Future adoptive families are missing the chance to be matched with
children by being too prescriptive, a leading adoption charity has
Jennifer Cousins, a consultant at the Baaf Adoption and Fostering
Disability Project, said prospective adopters were presenting a
series of requirements which created extra hoops through which to
jump during the adoption process.
At a seminar in London last week on overcoming the obstacles to
placing disabled children, Cousins announced that Baaf was
addressing the issue by drafting new sections of the widely used
family assessment form for adopters and carers.
The current form includes a section called “specific matching
considerations”. This asks applicants to indicate whether they
would be interested in children with specific problems, such as
mobility difficulties or an unclear medical prognosis. The new form
will exclude any such specific “tick-box list”.
“There’s a huge mismatch between the characteristics of the
children available and the kinds of children whom adopters want to
parent,” Cousins said.
“Adopters and prospective applicants are putting themselves in
boxes. They come up with the prescription through hypothetical
discussions. It’s another barrier to get over and those families
are ruling themselves out.
“We need to think about a process where people can respond to
children and not just be put in a box.”
Cousins added that professionals could also be too prescriptive in
specifying the type of family environment that an adopted child
would need. “Are we too dogmatic?” she asked. “Does the child
really need to be the youngest in the family?”
Gina Armstrong, disabled children’s services manager at Barnardo’s
in Brighton and Hove, told delegates that a one-off mistake made in
a regular advert for carers for a disabled child which resulted in
the omission of the word “disabled” had led to twice the usual
number of prospective applicants coming forward.
But Armstrong said, of the 70 individuals who made enquiries, all
but one were still interested in the scheme after finding out that
the children who needed to be placed were disabled.