How Does Adoption in the UK Work?

Adoption is an incredible and fulfilling journey, and, for many families, the perfect way to welcome a much-loved child into their home. But the road to adoption can be long and complex with prospective parents facing high levels of scrutiny and stress. For those who are considering adoption in the UK, it’s important to be well informed on every part of this journey. And this includes detailed research on the key stages of the adoption process. We take a closer look at each stage of the UK adoption process, below.

Who can adopt in the UK?

Firstly, you need to ensure that you meet the criteria for a prospective adoptive parent. In the UK, this means you will be 21 or older with a permanent home here. You must also be able to prove that you have lived in the country for at least a year. Parents can be single, married, in a civil partnership, or in a stable relationship. Same-sex couples are able to adopt in the UK.


cute baby girl smile


What are the first steps?

If you have decided that you would like to adopt, or you would simply like to find out more, you should contact an adoption agency. This could be a private agency or one that is part of your local council. They may invite you to a group meeting, followed by a one on one interview. If you do decide to go ahead, you will need to fill out an application form.

What happens during the assessment process?

Once you have completed the application process, the agency will carry out a series of interviews, home visits, and background checks to confirm that you are a suitable candidate for adoption. This will include attendance at a series of classes, home visits with a social worker, police checks, personal references and a full medical.

Information gathered throughout this process will help your social worker put together an assessment report which will then be reviewed by an independent panel. The panel will make a recommendation to the agency who will decide if you are a suitable candidate for adoption. This process can be intense and may take 6 months or longer.

If we are approved for adoption how are we matched with a child?

After you are approved your adoption agency will work with you and social services across England and Wales to find the right child for you to adopt. Your social worker will discuss the suitability of children with you and it may take some time to find a child who is a match. Most adoptive parents are matched within 6 to 12 months and although local children are considered first, this search will often be expanded to cases nationally. Older children, those with additional needs, siblings and those from minority backgrounds often find it the most difficult to make a match, so parents who are open to adopting children in these circumstances are highly sought after.

We have found a match! What now?

Once the right child has been identified and approved by a matching panel, a series of initial visits will take place. This process helps both the child and new parents get to know each other better. These visits will continue until a final plan is in place for your newest family member to move in. Most agencies recommend that parents take a minimum of 6 months off work at this stage to get to know their child and begin to build a lasting bond. This stage will also be supported by regular visits from a social worker. After a while, and when you feel ready to take on full parental responsibility for your new child, you can apply for an adoption order through the courts.

How do I apply for an adoption order?

The minimum time for a family to apply for an adoption order is 10 weeks after a child moves into the family home. This is to ensure the match is working for all the parties and to provide time for everyone to settle into their new roles. Many families opt for a longer period before making the adoption legal. As part of the adoption order, the court will request detailed background information from the adoption agency in order to finalise the legal adoption. A child is not able to attend the adoption hearing but can attend a later celebration day at the court to meet the judge who made their adoption final. An adoption certificate is issued, and this document will replace the original birth certificate.

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