The adoption process has several stages and is slightly different in each country of the UK. Each stage gives you and the agency supporting you time to consider if adoption is the right route for you and helps you prepare with confidence for your adopted child to become part of your family. From registering interest with an agency to being approved should take up to 6 months unless a break is taken by an applicant. Typically, the whole process from enquiring with your chosen agency to a child being identified takes between 9 and 12 months, but this may vary considerably because each child and adopter are unique and the right pace is important.

Enquire about Adoption

The first step is to find out as much as possible about adoption and all adoption agencies will be happy to answer your questions and talk through the process. There are two kinds of adoption agency, those run by local authorities and voluntary adoption agencies. All CVAA members provide excellent support to prospective adopters. Use our agency finder to locate your nearest voluntary agency. It’s important to find an agency you feel comfortable with, so you may need to speak to a few to find one that feels right. You will be invited to an information session or you may decide that you would like to move straight to a home visit  where you can discuss the process in more detail. Agencies will leave you a registration of interest from which you can return when you feel you are ready to enter the first stage of the approval process

Stage 1: Initial visits and checks

Once you have chosen an agency to work with, they will officially register your interest in adopting and begin Stage 1 of the process. References will be sought, criminal background checks undertaken and a GP medical report requested. You will also be invited to attend preparation groups with other prospective adopters where you can learn parenting skills, ask questions and hear from experienced adopters. Stage one should take no more than 2 months

At the end of Stage 1 you and the agency will decide whether you should continue to Stage 2. If you go ahead there is the option of taking a break for 6 months before proceeding, which some adopters take to prepare their home, or make changes at work for example. When you are ready to move into Stage 2 an assessing social worker will be appointed to take you through this part of your journey.

Stage 2: Training and assessment

During Stage 2 you will work with your social worker to prepare an assessment plan and complete a prospective adopters report. You will be given positive training to enable you to understand and support the child or children you may adopt. Home visits will help your social worker learn about your lifestyle, family and friendship network and all the qualities which you bring to being a good adoptive parent. This will all contribute to your assessment report.

Decision time

Your prospective adopters report is presented to a panel made up of  professionals, independent members and adopters by your social worker and you will be invited to attend the panel meeting too.. They will speak to you about your reasons for wanting to adopt and ask you other questions before deciding whether to recommend  that you are suitable to adopt. The agency will consider the panel’s recommendation and the agency’s decision maker will make the actual decision. From entering Stage 2 to the agency making a decision about approval should take 4 months


Once you are approved your social worker will begin the search for a suitable match for you with children waiting for an adoptive family. It is important to understand that the decisions on matching prioritise the needs of the child above everything else. You may want to take part in further specialist training to help you better prepare to parent children waiting for adoption. Voluntary adoption agencies specialise in preparing and supporting adopters to care for children with particular needs.

Once a match has been found a report will be written by your social worker and the child’s social worker for presentation to a matching panel. They will decide if this match meets the needs of the child.

Becoming a family

Once a child is matched with you, your social worker will continue to support you through introductions, getting to know your child and the process of moving in. Once your child has settled you will apply to the courts for an adoption order which gives you full parental rights and responsibilities for your child.

Post adoption support is an important part of the adoption process. The need for additional help varies hugely between families and may come early in the adoption or much later as the child grows up. All voluntary adoption agencies offer lifelong adoption support to you and your child as well as easy access to information and peer support from other adoptive families.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

The adoption process differs slightly in all the countries of the UK. In Scotland and Northern Ireland there are no stages 1 and 2 so the processes run concurrently with checks normally taking place after the preparation and application process. Wales will be introducing the two stage process in the Autumn of 2019