What is the adoption process in England and Wales?

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Adoption is the process of legally taking parental responsibility for a child that is not one’s own by birth. It provides love, affection and a home for a child in need, and it can transform the life of a child who is otherwise unable to live with the birth parents. According to the Adoption Leadership Board, there were 2,470 children waiting to be adopted in the UK as at the end of March 2017. Many people are put off adopting because of the misconceptions and the myths about the process, so it is useful to have information on the process and to know who may be eligible to adopt, how the process works in England and Wales, and how long the process would normally take.

An Overview

There are two pathways for adopting a child in England and Wales. The first is to go through an adoption agency that is part of your local council or to approach a voluntary adoption agency. The principal difference is that the local authorities have children in their care while the voluntary adoption agencies do not, but both organisations search for prospects to adopt children and they both prepare and support people who want to adopt children.

The voluntary agencies vary in their reach. Some limit their operations to the regions in which they are based while others have a national reach. They recruit prospective parents and match them with children in the care of local authorities and they get reimbursed for their costs by the local authorities. The adoption agencies are voluntary in the sense that they do not make profit on the services they render to prospective parents within the UK. Their services complement those of the local authorities whose responsibility it is to find homes for the children in their care. In Wales the longest serving adoption agency is St. David’s Children Society who have been operating for over 75 years and have placed over 2,000 children for adoption.

Who Can Adopt or Be Adopted?

A child must be under the age of 18 at the time the application for adoption is filed. The child must not be married, previously married or be in a civil partnership. To qualify to adopt a child, a person must be aged 21 or above. A prospective parent may be single, married or be a partner of the child’s parent. Unmarried couples of opposite or same sex and persons in a civil partnership also qualify to adopt.

Prospective parents of a child for adoption do not have to be British citizens but must have lived in the UK for at least 1 year prior to the commencement of the application process. Applicants must also have a fixed and permanent home in the UK, Isle of Man or the Channel Islands.

How the Process Works

Prospective parents who contact an adoption agency will receive an information pack explaining the process. A meeting will be arranged with the agency, and if a decision is taken to proceed with the process, they will be required to attend a preparation training, which is usually three days, during which the effects of adoption on the applicants will be explained.  After this course, the applicants are given an application in which to complete and return to the agency.

A social worker will pay multiple visits to the home of the applicants to assess their suitability to become adoptive parents. Applicants must also undergo a full medical examination and provide the names of 3 referees who can give a personal reference. Other checks are also completed such as employment, local authority and landlord (if applicable).

An independent adoption panel comprising of individuals with experience in adoption will evaluate the application and make a recommendation to the adoption agency. A decision will then be made by the agency on the suitability of an applicant to adopt a child. The approval process normally takes about 6 months after which a search will take place to find the right child for the family. If the outcome of the approval process is positive, the applicant will be referred to the National Adoption Service’s Wales Adoption Register, who hold the details of children across Wales needing adoption. If an application is declined, the applicant may challenge the decision of the agency in writing, requesting for a review or apply to other adoption agencies.

If you think you could provide a safe and loving home to a child then why not contact an adoption agency for further information and advice.