At Crisp & Co, our adoption solicitors are here to help you expand and protect your family. However you want to adopt – for example, through a local authority or adoption agency, from abroad, or you want to adopt a step child or foster child – we have decades of combined experience successfully handling adoption cases on our clients’ behalves.
When it comes to adoption, obtaining expert advice is essential. You must follow a strict legal procedure and undergo a rigorous assessment process before you can be approved as an adoptive parent. That being said, adopting a child is one of the most rewarding things you can do and we will be delighted to assist you every step of the way.
Our adoption solicitors’ expertise
We can provide clear, practical advice in relation to all types of adoption and associated issues, including:
- Adopting through an independent voluntary adoption agency or a local authority
- Adopting children in care
- Fostering to adopt
- Adoption of relatives
- Adoption of stepchildren
- International adoption
- LGBTQIA adoption
We have successfully dealt with countless adoption cases and we understand how important this next big step in your life is. We will talk you through the entire process in detail, explaining any hurdles you could encounter and our recommendations for overcoming them. Our service includes:
- Advising on UK adoption laws, your eligibility to adopt, the process and your options for proceeding
- Supporting and guiding you through the assessment process
- Liaising with relevant parties such as the adoption agency, local authority, or the birth parents’ representatives
- Formalising the adoption by applying to court for an Adoption Order
- Support and advice once the adoption is finalised
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 LGBTQIA 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
Why choose Crisp & Co’s adoption lawyers?
At Crisp & Co, we are specialist family law solicitors serving individuals and families across the UK.
Our aim is to help our clients find positive solutions to a wide range of family law matters, navigating the legal and personal complexities with expertise.
Adoption is a highly emotive subject where ultimately the best interests of the child are central. However, we recognise that as prospective adoptive parents, this can be an incredibly stressful time for you. Therefore, we will take extra care to support you through the process, promoting your interests, and giving you clear advice about the likely outcome of your case.
We are Law Society accredited in Family Law Advanced for our experience and skills handling complex and high value family law cases, such as adoption cases with international elements.
We are also Lexcel accredited for our excellent client care and legal practice management.
Get in touch with our adoption solicitors today
How can we help?