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ADOPTING A CHILD

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Adopting a child means having a relationship with them as if they were your birth child.  Once you have adopted a child, you will have all of the joys – and responsibilities – of being a parent. The most important thing about the adoption process is keeping what’s best for children at the centre of any decision.  We focus on finding the right family for the child, and encourage ongoing connection with their birth family and their culture.

OVERVIEW

To be adopted, a child must:

  • be under the age of 18 when the adoption application is made
  • not be (or have never been) married or in a civil partnership

THE CHILD’S BIRTH PARENTS

Both birth parents normally have to agree (consent) to the adoption, unless:

  • they can’t be found
  • they’re incapable of giving consent, eg due to a mental disability
  • the child would be put at risk if they weren’t adopted

 

WHO CAN ADOPT A CHILD

You may be able to adopt a child if you’re aged 21 or over (there’s no upper age limit) and either:

  • single
  • married
  • in a civil partnership
  • an unmarried couple (same sex and opposite sex)
  • the partner of the child’s parent

There are different rules for private adoptions and adoptions of looked-after children.

EARLY STAGES OF ADOPTION

To adopt a child you can go through either:

  • an adoption agency that’s part of your local council
  • a voluntary adoption agency

THE ADOPTION PROCESS

  1. Contact an adoption agency – they’ll send you information about the adoption process.
  2. The agency will arrange to meet you – you may also be invited to a meeting with other people wanting to adopt a child.
  3. If you and the agency agree to carry on, the agency will give you an application form.

The adoption approval process normally takes around 6 months. You will then be matched with a child for adoption.

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ADOPTION ASSESSMENT

Once the agency gets your application it will do the following:

  1. Invite you to a series of preparation classes – these are normally held locally and give advice on the effect adoption may have on you.
  2. Arrange for a social worker to visit you on several occasions to carry out an assessment – this is to check you’re suitable to become an adoptive parent.
  3. Arrange a police check – you will not be allowed to adopt if you, or an 
adult member of your family, have been convicted of a serious offence, eg 
against a child.
  4. Ask you to provide the names of 3 referees who will give you a personal reference. One of your referees can be a relative.
  5. Arrange for you to have a full medical examination.

YOUR ASSESSMENT

The social worker will send the assessment report to an independent adoption panel. This is a group of people who are experienced in adoption.

The panel will make a recommendation to the adoption agency based on your assessment.

You can go along to ask questions and answer any questions the panel has.

The adoption panel will send their recommendation to the agency, which will then decide whether you’re suitable to adopt a child.

IF AN ADOPTION AGENCY SAYS YOU CAN’T ADOPT

If you disagree with an adoption agency’s decision, you can either:

  • challenge their decision by writing to them
  • apply to the Independent Review Mechanism, which will look into your case

You can also contact other adoption agencies – but you’ll have to start the process again.

 

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.

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, eg the right of inheritance

The order also takes away parental responsibility from:

  • the child’s birth parent(s)
  • anyone else who has parental responsibility for the child

HOW TO APPLY

Most applications for adoption orders are done at a Family Court.

You need to send the court a completed application for an adoption order – Form A58.

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ADOPTING A CHILD YOU’VE BEEN FOSTERING

You need to be reassessed and approved as adoptive parents if you want to adopt the child you’ve been fostering.

ADOPTING A STEPCHILD

You need to tell your local council if you want to adopt your spouse’s or partner’s child. You must do this at least 3 months before applying to a court for an adoption order.

The child must also have lived with both of you for at least 6 months.

THE ADOPTION ASSESSMENT

The process to adopt is similar to an assessment through an adoption agency.

The assessment is used to help a court decide if you can adopt the child (rather than being sent to an independent adoption panel).

The court will ask your local council to provide a report on:

  • your partner
  • the child
  • the other birth parent

The report will be prepared by a social worker and will be used to help the court make a decision.

If granted, the adoption court order gives you parental responsibility for the child – along with your spouse or partner.

The order also takes away parental responsibility from:

  • the child’s other birth parent
  • anyone else who has parental responsibility for the child

An adoption order cancels any other type of court order, eg how and when the child’s birth parent can visit the child.

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ADOPTING A CHILD FROM OVERSEAS

You can adopt a child from overseas if:

  • they can’t be cared for in a safe environment in their own country
  • the adoption would be in their best interests
  • the adopter has been assessed as eligible and suitable to adopt from overseas by an adoption agency in the UK

If you want to adopt a child from overseas, you should contact either:

  • your local council
  • a voluntary adoption agency that deals with overseas adoption

The adoption process is similar to a UK adoption and will be done by a UK adoption agency that may charge a fee.

There are several other steps, eg:

  • the assessment will be sent to the overseas adoption authority
  • you’ll need to visit the child in their own country
  • your application will be sent to the child’s country

RESTRICTIONS

The UK has restricted adoption from the following countries:

  • Cambodia
  • Guatemala
  • Nepal
  • Haiti

You must contact the Intercountry Adoption Team if you want to adopt a child from any of these countries. You’ll have to apply in writing, telling them the reasons why your case should be an exception. You can read about the reasons for the restrictions.