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The Adoption Process: How It Works in the UK

By IntFormalities
Published on April 1, 2023
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Sometimes parents are not in a position to raise their children. The reasons can range from financial difficulties and physical/mental health problems to giving birth at a young age. Luckily many people want to adopt children, and they do it for a number of reasons. Some turn to adoption because of health issues preventing them from having children. Others want to give a child a loving home, or they are in a same-sex relationship and want to start a family. In any case, if you want to adopt a child, this article is for you.

How Child Adoption Works In The UK
The latest figures show there are currently 1900 children waiting to be adopted in England

Who Can Be Adopted?

Bringing up a child bears a great deal of responsibility. When it comes to adoption, there is a strict criterion on who is allowed to adopt. A great deal of consideration is given to all parties involved, such as the child’s biological parents, the people seeking to adopt, and the child/orphan themselves.

For a child to be in a position to become adopted, they must be under the age of 18 when the adoption process starts, and not be in a civil partnership or marriage.

These terms are applicable in England and Wales. The rules vary in other parts of the United Kingdom. You can read the guidance for other areas here: Scotland and Northern Island.   

Both of the biological parents have to provide consent for the adoption to take place. Exceptions are possible when:

  • They cannot be found
  • They are incapable of giving consent because of physical or mental health problems
  • The child is in danger without the adoption taking place

Who Is Able To Adopt?

Anyone over the age of 21 can potentially adopt a child. They could be:

  • Single
  • Married
  • Involved in a civil partnership
  • A couple who are unmarried (the same and the opposite sex)
  • The child’s parent’s partner

The person (or people) seeking to adopt need not be United Kingdom citizens. They are required to have resided for at least 1 year with a permanent home in the country.

You can also read, “How To Top Up Your Income with Working Tax Credits.”

The Adoption Process

To start the adoption process, you can go through the local council’s adoption agency, or a Voluntary Adoption Agency (VAA). The first step is to contact one of the adoption centers. They’ll send more information on the adoption procedure. The agency will make arrangements to meet you and your partner. If you and the agency are satisfied, they’ll provide an application form to complete. 

1. The Assessment 

Once the application is received, the following will take place:

  1. You’ll be invited to various preparation classes. Taking place locally, they provide advice and guidance on the effect of adoption. You can also discuss other things such as whether to adopt a baby or a child. 
  2. Social workers will arrange to visit you and carry out assessments to ensure suitability.
  3. Police checks will be carried out. You cannot adopt if there is a conviction for serious offense, such as crimes against a child.
  4. You’ll be asked to provide 3 referees for a personal reference (one of which could be a relative),
  5. A full medical exam will take place to ensure you are in good health.

2. Your Personal Assessment

With all the above steps completed, the social workers will send a report to the independent adoption panel. The group consists of people who are accomplished at adoption. Based on the assessment, the group will advice the adoption agency. Using their direction, the adoption agency will decide on your suitability. 

3. Results of the Assessment

If the agency agrees you are suited to adoption, they’ll start the steps to find a suitable child. They will explain how it works and your involvement. Though it may take a little while, you will get the opportunity to adopt a child. If the outcome is not in your favor, it is possible to challenge the decision. You can write to them to review the ruling or contact the Independent Review Mechanism to examine the case. 

4. Adoption Court Order

After you are given a child and the child starts to live with you, seeking an adoption court order is possible. It makes the adoption legal and provides you with parental responsibilities and rights. The child needs to live with you for 10 weeks before it is possible to apply.

The majority of the applications for an Adoption Court Order take place at the Family Court. You will need to complete Form A58 to begin the process. There are fees involved. You can find out the costs and how to complete the form here.

Once the order gets granted:

  • The adoption is permanent
  • The child takes on the same rights as a biological child, such as inheriting British citizenship if you have one
  • You can purchase an adoption certificate
  • Parental responsibility is taken away from the biological parents or others who had parental authority

Adopting a Stepchild

Adopting a stepchild is potentially easy as the stepchild and the parent are familiar with one another. The child must reside with you for 6 months before the process begins. To start, you need to inform the local council of your wishes. It must be done 3 months prior to applying for an adoption court order. 

The Assessment

Like any adoption, an assessment must take place before becoming lawful. The court will ask the local council and its social services to compile a report on your partner, the other biological parent, and the child.

The courts will use the report to make a decision. If granted, you will have the same parental responsibilities as your partner.  

A Long but Rewarding Process 

Adopting a child is a long, complex process that comes with its own unique challenges. For example, you and the child may need to seek out professional help with integrating into the family unit. If this were the case, you could contact the Adoption Support Fund (ASF).

As you can see, adopting isn’t easy, but the good news is that there is available support every step of the way. We hope the information we compiled helps you to get the family you’ve always dreamed to have.

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