Adoption means giving a child an opportunity to be part of a family, when living with
his own family is not possible and may be a child's only chance at experiencing family
life. Adopting a child can be a very rewarding experience - careful consideration should
be made before undertaking responsibility for an adoptive child.
In 1999 local authorities in England looked after more than 55,000 children. Last year, 2,200
children in care were adopted. At the moment, about 1,300 approved adopters in the UK are
seeking a suitable child.
An Adoption Order (the contract which makes the adoption legal) severs all ties with
the birth family and confers parental rights and responsibilities on the new adoptive
family. The birth parents no longer have any legal rights over the child and they are
not entitled to claim him back.
Once the adoption agency has decided to take forward your application, you will be
assigned a social worker to undertake what is called a home study assessment. You will
be required to fill in a form, which outlines both factual information (your name and
address, date of birth and marital status, religious persuasion and occupation) and
your social history (educational qualifications interests, income and previous experience
of caring for children and your reasons for wishing to adopt a child).
A police check on you and every adult member of your household will be required and you
will be required to have a full medical examination. The agency's medical adviser will
approach your GP for a medical report that covers your own and your family's health
While the police checks and medical reports are being obtained the social worker will
make a number of visits to your home. During these visits the social worker will ask you
about yourself, your family as well as your reasons for wanting to adopt. You will also be
asked what your extended family thinks of you wanting to adopt and what support you can
expect from them and your friends.
You will be asked to supply the names and addresses of two personal referees (they can't
be family members) whom your social worker will interview them in order to assess how well
they know you.
The agency will also obtain a written report on your home, which covers the accommodation,
living conditions and home environment, and also the accessibility of schools, neighbourhood
facilities and churches.
When the adoption agency has obtained all the information they need they must assess it and
set out its views in a written report. Once you have seen and agreed the content of the
home study report, the Adoption Panel will consider your application. Finally, the agency's
Decision Maker, who is a senior agency official in the Children Services Department, who may
accept or reject the panel's recommendation, will consider it.
This depends on a number of factors, but the average time from the start of your home study
assessment to the adoption order is just over two years.
The National Adoption Register for England and Wales is a pilot project that will be launched
in September of this year. It's part of plans to cut the length of time both children and
adopters have to wait before they can be together. Currently, local authorities hold records
of all adults in their area wanting to adopt and children who need to be adopted. This information
will be sent to the central database, to be matched up.
There is no ideal adopter - each agency looks for a different type of person. People from
different backgrounds with a variety of life experience to meet the needs of the children
in their care can be chosen.
Adoption agencies choose who can adopt. An adoption agency is your council or a voluntary
adoption agency, which has been approved by the Secretary of State for Health. You cannot
be assessed or approved to adopt by an independent social worker.
Most people apply to their local adoption agency. Adoption agency is the term given to
any organisation charged with finding new permanent homes for children who have been
separated from their birth parents and legally freed for adoption.
Mostly these agencies are local social services departments, which employ social workers
specifically dealing with adoption and fostering work.
A helpful organisation is the British
Agencies for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF). In partnership with
social workers, BAAF supports applicants through the adoption process.
Q. Will we be able to adopt a baby?
A. There are very few babies put up for adoption in the UK. In 1999, only 200 of the 2200 children
adopted were babies. Although it is possible to adopt an infant, the criteria are likely to be
more strict and you could wait for a long time - up to 10 years!
Q. May I adopt my husband/wife's child?
A. You can apply to the courts to adopt your husband or wife's child. The child's other parent
(the one with parental responsibility) must give their consent, but there are exceptional
circumstances where the courts may decide consent isn't needed.
Q. I am living with my partner, can we adopt together?
A. No. The law only allows married couples to adopt jointly. As a single parent, your marital
status or sexuality will not prevent you from being considered as an adoptive parent.
One alternative to adoption is a residence order. This allows you to make an application for
an order that a particular child should live with you. If a residence order is granted,
you would be granted parental responsibility in respect of the child, but parental
responsibility would not necessarily be taken away from another person.
Fostering a child is another option. You may be interested in providing a temporary home
to children who the council is looking after because they are unable to go home for a period
of time. The council will pay, for example, for the children's food and accommodation and
you may earn some money too. If you are interested in fostering you should contact your
Department of Health Adoption Website
General Register Office (GRO)
Tel: 0151 471 4830
England - Department of Health
Public Enquiry Office
Tel: 020 7210 4850
(10-12.30 and 1400-1700 Monday to Friday)
Scotland - The Scottish Executive
Tel: 0131 244 5480
Fax: 0131 244 3547
Wales - The National Assembly for Wales
Tel: 029 2082 3676
Fax: 029 2082 3142
Northern Ireland - Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety
Tel: 028 9052 4762
Fax: 028 9052 4196
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