Preparing to adopt – why we ask for voluntary experience with children

We ask everyone hoping to become a parent through adoption about their experience working with, caring for and supporting children. Even if a prospective adopter is working with children in a professional capacity, we encourage all applicants to gain voluntary experience.

Volunteering with children has many benefits from increasing your experience of being with children, developing your toolbox of ways to support children, provide evidence of your love of children as well as your skills to children’s social workers who will get to know you initially through your Prospective Adopter’s Report (PAR).

Here are the most frequently asked questions about volunteering:

Do I have to volunteer if I/we already have children?

Having existing children brings a wealth of childcare experience. But volunteering will provide you with some experience of building a relationship with a child you don’t know which will support you in your first days, weeks and months when your child comes to your home.

Do you recommend any organisations to volunteer with?

Brownies, Scouts and other youth organisations are all great for volunteering with children as they give opportunities to volunteer with a wide range of children.

Organisations supporting children with additional needs offer the chance to reflect on how your strengths as a parent will meet the needs of a child and you can begin to explore the needs of the children who wait longer.

Some people volunteer with contact centres to gain knowledge of what it is like for families working with these centres.

For all volunteering do check what your role will be to ensure that you are going to get the experience you are seeking.

How much childcare experience do you need?

There are no specific expectations of how long people volunteer for or how many hours they volunteer. It is more about equipping you with as much experience that is useful to you. Some prospective adopters begin volunteering as part of the adoption process and, instead of finding it a box ticking exercise, they find it enjoyable and enriching and continue to volunteer, even once their children have joined their family.

Does childcare experience with friends/family/neighbours’ kids count?

Absolutely. All experience with children is useful. Though experience with children who don’t know you in a more formal setting is valuable, babysitting or bedtime or breakfast duty with family or friends’ children can give you plenty of insights. For instance how do you encourage an over-tired and upset child to sleep?

Does the volunteering need to be recent?

Past volunteering is all useful. Being open to volunteering now will only further strengthen your experience and your profile. It may be useful to think about if there are any gaps in your experience. If your past volunteering was with teenagers it may be of benefit to volunteer with children of the same age as the children you are considering parenting through adoption or volunteering with children with additional needs to broaden your experience.

Do both people in a couple need to do the volunteering?

It is advisable because both of you will be parenting. If both of you volunteer it also provides the opportunity to discuss together anything you have learned.

If in a couple do you have you do the volunteering together?

No, however being able to volunteer together may give you some experience of working together with children as well as insights into your approaches to challenges with children.

Is volunteering mandatory?

No, however PACT strongly recommends that prospective adopters volunteer. Much of the adoption assessment will focus on your experiences with children and if you don’t have a lot of experience it will be harder for your social worker to reflect the strengths you have in this area.

How frequently should I volunteer?

There is no fixed frequency for volunteering. PACT’s enquiries team can talk over what works best for you.  For some people a regular weekly commitment works and for others taking leave and doing some volunteering on a more intense and short term basis works. It is more about the quality of the experience.

Do I need a DBS to volunteer?

For most volunteering with children organisations will require you to complete a DBS check so you may need to factor that into your planning.

How can we organise volunteering?

Most areas have a local volunteering centre that list the organisations near you. PACT’s enquiries team also have a list of organisations that we have established links with in different areas.

Who arranges volunteering?

Prospective adopters arrange their volunteering. In the first instance PACT would recommend prospective adopters look at organisations because you are best placed to know what experience you are looking to gain.  Our enquiries team can support you.

What do I do if I don’t have time to volunteer?

If you don’t think you have time to volunteer it may be useful to consider if this is the best time to adopt a child that will need a lot of your time and attention.

Does childcare experience need to be formal?

No, childcare experience can come in lots of different forms. Formal volunteering may provide experience of working with and supporting children who you don’t know though.

When would you recommend we start volunteering?

As most volunteering with children will require a DBS it might be an idea to look into it early in your thinking around adoption. If you are able to start volunteering before you begin the adoption process you will have lots of experience to draw on during your meetings with your social worker.

What age group should we volunteering with?

Some people are clear what age range of children they can consider when they begin the adoption process, and some people aren’t. Volunteering with any age of children will give a different perspective and insight. If you decide to volunteer with primary school age children you will cover experience with a wide range of children’s ages. Volunteering with teens will provide invaluable experience as all children will become teens. If you are unsure you can always talk to our enquiries team.

If you work with children do you need to volunteer?

Working with children provides an enormous amount of experience and skills, however working with children is very different to parenting children. You can always develop your knowledge, experience and confidence by volunteering in a different setting or with a different age group, children with different needs to those you work with, or with children who aren’t in a relationship with you through your working role.

When approaching volunteering organisations, do you tell them that you’re looking to get experience for adoption?

Yes and most organisations will be happy to work with you and will welcome your contribution.