Single Parent Adoption in the UK

There is nothing to stop you adopting as a single person in the UK and if you wish to adopt, you have the right not to be discriminated against on the grounds of being single.

Giving a loving, stable family home to a child who needs one can be hugely rewarding. It is a big undertaking and for individuals considering going ahead with single parent adoption, there are often some concerns about taking on the responsibility alone. However, many single people successfully adopt, with an estimated 11% of adoptions in recent years being by single adopters.

At Crisp & Co we understand that it can be a stressful time and we will always do all we can to ensure that the legal side of adoption goes as smoothly as possible. There is a set legal process that must be followed and we can stay by your side to guide you through this step by step.

We always work proactively to avoid unnecessary delays and we will keep you updated as to the progress of your case. We make sure we are available to discuss issues with you and to answer your questions throughout.

We specialise in family law, meaning we have an in-depth understanding of the process involved in a successful adoption and we know how to resolve difficulties that may arise.

Book your free initial consultation with our single parent adoption solicitors

Contact our adoption lawyers today to book your free 1-hour consultation and discuss your case with an expert member of our team.

Or complete our simple online enquiry form and someone will be in touch shortly.


Our single parent adoption solicitors’ expertise

We provide advice, guidance and representation in respect of all aspects of adoption, to include the following:

We have been helping single parents adopt for many years and we understand how important it will be for you that the process is dealt with efficiently. We will give you the support you need and ensure that you know what will happen at each stage. Our services include:

  • Advice on UK adoption laws and the options open to you
  • Supporting you as you go through the adoption process
  • Liaising with relevant parties such as the birth parents’ legal representatives, the adoption agency and local authorities
  • Applying to court for an Adoption Order to legally formalise your adoption
  • Support and advice following the adoption to include resolving any difficulties
  • Representing you in an adoption appeal if the birth parents object to the making of an Adoption Order

Contact us today to discuss your needs with a friendly member of our team. Alternatively, fill in our simple online enquiry form and someone will be in touch shortly.

For more information, see our page on adoption.

How adopting as a single parent works

Who can adopt a child?

You can adopt a child if you are single and whether or not you are married. You can be from any ethnic background or follow any religion. You do not have to own your own home and you can be employed or receive benefits.

You can be heterosexual, lesbian, gay, bisexual, asexual or transgender. You can adopt if you do not have children or if you already have children and if you have already adopted. You can adopt if you are disabled.

If you have health issues but you believe that you are well enough to adopt, then this should not prevent from you from adopting.

What might stop me from being allowed to adopt a child?

There are three automatic exclusions from adoption, as follows:

  • You have a criminal conviction or caution for offences against children or serious sexual offences.
  • You must have lived in the UK, Channel Islands or the Isle of Man for at least a year.
  • You cannot be aged under 21.

Other issues may count against you, such as:

  • Criminal convictions, particularly those for serious offences
  • Whether you have a bedroom available for the child
  • What sort of pets you have

Issues such as lifestyle, health and age are likely to be taken into account. If you have a serious medical condition, this will be considered when the authorities assess whether you will be able to care for a child.

References will also be gathered and if these are not particularly good or contain something negative, this will count against you. It is also important to be honest when providing information to the authorities. If information turns out to be incorrect, your application could be turned down.

Can I adopt a child from abroad as a single person?

Whether you can adopt from abroad as a single person depends on the country in question. Where it is culturally less acceptable for parents in that country to be single, then adoption might not be possible.

However, there are many countries that do permit single parent adoption. If you wish to adopt a child from overseas, the UK requirements are that:

  • The child cannot be cared for in a safe environment in their home country
  • Adoption would be in the child’s best interests
  • You have been assessed as eligible and suitable to adopt from overseas by a UK adoption agency

Your local council will be able to put you in touch with an adoption agency that will be able to start the adoption process on your behalf if you wish to adopt a child from abroad.

What is the process for adopting a child?

You should initially apply to adopt through an adoption agency. This could be an independent agency or part of your local authority’s children services.

The agency will carry out an evaluation, to include background checks, health assessment and obtaining references. You will also learn more about what is involved in being an adoptive parent.

You will need to go through some training to prepare you and may be asked to fill in a log as you go.

Once the preliminary checks have been made, you will be assessed during visits from a social worker and a report written about you and your suitability.

If you are approved to adopt, then the agency or social worker will start looking for a child or children who they believe would be a good match with you. You will have the opportunity to spend time with the child over a couple of months before they move in with you.

After the child has been living with you for around ten weeks, we can make an application to the court on your behalf to become their legal adoptive parent.

What financial support is there for adoptive parents?

If you work and you will be taking adoption leave, you will be entitled to statutory adoption pay.

You may be entitled to support for therapeutic services for your child if they were previously in care and the local authority will assess whether you qualify for this. Examples of help include counselling to help your child with learning or relationships.

Where a child has additional needs, an adoption allowance may be available. This is generally means-tested, which means it’s assessed based on your financial circumstances.

Money may be available to help with items you may need to settle your child in with you, such as a car seat or bed. If your child is of school age, their school may qualify for a pupil premium. In some cases, discretionary housing payments may be available.

Where payments are discretionary, they may be difficult to obtain and only rarely made, so you should not rely on them being available. As well as adoption payments, you will be entitled to the same child benefits that a birth parent would be entitled to.

How long does adoption take?

The initial process of application and approval can take six months or more. Once you have been approved, finding the right child could take anything from a few weeks to another six months or more.

What happens if I enter a relationship after adopting?

If you enter into a relationship after adopting, your new partner may also want to adopt your child. If this was to go ahead, they would be given parental responsibility for your child and this would continue, even if you were to split up in the future, so you should consider carefully whether this is right for you and your child.

Why choose Crisp & Co’s single parent adoption solicitors?

Crisp & Co is a specialist family law firm, meaning we have an in-depth understanding of child law and the adoption process.

We understand that the adoption process can cause anxiety and we will always do all we can to ensure it goes as smoothly as possible for you and your child. Our level of expertise means that, should difficulties arise, we will know how to address them.

We always take great care to support clients throughout issues involving children as we know that it can be a difficult and uncertain time. You will always be able to speak to us to raise any queries you have and we will offer you all the help we can.

We hold Law Society accreditation in respect of Family Law Advanced for our experience and skills handling complex family cases, including adoptions.

Get in touch with our single parent adoption solicitors

Contact our adoption solicitors today to book your free 1-hour consultation and discuss your case with an expert member of our team.

Or complete our simple online enquiry form and someone will be in touch shortly.

The adoption process explained

Can I adopt a child?

The vast majority of adults can adopt a child. In the UK, we recognise that any “type” of family is capable of raising a child with love, care and sensitivity, regardless of your marital status, racial, ethnic or religious background, disability, sexual orientation or gender, employment status, or whether you already have children. Having health issues also will not exclude you from adopting, although the local authority or agency will need to take into consideration your ability to raise a child.

At Crisp & Co, we encourage all prospective adopters. It is an admirable thing to adopt a child, particularly where they may come from a troubled background of abuse or neglect. We have particular expertise advising LGBT+ couples and the specific legal issues which affect you and your family.

Can anything stop me from adopting?

You cannot adopt if:

  • You are under 21 years old
  • You are not a legal resident of the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man or you have been a legal resident for less than 12 months
  • You are a UK resident but you do not reside in the UK
  • You have a criminal conviction or caution for offences against children or serious sexual offences (other convictions or cautions will not automatically exclude you from adoption but the agency or local authority will take this into consideration during your assessment)

Local authority or independent voluntary adoption agency?

To adopt in the UK, you must be assessed and approved by a local authority or an independent voluntary adoption agency.

As their name suggests, independent voluntary adoption agencies are voluntary Ofsted-registered organisations who are authorised to assess and approve prospective adoptive parents. There are around 45 registered independent voluntary adoption agencies in the UK.

The only major difference between a local authority and independent voluntary adoption agency is voluntary agencies do not care for children themselves. They only match prospective adopters with children, including children in local authority care. Local authorities on the other hand do have children in their care.

It is always worth shopping around for your ideal local authority or agency and choosing the one you feel most comfortable with and welcomed by.

The adoption process - initial checks

The local authority or agency must assess whether you and your family are suitable to adopt before matching you with a child. Once you have decided which agency or authority you want to go with, you should register your interest ready to undergo some initial checks. This part of the process should take about 2 months

Some agencies also offer pre-registration meetings - informal meetings to discuss the process - so check whether this is something your agency offers before registering as it can give you a good idea of whether you will work well together.

To register your interest, the agency will gather basic information about your family such as:

  • Your names and dates of birth
  • Your income and occupations
  • Your health
  • The names and contact details for three referees, two of whom must be unrelated to you
  • Information about the child you hope to adopt

The agency will also require a medical report from your GP and a criminal background check (DBS).

The agency will review all this information and decide whether you can continue to the next stage of the process. If they decide you are unsuitable to adopt, they must provide their decision in writing with reasons.

If you are successful at this stage, you may take a break before the next stage of the process for up to six months. This time can help you address life issues and prepare for the possibility of welcoming a child, such as moving house or changing employment.

The adoption process - preparation groups

Your agency will probably invite you to attend preparation groups with other prospective adopters. These sessions will help you understand the responsibilities of adopting and the benefits and issues you could encounter.

The adoption process - assessment and approval

The second stage of the adoption process should take around four months. During this time, you will be assessed to decide whether you are suitable to adopt and trained to ensure you are prepared to take in an adopted child-

Part of this assessment will be an "at home" study = visits by a social worker to get to know your family and see where your child will be living.

Your adoption application will then be reviewed by an independent adoption panel which you will probably be invited to attend. You will then either be approved or rejected for adoption.

Once you have been approved, your agency will start searching for the right child for you. This should take around 6-12 months but this time could be shorter or longer depending on individual circumstances.

Finalising the adoption

Unfortunately, bringing your new child home is not the end of the adoption process. To make the adoption legally binding, you must apply to court for an Adoption Order. If adopting your child from care, they must live with you for at least 10 weeks before you can apply for an order.

Once the adoption is finalised, you get the same rights as if you were their birth parent and the birth parents of the child will lose their parental responsibility (the right to make decisions about the child’s upbringing).

How do I adopt my stepchild?

You can apply for an Adoption Order to adopt your stepchild. You must tell your local authority that you intend to apply to adopt your stepchild at least three months before making the application and the child must have lived with you and your partner for at least six months.

You will have to go through an adoption assessment as if you were adopting through an agency (as set out in the section above). However, it will be the court that reviews your assessment and makes a decision about the adoption rather than an independent adoption panel.

The granting of an Adoption Order will take parental responsibility away from your stepchild’s other birth parent (your partner’s ex-partner). Therefore, if they are still involved in the child’s life, there is a risk they will oppose your application. We can help you deal with these issues if they arise, including representing you at family court if necessary.

How do I adopt my foster child?

Fostering to adopt can prevent a child being moved between foster carers while adoptive parents are being found. It is most appropriate where a child is being taken into care and the local authority thinks there is little likelihood of them being able to return to their birth parents or any other family members.

To foster to adopt you must be an approved foster carer and approved adoptive parent (referred to as a dually approved carer). You may already be a foster carer but it is also common for a local authority to approve prospective adopters as foster carers for a specific child.

The court will then need to consider whether adoption is in the child’s best interests. Unfortunately, in some situations adoption does not work out even after the child has been placed with you, for example, because a previously absent family member has come forward to care for the child. For this reason, you should think carefully about whether you can manage the uncertainty fostering to adopt can bring. 

How do I adopt a child from abroad?

Our team includes international adoption solicitors who can help you adopt a child from overseas. Adopting a child from abroad is more difficult than adopting within the UK but it may be possible if:

  • There is no way the child can be cared for safely in their own country
  • The adoption is in their best interests

You must also be assessed by an adoption agency for your suitability to adopt (the process is set out above). There are also several extra steps, including:

  • Your assessment and application will be reviewed by an adoption authority in the child’s country
  • You will have to visit the child in their country