Adoption

An adoption order is an order conferring parental responsibility for a child to the adopter(s) and at the same time operates to extinguish the parental responsibility which any person had for the child immediately before the making of an order. Once an adoption order is made the child is deemed to be the adopters' legitimate child. The relevant English statute governing adoption is the Adoption and Children Act 2002. This Act introduced the right for same sex couples and heterosexual cohabiting couples to adopt.

In order to adopt the adopter must have attained the age of 21 years and be domiciled in a part of the British Isles or has been habitually resident in the British Isles for a period of not less than one year ending with the date of the application (or if adopting as a couple, at least one of the couple must be so domiciled or both of the couple have been habitually resident in a part of the British Isles for a period of not less than one year ending with the date of the application).

Before any adoption process can start it is necessary for the proposed adopters to contact their social services and notify of their intention to adopt. They will be assessed and approved by their local authority or a voluntary adoption agency (the adoption agency). This will result in the production of what is known as a home study report. This can be a lengthy process and will include the provision of counselling and detailed information about the process to the proposed adopters. Various medical and criminal record checks have to be completed. The family's application to adopt will then go before the adoption panel.

Once the proposed adopters have been approved they can move on to identify a suitable child to adopt with the assistance of their social worker. It can take a long period of time for the matching process to conclude. The child's social worker will be heavily involved in assessing whether the proposed adoptive family are the right match for the specific child. Finally the matter will come back before the adoption panel to recommend whether there should be a match between the child and the family, followed by a formal application to the court for an adoption order.

Inter-country adoption
Adoption from abroad is a complex process. There are strict rules to follow and criminal offence may be committed if they are not. When the proposed adopters first contact their local authority they need to inform of their wish to apply to adopt a child from abroad. There would be a home study report and the matter will go before the adoption panel to make a recommendation as to whether or not the proposed adopters are suitable to adopt.

Once approved the adoption agency would send the application to the Department for Children, Schools and Families who in turn would check the application to satisfy themselves that the proposed adopters had been approved in accordance with UK law. A certificate of eligibility and suitability to adopt is issued and the relevant papers and certificate, suitably translated and notarised will be sent to the authorities in the country from which they wish to adopt.

Private home studies are illegal.

Adoption of a relative's or spouse's child
The law relating to the adoption of a relative's or spouse's child is complex. Adoptions of a relative's child from abroad are difficult and cannot be used to circumvent the immigration rules.