Adoption FAQS

 At what age can a child be adopted?

To be adopted, a child must be under the age of 18 when the adoption application is made and not be(or have never been) married or in a civil partnership.

Do you need to seek permission from 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, e.g. due to a mental disability or 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), or the partner of the child’s parent. There are different rules for private adoptions and adoptions of looked-after children.

Do you need to be living in the UK?

You don’t have to be a British citizen to adopt a child, but: you (or your partner, if you’re a couple)must have a fixed and permanent home in the UK, Channel Islands or the Isle of Man, you (and your partner, if you’re a couple) must have lived in the UK, for at least 1 year before you begin the application process.

What is involved in the adoption assessment?

Once the agency or Local Authority gets your application, it will do the following: Invite you to a seriesof preparation classes (these are normally held locally and give advice on the effect adoption mayhave on you and your family); arrange for a social worker to visit you on several occasions to carryout an assessment (this is to check you’re suitable to become an adoptive parent); arrange a policecheck (you will not be allowed to adopt if you, or an adult member of your family, have been convictedof a serious offence, e.g., against a child); ask you to provide the names of 3 referees who will giveyou a personal reference (one of your referees can be a relative); and arrange for you to have amedical assessment with your GP. A full adoption assessment can take up to 12 months. There will then be a process of matching between yourself and a child who would be likely to settle well with your family.

Who completes your assessment?

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

When are you able to adopt a child?

Once your agency decides you can adopt, they’ll begin the process of finding a child for you to adopt.

What 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 or apply to the Independent Review Mechanism, which will look into your case.

How do you adopt a step-child?

You need to tell your local authority 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 process for the adoption assessment 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 and the other birth parent.

How do you adopt 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 and if the adopter has been assessed as eligible and suitable to adopt from overseas by an adoption agency in the UK. The Penny Appeal Adoption and Fostering service is not able to give further advice about overseas adoption.

Does it cost to apply for an adoption of a child in this country, if so how much?

There are no fees to adopt a child from within the UK, but there are fees if you wish to adopt from abroad.

Who is restricted to adopt?

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, see below for address:

Intercountry adoption casework tea

Level 0, Riversid

Bishopsgate Hous


DL1 5Q

Scotland, however, has a different system for dealing with restricted countries

What If you live abroad and you want to adopt?

You must follow the adoption laws of the country you’re in if you’re normally resident in that country and want to adopt. You must follow UK adoption law if you’re normally resident in the UK, the Isle ofMan or the Channel Islands. This is sometimes called ‘habitual residence’ and can apply even if you're living abroad at the time of the adoption. You may have to give a sworn statement in front of a solicitor that you’re no longer habitually resident in the UK, the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands if the country asks for a ‘no objection’ letter from the UK government. You must send this statement either to the Intercountry Adoption Team at the Department of Education or the nearest British embassy. If you’ve adopted a child - either in the UK or overseas - and then travel or move to a third country, the adoption may not be recognised in that country. If you have any doubts you should get legal advice.

How do you register an adoption?

You can apply to register an overseas adoption in the Adopted Child Register for England and Wales if the adoption took place in certain overseas countries the parent or parents were habitually resident in England and Wales at the time of the adoption the parent or parents can provide all the supporting documents.

What are the birth parents rights?

For another couple (or person) to adopt a child, the birth parents normally have to agree to it.However, if a judge deems it to be in the child’s best interest, an adoption can be carried out without birth parent consent. Once the child is adopted, birth parents no longer have parental responsibility for them. Depending on the child’s situation, the birth parents may be able to stay in contact with them.This is often done using letters and photographs (and sometimes meetings) through the agency responsible for arranging the adoption. The child’s father will only be asked to agree to the adoption if he has parental responsibility.

Can an adoption process be stopped once started?

To make an adoption legal, a court has to grant a court order. The agency arranging the adoption must let the birth parents know what their rights are - and also at what point the adoption can’t be stopped. If the birth parents don’t want the child to be adopted, a court will give them the chance to say why. A social worker, independent of the adoption agency, will visit the birth parents and record the reasons they don’t want the child to be adopted. An adoption order can’t be made unless the court thinks it’s in the child’s best interest.

When is an Adoption Order allowed without the parent’s consent?

A court can decide the adoption can go ahead without birth parent consent if it thinks the child would be put at risk if they weren’t adopted – the court would send evidence for the case for adoption to the birth parents.