Steps to follow
If you are over 21 (over 18 if part of a couple and one of you is the birth parent) and healthy enough to provide a long-term stable environment for a child you may be able to adopt, whatever your marital status, sexuality, religion or race.
It doesn’t matter if you’re on a low income as long as the placing authority is satisfied that you can support the child and have enough space to provide for its needs.
If you’re keen to adopt, you should contact the adoption agencies in your area and ask for more information. This should be provided within five working days and you’ll be asked to attend an information meeting within two months.
You need to complete an application form. Once this is submitted, a thorough vetting process begins which is likely to take many months.
Checks carried out include health and police checks, your medical records will be looked at and local authorities will be approached to ensure you haven’t had any prior problems with children.
You can put forward the names of three friends as referees – one of which can be a relative. They’ll be asked to submit a written reference and will be interviewed in person by the adoption agency.
A home study will need to be carried out which will involve a social worker coming to your home and assessing it at least six times. You’ll also have to attend parenting workshops to learn about the problems associated with bringing up an adopted child.
All the information gathered will be put together in a Prospective Adopters Assessment Report and you then have 10 working days to comment on it.
You’ll need to appear before an Adoption Panel which makes a recommendation as to whether you should be allowed to adopt. The adoption agency will then make a decision which you’ll be told orally within two days and in writing within five days.
If you’re approved as adopters, the agency will try to match you with an appropriate child and draw up an Adoption Placement Report and which includes your comments and the needs of your family. This will be referred to the Adoption Panel and the agency will again take its recommendation into account in coming to a decision. This must be made within seven working days of the panel’s recommendation and communicated to you in writing within five working days.
An Adoption Placement Plan will be drawn up at a placement planning meeting which includes introductions, contact and adoption support. When a child is placed, you share parental responsibility with the birth parents and the agency. An application for an Adoption Order can be made after the child has been with you for 10 weeks.
If an Adoption Order is granted, all ties with the child’s birth family are severed and all legal parental rights and responsibilities transferred to you. The child becomes a full member of your family and has the same rights and privileges as a birth child.
If you’ve not been matched with a child within three months of being approved, the agency must forward your details to the Adoption Register. The register seeks to link hard to place children with prospective adopters. You may also self-refer to the register.
What to watch out for
You may want to quit smoking before you start trying to adopt: smokers aren’t automatically banned from adopting but the placing authority is likely to be more reluctant to place a young child with someone who smokes because of the dangers of passive smoking. Similarly, a criminal record won’t prevent you from adopting (unless you or someone you live with have been convicted or cautioned for offences against a child) but you must disclose your record when applying.
Solicitor’s top tip
If the adoption agency knocks back your application, you can ask for a review by the Independent Review Mechanism (IRM). Your application will be reviewed and the IRM will make its own recommendation. This would be persuasive but not binding – ultimately it’s still up to the adoption agency to make the final decision.
Overview of adoption
Fostering a child