How to apply
If you’ve taken the decision to try to adopt a child, you need to be prepared for a lengthy process. Whether you’re looking to adopt a child that you already know, are already caring for perhaps as a step or foster parent, or if you do not yet know the child but would like to become an adoptive parent, there are extensive steps in place to ensure that your home is the right one for a child.
If you’ve feel that you’re able to provide a good home and caring environment for a child, you will need to focus on this throughout what can be an arduous procedure. For more information on applying to adopt see the article applying for adoption.
Many people assume that there are huge numbers of reasons that people are rejected for adoption, and that there’s no point in applying because of this. This is not the case however, and there are fewer reasons than you might think for not being able to adopt, as long as you’re over 21 and you live permanently in the UK.
You should not be refused the ability to adopt on the grounds of religion, sexuality or marital status, nor should your income be a factor, as long as you are financially stable enough to care for a child.
Similarly, you do not need to be in full time employment or to own your own home; you can be self-employed and even unemployed and will still be eligible to apply.
In some cases, an adoption agency will recommend that you wait a while before applying to become an adoptive parent, for example if you have recently been through a course of fertility treatment, if you have children who are not much older than the child you’re looking to adopt, if you’re involved in a new relationship, have insufficient living space for a child, or have just moved house.
If you have had a child who has died, the agency will typically urge you to take time before applying to adopt also, not least because the assessment process can be a stressful and personal one. Particular agencies have other specific guidelines in addition to help them establish the suitability of your family home for adopting a child.
You may find that your application for adoption will be difficult or in some cases rejected if you suffer from some physical or mental health problems, if you have certain criminal convictions, or if a child of your own has been taken into care at any time in the past.
Once you’ve established that there is no initial barrier to you adopting and wish to proceed, you will need to get in touch with a local adoption agency. You can do this by finding one in your area online or by contacting you local authority, through the social work or children’s services departments.
This part of the process can be a lengthy one, as the adoption agency will need to gauge the suitability of you, your family and your home over a period of time. Typically, a social worker will be assigned to your case, and will get to know you and your partner (if applicable) over the course of the process, which will normally take several months.
The social worker will visit you at home many times during this period, finding out about your own family background, and getting a feel for you home life. You will have to undergo medical examinations, and your medical and family history will also be looked at closely.
The end result of this process is that the adoption agency will have compiled a Home Study Report detailing their findings over the course of their various visits, inspections and meetings with you. This report is then used as the basis for a decision as to whether you are going to be able to adopt.
An adoption panel will examine your Home Study Report in detail and pass their recommendations based on this back to the adoption agency. The panel is independent so that they are well placed to make an objective decision about your suitability to be an adoptive parent. You may meet the panel during their decision making process.
If, for any reason, you’re not approved for adoption you are entitled to request that the agency review their decision.
If you are approved to adopt, you are then able to begin the process.
If you’re looking to adopt a baby you may be placed on the waiting list for your local authority, although naturally adopting in this way can take many years.
If you’re looking for an older child, the adoption agency will have their own methods for matching you with one. Again, the proposal will be passed to an independent panel who will make a recommendation as to whether you and the child are a suitable match.
If you are looking to adopt a child that you already know, for example of you are a step parent, the local authority will look into the child’s relationship with their birth parent before reaching a decision. If you wish to try and adopt a child that you have been fostering, you can normally start this process from around 3 months after the child began living in your home.
If the child you’re adopting does not currently live with you, the adoption agency will carry out a process whereby you are gradually introduced to the child, with social workers supporting the relationship in the initial stages, with the child of course eventually moving in with you and your family.
Once the child has been living with you for a period depending on the specific circumstances, you are able to apply and go to court to obtain an adoption order. The adoption order makes the adoption of the child legally complete, removing the parental rights and responsibilities of the child’s birth parents, and asserting these rights and responsibilities on the adoptive parents. At this point your adopted child will be considered to have the same legal status as any children naturally born to you.