The Adoption Process
Emma Armstrong explains the adoption process and the things to consider if you are thinking about adopting a child.
What is adoption?
Adoption is the process of transferring parental responsibility from one or both parents to someone else.
Parental Responsibility is all of the rights and responsibilities that a parent has in respect of a child. For example, the ability to make a decision as to which school a child will attend or decisions concerning healthcare.
An adoption order cuts all legal ties between an adopted child and one or both of their birth parents and creates a new legal relationship between a child and their adoptive parent(s).
As well as adopting a child who is not within the family, step-parents are also able to adopt their partner’s child.
An Adoption Order is a permanent decision and cannot be reversed at a later date, unless there are highly exceptional circumstances.
How does the adoption process work?
In order to be adopted, a child must be under the age of 18 when the adoption application is made and must not be (or have never been) married or in a civil partnership.
The child’s birth parents normally have to agree to the adoption, unless;
- They cannot be found
- They are incapable of giving consent e.g. due to a mental disability or
- The child would be placed at risk if they were not adopted.
The very first stage in the adoption process is working out if adoption is for you. This includes reading up about the adoption process and speaking to an experienced advisor to ascertain the difficulties and hurdles that you may face during your journey.
It is also useful to speak to people who have gone through the adoption process before. You should attend an information meeting with an adoption agency and an advisor will be able to answer any questions about the adoption process that you have.
If, after considering all of the factors you think that adoption is the right thing for you, then you will be asked to complete an application form to begin the adoption process.
Stage 1 of the adoption process
Initial checks and registration
Once you fill out the application form, you will be invited to a series of preparation classes to provide you with advice on the adoption process and the effect that adoption may have on you and your family.
As part of the initial checks you will be subject to a DBS check. If you or an adult member of your family has been convicted of a serious office, e.g. against a child, you may not be allowed to adopt.
You will also have to provide the names of referees who will provide a personal reference and you may have to undergo a full medical examination.
Provided that everything is satisfactory in this stage, then you can progress to stage 2 of the adoption process. Stage 1 of the adoption process usually takes around two months, but could take longer if the checks and references are delayed.
Stage 2 of the adoption process
Training and Assessment
Stage 2 of the adoption process usually lasts around 4 months, during which time you will be assessed to determine whether you are suitable to become an adopter.
During your training and assessment, you will be required to work with your allocated social worker to complete the assessment.
Once the assessment is concluded, it is passed on to an independent adoption panel who will make a recommendation about you as a potential adopter to the adoption agency.You are able to ask questions of the panel and you have the opportunity to respond to any questions that they have.
If the agency decides that based on the recommendation, you are not able to adopt, then it is possible to challenge the decision by using the Independent Review Mechanism which will then look into and review your case.
Stage 3 of the adoption process
Matching with the right child
If the agency decides that you are suitable to be an adopter then they will usually refer you to a service which helps to match children who are waiting to find permanent homes. An example of this is Adoption Match, whose website can be found here http://www.adoptionmatch.org.uk/.
If the local authority or adoption agency are considering a local match then they may not refer you.
Stage 4 of the adoption process
Once the placement is agreed, there will be further meetings to ensure that everyone receives the appropriate support.
There will also be a series of introductions when you meet the child and start to get to know them; the length of this will depend on the child’s age and needs.
Stage 5 of the adoption process
Making an application to the Court
To make an adoption legal, you need to apply to the court for an adoption order.
A child must have lived with you for at least 10 weeks before you apply.
Once an order is made, the child has the same rights as if they were your own birth child, for example the right of inheritance.
Most applications for adoptions orders are done at a Family Court.
If the application is successful then the General Register Office will create an adoption certificate which replaces the original birth certificate.
A decision to adopt a child is one that should be considered very carefully. Although an adoption order cuts all legal ties with a child’s birth parents it does not prevent the child from seeking their birth family in the future.
If you require any further advice on adoption or the adoption process then please contact a member of the family team.
About the Author
Emma is a Solicitor in the firm's Family team.
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