Adoption is the legal process through which a child becomes a full, permanent member of a new family. The adoptive parents become the child’s legal parents, with the same rights and responsibilities as for a birth child. Sometimes children are placed for adoption at the request of, or in agreement with their birth parents. Often children are placed following court processes which remove parental rights and responsibilities from their birth parents.
To be adopted, a child must be under 18 and not married or in a civil partnership.
Who can adopt?
There is a perception that there is a long list of factors that prevent people from adopting – this isn’t the case! What is important is your ability to provide a loving home to a child and give them the time and commitment they need.
> You need to be aged 21 or over. There is no upper age limit, as long as you’re healthy enough and are expected to have the energy needed throughout their childhood.
> Both single and married people can adopt.
> People of all faiths or no faith can adopt.
> You don’t have to own your own house.
> People on benefits can adopt.
It is important to realise that adoption is not for everyone. That’s why the assessment process is so important, as social workers are very experienced and know what is needed. You shouldn’t just see the process as an assessment of you – it’s also an opportunity for you to decide whether adoption is for you.
Which children are waiting for adoption?
There are approximately 4,000 children waiting for adoption in the UK. The majority of these have been removed from chaotic, traumatic, neglectful or abusive situations. Therefore, it’s important that potential adopters are aware of the challenges this may bring. It’s also why training is a crucial part of the assessment process and it’s important to ask questions about post-adoption support when choosing your adoption agency.
Very few babies are waiting to be adopted. The majority of the children waiting are between the ages of one and six. After this age, they will usually be placed in long-term foster placements. There is currently a particular need for adoptive parents for older children, sibling groups, children with additional needs or health or developmental issues, and children from ethnic minorities.