Understanding adoption

Adoption is the legal process by which children who can no longer be cared for by their birth family, formally and permanently join another family.

Understanding adoption: Claire's story

The process of adoption

When social workers feel that adoption is in the best interests of the child, the local authority will apply to the family court for a placement order, which allows them to seek an adoptive family for the child. Sometimes children are placed for adoption at the request of, or in agreement with, their birth parents, but often children are placed following court processes that remove parental rights and responsibilities from their birth parents.

When an adoptive family is found and the child is placed with them, there is a period of settling in when the local authority continues to share parental responsibility with the adoptive parents, and social workers will regularly visit the family. After a minimum of ten weeks (thirteen weeks in Scotland), adoptive parents can apply to court for the adoption order.

When the adoption order is granted, the adoptive parents become the child’s legal parents, with the same rights and responsibilities as if they were born to them. This is therefore a lifelong commitment of love, care and acceptance to the child.

Children who need adopting

Every child placed for adoption will have a unique set of experiences that will shape their understanding and identity. All have experienced a level of trauma and separation, even children who have been in foster care from birth. Many will have had an unsettled or chaotic start in life, and may have suffered neglect or abuse in their early months and years. All of this will affect each child throughout their life, in different ways at different times.

Very few babies are waiting to be adopted. The majority of children placed for adoption are between the ages of one and seven. Occasionally older children will be adopted, but it is often felt that a long-term foster placement is better able to provide the stability they need.

The children who wait the longest for their adoptive family are usually over the age of four, are of black or minority ethnic heritage, or have complex or additional needs or health issues.

In many cases, social workers will be keen to place sibling groups for adoption together, and there is a particular need for adoptive families able to care for siblings.

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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