Adoption is a way of providing a permanent home and family to a child who can’t be brought up by their birth family.
The majority of adoptions in the UK involve older children, sibling groups and children with disabilities, who have been taken into care.
Who can adopt a child?
There are a number of factors that need to be considered before you can adopt a child.
- You need to be aged 21 or over (there is no upper limit although you need to be fit and healthy)
- You can be single, married, in a civil partnership, an unmarried couple, or the partner of the child’s parent.
There are different rules for private adoptions and adoptions of looked-after children.
- From any ethnic or religious background
- Heterosexual, lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender
- A homeowner or living in rented accommodation
- Employed or on benefits
- Being disabled doesn’t exclude you from adopting a child. In fact, experience of disability can sometimes be an advantage.
- You must have a fixed home in the UK and have lived here for at least a year.
You also need to think about whether you can provide enough love and commitment to a child, whether you can be patient and flexible and able to empathise with a child who needs security and could be from an unstable home.
What is the adoption process?
If you decide to adopt then you’ll need to get in touch with an adoption agency and then the process can begin. The process is designed to make sure that prospective adopters are the best possible parents for the children in need of a home.
You can make contact with as many adoption agencies as you like, but can only make one formal application to adopt. So make sure you choose an agency you trust to go through the process with you.
You’ll be seen by a social worker and adoption agency staff and go through a Prospective Adopter Plan. You will be asked for references and get background checks.
The next stage involves working with a social worker and taking part in training, assessments and preparation groups so you understand the benefits and challenges of adoption. The social worker will get you know you and your family, your life now and in the past.
Once the assessment process is complete the social worker will gather all of the information together and give the report to the agency’s independent adoption panel.
The adoption approval process usually takes at least six months.
After you’re approved as an adopter
Once you are approved as a prospective adopter, the search can begin for a suitable match for both you and the child.
Some agencies will arrange an events day to give you an opportunity to spend time with some children who need placements and engage with them in a fun environment.
Throughout the process your social worker may have had a child i mind that is suitable for your family. Although, if you have not been matched with a child within three months, your agency must place your details on the National Adoption Register.
Once you all agree that a suitable child has been identified your adoption agency will produce a placement report for the child’s agency.
This plans out a series of managed introductory meetings where you and the child can get to know each other. These meetings will be built up over time and at a pace that is right for the child and for you, leading up to them moving in with you.
Applying for an adoption court order
To make an adoption legal, you need to apply for an adoption court order. This gives you parental rights and responsibilities for the child.
The child must have lived with you for at least 10 weeks before you apply.
Parental responsibilities include providing a home for the child, looking after the child, choosing and providing education and protecting the child.
Once the order has been granted the adoption becomes permanent, you get an adoption certificate – this will show the child’s new name and replaces the original birth certificate.
The child has the same rights as if they were your own birth child, for example: the right of inheritance. The order also takes away parental responsibility from the child’s birth parents and anyone else who has parental responsibility for the child.