the saddest reasones why some couples are declined is becasue of illnesses which at present have not manifested but are assumed may become an issue several years down the road.  diabetes is one of them. Adult onset diabletes is sosmething asymptomatic and only found througn routine blood tests. Each case is assessed on a case by case basis. Terry and Robert wanted to start their second adoption, their first child ahd settled in nicely and they had all bonded as a family and now it was time to find a brother or sister. They were both in good health or so they assumed. The required blood test indicated that Rob had type 2 diabetes and a type that may lead to blindness in senior years.  The medical advisor for their agency took a very strong stance and refused to allow them to porceed with the adoption, despite guarantees by diabetic experts that the chances of blindness occuring in this particular case are very slim.

In the interests of the child dictates that a child placed in a new adopted family must have the best chance for a loving and normal life, which means having two adult parents that will live well past there teens and into their 20's and even 30's.

Many of us come fairly late to parenthood through adoption, so already the children have a slight disadvantage over their peeers concerning the age of the parents.  Now with the possiblity that one parent 'may not' live until their adulthood meant  that the social services could not accept them as adoptive parents again.

The irony here is that there are no guarantees to life and an adoptive parent has just as much chance as anyone else to be struck down by the proverbial bus.

One can understand these valid concerns but these very strict conditions bring heartache to couples especially as with advances in science there is every chance that Robert will live seeing to a very ripe old age. My heart goes out to the child who could have had a family but were denied one because 'something might happen'. Surely taking a child out of an orphanage and into a home should be the number one priority.


Those who have had cancer and who are now in remission are not necessarily exculded from adopting. It is best if you contact you local social services adoption department and discuss it with them. They will access you on a case by case basis.


Marium phoned up her local authority to start the adoption process. When asked how old she was, the reply of 48 was met with scoffing , "You are too old". This of course is untrue and you should not accept that unless you are well into dotage. There are plenty of children of all ages looking for parents. Social workers instantly assume that you want to adot a new born, when in fact in Marium's case she was looking to adopt a preteen.

Most countries do have limits on the age of potential adoptive parents in relation to the age of the child they are adopting. Sometimes these rules are fixed in stone and other times they are just guidelines. Some countries, for example China, limit the combined age of the parents ie. not more then 90 years between the husband and wife.

Most of these are put in place to ensure that the child has the most 'natural' up bringing.  It does not work with a 60 year old mother and a 3 year old child. A mother of 50 with a 3 year old is pushing the boundries.

Remember at all times International adoption operates to safe  guard the interests of the child.  And it is not in the interst of the child if one or both of her parents dies before she reaches her 20's.

You must establish exactly what is the criteria in every country before you choose that country.  In Russian for example the guideline is that a mother (father's age is irrelevant) should not be more than 45 years older then the child.  This does not mean that if you are 48 you will not get a child as young as possible. It is just that they will look twice before referring a 18 month old and will probably find a 3 year old to be a better match.

There are hundrends of thousands of older children waiting to be adopted.  I urge you to consider that these children desperately need a family envirnment before they age out of the system.  People are often put off older kids thinking that thy might bring with them many issues, but with sensitive parenting these children are a joy and will become a loving addition to your family.


Single prospective adoters are welcome in countries such as India, Russia and the USA. China used to be the most popular country for single adopters until they chanaged thier rules two years ago and forbade singles to adopt.  Guatemala was also a poplular destination for single adopters but the UK closed adoptions from that country a couple of years ago and there seems little chance of them reopening the doors. The Phillipines will accept single adopters for their older children and those with special needs.

Same Sex Couples

Some gay couples look to adoption to make families and often want to give some of the world's children in need a loving home.  This is one of the saddest things about inter-country adoption because although some countries are liberal in their thinking and accept gay couples as a legal entity, on the ground there is still prejudice when it comes to dealing with gay couples for their children. However, some countries are beginning to openly welcome gay families - central and south America being the main ones with Mexico City having a same sex programme.

Support Structure

You need to have a very stong support structure to embark on the international adoption journey. Part of the home study is to draw a 'support tree' where you emphasis what support you will have as parents.

The importance of this issue is dependant on you social worker who for some you must show that you have a very on hands support from the beginning and for others they have the understanding that once your child comes home you are thrust into the world of parenthood and support will come from your new community.

In retrospect I appreciate how important support is, especially if you are a single parent.  The stronger the network the better. Some social workers take a very harsh stand and Rebecca and Ian had problems moving forward with their adoption because the social workers felt that their family were too far away - they were in the next village!

For those potential parents who are not from the United Kingdom and whose families are not on these shores it is important to show that you have support in other areas. It is a good idea to look around your area and see if there are any mother toddler groups, church communities, neighbours with children that you could call upon for support when you need it.  This is mostly emotional support, as well as being able to have someone else to come in and look after the children in the event of an emergency or just to give you a break. Of course this will all feel pretty surreal as you are not even sure at this stage if your will ever become parens and the idea that you could one day be bringing you child to this other toddler group seems a far off fantasy, but the experience will hold you in good stead. Those running mother/toddler groups have a wealth of experience and have probably seen it all, so they won't at all be surprised to chat to you about your ideas for creating a family. They also have been in the community for some time and are well-connected. They will welcome you and there is every chance that they might even introduce you to someone in the room who has adopted!

In my experience I have found that once you are home with your child and begin integrating in this new would you find friends and acquaintances everywhere, from playgrounds to activity groups and now my friends are very different to those I had pre adoption but this was something that I never conceived during the process. So seek out the support you will have when you are home with our child and this will hold you in good stead and give you confidence when you pick up the phone to make that all important call.

Old Parents

Many come to adoption quite late in life and with aging parents. No matter how unsavory it sounds, our parents will get old and die.  This is a fact of life that seems to go over the heads of some social workers. 

Preena's mother was getting frail and Preena would go three times a week to help her out. Her social worker heard about this and started to panic. Concerned that there will be too many demands made on her and she would be unable to cope they wanted to halt her adoption. When she put a very clear case forward, with information about other family members also supporting the parents,  then things started to move again.   It is a fact that universally people care for dying parents.  It is hard and difficult but infinitely doable as a mature adult it is part of our life's role. 

if your parents are ailing be sure you have a stong network of support for them and make it very clear that the full responsibility of caring for your parents does not fall solely on your shoulders.

House size

I was told in no uncertain terms that to adopt you need to have a separate  bedroom for each child. I live in a two bedroom house and it as unaffordable to either move or extend so I had to shelve my plans of adopting a sibling for my son.  Imagine my surprise when I bumped into Nigel who informed me that they had just bought home their second son. 'Have you moved?' I asked knowing that they rented a two bedroom house - no was the reply. Further investigation revealed that they had no problem with the Home Study and the fact that the two boys would share a room for the forseeable future.  I refered to a social worker and was told that it isn't really a fixed rule an it depends on the feelings of the social worker.  Again another example on the non standards and something that I bitterly resent as one child will have to live their life in an institution without a loving family, and my son  will never have a brother or sister because my social worker 'felt' that adopted children should have their own room.


Whatever you do, do not show that in any respects that you are 'desperate' for a child. For some reason conventional wisdom dictates that if you are 'desperate you will not make a good prospective parent. (Link to story of smoker).

Of course you are desperate to become a parent!!  It is only someone who has a strong desire and passion to become a parent who will endure 3 years of their life, all their life savings and travel half way around the world to experience it.  But for the social worker this is a big no no.  So your convicted desire must be toned down for the social worker.  International adoption is in the interest of the child and not of the parent.  You are adopting to give a child a home, not because you want to become a mother or father. This is a key feature and you must bear it in mind.

Here we honour that parent and know that it is in the best interests of the child that their parents are not exhausted, shattered, broke, stressed and sleepless.  For the social worker this is all OK as long as you are not 'desperate' - go figure!!.




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