Adopting a child & Making theatre: Is there ever a right time to do both?

Simon Pollard, 28 January 2013

Session attended by: Sara Kewly Hyde, Katherine Max Cook and a couple of bumble bees & butterflies.


I called this session not because it's something I want to do right now, but something that I would like to do at some point in the future - whether that be 3/5/10 years down the line.

But as a freelance theatremaker, with a partner who is also freelance, it's something I worry about. Will we ever be in a situation when having a child is viable?


All of us who attended hoped that somebody would attend the session who had been there and done it, and who would have loads of answers for us. They didn't. BUT whoever comes are the right people. And so those of us who did attend shared the questions/concerns/worries/rumours thyat we had.

Some of the things we talked about are listed below:

- As a freelancer, there is apparently a statutory maternity/paternity allowance of £110 p/w.

- Someone knew a single actress who had gone through the adoption process start to finish in 6 months. Hurrah! BUT she did have a lot of financial back up as they had previously worked in the financial industry... And she was of mixed ethnicity which may (or may not) also have helped...

- Someone else had been advised to start the process FIVE YEARS IN ADVANCE. Wow.

- The ethnicity question came up several times. Some local authorities are stricter than others when it comes to matching children and potential adopters' ethnicities. Someone was told that ‘if you’re white, you won't be able to adopt in Islington'.

- Finance seemed a major worry. The question of stability was raised. Someone said they would have to get a different job if they were to have a child (in/out of the arts, full/part time - either way, something different from what they were doing now) If we're at the point now where we're sometimes only just able to support ourselves, how can we get to the stage where we can prove we're able to support a child? We also talked about doing a freelance job that's more time flexible eg writing, that could potentially be done at any time of day.

- Where is the flexibility of having a child and making theatre in general? Some organisations making moves to change things eg Anna Mackmin had change of rehearsal venue at the Old Vic because she'd recently had a child, D & D welcomes children in the room, as do various collaborative companies.

- We talked about things ‘not being fair’ for those of us in the position where adoption

was the only/preferred adoption. If we were having a child biologically, there's a chance that a child might come along that wasn't planned, but we would be forced to MAKE it work. As potential adopters, there's far more emphasis on planning rather than making. It was also pointed out that lots of people have ‘as many babies as they like’ without having ‘enough money’.

- A recent BBC news report said that local authorities can lose their adoption power if they take too long.

- Concerns about the life of an artist. Potentially, lots of travelling involved. A couple running a company together would have to make a choice about commitment to either their child or their company. We talked about the level of sacrifice we were each willing to make.

- We talked about the various options available: local authorities vs agencies. We wondered what the differences were between these different routes. It was suggested that the local authority should be the first point of call, going to an agency if things didn't work out with the LA. We wondered if there were fees involved using an agency.

- Overseas adoption is very difficult now.

- Apparently the government are making moves to make adoption more mobile in terms of area - eg even living in London it could be possible to adopt a child from Yorkshire. Adoption may come up in the next Queen's Speech.

- We talked about wanting to move out of London to raise a family, for various reasons. Could we start a conversation with our current local authority and then move? Do we need to move somewhere before we begin the conversation? Someone said that if they adopted interracially they would want to live in a culturally diverse area.

- We talked about the fact that if we adopted a child from our area, wouldn't there potentially be the chance of them meeting people from their biological family? Couldn't that create various problems?

- We heard that in some cases it's not possible to move house until 2 years after you've adopted.

- If you begin the long process of adoption, matching you with the appropriate child (and vice versa), when it finally happens and you're not ‘ready’, is it OK to ask them to wait? Or do you go back to the bottom of the list?

- We wondered what adoption agencies/local authorities' view on freelancers was. Apparently, every aspect of your life is scrutinised over the course of the project: sex life (interviewed about this seperately from your partner). Do they scrutinise your finances too?

- Apparently you can take paid maternity leave if you're studying for a pHd.

- Someone said they'd heard that (straight?) women have to go on the pill when they're going through the adoption process.

- We talked about FOSTERING. Some of us said we couldn't do it, as we would find it hard to let go. We would get too attached. Especially if a foster child was our first child.

Perhaps if we had a couple of adopted/biological children first, we would then find fostering easier. We spoke about experiences we had heard of of people fostering a child and then trying to adopt them - they had sometimes faced difficulties, generally due to age. The recommended allowance is £380 per child per week for foster carers.

- From this we talked about parent & child fostering - taking in a parent and child to prevent the child being taken into care. Also, emergency fostering where you look after a teenager for a week or so to prevent them from being homeless in the interim period before going into care/finding a foster/adoptive family.

- Your support network is very important, and is scrutinised closely by local authority/agency. Do you live near your family? Do you live near other friends with children? This is something we could start thinking about NOW.

- There's a map showing which areas have the most children in care waiting for adoption. Surprisingly London was not the highest. Brighton and Bristol - two of the places we'd talked about as preferred places to raise a family - were.

- There's a hotline funded by the Department of Education and Coram (an adoption agency). The number is 0300 222 0022. We tried to call it. They aren't open on Sundays. But they are open 10am-6pm on Sunday. We agreed to call tomorrow...

What now?

I actioned this session during the Monday morning D&D session, calling the hotline and asking the very helpful person I spoke to some of the questions that came up:

How easy is it for freelancers with an irregular income to adopt?

  • As part of the initial screening process, all potential adopters must be able to prove that their financial position is stable. Ideally their income needs to be stable. However, if they can't prove this, it would be beneficial if they can show they have savings, so that if they are not earning, they still have a back up. This is something that should be discussed with the agency/local authority very early on in the process.

What are the differences between adopting with a local authority and an adoption agency?

  • They're just different routes to the same end. The important thing is to choose an organisation that you feel comfortable with, as you're going to go through the potentially lengthy process together. In most cases, approach the local authority first, and then try an agency if you're not 100% comfortable with the LA.

I was recommended to have a look at the First4Adoption website (, where I would find details of introductory classes run by local authorities and agencies, where those who have adopted are available to answer questions from prospective adopters. This gives you the chance to suss out which organisation you might feel more comfortable with.

One thing that was mentioned was that in general, voluntary adoption agencies on the whole deal more with children from different faith/ethnic backgrounds. The local authority have initial parental responsibility when a child is taken into care, but a child who has proved more difficult to place may be passed on to an agency (due to age/behavioural issues for example).

If I'm thinking of moving at some point in the future, how will this affect my hopes of adopting?

Most local authorities and agencies don't want to place children in the same locality that they were born in, to prevent the likelihood of them bumping into biological relatives - so it's perfectly fine - in fact it's preferable - to approach a LA or agency away from the one in which you live.

If you're thinking of moving to somewhere else in the UK , it's definitely OK to approach that local authority without currently living there. Advance planning is good!

What is the current situation regarding adoption by gay couples or by single individuals?
Generally all local authorities are open to gay couples. There are also some specific voluntary agencies set up for gay adopters. There is a publication called ‘The Pink Guide to Adoption (!)’ with lots of information in it.

Likewise, all authorities are open to adoption by single people but they will in this case look more closely at your support network of friends and family.

I was directed towards the following websites/organisations for further information:

Those of us who attended the session have agreed to keep in touch, and will share any new information we discover here!

The day after D & D, Katherine was told by a friend who is an advocate for adoption: 'It's all about what's best for the children. If we can show kids come first I reckon you 
can do it.'



Children, adoption, parenting, Babies, babies, baby, freelance, self employed, child, finance, children, Parenting