1. Express an interest
To make an initial enquiry fill out our online form. Alternatively you can contact a voluntary adoption agency.
2. The information meeting
After your initial enquiry, the adoption agency may ask you to an information meeting where you can meet and chat with social workers and adoptive parents. The adoptive parents can tell you first hand about adopting a child - the challenges and rewards. And the social workers will be happy to answer any questions you have about what happens or about the children who need permanent new homes.
3. The initial visit
A social worker will arrange to meet with you. This meeting gives you an opportunity to find out a lot more about what will happen if you decide to go ahead. The social worker will also discuss with you what you want out of adoption and what you feel you can offer a child.
4. Making an application
If you decide to go ahead you will need to fill in an application form. You will be asked to give permission for checks to be made by the police and local authority. Having checks made on you may sound daunting. But it's worth remembering that agencies have to carry out these checks to rule out anyone who has committed a serious crime, such as violence or offences against children.
5. Preparation, assessment and training
If your application is accepted you will begin a longer period of preparation, assessment and training, working in partnership with your social worker. Preparation is a time when you find out about adoption in a lot more details, and do some very important thinking about making a lifetime commitment to a child. Part of the agency's job is to give you a lot of information about adoption, including the sorts of children available in your area.
You have a crucial role to play at this time. These weeks are a chance for you to take a very honest look at what you want out of adoption and what you can offer a child waiting for adoption (many of whom can be very demanding). You will have time to think about all the important issues. What are the needs of an adoptive child? What are your strengths and weaknesses as an adoptive parent likely to be? Can you make the sort of commitment that will really make a difference to a child's life?
While you are learning about adoption from the agency, the agency will begin to assess your suitability to adopt by building up a thorough profile of you. This is known as a home study. A social worker from the agency will make several visits to your home and ask you detailed questions about your own family background, your childhood, your present circumstances. If you are in a couple the social worker will want to see you individually and together. You will also have to have a full medical examination with your own GP, and you will asked to provide two personal referees.
The home study is demanding, it can feel intrusive and it will take several months to complete. But there are good reasons why everything is explored in depth with you. Adoption is for life and the agency must be sure you are right for the role. Just as importantly, you must be certain you can make a success of it.
6. The home study report
At the end of the home study, you and the social worker will work together to produce a home study report. The report includes a detailed assessment of you as a potential adoptive parent, along with the results of the medical, police and local authority checks and your personal referees. A key part of the report is for you to decide what sort of child or children you could adopt. Could you, for example, look after a child with a physical or learning difficulty? What age range would you consider? And how many children could you take?
7. The adoption panel
The home study report goes forward to an adoption panel - a group of social workers, other professionals and independent people. Your social worker will attend to answer any questions from panel members. You may be asked to go along. Once they have considered the report, the panel will recommend whether or not you should be approved as an adoptive parent. Remember 94% of people who get this far are approved.
Based on the panel's recommendations, the agency will then decide whether or not to approve you within about a week of the panel sitting.
8. Matching you to a child
Once you are approved, the agency will begin to consider whether there are children waiting for adoption locally who might be a suitable match for you. In some cases an agency may already have children in mind for you and this process would start more quickly (but not until you've been approved). Your agency will begin the matching process by looking at the profile of children you have been approved to adopt by the adoption panel.
Once a child or children have been identified as possibly suitable for you, you will be given full information about their background and, if you want to proceed, you will meet the child or children. If you all agree, and after a gradual process of introduction, your adoptive child or children will come to live with you and become part of your new family. Remember, you are not on your own now - the adoption agency will be able to offer you support and advice after placement, and will be responsible for keeping in touch with you until the adoption is finalised. You should talk to your social worker about what adoption support services are available in your area. Your child may also need to keep links with their birth family, and this will be fully discussed with you before you decide to go ahead.
When your adoptive child has successfully settled down in your family, you will be able to apply to the court for an adoption order to be made. Once the order is made, all rights and responsibilities originally held by his birth parents transfer to you.