Advice for prospective adopters

I’m an adoptive parent who is quite vocal on the subject. So every now and then I’m approached by friends, or friends of friends, asking about my advice for prospective adopters as they are starting the process. I’m always happy to talk adoption, don’t claim to have all the answers, but do have a few pieces of advice. I wish I’d had this stuff drummed into me when we started the process seven years ago. What follows is an adaptation of an email I sent to a friend recently.

In answer to the main question – should I/we do it? – my answer is yes. Yes, it is often incredibly hard and I regularly question my sanity. But I am still very much in favour of adoption. If reading about child-on-parent violence and the questionable delights of post-adoption support haven’t put you off, then here’s what I think you need to know.

Prospective adopters, start here!

Prospective adopters

Gather information. Lots of it.

I recommend prospective adopters take these six steps during your decision-making process, so that you have as much information about the reality of adoption as you possibly can. You’re not adopting a child who is a bit sad but can be cheered up with a cuddle and a multipack of Freddos. You’re inviting a small person who has been neglected and abused into your home. They will be processing all that stuff for years to come and often be difficult to help. Regardless of what they tell you at this stage, your agency’s post-adoption support may or may not step up to help you as your child destroys your home/marriage/sanity. You need to be prepared for this.

1. Read all the books

Sally Donovan’s books are amazing. It should be compulsory to read No Matter What and The Unofficial Guide to Adoptive Parenting. While you’re at it you should probably get hold of Billy Bramble too, ready to put on your child’s bookshelf.

I’ve included a couple of books about FASD (Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders) on my book list. A huge proportion of children in care (some estimate 80%) have been affected by alcohol exposure to some degree. You can find out more from the FASD Network and NOFAS-UK.

There are also reviews of other adoption-related books on my blog pretty regularly, and there’s a Twitter-based book club for therapeutic parents that theoretically ‘meets’ at the start of each month but has fizzled out a bit lately. Search for #tpbooks or the organiser, @pedallingsolo.

2. Use social media

Get an anonymous Twitter account – anonymous so you’re less easy for birth family members to find. Follow adopters – I’m @hlmeadows and I’m usually about several times a day. Some other accounts to get you started are @sallydwrites, @mralcoates, @gayadoptiondad, @mumdrah, @frogotter, @mizzanels, @meandminimees, @suddenlymummy. There are loads of adopters and it’s a really friendly community. Several of these people experience child-on-parent violence (CPV) so that features in our conversations quite frequently. You might also find this glossary of adoption-related abbreviations helpful.

There are a lot of adoption Facebook groups, many of them secret and reliant on meeting members offline. You could join mine, if you like!

3. Follow adoption blogs

A great place to start is Full-Time Tired’s Weekly Round-Up, where adoption bloggers promote their posts and readers can vote for their favourites. They’ll give you a pretty balanced picture of adoptive families’ everyday life. Adopters welcome questions on their blogs, so don’t be shy about commenting.

4. Lurk on the Adoption UK forums – there’s one specifically for prospective adopters, too

They frightened the life out of me before we adopted but it was all good preparation! Find the Adoption UK forums here. This is another good place to ask questions and get honest answers.

5. Listen to podcasts

Start with The Adoption and Fostering Podcast (Al Coates and Scott Casson-Rennie) and The Honestly Adoption Podcast (Mike and Kristen Berry). The latter is American but still very applicable to the UK experience.

6. Talk to lots of adopters

You could come to the Adoption UK conference in Birmingham in November to hear what’s going on for adopters nationally. It tends to be a mixture of discussion of government policy and AUK campaigns, discussion of child psychology and how to parent children with a history of trauma, and stuff that is helpful to adoptive parents. Pete and I will be there, and you don’t need to be a member to attend. (Everyone will look exhausted. This is the default setting.)

If you decide to go ahead…

Having made the decision to start the process, my main piece of advice is not to be in such a hurry to get through the assessment that you make decisions that set yourself up for problems later. Take your time in making these choices, because you’ll be living with them for a long time. The core of my advice for prospective adopters? Talk to lots of people. Ask lots of questions. Don’t be afraid of being a nuisance in your pursuit of honest answers.

1. Investigate voluntary agencies as well as the local authority

We went via our local authority and support has been decidedly patchy.

PACT have a great reputation for support, but there are also Coram, Barnardo’s, Family Futures and others (First4Adoption has a full list). I’d suggest having conversations with several and getting a good sense of what post-adoption support they offer. Also be aware that all the adoption agencies are in the process of being regionalised – joining together to combine resources. This may be a bit of a shambolic business for a while but should ultimately be an improvement.

Preparing to adopt?2. Think very carefully before adopting siblings

We thought we’d save the hassle of going through the process twice and be doing something helpful as siblings are harder to place, but it has been very hard dealing with that dynamic. Ours have different issues and drive each other crazy and fight All. Day. Long.

3. Don’t sign on the dotted line until you have a support package in place

We raced through the process in order for Joanna to have our surname before she started school and didn’t do this. As a result, some of our concerns were put aside and it was then a fight to have them taken seriously. To be honest, we’d probably still do the same thing. But if you have the option of waiting and getting everything ironed out while they are still the local authority’s responsibility, then that’s probably better in the long run.

4. Get your church involved with Home for Good if it isn’t already

Adoption and fostering charity Home for Good runs training for churches in how to support adoptive and foster families appropriately. Their booklet on support is also excellent – I give these out by the armful at every opportunity because it provides a helpful ‘beginner’s guide’ to adoptive families’ needs. Try to take people from your church to the Home for Good summit (annually in the autumn) in order to help them ‘get it’. Don’t do what we did and change churches during the process so no-one knows you and getting support is much harder.

5. Ask questions

No question is too big/small/silly when you’re making a life-changing decision. I promise. So I’m happy to answer anything – leave your questions below or find me on social media.

The Adoptive Parents' Self-Care Club



  1. 10 September 2017 / 8:14 am

    I just wanted to mention Adoption Matters/ Caritas in reference to voluntary adoption agencies. They have a Centre for Adoption Support (CFAS) which is a dedicated PAS service. It runs a whole gamut of workshops for adopters, as well as informal consultations with trained PASWs and therapeutic interventions. It’s brilliant and really understands that adopters need tailored support, not just a one size fits all approach.
    Hope you don’t mind me commenting x

    • 11 September 2017 / 10:56 am

      Not at all – that’s great, thanks for sharing. 🙂

  2. 4 November 2017 / 10:27 am

    I’m not looking to adopt but this struck me as such an amazing post with loads of great advice for people who are looking. Just wanted to say well done!

  3. Lauren Davis
    29 April 2018 / 9:09 am

    My husband and I are currently going through the adoption process and your blog has been a god send! So many great resources. Thank you 😁

    • 29 April 2018 / 1:02 pm

      Thanks Lauren, it’s lovely to hear that you’re finding it helpful. If there’s anything else you’d like to see here, or any questions your have that aren’t covered, please let me know and I’ll always do my best to oblige! 😊

  4. Lee
    16 July 2018 / 1:16 am

    Hi me and my partner are fostering to adopt and are waiting on the date for our information sharing meeting about a little boy, is there any questions that I should make sure I ask?

    • 26 July 2018 / 5:39 pm

      Hi Lee, there used to be a really helpful post about this pinned to the top of the Adoption UK forum for prospective adopters. That would be where I’d start, along with asking on Twitter – the adoption community there is a great source of advice.

  5. Mark Ashton
    2 August 2018 / 8:58 pm


    A growing number of LAs now offer mentors to prospective and established adopters as another support mechanism (I am one) also worth a mention


  6. Jo
    25 October 2018 / 8:18 pm

    Thank you, thank you, thank you Hannah…this was just what I’ve been looking for; some honest and balanced advice from an adopter.

    My husband & I are just coming to the end of stage 1 in the emotional rollercoaster of the adoption process and are seriously questioning our ability to continue (even if we were invited to stage 2)!

    We’ve just spent the last hour bookmarking websites, ordering your must-read books, following social media groups and binge reading your blog. You’re a star!

    • 9 November 2018 / 3:52 pm

      Hi Jo – and welcome! I’m so glad you found the site helpful! If you have any more questions, do drop me a message. 🙂

  7. Emma Beal
    7 January 2019 / 3:42 pm

    About to go to our first adopting info evening? What should I ask to get a good grasp of the agency/local authority?

    • 7 January 2019 / 4:15 pm

      I’d ask a lot of questions about their post-adoption support. What do they offer – not just for children, but also for parents? Is there support for parents experiencing secondary trauma? How long is the usual wait for an assessment of support needs? How often do they pay for support outside of what the Adoption Support Fund covers? How do they help parents in conversations with schools about children’s needs? What is their relationship with CAMHS like? What support do they offer for child/to-parent violence?

      Those sort of questions and the way they respond to them are likely to give you a good idea of their attitude to support.
      If they try to fob you off when it’s just hypothetical questions you can probably assume when it’s a reality with a budget attached they’ll do the same.

  8. Gaer
    13 July 2019 / 11:11 pm

    These are all great resources, many of which I did read/watch/listen to before adopting our son 3 years ago. But much of it goes out of the window when it becomes real and your child comes home.

    I probably didn’t really start going over these things again until 6 or 9 months in.

    You want to be prepared for as much as possible, but it just doesn’t work like that. You don’t really know what you need until you are “living it”.

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