The adoption process is lengthy, rigorous and highly regulated. David Connor discusses the main issues potential adopters should be aware of.

Adoption gives children who can’t be raised by their own parents a new family by permanently transferring parental responsibility for the child to the adoptive parents.

Once granted, an adoption order is irreversible, except in highly exceptional circumstances, and severs all legal ties between adopted children and their birth parents.

In effect, adopted children become full members of their new family and usually take the family name of their adoptive parents.

Parental responsibility encompasses all the rights and responsibilities of a parent in relation to their adopted child, including making decisions about education and healthcare.

The need to think carefully about adoption

The first step is to decide if adoption is right for you by reading widely about the subject and getting advice about the many issues you will face during what will be a long and often challenging journey.

It’s helpful speak to people who have adopted, as well as attending an information meeting with an adoption agency.

If you are certain adoption is the route you want to take, you will be asked to fill in an application form to start the process.

Checks, registration and referees

Attending preparation classes will give you advice on the wide-ranging effects adoption can have on you and your family.

You will also be subject to initial checks, including a DBS check, and you may be excluded from adoption if you or a family member has been convicted of a serious office, including against a child.

Referees are also required to give an in-depth personal statement and you will need to have a full medical examination. This first stage of the process normally takes about two months.

Period of training and assessment

Next you will take part in training and assessment, which usually lasts about four months and involves working with a social worker who will carry out a detailed, formal assessment.

This is sent to an independent adoption panel whose members will make a recommendation to the adoption agency about your suitability as a potential adopter.

You can attend and ask the panel questions, as well as responding to any questions they have for you. If the agency decides you cannot adopt, you can challenge the decision through the Independent Review Mechanism.

Matching adopters with children

Once the agency has decided you are a suitable adopter, it will refer you to a service that matches parents with the many children waiting for permanent homes. Your assessment document will be used to consider whether you have the potential to meet the needs of a particular child or sibling group.

When a placement is agreed, you will be expected to attend ongoing meetings to make certain everyone involved is fully and appropriately supported.

A number of introductory sessions will take place, at which adoptive parents meet and become familiar with the child. The number of meetings is determined by the child’s age and specific needs. This transition process usually takes around one to four weeks.

Implications of the court order

A requirement of an adoption application is for the child to have lived with the prospective adopters for at least 10 weeks.

Once an adoption order has been made, the child acquires the same rights they would enjoy if they were the birth children of the adoptive parents, including inheritance rights.

The final stage of the legal process involves the General Register Office issuing an adoption certificate to replace the child’s original birth certificate. This is used in the same way as a birth certificate.

Food for thought

The process of adopting a child is rarely straightforward and should be considered in great depth by everyone involved. It is also important to remember that, although an adoption order severs all legal ties with a child’s birth family, it does not stop the child making contact with them in later life.

The assessment process is designed to help you and the professionals involved consider all of these issues and decide if adoption is right for you.

For further advice on adopting a child, or any other family law matter, call David Connor on 01706 225621 or email him at