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Adoption is a legal process that brings a child or children into a new family as permanent legal members. The people adopting the child become their legal guardian and are afforded the same rights and responsibilities as if they have been their birth child. Adoption aims to give children a second chance in a stable, nurturing and loving family. Children that are up for adoption have often had a very difficult start in life with many having suffered from abuse, violence or negligence and before a child is adopted. They will often have had to spend time in foster care. Add to this the legal complexities surrounding adoption and this can be a very difficult and challenging time for everyone involved. Our specialist family lawyers can advise and guide you during this complicated process and ensure you know what is happening at every stage. Here we give a brief overview of the adoption process so you are aware of what to expect.

Who can Adopt?

In order to adopt a child, the adult has to be over the age of 21 years and be legally resident for the last 12 months in the UK, Channel Islands or Isle of Man. There is no upper age limit for adoption. You can adopt if you are single or gay, married or in a civil partnership, cohabiting with your partner, if you own a home or live in rented accommodation, if you have disabilities and also if you have your own children.

If the person wishing to adopt (or anyone else in their household) has any criminal convictions or cautions for criminal offences against children or serious sexual offences then no one in that household will be allowed to adopt. This is an automatic exclusion.

In order for a child to be adopted, both the birth parents must give their consent. The only exceptions are where they are incapable of giving consent, for example due to a mental health issue, if the child’s safety is at risk if they were to remain in the current situation or if the birth parents cannot be located.

The Adoption Process

The whole process takes around six months for approval to be granted. Adoption can be done via a local council adoption agency or a voluntary adoption agency. Once you have met with the agency and completed the necessary forms, a social worker will visit you to assess whether you are suitable to adopt. It will also be necessary to perform police checks and get three references and to have a medical examination. The initial checks and registration part of the process takes around two months. The agency will then ask you to attend some preparation classes to give you information on adoption and the impact and effect it will have on your life. Here the social worker will also be working with your family to determine your strengths before preparing a report and this part of the process takes around four months.

The social worker presents their findings in a report to the adoption panel who then will make their recommendations. The person wishing to adopt can attend the hearing and discuss any issues with the panel. It is possible to challenge a decision made by the panel that states you are not suitable to adopt.

If the panel recommends adoption is suitable then the adoption agency will begin looking for a suitable child. The final decision is made by a matching panel.

Once a child is matched with you, arrangements will be made for you to spend time together on visits and with short stays before they move in with you. You will need to wait 10 weeks before you can apply for an adoption court order that would give you the full parental rights and responsibilities relating to the child. Once this is granted then the adoption becomes permanent (you need to apply for a copy of the adoption certificate). The adoption certificate replaces their birth certificate with their new name. At this stage, anyone that had parental responsibility for the child, including the birth parents, will lose it.

Adopting a Step-Child

To adopt a step-child, the local council has to first be notified of the intention to adopt at least three months before an application is made to the court for an adoption order. The child must have been living with their birth parent and the step parent for at least six months beforehand. The process is similar to what happens if the process is through an adoption agency. The local council will have to provide to the court a report written by a social worker that covers the child, the birth parents and the partner. Once granted, the adopted parent gains parental responsibility and the other birth parent that does not live with the child loses their parental responsibility (as does anyone else that had it). The adoption order revokes any other court order, for example ones relating to visitation rights of the birth parents.

It is also possible to adopt a child that you have been fostering, although you will need to go through the same process of being reassessed and approved as the adoptive parents rather than foster parent since it is a different arrangement that is permanent as opposed to temporary.

Overseas Adoption

Overseas adoption is possible via a UK adoption agency that would charge a fee. Adoption is restricted in a few overseas countries, which requires further steps if you wish to adopt from there. The child that is to be adopted would need to be assessed to show that they cannot be safely cared for in their own country and the adoption would be in their best interests. The person wishing to adopt still has to be assessed as suitable by a UK adoption agency. It will be necessary to visit the child in their own country and the assessment and application will be sent to the child’s country.

Contact our Specialist Adoption Lawyers Bradford

Call us on 01274 350 546 or fill out our online enquiry form.

Enquire now

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