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Everything you need to know about the adoption process

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Deciding to adopt a child is a momentous moment in a person’s life, and although the process can sometimes be slow and complex, becoming an adoptive parent can be very rewarding. Knowing what to expect from the adoption process can make it seem less daunting and can prepare you for what’s next.

Who can adopt?

Anyone over the age of 21 is able to adopt a child, and who is either:

  • The partner of the child’s parent
  • An unmarried couple
  • Married or in a civil partnership
  • Or single

To adopt you do not necessarily have to be a British Citizen. You may adopt so long as you (and your partner if you’re adopting as a couple) have been living in the UK for at least a year before starting the application process and you must have a fixed and permanent address in the UK, Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.

The adoption process

There are four main stages to the adoption process:

  • Research and exploration
  • Initial checks and registration
  • Assessment and coaching
  • Matching with a child
  • Moving in

Research and exploration

It is important to do some initial research prior to applying for adoption to make sure that you are making an informed decision. By doing some background reading and speaking to adoption agencies and people who have already gone through the adoption process, you can fully prepare yourself for what to expect.

You can either choose to adopt through an adoption agency that’s part of your local council or through a voluntary adoption agency. After you contact your chosen adoption agency, they will arrange to meet with you, and if agreed, to give you an application form.

Initial checks and registration

Once you submit your application to your chosen agency, the agency will conduct certain checks such as reference and background checks. The agency will normally organise for a social worker to visit you at home several times to ensure that you are suitable to adopt a child. A police check will be conducted to ensure that you have not been convicted of a serious offence. The agency will also ask you to provide three personal references, one of which can be a relative. This stage of the process normally takes around two months.

Assessment and coaching

Once the initial checks are completed, your social worker will carry out an assessment to see if you are the right kind of person to adopt a child, through visiting you at home and having conversations with your family and referees. You will also be invited to series of classes to prepare you for adoption and to give you the best support, advice and skills you need to become an adoptive parent. This stage normally takes around four months.

Once your assessment is complete, your social worker will send the report to the adoption agency’s independent Adoption Panel who will review the information and give their recommendations.

Matching with a child

Once you have been approved, your adoption agency will refer you to either the Adoption Register for England or the National Adoption Service for Wales (depending on where you live) who will start the process of matching you with a child who could thrive in your family.

Generally, most approved adopters are matched with a child within 6-12 months, but it can sometimes take longer.

If you are deemed not suitable to adopt, you can appeal the decision by writing to the agency or apply to the Independent Review Mechanism which will look into your case.

Moving in

Once you have been matched with a child, your social worker will help you to get to know each other through a series of visits and short stays. This can give you time to learn about your child’s routines such as mealtimes and bedtimes and (depending on age) whether they require any special support in school. After your child has moved in, your social worker will continue to support you through the transition. You will be eligible to take statutory adoption leave and pay to help you and your child settle at home together.

When the time is right, you can apply to the court for an Adoption Order to make the adoption legal.

Get support and advice on adopting a child

At Crisp & Co, our expert solicitors are able to advise on all aspects of family law, including adoption. We strive to provide our clients with the best support and guidance to ensure the best outcome for that is right for them and their family. Contact one of our family lawyers today on 020 8017 8962.