It's tough but not impossible!
When Liz, a disabled single carer, decided to adopt, she had to face many obstacles before being approved.
It may sound corny but it's true: I've always liked children. So when a friend of mine adopted in 1999, it planted the idea into my head and I wondered whether I could adopt too,” says Liz. As a person with restricted growth impairment, a wheelchair-user, and a single independent woman, Liz knew that she could be a positive role model for a child of restricted growth.
Liz contacted the social services, attended adoption training, and started thinking things through very carefully. “My social worker was keen for me to proceed, but concerned that I wouldn´t be approved due to my impairment, so she decided to apply to go to panel with a preliminary version of Form F,” says Liz. The hearing took place in November 1999. Issues about Liz´s health were raised, as she is a wheelchair-user, and she was asked a lot of questions about her impairment.
The outcome was that Liz was turned down. The panel thought her accommodation unsuitable for a child. They also said that she did not have sufficient practical support and mentioned issues of safety around her impairment. “I agreed with the issue of practical support,” explains Liz, “but the safety problems raised were exaggerated.
In May 2000, Liz appealed against the panel´s decision, and set out to tackle all the objections raised by the agency one after the other. The housing department agreed to re-house her in a two-bedroom bungalow with a large and secure garden. Her direct payments were increased to take into account her new accommodation and living needs, with potential for more if needed.
At the initial meeting, the panel had been shown a report from an occupational therapist about Liz´s independence, which Liz had not previously seen. ‘This report arrived at the eleventh hour and was completely inaccurate,” recalls Liz. Fortunately, an independent occupational therapist wrote her own report in August 2000, which was excellent, and got me back on track.
Having addressed all the concerns raised initially, Liz went back to panel in September 2001, and was approved to adopt a child of restricted growth. “I had incredible support from family and friends while all of this was happening,” says Liz, "which was essential.”
Four years on, Liz has not been matched with a child. She strongly feels this is largely due to a lack of resources being allocated by social services to support disabled carers in identifying a child with a specific impairment. In addition to this, Liz was also approved by a short break care scheme for disabled children. For the last three years, Katie (not her real name), now 15, comes to visit Liz twice a month after school and on occasional Saturdays. “We really enjoy each other´s company,” explains Liz. “It´s really great being with a young person, and being involved in her life.
When asked if she has a message for disabled people considering adoption, Liz is very clear: "Be prepared. It's a tough system, and it´s doubly hard if you´re disabled. But it´s not impossible."
Jennifer Cousins, BAAF's Opening Doors Disability Project consultant, writes:
Liz´s determination and resourcefulness as a disabled woman are exactly the qualities we need in adoptive parents – whether or not they choose to adopt a disabled child. But the unexpressed prejudice in ´the system´ means that disabled prospective adopters can struggle to be matched with a child, and therefore need extra support from their agency and social worker during the adoption process. This has got to be the way forward. We should welcome a whole range of resilient people into the world of adoption to ensure that more children will have families – we need them all!
Originally published in the Be My Parent newspaper in November 2005.
This article is published with the kind permission of the people involved. You may download it for your own reference but if you wish to use it for any other purpose, please contact Be My Parent for authorisation: Be My Parent, BAAF, Saffron House, 6-10 Kirby Street, London EC1N 8TS. Telephone: 020 7421 2666/5/4.
Last updated: 10 September 07