Child adoption laws: Domestic and international adoptions
Adoption is one of the great joys of life that brings comfort, stability and family life to children and to couples. Children who are adopted often come from difficult and unstable backgrounds, for them adoption offers a bright future in a loving environment.
Adoption is the legal term given when a couple or sometimes an individual legally assume responsibility for a child that is not biologically their own. As the person adopting the child assumes responsibility for life, the legal process behind adoption is specifically designed to be robust, and to ensure that every adopted child ends up in the right future environment.
Child adoption laws
Child adoption laws state that adoption can only take place when a child is under the age of 18, and has never been married or in a civil partnership. To be available for adoption it is normal for both parents to have to consent, although in some cases it is possible to adopt without such consent, say if the parents cannot be found or if the child is at risk.
In order to legally adopt in the UK you must be aged over 21. You can be married, single or in a civil partnership, and it is also possible to adopt your partner’s children from another relationship. The only other law is that you or your partner (if adopting as a couple) must have a permanent UK address.
The adoption process can be lengthy but on average it takes around eight months for a suitable couple or individual to adopt a child. Adoption agencies conduct the process of organising an adoption. They will meet you and assess your suitability for adoption. This process will include adoption classes, social worker visits, CRB checks and following up three personal references. You will also need to have a medical check.
Your adoption agency will compile the information they collect about you and will submit it to an adoption panel who will decide if you are suitable to adopt a child. You are able to attend the adoption panel to ask and answer questions if you wish to.
Once approval has been gained from an adoption panel you will be able to search the Adoption Register for England and Wales to find a suitable child.
The number of children adopted from abroad in the UK is just over 300 per year, which represents about 10% of the total number. The child adoption laws for intercountry adoption mean that adults must be vetted in the UK in the same way as for a domestic adoption. You agency will then apply for an intercountry adoption through the Department for Education (DfE). The DfE then produces a Certificate of Eligibility and Suitability to Adopt. This Certificate is then used with the overseas authority to confirm eligibility to adopt in UK law.