There are many reasons why people choose adoption as the way to grow their family. For some it is their first choice, for others it is a decision taken when natural conception and/or fertility treatments have not succeeded.

Whatever the circumstances, adoption is the process through which the adoptive parent(s) assumes permanent legal responsibility for a child. Once the adoption process is finalised, the adoptive parent(s) is the legal parent(s) of the child and there is then no legal difference between an adopted child and one born into a biological family.

As at 31 March 2017 there were 5,440 children in England and Wales seeking adoptive placements. In the year ended 31 March 2017 4,370 children were placed in adoptive placements.

Potential adopters can be single, married, in civil partnerships or unmarried couples. It isn’t just local authorities who look for adoptive placements for children. There are numerous private adoption agencies who also seek adoptive placements for children. All agencies have their own criteria when considering prospective adopters and thus just because you have been turned down by one agency, because you don’t satisfy their criteria, does not mean you cannot adopt a child. Prospective adopters are not limited to their local adoption agencies, nor are there restrictions on the number of agencies they can contact.

Whilst all adoption orders are the same in that they permanently sever the link between a child and their birth family in law, not all adoptions are the same. Prospective adopters will need to think carefully about what type of contact, if any, they would wish to have with the birth family. Some prospective adopters are happy to have a completely open adoption where there is a full exchange of information between the birth family and the adoptive family. Other adopters want to completely close the adoption meaning there is no communication or information shared between the two families. There is also a third way, where limited information is shared between the birth family and adoptive family usually via a third party to preserve anonymity. Whilst at first blush it may seem tempting for prospective adopters to want a closed adoption scenario (to protect against disruption by a birth family), that has to be weighed up against the importance to a child of understanding their genetic heritage as they grow older and the ability of adoptive parents to provide that information via first-hand knowledge of the birth family.

Prospective adopters may also have to consider whether they wish to take on a sibling group and/or be considered as potential adopters for any future siblings.

In recognition of the fact that delay in decision making for children is detrimental to their welfare, in recent times a system of concurrent planning for children has been developed whereby children can be placed with foster carers, on the basis that if a return home to their birth family is impossible, those foster parents will go on to offer an adoptive placement. For prospective adopters this can result in a child being placed with them younger and earlier in the process but brings with it the possibility that a child they have welcomed into their family is subsequently returned home to their birth family. In the early stages of the placement, a return home to the birth family is the primary focus of work done with the child. This is something that can be very difficult for prospective adopters to come to terms with and is not something all potential adopters can deal with given the emotions involved.

For more legal advice on adopting please visit the laytons website or call 0161 214 1600 and ask for Liz Bottrill.