Adoption is where someone legally becomes a full and permanent member of a new family. This is through an adoption order granted by the court.
They take the surname of their adoptive parents and have the same rights and privileges as if they had been born to them.
The birth parents will no longer have any parental rights or responsibilities.
Who can adopt
You can adopt if you're:
- older than 25 (unless you're adopting a relative)
- in a civil partnership
- a parent already (either through birth or earlier adoption)
- an unmarried couple in an enduring relationship (you can apply to adopt together)
Priority may be given to those who can care for:
- older children
- small family groups
- children with a varied range of additional needs
- children with different cultural, ethnic or religious backgrounds and needs
Families with children already
We recommend that there should be an age difference between the existing child and the child you want to adopt.
If you're unable to have children
If you want to adopt because you're unable to have a child naturally, you should complete all medical investigations and treatment before applying to adopt.
We advise against trying to emotionally cope with both processes at the same time.
How to apply to adopt
If you want to adopt, we'll visit you in your home to find out more about you. It's also a chance for you to ask any questions you have.
We'll then offer you a place on the pre-approval training where you'll learn about becoming an adoptive parent.
If you're still interested, you'll need to complete an application so that we can carry out an assessment.
The assessment process is to check that you're suitable to become an adoptive parent.
The assessment process
The assessment process usually takes six to eight months. A social worker will make regular visits to you over this period.
We'll carry out the following checks:
- criminal records
- Social Services records
- health records
- NSPCC records
- Education Department records
- standard safety check on your home
- medical check
We'll also ask you to provide six referees who can comment on your ability to look after children.
At the end of your assessment, your social worker will prepare a report which you can see and comment on.
Once you and your social worker are both happy, the report and your application will be presented to our panel to consider.
The panel will then make a recommendation about your application.
Court related adoption guidance and forms
To begin the legal process of adopting children, you'll need to complete a number of forms.
You should read the relevant guidance notes before completing the forms.
Download court adoption guide (size 185kb)
Download information on adopting a child that has been freed for adoption (size 78kb)
Download information for step-parents (size 76kb)
Download information for non-parents (size 80kb)
You should submit the relevant forms to the Judicial Greffe.
Download form 1 draft adoption application form (size 457kb)
Download form 2 notice application adoption order form (size 124kb)
Download form 3 applicant medical form (size 5kb)
Download form 4 medical report on health of child form (size 74kb)
Download form 5 agreement of child subject to adoption order form (size 67kb)
Download form 5a agreement of spouse or civil partner to an adoption order form (size 67kb)
Download form 6 consent to an adoption order or a provisional adoption order form (size 11kb)
Download form 7 notice to respondent further hearing form (size 10kb)
Download form 8 adoption order or provisional adoption order form (size 11kb)
Download form 9 adoption order or provisional adoption order 2 form (size 8kb)
Download form 10 interim order form (size 8kb)
Download form 11 application to receive information for court records (size 54kb)