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STANDARD 11 - Intercountry - assessing prospective adopters

(Adoption Agencies, Adoption Support Agencies)


  • The adoption agency approves prospective adopters who can meet most of the needs of children who live outside the British Islands and who can provide them with a home where the child will be able to recover from the impact of their life experience of loss and trauma, feel loved, safe and secure.

Provision of effective early help services


People who are interested in becoming adoptive parents, and prospective adopters, are treated fairly, without prejudice, openly and with respect. They are kept informed, on a regular basis, of the progress (or lack of progress) of their enquiry/application throughout the adoption process, in a manner which meets their individual communication needs. They are given regular opportunities to raise any specific concerns or questions, which are then answered as directly and fully as possible.


The assessment process is clearly explained to prospective adopters, including:

  1. the intercountry adoption process;
  2. details of requirements imposed upon prospective adopters by English legislation;
  3. information about the country or countries they wish to adopt from, including the eligibility criteria;
  4. any laws governing adoption which the chosen country has in place that they must operate within;
  5. details of fees involved in the application and post approval process;
  6. preparation, assessment and approval procedure, including checks, references, timescales and the prospective adopters' right to make representation to the adoption agency or apply to the Secretary of State for an independent review if the adoption agency considers them unsuitable to adopt at Stage Two of the approval process;
  7. adoption support;
  8. the adoption agency’s expectation of prospective adopters; and
  9. how the adoption agency priorities applications to adopt children from outside the British Island and looked after children, including how they are referred on to other adoption agencies.


Agencies respond to requests for detailed information (following initial enquiries either to the National Gateway for Adoption or directly to an adoption agency) within ten working days, through an information session, a visit, pre-planned telephone call or similar arrangement with the prospective adopter.


The adoption agency issues a registration of interest form to the prospective adopters to begin Stage One of the process. On receipt of the completed form the agency decides within five working days whether to accept this. Where agencies are not currently recruiting, or do not currently have capacity they refer the prospective adopter to the National Gateway for Adoption or another adoption agency who they know is recruiting.


The agency completes Stage One of the adopter approval process within two months and Stage Two within four months unless there is good reason for not doing so or on request of the prospective adopter. The agency allows the prospective adopter to take an active role, advised by the agency, in the Stage One process. Certain previous adopters or approved foster carers are allowed to enter at Stage Two and receive a tailored assessment agreed by the agency and the applicants.


Applicants are given the opportunity to talk to approved adopters and adoptees.


Preparation courses are held and are made available to all prospective adopters. Preparation courses fit within a framework of equal opportunities, anti-discriminatory practice and are organised to encourage and facilitate attendance by prospective adopters, for example by including convenient times and venues. The effectiveness of preparation received is evaluated and reviewed annually.


Prospective adopters are prepared to become adoptive parents in a sensitive way which addresses and gives them skills, knowledge and practical techniques to manage the issues they are likely to encounter, and identifies the competencies and strengths they have or will need to develop. Preparation courses should give encouragement to prospective adopters, showing them the positive aspects of parenting a child as well as helping them to understand, for example:

  1. the impact of institutional care;
  2. the difficulties some children experience, such as neglect and abuse, and the effect on their development and capacity to form secure attachments;
  3. the key parenting skills and parenting capacities they need to care for children who have experienced neglect and abuse and who may be of a different ethnic or cultural background to the applicants;
  4. an understanding of the significance of the child's identity, their birth family, the need for openness to help the child to reflect on and understand their history, according to their age and ability, the role of contact, how to manage unauthorised contact, including through online social networks; and the importance of significant memorabilia.


Prospective adopters understand why status and health checks, personal references and enquiries are undertaken about them and enhanced criminal records checks are required/made on themselves and adult members of their household.


Prospective adopters are considered in terms of their capacity to look after children in a safe and responsible way that meets the child’s development needs.


The adoption team manager checks that the prospective adopter’s report is accurate, up-to-date and has evidence based information which distinguishes between fact, opinion and third party information, before it is submitted to the adoption panel. The social worker who wrote the prospective adopter’s report signs and dates it. The report is countersigned and dated by the adoption team manager (or a team manager of another adoption team within the agency) and the prospective adopters.