NAW#2012 Too young? Too fat? Too poor?

Today’s National Adoption Week special is from The Adoption Social’s Vicki (from The Boy’s Behaviour) who shares some of the points that she had to think about when being assessed to become an adoptive parent.

When Sarah and I were thinking about what sort of posts we wanted on The Adoption Social for National Adoption Week, it felt fairly obvious that in order to help find more people to come forward and adopt, we should try to show that some of those things that are perceived as barriers, really needn’t be.

For me, writing about those barriers comes quite easily because I’m one of those people that might have been seen as unable to adopt – and for a number of reasons. You might have seen that we have several posts this week concentrating on a particular area – adopting as a single person, a same-sex couple adopting, but I couldn’t choose which thing to write about, so forgive if I’m a bit self-indulgent and look at several areas – these are all things that the NC and I had to consider, although perhaps naively we never saw these as barriers before we started our homestudy, so didn’t give it too much thought until we were questioned about these things…

You can’t adopt if you have a long-term illness.

blood sugar testingI’m diabetic, although I’m not insulin dependent. This was covered in my medical examination (which occurred during the middle of our homestudy), and my doctor confirmed that it is controlled and I regularly attend diabetic check-ups. In our homestudy we did explore what would happen if my diabetes worsened, or if I did have to take insulin in the future, and how either could affect our future child.

We used my diabetes as a positive point too – our future child would not have a sugar-filled diet because I don’t buy sugary things so much. And in order that I know how much sugar has gone into ANY meal, I home cook from scratch which could be seen as a benefit.

Here our social worker was trying to establish whether my illness could prevent me from being an active parent and whether it was life-limiting. The last thing they would want is to place a child and then have me end up hospitalised within a short period of time – this could be very damaging to a child who needs stability.
I know of other adoptive parents who are physically disabled or living with an illness – they had to demonstrate that they were still able to parent, but it wasn’t a barrier to them becoming adoptive parents, and hasn’t had an impact on their parenting skills.

You can’t adopt if you’re overweight.

I am overweight, and coupled with Diabetes our social worker initially had some concerns, but I was happy to detail all the active things I do. I did confirm that I was trying to lose a small amount of weight, but this was in order to help keep my Diabetes under control. Our social worker wanted to be sure that I could lead an active life and keep up with a child.

If you are very obese you may be asked to try to lose ‘some’ weight, but your weight should be considered as part of your overall health alongside your blood pressure and cholesterol.

In our case, our agency’s medical advisor had some additional questions at panel around my weight and how I was intending to stop putting on more. (Despite the diets I think I lost more through nervous energy in the first six months after placement, but I’m now back around the weight I was when we were approved, and I’m still here and still keeping up with two children!)

You can’t adopt if you are on a low income or have debt.final demand

When we were being approved we were in the middle of an individual voluntary arrangement (IVA), with a lot of debt. We were also about to lose my income as I would be going on adoption leave for a minimum of 12months, and in actual fact, before Mini even moved in I discovered I would be made redundant just 3 months into adoption leave. This would mean our family income would be limited. Even knowing about my redundancy we were still matched with Mini, because we were able to provide all of our financial documents and show how we’d manage.

You need to be able to show that you can financially support a family. You will have to consider a reduction in income if you will be taking time off work, and you can’t rely on receiving an adoption allowance – not all local authorities offer this. Although if you take adoption leave you are entitled to some adoption pay.

Incidentally, since Mini’s placement I have not returned to work at all, and we’ve endured my husband also being made redundant, then having a long, expensive commute to a different job with a reduction in earnings too. It’s been tight, but we’ve survived and now we’re in a much better position.

You’re too young to adopt.

I can’t say if the rules/guidance are still the same, but when we were approved, the minimum legal age to adopt was 21, and there was no upper limit.

I was approved when I was 27, and at the time was the youngest ever approved adopter in our local authority. This was more of a concern to our social worker than all the other points above. Did I have enough life experience? Had we been married long enough? Had we lived together long enough? Would I manage to parent well? Had I exhausted other possibilities (IVF etc)? Would I regret it? Would I feel too young compared to other mums?

Like all the other points above, I had to demonstrate (verbally) that I was old enough to build a family through adoption, and that I could effectively parent a child, despite *only* being 27! There was shock that I was even considering adoption at such a ‘tender’ age, as most adoptive parents are older, but as I explained – I was ‘lucky’ enough to establish quite early on that having children was going to be…a challenge, and that IVF wasn’t for us. Thus adoption was a natural consideration.

This seemed to be more of an issue for our social worker than panel, but she did eventually get over it, and it hasn’t proved a barrier at all.

It goes without saying that this is my personal experience, and it’s not to say that all young, overweight, diabetic people on low incomes will be able to adopt. But these things in isolation and sometimes in combination should not stop you from applying to become an adoptive parent. Much of the approval process is about demonstrating how you will deal with, manage or overcome situations – whether they are parenting scenarios, school battles, disability, letterbox contact or your own health worries.

If there is any aspect of your life that you think could be a barrier to adopting, then call your local authority or voluntary agency and ask their advice prior to proceeding.

And if you are diabetic, overweight, young or in debt and want to chat further, then please do drop me a line at theadoptionsocial@gmail.com

3 thoughts on “NAW#2012 Too young? Too fat? Too poor?

  1. toddlingwonder

    Great post – we’re also large, still paying off credit cards that have been going down slowly for almost a decade, and have a type 1 diabetic – so have all these things (we’re in our mid 40s though so we maybe bust the myth about there being an upper age limit! – and our little girl was 18 months – so don’t believe the “if you’re older you’ll only get a child that’s older” myth either).

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  2. Suddenly Mummy

    Great post. I, too, am overweight . . . well, let’s be honest, obese! It did come up, but the whole subject was dropped as soon as my medical reported me to be very healthy in other respects – I hardly ever even get a cold! Low income was also a factor here. My only income at the time was from fostering and they initially said I’d have to stop that for two years or maybe more. I had no idea how I’d keep us afloat if they insisted on that as I really didn’t want to go out to work and leave OB in daycare – so inappropriate for him. In the end, we did get a support package which, while not enough to live on indefinitely, tides us over when the fostering work isn’t coming in, and really takes the pressure off us. I’ve been very grateful for it these last few months. I guess the message is that even people think there might be issues with their application, it shouldn’t put them off making that phone call as it’s surprising what can be worked out.

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  3. Adoption Journey

    Great post. I too was worried about medical issues when we were applying as I have type I diabetes too. Sure we chatted about it with the SWs and about some other health issues. Ultimately I played the same positives as you Vicki. We’re not a sweetie free zone in our house but we do make an effort to have a good, healthy, balanced diet. So does our little one now. I am also pretty good at routine and being able to roll with the punches when the routine goes out the window should be diabetes be playing up.

    We never had to chat it through with our LA medical advisor at either adoption or matching panel point. We trusted that the process would be able to take a rounded view of who we were individually and as a couple. So it turned out to be.

    There are so many presuppositions out there. It is great to see TAS joining in with National Adoption Week to bust some of these myths.

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