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Adoption – The Guide

At first glance, the adoption process can be daunting. In this guide, we’ll talk you through the key stages of adoption and reveal what to expect when you embark on the adoption journey.

Adoption is the legal process through which a child who has been born into one family becomes a legal member of another family.

The prospective parents who start the adoption process become the legal parents of the child and obtain the same responsibilities and rights as they would have had if they had given birth to the child. The parental responsibility for that child is transferred over to the adoptive parents.

After the adoption process is completed, the child will not have any legal ties to their birth parents.


Who can adopt a child?

In order to begin the adoption process, you must be 21 years old or over.

As well as those who are married or in a civil partnership, adoption is possible for those who are single or in an unmarried couple.

Owning your own home is not a prerequisite for adoption, nor is being on a certain level of income.

You should also have been legally resident in the UK (or the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man) for at least 12 months.



Can I consider adoption if I have a criminal record?

Criminal records will be looked into during the adoption process. However, unless you have a criminal record detailing some offences against children, this would not necessarily stop you from being able to complete the adoption process.

If you have a criminal record (or anyone else in your house has one) you may not be able to adopt. There are some criminal offences that will mean you will be unable to adopt, such as serious sexual offences. You may be able to adopt with other criminal convictions, but these will be taken into consideration when you undergo your assessments.


Do I have to be a British citizen in order to adopt?

It is not necessary to be a British citizen in order to embark on the adoption process. However, you (or your partner) must have your permanent residence in the UK, Isle of Man or Channel Islands and you both must have been living in the UK for a minimum of 1 year before you can submit an adoption application.


Do the birth parents have to agree to the adoption?

While the child’s birth parents would usually have to consent to the adoption taking place, there are some exceptions to this rule.

For example, if there would be a risk to the child if they were not adopted, the birth parents’ agreement may not be necessary for the adoption to go ahead.

Similarly, if the birth parents cannot be located, the adoption could be completed without their consent.

The adoption could also go ahead without the birth parents’ agreement if they were not capable of giving their consent (due to a mental disability, for example).


What is an adoption agency?

The first step in the adoption process is to contact an adoption agency. Even if you are still unsure about whether or not you want to adopt, an adoption agency is a good place to start.

Information events held by adoption agencies can help you to find out more about adoption in general, as well as the children who are looking for families to adopt them. These are also good places to meet other people who have embarked on the adoption process.

Adoption can take place through either a voluntary adoption agency or a local authority.

It can be helpful to get in touch with a number of adoption agencies, before making your decision which one to work with during the adoption process. This way, you can find an adoption agency that you feel comfortable with.


How do I submit an adoption application?

Once you have found an adoption agency that you are happy with, the next stage is to inform them that you would like to go ahead and begin the adoption process. You will need to complete a Registration of Interest at this point.

You will need to provide the adoption agency with information such as your (and your partner’s) occupation and income. You will also be asked about your health and your GP will be asked to provide a medical report.

In order to start the adoption process, it will also be necessary to provide the names of three referees for the adoption agency to contact.

You will also need to state what kinds of children you would be interested in adopting.

As part of the adoption process, a criminal record check (DBS) will also take place.

You can expect the adoption registration process (together with the checks) to take around two months.

A decision will then be made as to whether or not you will be able to continue the adoption process and move on to the next stage.


What happens after adoption process checks have been carried out?

After the adoption agency has confirmed they are happy for you to progress to the next stage after your initial checks, you can then move to the second part of the adoption process. The adoption assessment process will then begin.

As part of the adoption assessment, you will be visited at home by a social worker from your adoption agency. They will want to speak to you and meet other family members, in order to build up a picture of your family situation.

During this stage of the adoption process, you will also have the opportunity to take part in preparation groups, where you can meet experienced adopters and learn about skills adoptive parents need to care for children who may have been neglected or abused in the past.

Once the social worker has gathered all of the information they need, your agency’s independent Adoption Panel will review their report, before making a recommendation back to the agency with regards to your adoption suitability.

This stage normally takes around 4 months.

If it is agreed that you can adopt, your adoption agency will then search for a child for you.


How long does the adoption process take?

Overall, you should expect the adoption process to take around 6 months from start to finish.


How do I make the adoption legal?

It is necessary to apply for an adoption court order to make the adoption legal and give you full parental responsibilities and rights for the child.

In order to do this, the child must have been living with you for a minimum of 10 weeks before you can apply for an adoption court order.

If you are considering adoption, it can be helpful to seek advice from a solicitor experienced in adoption, such as Austin Kemp. This way, they can talk you through the adoption process and explain how and when you can make the child a legal member of your family.


What does adopting a child mean?

Adoption is the legal procedure of taking another person’s child to bring up as your own child. It is a process which transfers the parental responsibility for the child, to the person/s who is adopting the child.

All legal ties with the birth parents are severed and the child becomes a member of their adopted family.


Where to start when adopting a child

Before embarking on the process of adopting a child, it’s important to understand if the child you want to adopt can actually be adopted.

In order to be able to be adopted, a child must be under 18 years old when you apply to adopt them. In addition, they must never have been married or in a civil partnership.

Usually, the child’s birth parents will have to consent to you adopting a child. However, in some circumstances, such as if the birth parents cannot be located, this may not be necessary.


Adopting a child: who can do it?

Anyone adopting a child has to be aged 21 years old or over. There is no upper age limit.

Married couples are able to adopt. In addition, single people, as well as unmarried couples (whether they are gay, lesbian or heterosexual), are able to adopt.


Is adopting a child possible if I already have children?

Adopting a child is perfectly possible if you already have children. You can adopt more than one child.


Is adopting a child possible if I have a criminal record?

Your criminal record will be taken into account, but unless you have some types of offences against children, having a criminal record doesn’t necessarily preclude you from adopting a child.


When adopting a child do you pay?

Adoption agencies in the UK cannot charge a fee for arranging adoptions. However, there may be other costs involved in adopting a child, such as court fees.


Adopting a child with or without an adoption agency

The process is different depending on whether you want to adopt a child through an agency, or whether you want to adopt a child without an agency (known as a non-agency adoption).

If you are a step parent, for example, you may want to adopt your step child. This is a non-agency adoption. In this instance, the child must have lived with you for six months before the application.

Different rules apply when adopting a child through an agency.

It is highly recommended that you seek legal advice from a solicitor experienced in this area of law, such as Austin Kemp, before you begin the process of adopting a child.

For more information on this subject please visit our Legal Library.


Contact us to see how we can help with the adoption process

For more information on the adoption process call our team on 0845 862 5001 or email

We offer a nationwide service. We have client meeting office facilities available, in order to have face-to-face client meetings / conferences as and when required in:

Leeds Office: St Andrew House, The Headrow, Leeds, LS1 5JW

Wakefield Office: Market Walk, Wakefield, WF1 1QR

Halifax Office: Old Lane, Halifax, HX3 5WP

Huddersfield Office: Northumberland Street Huddersfield, HD1 1RL

Coventry Office: Warwick Road, Coventry, CV1 2DY

Canary Wharf Office: 25 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London, E14 5LB

Please contact us for more details.

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29th June 2020

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