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(ren) to become part of your family.

It should take up to 6 months from registering your interest with an agency to being approved, unless you choose to take a break between Stages 1 and 2. Typically, the whole process - from enquiring with your chosen agency to being matched with a child - takes between 9 and 12 months. However, this can vary considerably: every child and adopter will have their own needs, and it is important to proceed at a pace that works for everyone. 

Coronavirus update: All VAAs have adapted the services that they provide in response to the pandemic and government guidelines on social distancing. To find out more about how this might affect your adoption process, it is important to speak to agencies directly. Many agencies are running online information sessions, and all are very easy to reach via email and telephone. 

Find your local VAA

Enquire about Adoption

The first step is to find out as much as possible about adoption. All adoption agencies will be happy to answer your questions and talk you through the process.

There are currently three kinds of adoption agency:

  • Regional adoption agencies (RAAs), which oversee adoption across a number of local authorities;
  • Local authorities, where they have not yet joined a regional adoption agency; and
  • Voluntary adoption agencies (VAAs), which are charitable or not-for-profit organisations.

All CVAA members are VAAs and provide excellent support to prospective adopters.

It’s important to find an agency that you feel comfortable with, so you may need to speak to a few to find one that feels right. You will be invited to attend 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. Once you and your chosen agency are satisfied that you would like to proceed, you will be provided with a registration of interest form which you can return when you feel you are ready to enter Stage 1. Returning your Registration of Interest, or ROI, is the first official step in the adoption 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 1 should take no more than 2 months

At the end of Stage 1, you and your agency will decide whether you should continue to Stage 2. If you go ahead, there is the option of taking a break for up to 6 months before proceeding. Some adopters take this break to, for example, prepare their home or make changes in their career. 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 Adopter's Report (PAR). Your agency will provide 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 friends network, and all the qualities and experiences that you will bring to parenting. This will all contribute to your PAR.

Approval

At the end of Stage 2, your social worker will present your PAR to a panel of adoption professionals, independent members, and adopters. You will be invited to attend the panel meeting, too. The panel will discuss with you 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 (ADM) will make the final decision. From entering Stage 2 to the agency making a decision about approval should take around 4 months.

Matching

Once you are approved, your social worker will begin to search for children for whom you would be a suitable match. It is important to understand that the decisions on matching prioritise the needs of the child above everything else. At this point, you may want to take part in further training to help you better prepare to parent children waiting for adoption. VAAs specialise in preparing and supporting adopters to care for children with particular needs.

Once a match has been found, your social worker and the child's social worker will write a report for presentation to a matching panel. This second panel will decide if this match meets the needs of the child, and make a recommendation to the agency decision maker. As with approval, the agency decision maker is responsible for the final decision about your match.

Becoming a family

Once the agency decision makers approves your match, your social worker will continue to support you through introductions, getting to know your child(ren), and the process of moving the child(ren) in with you. After 10 weeks of placement, you will be able to apply to the courts for an adoption order. The adoption order will give you full parental rights and responsibilities for your child(ren).

Post-adoption support is an important part of the adoption process - you can find out more here. The need for additional help varies hugely between families and may arise early on, or much later as your child grows up. All VAAs offer lifelong adoption support to you and your child(ren) 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 introduced the two-stage process in autumn 2019.