Information on finding out more about adoption and contacting your local agency.
Find and contact an agency
If you are thinking about adopting a child, you need to contact an agency in your local area to begin the process. This could be your local authority adoption agency or a voluntary adoption agency.
Take your time to talk to as many agencies as possible and gather as much information as you can, to help you decide which one is best for you. When you enquire, you may find that some agencies are not currently recruiting adoptive families for the type of child you feel able to care for, whilst this may not be the case when you make enquiries to another agency. Bear in mind that you cannot be assessed by more than one agency at the same time.
At this stage, you may be visited by a social worker or you may be invited to a brief meeting where you will receive general information about adoption. They will usually ask you a few questions about yourself, your family and your home. They will also ask if you have any thoughts about the child or children you hope to adopt in terms of age group, gender and ethnicity. This will give you the opportunity to find out more about adoption and begin to decide whether it is right for you, at this time in your life.
If you and the agency agree that you might be suitable to adopt, you will be asked to complete a formal application form. When your application is approved, the assessment process really begins. This can take up to eight months, sometimes longer, so be prepared to be patient.
Along each step of the process, your adoption agency is required to respond to you promptly and keep you fully informed. If you are not happy with any aspect of the process, you should speak to your social worker in the first instance and, following that, the social worker’s manager, or the director of the agency if you are still not satisfied. Every local authority and voluntary adoption agency is required to have a complaints procedure in place, which you can use if you feel unhappy with the service you have received.
If you do not feel that adoption is right for you, you can stop at any stage during the process.
Local authority adoption agencies are usually based in the children’s services, social services or social work department of your local authority or neighbouring authority. There are over 200 local authority or government agencies in the UK.
Voluntary adoption agencies usually specialise in both adoption and fostering. The majority are smaller than local authorities but they often cover a wider geographical area. Most voluntary adoption agencies have charitable status.
If you are thinking about adopting, you will usually be invited to attend an information meeting held by your local authority or adoption agency. Here you will learn more about the practicalities of adopting, and get the opportunity to meet others involved in the process, such as foster carers, adoptive parents, and often some adopted adults themselves. This will give you a chance to really think about whether adoption is right for you, and if you are ready to embark on the process.
The five main people involved in the process of adoption are:
- The child
- The prospective adopters
- The local authority adoption team or voluntary adoption agency team involved in assessing the prospective adopters, including the adopters’ link worker
- The local authority responsible for the child
- The child’s birth parents or legal guardians.
The child’s local authority remain responsible for the child until they are legally adopted.
Other people involved include:
- The children’s guardian (England and Wales) or curator ad litem (Scotland), who acts on behalf of the child and represents the child’s interests in all court proceedings
- The reporting officer who independently appointed by the court when a birth parent wishes to consent to an adoption order. The role of the reporting officer is to ensure that birth parents fully understand the legal implications of their consent to adoption. In England a CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service) officer must formally witness a birth parent’s consent to adoption.
To find out more about the legal process of adoption and the people involved visit HM Courts Service or www.cafcass.gov.uk.