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Child Adoption

Maya Angelou

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour, and some style.”

Adopting a child can be a rewarding but potentially challenging experience. You may be offering to share your home with, and become the legal parent of, a child who has been unable to live with its birth parents, for reasons which might include not being able to offer a home because an assessment has been made concluding these birth parents are unable to care for the child themselves.

Whatever the circumstances, the birth parents, if able, will have to consent to an adoption in the event a Family Court has not already made a declaration that adoption is in the child’s best interests.

It is important to note from the outset what is required within the process and whether there are any restrictions which might prevent you from legally adopting. You may be able to adopt a child if you’re aged 21 or over. It does not matter whether you are married or in a civil partnership, are an unmarried couple, single or indeed the partner of a child’s existing parent. A potential adopter does not need to be a British Citizen but must have a permanent settled home in the United Kingdom and have lived here for 12 months or more before the application process is started. Any child you are seeking to adopt must be under the age of 18 when the adoption application is made to court and must not have been married or in a civil partnership themselves.

Rules differ depending on whether you are seeking to pursue a private adoption via an agency or otherwise, and adoptions of children looked after by the local authority in which they reside. You can contact either a local authority or adoption agency to start the adoption process; they will send you information and arranged to meet with you if you decide to proceed with a formal application.

How long will it take?

If you do, then the process may take six months or more. It will include an assessment of your application following some preparatory work including backgrounds checks with the police and other relevant agencies to establish you are a suitable candidate, several meetings with an allocated social worker who will conduct interviews with you, as well as a medical assessment.

Once the assessment is complete, your social worker will prepare a report that is submitted to an independent panel of experienced adoption practitioners who will make a recommendation to the adoption agency with which you are involved. They will then make the decision and if they declare you suitable to adopt a child, they will take the necessary steps to match you with a child to adopt, and refer you to the appropriate adoption service for England and Wales which hold details of children available for adoption.

Challenging the decision

There is a right to challenge the decision if the adoption agency rejects your application.

When you have been matched with a child, then provided the child has lived with you for 10 weeks or more you will be able to apply to court for an Adoption Order to grant you Parental Responsibility, providing the child with the same rights as though they had been your own child from birth. The process will differ slightly if you are seeking to adopt your partner’s own child. In any event, you must have lived with your partner and child for at least six months before commencing the process. If you are in any doubt about your ability to adopt a child, then you should seek assistance as soon as you decide to take the first step.

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Seek further advice regarding child adoption from our expert Child Law team today.

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