The adoption assessment process

Making sense of the application and assessment.

Below is a basic overview of the process to become an adoptive parent. If you are considering adoption, we would love to journey with you and share extra resources and information. Fill in the form at the bottom of the page to get in touch.

Step 1: Enquiry

Make an enquiry with your local authority (or Health and social services trust in Northern Ireland) or a voluntary adoption agency (VAA). You can make a number of enquiries to receive information about each one, and even have visits from social workers to find out more, so that you can make an informed decision about where to apply.

Home for Good works with a range of local authorities and VAAs on our Pathway to Adoption and we would love to connect you with those in your area. Find out more.

Step 2: Application

Complete the application form required by your chosen local authority or VAA. Application forms are usually quite in-depth and will require a range of information about you and your family, and you will also need to provide details of three or four people who are willing to act as references for you.

Step 3: Preparation

Social workers will take up your references and will also run additional checks, such as a DBS (police) check and an employment check. They may also need to take up additional references from previous employers if you have ever worked with children. You will need to have a medical, probably with your own GP, and you will take part in initial preparation training, usually over a few days.

All of these checks and references are a legal requirement and need to be completed before you can begin the assessment.

Step 4: Assessment

Following the checks, references and training, the assessment will continue with a number of home visits from a social worker where you will discuss a wide variety of subjects. They may also want to talk to other close members of your family, including any birth children you have, if this is age-appropriate.

The purpose of these conversations is to establish your suitability to care for vulnerable children, to consider your strengths and weaknesses, identify any training needs, explore your support network, and to ensure you have the emotional and practical capacity to be an adoptive parent. All of this information will be compiled into a report by your assessing social worker.

Step 5: Approval

Your report will be presented to the adoption panel, a group of professionals from healthcare and social work backgrounds and independent people who have experience of adoption. The panel members will read your report in full before they meet to discuss it, and you will be invited to attend the panel with your assessing social worker.

The panel will decide whether to recommend you for approval as an adoptive parent, and this recommendation is then passed to the head of the adoption service, who makes the final decision.

Step 6: Matching

The matching process (sometimes called family-finding) is to find the child or children that you are best able to support. Your social worker will consider children’s profiles and share with you those they feel could be a possible match. As an approved adopter, there are also ways you can explore potential matches, but you should consider whether this is appropriate for you.

Sometimes matches are found quickly and adopters can be matched within just a few weeks of approval panel, but more often this process will take months and can even be years.

When a match is identified it will need to be presented to another adoption panel for approval, and this panel usually meets in the area where the child or children is currently living with foster carers.

The assessment process was very involving and at times felt intrusive, but we knew that it had to be as our social worker needed to ensure we could offer a safe, secure and loving home to our future children. Over the weeks we got to know our social worker very well, and we did our best to complete paperwork as quickly as possible, which he said was really helpful in keeping things moving. All in all, it was a positive experience as we learned so much about each other, and felt so much more prepared to be parents by the end of it.

Helen, Adoptive parent

The assessment should take around six to eight months to complete and it can feel very intense at times. Social workers need to be thorough for the sake of the vulnerable children that you may be welcoming into your family. If you would like support or prayer at any point through the assessment process, please call our enquiry team on 0300 001 0995.

If you are considering adoption, we would love to help you explore this further. Contact us through the form below or call our enquiry line on 0300 001 0995 and one of our team will be pleased to talk with you.

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