In a word, yes.
If a child cannot be brought up by their birth family, ‘civilian people’ looking to adopt can become their legal parents with the same rights and responsibilities – and this is no different for ‘military people’.
SSAFA – an Armed Forces charity formerly known as the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association – is a UK charity that provides lifelong support to serving men and women and veterans from the British Armed Forces and their families or dependants. As part of their work, they run an independent adoption agency that works with local authorities in the UK to provide support for service personnel wishing to create a family through adoption.
Despite SSAFA’s Adoption Service, there is still a lot of misconceptions around adoption as a route to parenting for service personnel. One example is discipline; as in service personnel will be very strict or regimented.
Who Can Adopt?
According to SSAFA, eligibility to apply to adopt includes:
- Are aged 21 or over.
- There is no upper age limit to becoming an adoptive parent.
- Are single, married, in a civil partnership, living together with a partner or are part of a dual serving couple.
- Are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or heterosexual.
- Are already a parent.
- Are a homeowner or renting a property in the UK.
- Having a criminal record does not automatically affect your chances of adopting.
According to data from the Adoption and Special Guardianship Leadership Board published on 31 December May 2018, 2,750 children were waiting to be adopted at the end of 2018. Of those children, 39% had been waiting for 18 months or more.
“Only 1,700 families are approved to adopt more than 4,100 youngsters in England.” (PA Media, 2019).
What Help is There?
Since 1964, SSAFA has approved more than 400 military adoptions.
Adoption UK is the leading charity helping those who wish to adopt to become parents. They estimate the average age for children finding their ‘forever home’ through adoption is three years old.
The Ministry of Defence (MOD) operates the Armed Forces Occupational Adoption Leave Scheme (AFOALS), and JSP 760 Chapter 25 sets out the policy for AFOALS (see Useful Links below).
According to JSP 760: Tri-service Regulations for Leave and Other Types of Absences (2019, p.25-1), “All qualifying SP, regardless of their length of service, are entitled to take up to 52 weeks of adoption leave and subject to meeting the qualifying criteria may be eligible for 39 weeks of Statutory pay, the first 26 of which may be enhanced to the SPs full pay rate (Occupational pay).”
Adoption leave can start either:
- From the day a child starts to live with the adopter; or
- Up to 14 days before the child starts living with them.
Brief Outline of the Process
Prepping to become an adoptive parent means getting your administration squared away. After an expression of interest, the process is typically divided into two stages:
- Stage 01: Largely paperwork-led; and
- Stage 02: This includes a social worker visiting the home of prospective parents.
- It is important to demonstrate to the social worker that there will be a support network of family, close friends and others in your immediate community who, if need be, can be called upon to provide practical help.
After the two two-state process, prospective adopters are formally approved to adopt at Panel.
Prospective adopters will be quizzed by professionals on the Panel who may not fully (or at all) understand their military background. To be approved adopters need to state how they can facilitate the above, and having the social worker ‘on-side’ can be a great advantage.
Adopting While Overseas
To qualify for Adoption Leave under AFOALS when a child is adopted from overseas serving personnel must:
- Be the child’s adopter;
- Have received official notification from the relevant UK authority confirming central authority has or is prepared to issue a certificate confirming that they are eligible to adopt and have been assessed and approved as being a suitable adoptive parent.
- Provide their Commanding Officer or Chain of Command with the correct notification.
Post Adoption Support
SSAFA has a dedicated post-adoption service that provides essential help for parents.
- SSAFA: https://www.ssafa.org.uk/get-help/military-families/adoption.
- Adoption and Special Guardianship Leadership Board (ASGLB): https://coram-i.org.uk/asglb/.
- Consortium of Voluntary Adoption Agencies (CVAA): https://www.cvaa.org.uk/.
- Adoption UK: https://www.adoptionuk.org/.
MOD (Ministry of Defence). (2019) JSP 760: Tri-Service Regulations for Leave and Other Types of Absence. Part 1: Directive. Version 37, January 2019.
PA Media. (2019) Twice as many children waiting to be adopted as families to adopt. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/oct/14/twice-as-many-children-waiting-to-be-adopted-as-families-to-adopt. [Accessed: 10 November, 2019].