What is adoption?

Adoption enables people without children to become parents and it helps people with children to expand their family.  Adoption is a way of providing new families for children who cannot be brought up by their biological parents.

It’s a legal procedure in which all parental responsibility is transferred to the adopters.  Once an adoption order has been granted, it cannot be reversed.  An adopted child loses all legal ties with their birth parent(s) and becomes a full member of the adoptive family, usually taking the family’s name.

Read more about adoption here.

What is the difference between Local Authority’s and Voluntary Adoption Agencies?

The main difference between a local authority and adoption agency is that local authorities have children who are waiting to be adopted, whereas adoption agencies do not. This means that local authorities will prioritise the types of families in their local area that they need for the children in their care and may approach their families first when identifying a family for a child.

Adoption agencies assess a diverse range of adopters from across the UK. They then work in partnership with local authorities to widen the choice of families available to their children. At Adopters for Adoption, we have excellent links with local authorities across the UK and have been successful in bringing children and families together.

It’s crucial that you feel comfortable with your adoption agency and that you choose the agency which feels right for you.

Read more about our agency

What is the difference between adoption and fostering?

When you foster a child, you are caring for them on behalf of the local authority and the birth parents. You have no legal rights or responsibilities in respect of the child. It is usually a temporary arrangement, although some fostering placements can be long-term.

When you adopt a child you become their legal parent. This is permanent and the child has exactly the same legal status in your family as any other family member, which continues throughout their lifetime.

If you are considering fostering, you may like to visit the fostering pages on the Polaris Community website. 

What if I'm currently with another agency and would like to withdraw?

Prospective adopters can only be registered with one agency at a time. Therefore, if you are in the adoption process with another agency, we would not be able to accept an application from you until you had formally withdrawn from them. We would advise you to speak to your current agency about why you might wish to leave them before doing so. There would be a requirement for us to contact your previous agency.

Read more about why you should adopt with Adopters for Adoption

How much does adoption cost?

Once the adoption order has been granted, the adoptive parents take on complete financial responsibility for the upkeep of the child.  Some local authorities provide financial support dependent on the needs of the child; this is called an adoption allowance.  Like any other parents, you’ll be able to receive Child Benefit and other state benefits. An adoption support fund may also be available for children with additional therapeutic needs based on assessment by the Local Authority.

It’s free to be assessed as adopters and it is illegal for any agency to make a profit from adoption.

Read more on adoption support here

How long does the adoption process take?

The adoption process is divided into two stages. In stage one, a range of references and checks are undertaken and we aim to complete these within two months. After this, prospective adopters can take a break or proceed to stage two, which involves an in depth assessment and should normally take four months. You must ensure that you have enough time and flexibility to attend meetings with your social worker and to undertake the preparation training. Stage two results in an assessment report being presented to the adoption panel, which you are invited to attend and ends with a decision made by the agency decision maker about your suitability to adopt.

Once approved as adopters, the matching process begins. We’re unable to put a timescale on this part of the process as it will depend on the child’s needs and your preferences. If you work, you will need to have some time available during the matching process and introductions, you also need to take time off in order to settle a child into your family.

There are frequent visits and lots of support offered during a period of introductions and after a child has been placed in your family. Once a child has settled into your family, you can apply to the court to adopt them. When the court grants the Adoption Order, you receive an adoption certificate and are given full parental responsibility for your child.

Read more about the adoption process

How many references will I need to provide?

You will need to supply contact details for six personal referees. If you are applying as a couple, this should include one family member referee and two non-related referees each. If you are a single person, this should include two family referees and four non-related referees.

You should have known the non-related referees for at least two years and we recommend they are people who know you well on a personal level, preferably having spent time with you in the company of children. All of your referees will be asked to complete a written reference, and your social worker will select which three of your referees to visit.

Read more about checks and references as part of the adoption process

Will you need to contact my ex-partner?

There is a requirement to make every effort to contact a previous partner when you have been involved in caring for a child together. At Adopters for Adoption, we also believe it is important to seek references from any significant previous partner, whether or not you cared for children together, unless there is a good reason not to do so.

We are aware that not all relationships will have ended well. Adoption assessors are used to speaking with previous partners and working out what is and isn’t relevant to the assessment.

I haven’t had any contact with my ‘ex- partner’, what alternative details can I provide for the reference?

We’d take any details that you could provide for us and then we’d need to have a further chat regarding the following:

  • Did you live together?
  • How long was the relationship?
  • Did you have children together?
  • Why the relationship ended?
  • Is there someone else who can provide information about your relationship?


We’d then make a decision about whether further efforts are needed to find you’re ‘ex’, and discuss this with you.

Why do I need training?

Some children needing adoption have been abused, either physically or sexually, many will have been neglected and haven’t been given love or care. All will have experienced changes and uncertainty. As a result, children may be confused, fearful or angry about what’s happening to them. They will need a great deal of love and attention to help them adjust to a stable family life. Our training will help you to understand and meet their potential needs.

Why do I need childcare experience?

Childcare experience is very important: the more experience you can gain during the adoption process and before being matched with a child, the better prepared you are likely to be for adoptive parenting. Many people will have the opportunity to gain childcare experience through caring for the children of family and friends and this should include having sole care of a child or children, including overnight stays if possible. You can also gain experience beyond your immediate family or friends by volunteering, for example in nurseries, pre-schools or toddler groups.

Where will panel be held?

Panel will be held at our office in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire which you’ll be invited to attend.

Read more about panel as part of the adoption process

What is the ‘Adoption Register’?

The adoption register is an online database that stores the details of children waiting to be adopted where their own local authority has not found the right adoptive family to match them. Similarly the database holds the details of approved adopters who are waiting to be matched with the right child for them. There is a team of experienced database operators who work alongside a family placement social worker. Together they look at the information on the database to see whether they can suggest possible matches between children and approved adopters who are waiting.

Read more about searching for a child

Can I adopt a child from another country?

Yes it’s possible to do this. However we recommend that you contact First4Adoption on http://www.first4adoption.org.uk who will recommend which agency you need to approach as we’re not registered for international adoptions. You could also contact the overseas adoption helpline (see www.icacentre.org.uk).

Do I have to have contact with my adopted child’s birth parents?

Adopted children need to know and understand their history and that the facts about their adoption are not kept secret from them. It’s important to help children make sense of what happened in the past and to help them remember important people who were involved earlier in their lives. This can include birth parents, grandparents, siblings or foster carers. Being open with the child about their birth family is important to help them develop a strong sense of identity and may help them integrate into their new adoptive family. Contact can be arranged through a letterbox exchange scheme managed by the local authority and addresses are kept confidential. Ongoing face to face contact with birth parents is rare, face to face contact between siblings is more likely to happen.

There is a detailed section on contact on the First4Adoption website: https://www.first4adoption.org.uk

Who can’t adopt?


You cannot legally adopt in the UK if you are aged under 21. If it is your dream to adopt, please don’t give up; do consider coming back in a few years.  There is no upper age limit.


You don’t have to be a British citizen to adopt a child, but to adopt in the UK you must be legally resident in the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man, and have been so for at least 12 months. You are unlikely to be matched with a child if you do not have Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK. If you do not have settled status, we would advise you to seek legal advice regarding your residency status, prior to making an adoption application.

Criminal record

If you or a member or your household have a criminal conviction or caution for offences against children or for serious sexual offences you will not be able to adopt. Other criminal offences will not automatically exclude you but will be taken into consideration during the assessment process, so please be open with us from the start.

I don’t have a spare bedroom. Can I still adopt?

We believe that every child deserves to have a space of their own. It is not unusual for birth children to share a bedroom, but is not considered to be appropriate for children who have not lived with you from birth.

Read more about how you can adopt

I’m planning some work on my house. Will this affect my assessment?

This will depend on the work you’re intending to do. We aim to be as flexible as possible, however it we would require any significant work to be completed prior to an application being accepted, so that you will be in a position to have a child placed with you once you are approved.

I have pets. Can I still adopt?

Yes, you can still adopt if you have pets. We recognise the value for children in being raised in a family that has pets. During stage one, we would carry out a pet assessment in order to consider any safety and compatibility issues.  We would need to be assured that you could make arrangements to rehome your pet in the unlikely event that your pet and any child placed were not compatible.

How much money do I need to have to adopt?

First and foremost, no one should be precluded from being considered as an adopter because of their income. However, we understand how stressful financial difficulties can be, therefore all prospective adopters have to be financially solvent, and possess sufficient money management (budgeting) skills to ensure that any child placed with them is going to have his or her material needs met without causing undue pressure on the family budget. As part of the stage one assessment, we ask prospective adopters to complete a finance statement, which is then evaluated by their social worker. The finance statement should include the anticipated additional cost of caring for a child, as well as any changes in your income during any period of adoption leave.

What if I have had or am having fertility treatment?

Whilst we have no hard and fast rules, as some agencies do, about how long you need to wait between the end of IVF treatment and pursuing adoption, we would need to be sure that you have emotionally come to terms with the end of that process. Everyone is different and people will process their feelings in a variety of ways. Some people will be ready and able to speak about adoption; others won’t yet have got to the point of accepting that they won’t be having a birth child. Fertility treatment would need to have stopped before being taken forward to the assessment.

Is it true that we need to use contraception if we want to adopt?

Children need adoptive parents who feel completely committed to them.  Once prospective adopters are approved and considering possible placements, they need to be able to focus on the children who may join them.

Some prospective adopters may have unexplained infertility and although it may be unlikely that they will fall pregnant, we would still advise them to use contraception to prevent a pregnancy. It would be really difficult for a child to be told that their social worker has found them new parents, only to then learn that they can’t go and live with them because there is another baby – or for this to happen shortly after the child is placed.  For this reason it is advisable that steps are taken to avoid a pregnancy.

If a pregnancy happens during the assessment process, the application could not continue, because the focus would inevitably be on the pregnancy. Therefore if you are coming into the adoption process we would expect that you are prepared to avoid a pregnancy.

I’m a smoker. Can I still adopt?

Smoking won’t necessarily rule you out from adopting. Consideration will be given to this and to all health and lifestyle related issues. We’ll want to know of any health risks to you or to the children who may be placed with you.

Following medical advice, our policy is that no children under the age of 5 or with a disability will be placed within a smoking household. Therefore, you would have to have given up smoking for at least six months before making an application to adopt. You could not be matched with a child under 5 years if you had not given up smoking for at least a year.

Adopters who smoke E-cigarettes are considered as ex-smokers and therefore can be approved for children aged 0 to 5. However, they should not use E-cigarettes in front of children.

I have had a physical illness and/or mental health difficulties. Can I still adopt?

As an adoptive parent, you will need to have energy and will be expected to give care and support for your adopted child throughout childhood and into young adulthood. During stage one, you will be required to have a medical to assess your physical and mental health as well as lifestyle issues such as weight, smoking and alcohol consumption. These issues may not be barriers to adoption but they could present health risks in the future. If you have resolved any problems with such issues in the past, we may consider that you have shown strength and motivation to deal with problems and this could enhance your application.

If you have had treatment for a serious illness, you may want to speak to your GP first about whether they feel this could impact on your ability to adopt a child. If you have experienced or are currently experiencing a mental health problem you would not automatically be ruled out as an adopter. We would need to carefully consider all the factors around the condition during stage one, before making a decision. For example, if you have suffered from depression in the past, our medical advisor will need to understand the circumstances that led to depression and be reassured that you will be sufficiently robust to cope with the inevitable stresses involved in adopting a child.  Some applicants have used medication, counselling and other therapies during stressful times in their lives, and we would look at how you have used your support network and your resilience. This would provide an indication of how you might manage future stress.

I’ve already adopted. What’s the difference in the process?

Depending on your particular circumstances, it may be possible to “fast-track” your assessment. This would involve undertaking stages one and two simultaneously.

Read more about stage two of the adoption process

I have children. Can I still adopt?

Already having an adopted, birth, step child or being a special guardian or a foster carer for a child (of any age) will certainly not exclude you from adopting, whether they are living at home with you or have grown up. Consideration will, however, be given to the age gap between your child and the age of the child you wish to adopt and the position of each child within the family.

Children over 18 will require a DBS check, as will any other adult member of your household.

Does the assessment process require me to have time off work?

You must ensure that you have enough time/ annual leave to attend meetings with your social worker and undertake the ‘Prep Training’.

Although we’ll make every effort to be flexible, you’ll need to have some time off work during the assessment and introduction processes. Read more about preparation training

We are a same sex couple. Can we adopt?

Yes – A change in law in December 2005 allowed adoption orders to be granted to unmarried couples including same sex couples.

Since that time adoption agencies have been able to openly recruit and assess lesbian and gay couples, as well as single adopters, there are many more LGBT adopters and the numbers continue to increase and the UK is now one of the world leaders in this respect.

There has been encouraging research recently into parenting by lesbian and gay adopters. This has helped to dispel myths and a recent UK study shows that:

•The quality of parent-child relationships is just the same when children are adopted by lesbian or gay couples compared to heterosexual couples.

•Children’s psychological development and wellbeing is just the same when children are adopted by lesbian or gay couples compared to heterosexual couples.

•Lesbian and gay adopters are more likely than heterosexual adopters to have come to adoption as their first choice.

•Lesbian and gay adopters felt well equipped to help children deal with difference and that children would have advantages growing up of being tolerant of difference in others.

•Adopted children of lesbian and gay parents don’t experience greater problems at school and in peer relationships compared to children of heterosexual parents, and bullying and teasing is rare.

At AFA we’re committed to seeing the potential in all applicants and we actively encourage enquiries from a diverse range of people.  We don’t make our decisions based on marital status, ethnicity, culture, age, health, disability, sexual orientation or religious beliefs but on your ability to offer a loving, stable home.

Is adoption right for me?

You may be gay or heterosexual, single or a couple, married, divorced, or living with a partner, you may already have children and feel that you still have space for another child in your family. If you feel that you can offer love and security to a child who has not had a great start in life then adoption may be the perfect way to build your family.

If you’re applying as a couple, it’s important that you’ve been living together for at least two years. All relationships are deeply affected by becoming parents, and yours needs to withstand the changes adoption will bring.

You can apply to adopt if you are unemployed or disabled, and whatever your cultural and religious background.

Children need families from all sorts of different backgrounds and we positively welcome applications from all sectors of the population.

It’s important to think about the timing of your application, as you will need to commit time and energy to the adoption process and you should be ready to begin the “matching” process by the time you attend adoption panel.

We would advise you to postpone your application if you are still trying other means of growing your family, if you have recently had a bereavement, or are planning on moving house or changing jobs. We’d also advise you make arrangements to gain childcare experience before, or very early in the application process.

We want to support you to be as ready as you can be for adoption and are happy to advise you on your particular circumstances.

How much information about the child will I receive?

Adopters should be given as much information about the child and their birth family as is available to help them make an informed decision.  This will also help the child understand the reasons why they were unable to remain with their birth family and why they were adopted.  This will include information on any health needs, the family circumstances of the child, their background and information about their birth parents.

We’re wholly committed to ensuring you have as much information as is possible so you can make informed decisions. You’ll know what we know, and we’ll help you ask the right questions of social workers if you need to. Read more about the  The Children That Need Adopting?

Should the child be told they are adopted?

Yes, but how and when a child is first told depends on the adopting family and the child’s level of understanding.  The general advice is that the earlier the child is told, the better. More information can be given as the child grows older and gains more understanding.

We’ll work with you through the process to give you all the information you’ll need to tell your child or children about their history.

Read more about life story work

Can I have any child I want?

To help children feel a ‘sense of belonging’ and to promote positive identity, we do our best to identify a family who can promote a child’s ethnicity, religion, language, social and cultural needs. We’ll work with you to ensure you’re aware of children who are waiting for adoption so you can find the child or children you have the love and skills to parent. There are lots of ways for you to find the child or children you want to adopt, and we’ll help you do this.

You don’t need to say yes to the first child or children that you may be approached about if you don’t feel they are right for you, there’ll be other children waiting who will be right for you.

Read more on searching for a child

What are the rights of the child's birth parents?

Birth parents can sometimes decide to have their child adopted.  These children are often babies, and are sometimes called ‘relinquished’ babies. The mother signs a document giving her agreement, and if the parents were married to each other when the child was born the father must give permission too.  The father should also be given the opportunity to propose alternatives to adoption; however this does not always happen.  ‘Relinquished’ children are relatively rare.

Most children are placed for adoption as a result of being removed from a situation which is no longer safe. They’ll sometimes be removed from their parents when they are born under a court order, or later on in their childhood. It’s the decision of the court that adoption is in the child’s best interest. The social worker has a duty to consult birth parents about the kind of family their child should be placed with, although they may not be able to carry out all of their wishes.  If the birth parents and adoptive parents wish to, they can have a meeting. This will be fully planned and you’ll be supported through this and many adopters tell us this was a very helpful meeting.

Birth parents are able to challenge the court’s decision to adopt a child right up until the granting of the adoption order.  Once the adoption order has been granted, the birth parents will no longer have any legal rights over the child. This is the point at which you become the child’s or children’s legal parents.

Read more about the children that need adopting

Should children continue to see their birth family?

Contact with birth families can help children to maintain links with their past which assists their emotional well-being.

Direct contact involves an adoptive child meeting with their birth parents face-to-face. While this can cause feelings of confusion and disappointment, they can have an important role to play in a child understanding their past. Most visits involve a social worker and take place in a neutral venue e.g. a local coffee shop. This is relatively rare and you’ll be able to decide if you feel this is something you want to consider during the assessment process.

Indirect contact/letterbox involves an adoptive child having access to letterbox contact. This can include the exchange of information through letters, cards, school reports etc. between the child and their birth parents. This contact will have been agreed prior to a child being placed for adoption. All information needs to ensure that it does not identify where the child lives etc. and is handled through a third party organisation. This is the most common form of post adoption contact.

What if a child wants to trace their birth parents?

Most adopted children are curious about their origins, but this does not mean that they do not love and care for their adoptive parents, so new parents should not feel threatened by this curiosity.  The Adoption and Children Act 2002 gave adopted people in England and Wales the right to see their birth certificates and know more about their origins when they reach the age of 18.  The original birth certificate gives the mother’s name, occupation, date of child’s birth and address at the time of birth. It may also give similar details about the father.

My question isn’t on this list

At Adopters for Adoption we believe that there is no such thing as a ‘silly question’ so please ask us anything you want to know about adoption.  We will probably be able to answer your query, but if we can’t we will do our best to find the answer for you. We would much rather that you ask us, rather than worry about something you’re not sure about.

You can contact us on 01527 573678, or by email: AfAAdmin@adoptersforadoption.com

Adopters for Adoption Limited, is registered company in England and Wales under company registration number 8689629, with the registered office - Malvern View, Saxon Business Park, Hanbury Road, Bromsgrove, Worcestershire B60 4AD.

© Adopters for Adoption 2023

Latest Coronavirus (COVID-19) information.Find out more.