Couples that are unable to have children may consider adopting children. This is a way of creating a new family for children that are unable to be raised by their biological parents. Adoption is a legal procedure which transfers the parental responsibility to the adopters. Laws surrounding adoption vary from country to country and are governed by different organisations.

There is a range of different ways adoptions can come about. In some cases, people adopt children after a period of foster care. In other circumstances adoption may involve stepchildren, a relative, or a child already known to the adopter. Depending on legalities, it may be possible to adopt children from other counties.

Adoption in the UK

In the UK, the British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) is the leading organisation that oversees adoption agencies. Parents may seek to adopt a child through a local council agency, or a voluntary adoption agency. Generally, this is a two-stage process and it can take several months to complete.

Adoptive parents must be over 21 years of age and meet various criteria. There is no upper age limit that prevents adoption, rather adoption agencies are looking for perspective parents that have the mental and physical energy to meet the demands of raising a child(ren).

Typically medical assessments and police checks are preformed. Agencies will also check that you are financially able to support raising a child. If you have recently found out that you can’t have children or have undergone fertility treatment, most agencies recommend that you wait at least six months before considering adoption.

How the adoption process works in the UK

The adoption process can take up to six months or longer and there are several stages and a sequence of events that occur during this process:

Contact an agency: You can find a list of Voluntary Adoption Agencies in your area, or you can contact your local council agency. They will send you all the information you need about how the adoption process works.

Meet with an agency: When you are ready to take the next step the agency will organise a meeting. This is often in a group setting with other people also considering adoption.

Application form: If you are still interested in adopting you will be required to fill in an application form.

Preparation: Group classes are often held locally to provide information and advice on adoption and the impacts it may have. A social worker will visit also your home several times to conduct an assessment and determine your suitability as an adoptive parent.

Background checks: A police check must be preformed and if you or another adult in your family has a conviction for a serious offense, your application will be declined. You will also have to have a full medical examination, and provide three referees that will give a personal reference.

Assessment: Once all the information has been gathered an independent adoption panel with assess the report and make a recommendation. If you have been approved, the process of finding a child can begin. Often you will be referred to the Adoption Register for England and Wales. This is the organization that holds all the details of children that need adopting in Wales and England.

If your application to adopt a child has been declined, you can challenge this decision. You can apply to the Independent Review Mechanism and they will assess your case.

Adopting children from other countries

It is possible to adopt children from outside the UK. International adoption is permitted provided that the adoption would be in the child’s best interest and if the child can’t be safely cared for in their own country. The adopter must be assessed and considered suitable and eligible to adopt internationally by a UK adoption agency.

The process of adopting a child from another country is very similar to adopting a child within the UK. You need to contact either Voluntary Adoption Agencies or your local council agency. Once an assessment has been made, it will be sent to an adoption authority in the respective country. You will need to make arrangements to visit the child in their country. There are some fees involved in processing your application. These are means tested and typically range from no cost through to £1,775. Legislation costs also apply and you must register the adoption.

Restricted adoption laws apply to several countries including Cambodia, Nepal, Haiti, and Guatemala. If you want to adopt a child from any of these countries you will need to contact the Intercountry Adoption Team. You must apply in writing, explaining why your case should be an exception.

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