What is adoption?

If a child cannot be looked after by his or her birth parents, the child will be fostered or adopted. Fostering a child is temporary, whereas adoption is permanent. To be adopted, the child must be unmarried and under the age of 18 at the time of the adoption application.

Adoption transfers all legal parental rights and responsibilities to the adoptive parents. The birth parents of the child lose all legal access to their child once an adoption order is approved by the courts. Adoptive children may keep in contact with some of their birth relatives if agreed during the adoption process – but the child’s safety and wellbeing is our first priority.

The child becomes a new member of the adoptive family and receives the same rights as if he or she were born into that family. We aim to find the right adopter for each child based on their needs and past experiences.

Adoption is permanent - only on very rare occasions have adoption placements been reversed.

At Barnardo’s, we have over 100 years’ experience of finding families for children in need.
 

Who can adopt?

Whether you are single or married, male or female, homeowner or renting, straight, lesbian, gay, trans or bisexual - you could adopt a child.  

As you’d expect, to adopt a child there is a minimum criteria to satisfy, you must:

  • be over the age of 21,
  • stopped infertility treatment if you’re trying to have a child,
  • have a spare room at home: this could be a spare bedroom, or a room you’re not currently using as a bedroom, such as a study.

Our adopters are from various backgrounds, genders, nationalities, religions and ages. If you decide to adopt a child, we will also take into consideration:

Your health – as part of the adoption process, your medical health will be checked. Not all disabilities will stop you from adopting.

If you have children – we will discuss with you how you will meet the needs of an adoptive child as well as your existing children. Your children’s thoughts about adoption are also important.

If you have a partner – he or she must have been living with you for at least two years. Your relationship will be assessed to make sure a child will be placed in a loving and stable home.

If you smoke – there are significant health risks of smoking and passive smoking. It is unlikely that a young child will be placed in a home where there are smokers.

Your criminal record - as part of the adoption process we will do a police check. Not all criminal convictions will stop you from adopting, but people with a history of sexual offences and/or cruelty to children will not be considered.

Types of adoption

Adoption

  • If a child cannot be looked after by their birth parents, he or she will be fostered or adopted. 
  • Adoption gives a child in care the chance to become part of a ‘forever family’ permanently. 
  • Adoption transfers all legal parental rights and responsibilities from birth parents, or a local authority, to adoptive parents.

Concurrent care - fostering for adoption
People taking care of children who may, or may not, return to their birth parents are called ‘concurrent carers’, or ‘foster to adopt carers’. Concurrent carers are approved adopters, assessed to take care of a specific child. They could later adopt the child if a court of law agrees.

Some children are placed with concurrent carers with the potential to become their adoptive parents, rather than placing them in temporary homes.
If a decision is made that a child cannot go back to and remain with their birth parents, the concurrent carer can apply to adopt the child.

Special guardianship
A special guardian is legally responsible for taking care of a child until he or she reaches the age of 18. Special guardians can be a member of the child’s family, or a family friend.

A ‘special guardianship order’ is granted by a court before someone can take on this very important role. When a child is cared for by a special guardian they are no longer looked after by the local authority. All parental rights are given to the special guardian. 
​​​​​​
Older children who do not want to be separated from their birth families are more likely to be looked after in this way.

Unlike adoption, special guardianship gives a child a loving and stable home without separating them from their birth parents. Birth parents remain a child’s legal parents with parental responsibilities, however their ability to exercise these responsibilities is extremely limited. 

Children who need adopting

We’re looking for people interested in adopting children:

  • of all ages,
  • from sibling groups,
  • from Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities,
  • with challenging behaviours,
  • with physical and/or learning disabilities.

Children of all ages
Many children who need adopting are not babies or toddlers. By choosing to adopt an older child, you could offer them the life that they deserve.

Sibling groups
You could keep children together by adopting siblings. We try to keep brothers and sisters together to maintain their family bond and need adoptive parents to offer caring and stable homes for children who are related by birth.

Black and Minority Ethic (BME) children
The number of children in care from BME backgrounds is increasing each year. We need adoptive parents to give safe and loving homes to children, helping each child to thrive in their new environment.

Children with challenging behaviours
Children waiting for adoption may have suffered neglect or abuse in the past. We offer ongoing support and training so that you can give a child with behavioural, emotional or social difficulties a better future.

Children with physical and/or learning disabilities
Some children waiting for adoption have mild or severe disabilities. In general, people tend to adopt children with no disabilities but all children need a secure home. We are looking for adopters who are willing to help meet the needs of these children. We offer ongoing support and training, so that you can help a disabled child to reach their full potential.

Support for adoptive parents

Adoption is a lifelong journey and Barnardo’s will support you every step of the way, during the application and adoption process and in the years that follow.

Many families need additional support and there are a number of services available to help as you and your child build your relationship.
Barnardo’s offers a range of support and the right option for you will depend on your individual situation. When you get in touch with us we will work with you to identify your adoption support needs.

South East England

If you live in the South East of England, you could benefit from one of a range of support services available as part of the LINK service.

Early Placement Therapy

Early Placement Counselling advises adoptive parents on how to create a successful attachment with their child. It helps parents to offer understanding, acceptance and empathy, providing strategies to support their child.

Attachment Focused Therapy

Attachment Focused Therapy supports parents and their adopted children to build strong attachments. Combining emotional support and practical recommendations, the approach centres on the relationship between the child and their parents. It helps to create an environment in which the child experiences safety, security and interdependence.

Reconnect Therapy

Reconnect Therapy helps to build bridges between children or young people and their adoptive parents, siblings and other family members. Participants are supported to improve communication and develop a better understanding of the issues they are facing.

My Life Therapy

My Life Therapy helps adoptive parents and their child to work together to understand their past and link it to the present. Using Attachment Focused Therapy, it allows children to feel more confident in their new home and enjoy a positive family life.

Tailored support for LGBT+ parents

Barnardo’s is a member of New Family Social Network, the UK’s peer support network for adopters and foster carers who are LGBT+.

When you adopt through Barnardo’s, you become a member of the NFS network meaning you’ll have access to dedicated online forums and a wealth of events held across the country – some for all the family and some are for the parents only.

What support is there for birth family members?

At Barnardo's we help everyone involved with the adoption process, from adoptive parents to children, adults adopted as children, birth parents and relatives.

The Birth Family Member Support Service can help you if a child or children in your family is going to be placed for adoption. Where a local authority has asked us to provide this independent service it can be available for up to 12 months after the placement order has been made.

With your agreement, a social worker from your local authority will refer to us to arrange a meeting with one of our independent counsellors, who will be able to help you understand the adoption process. During the meeting you will be able to talk through:

  • The adoption plan
  • The issue of parental consent to adoption
  • Future arrangements for contact
  • Any other issues about adoption that are giving you concern
  • Signposting to other services that may be available
  • A referral to therapeutic counselling if appropriate.

If you contact us, we can check whether your local authority has asked us to deliver a Support Service. If not, we will ask them if they will do so.

Why adopt with Barnardo's?

Barnardo's believes that a child's future should never be defined by their past and through our work, we strive to ensure that vulnerable young people are given the opportunities they deserve.

When you adopt with Barnardo's you benefit from 100 years of experience, as well as our dedication to supporting adopters throughout their journey so that they can provide security and stability to the child they adopt.

You could adopt with us if you live in England, Scotland or Wales.

Supporting your decision

When you adopt with Barnardo’s you receive extensive training and support during the adoption process and beyond. The wellbeing of our adoptive families is vital to us so we offer a range of support from your child’s first day in your home, including:

  • therapy and counselling – individual and group sessions, helping children and adoptive parents to bond
  • ongoing training to improve and develop skills
  • social days out to connect with other adoptive families
  • support group where you can meet people with similar experiences.

How to adopt a child in England

Barnardo’s is looking for prospective adopters to provide loving, stable homes for looked after children in:

  • London
  • Midlands
  • North East
  • South and South East
  • Yorkshire

1. Express an interest
You can register your interest in becoming an adoptive parent by:

  • completing our online enquiry form
  • calling 07712402312 or 0800 0277 280
  • attending an adoption information event

This is a great opportunity to get to know each other. Once we have spoken to you and if we can see a potential great fit, we will arrange an informal face-to-face catch up.

We will keep you updated and provide feedback about our decisions.

2. Getting to know each other better
At the meeting, you will get information about:

  • the types of children in need of adoption
  • what happens at each stage of the process
  • the support you can get as an adopter

During the meeting, you will need to complete a ‘registration of interest’ form and a consent form, allowing us to carry out the following checks:

  • police checks
  • medical checks
  • financial checks
  • professional and personal references

This is a great chance for you to ask questions.
If together we agree to continue, we will write to you to start the pre-adoption assessment process.

If we decide that you are not suitable to adopt at that time, you will be sent a letter explaining why.

3. Pre-assessment
The pre-assessment process can take up to two months.

Things that happen during this time include completing tasks in a workbook about you and your family’s lives, and further exploring your understanding of adoption.

All potential adopters must attend compulsory training. By attending the training course you will:

  • understand the commitment needed to adopt
  • learn about the needs of adopted children
  • become better suited and prepared for the challenges of adoption

You will meet like-minded people preparing to adopt or those currently adopting children.
Police, medical, financial checks and references will be carried out during this time.
Once your training is finished and you have passed all necessary checks, we will invite you to continue with the adoption assessment process.

4. Assessing your suitability
You must agree to the formal adoption process before the next stage starts. This assessment can take up to four months.

You will be assigned to a qualified, supportive Barnardo’s social worker who will:

  • visit your home
  • discuss your reasons for wanting to adopt
  • find out more about your family background
  • spend time with your family
  • contact significant former partners
  • discuss with you the type of child you could adopt

The information collected will become part of your Prospective Adopters Report (PAR). This is given to the adoption panel, who will recommend if you are suitable to adopt.

5. Meeting the panel and approval
The adoption panel is a group of experts who might have experience working with children or may have been adopted as children themselves.

We will invite you to meet the panel, and they will make a recommendation based on:

  • the information in your Prospective Adopters Report
  • meeting you in person
  • considerations about your circumstances and the number of children you would like to adopt

The final decision is made by a Barnardo’s ‘adoption decision maker’.

6. Matching you with the right child
If you are approved as an adopter your social worker will work with local authorities to find you a suitable child.

The child’s social worker and the authority adoption panel must also agree that the match is right, in order for the adoption to go ahead.

7. Meeting your child
You will be introduced to your child once a match has been approved. You will spend quality time getting to know each other with the support of social workers, including:

  • visits to the child’s current home
  • visits and eventually overnight stays to your home
  • enjoying activities and social events together

By spending time with your child before he or she moves in, you can help to build a trusting relationship.

8. Welcoming your child
A final planning meeting is arranged before your child comes to live with you.

Your social worker, the child’s social worker and other professionals will attend, to determine the best interests of the child.

An adoption placement plan will be agreed. This ensures that you and your child are fully supported. The plan gives details about reviewing the placement, and the future support provided.

Once the plan has been agreed, your child will come to live with you.

9. Making the adoption legal
You must apply for an adoption order to make the adoption official. Your child must live with you for at least 10 weeks before you can apply.

We will come with you to court when you make the application. When the adoption order has been granted you will have parental responsibilities for your child.

10. Your life together as an adoptive family
It is important to keep in contact with you after the adoption process. Your family will receive on-going support and training.

How to adopt a child in Scotland

We are looking for prospective adopters to provide loving, stable homes for preschool children.

We have more than 35 years of experience supporting adoptive parents, and adults who were adopted as children in Scotland.

1. Express your interest
You can register your interest by:

  • completing our online enquiry form
  • calling 07712402312 or 0800 0277 280
  • attending an adoption information event

We will call you to find out more about why you want to adopt, and if we can see a potential great fit we will arrange an informal face-to-face catch up.

This is a great opportunity to get to know each other. Either way, we will keep you updated and provide feedback about our decisions.

2. Getting to know each other better
At the meeting, you will get information about:

  • the types of children in need of adoption
  • what happens at each stage of the process
  • the support you can get as an adopter

This is a great chance for you to ask questions. If together, we agree to continue, you will be invited to attend a training course – preparing you to become an adoptive parent.

If we decide that you are not suitable to adopt at that time, you will be sent a letter explaining why.

3. Preparing you to become an adoptive parent
By attending our training course, you will:

  • understand the commitment needed to adopt,
  • learn about the needs of adopted children,
  • become better suited for adoption.

You will get the chance to meet like-minded people preparing to adopt, or those currently adopting children.

All potential adopters must take part in this compulsory training. If you decide to continue with the adoption process once the course is finished, you will be given an application form to complete along with a consent form so that we can carry out the following checks:

  • police checks
  • medical checks
  • financial checks
  • personal and employer references.

Once we have your application form and confirmation that you have passed all the necessary checks you will be invited to start the formal adoption assessment.

4. Assessing your suitability
You must agree to the formal adoption process before the next stage starts.  
You will be assigned to a qualified, supportive Barnardo’s social worker, who will:

  • visit your home
  • discuss your reasons for wanting to adopt
  • find out more about your family background
  • spend time with your family
  • contact significant former partners
  • discuss with you the type of child you could adopt

The information collected will become part of your Form F or assessment report. This is given to the adoption panel who will recommend if you are suitable to adopt.

5. Meeting the panel and approval
The adoption panel is a group of experts who might have experience working with children or may have been adopted as children themselves.

We will invite you to meet the panel and they will make a recommendation based on:

  • the information in your Prospective Adopters Report
  • meeting you in person
  • considerations about your circumstances and the number of children you would like to adopt

The final decision is made by a Barnardo’s ‘adoption decision maker’.

6. Matching you with the right child
If you are approved as an adopter your social worker will work with the local authority to find you a suitable child.

The child’s social worker and the authority adoption panel must also agree that the match is right, in order for the adoption to go ahead.

7. Meeting your child
You will be introduced to your child once a match has been approved.

You will spend quality time getting to know each other with the support of social workers, including:

  • visits to the child’s current home
  • visits and eventually overnight stays to your home
  • enjoying activities and social events together

By spending time with your child before he or she moves in, you can help to build a trusting relationship.

8. Welcoming your child
A final planning meeting is arranged before your child comes to live with you.
Your social worker, the child’s social worker and other professionals will attend to determine the best interests of the child.

An adoption placement plan will be agreed. This ensures that you and your child are fully supported. The plan gives details about reviewing the placement, and the future support provided.

Once the plan has been agreed your child will come to live with you.

9. Making the adoption legal
You must apply for an adoption order to make the adoption official.

We will come with you to court when you make the application. When the adoption order has been granted you will have parental responsibilities for your child.

10. Your life together as an adoptive family
It is important to keep in contact with you after the adoption process. Your family will receive on-going support and training.

How to adopt a child in Wales

We are looking for prospective adopters to provide loving homes for looked after children in North, Mid and South Wales.

1. Express your interest
You can register your interest by:

  • completing our online enquiry form
  • calling 07712402312 or 0800 0277 280
  • attending an adoption information event

We will call you to find out more about why you want to adopt and if we can see a potential great fit we will arrange an informal face-to-face catch up.

This is a great opportunity to get to know each other. Either way, we will keep you updated and provide feedback about our decisions.

2. Getting to know each other better
At the meeting, you will get information about:

  • the types of children in need of adoption
  • what happens at each stage of the process
  • the support you can get as an adopter

This is a great chance for you to ask questions.

If together, we agree to continue, you will be invited to attend a training course – preparing you to become an adoptive parent.

If we decide that you are not suitable to adopt at that time, you will be sent a letter explaining why.

3. Preparing you to become an adoptive parent
By attending our training course, you will:

  • understand the commitment needed to adopt,
  • learn about the needs of adopted children,
  • become better suited for adoption.

You will get the chance to meet like-minded people preparing to adopt, or those currently adopting children.

All potential adopters must take part in this compulsory training.

If you decide to continue with the adoption process once the course is finished, you will be given an application form to complete along with a consent form so that we can carry out the following checks:

  • police checks
  • medical checks
  • financial checks
  • personal and employer references.

Once we have your application form and confirmation that you have passed all the necessary checks, you will be invited to start the formal adoption assessment.

4. Assessing your suitability
You must agree to the formal adoption process before the next stage starts.
You will be assigned to a qualified, supportive Barnardo’s social worker, who will:

  • visit your home
  • discuss your reasons for wanting to adopt
  • find out more about your family background
  • spend time with your family
  • contact significant former partners
  • discuss with you the type of child you could adopt

The information collected will become part of your Prospective Adopters Report (PAR). This is given to the adoption panel who will recommend if you are suitable to adopt.

5. Meeting the panel and approval
The adoption panel is a group of experts who might have experience working with children or may have been adopted as children themselves.

We will invite you to meet the panel and they will make a recommendation based on:

  • the information in your Prospective Adopters Report
  • meeting you in person
  • considerations about your circumstances and the number of children you would like to adopt

The final decision is made by a Barnardo’s ‘adoption decision maker’.


6. Matching you with the right child
If you are approved as an adopter your social worker will work with the local authority to find you a suitable child.

The child’s social worker and the authority adoption panel must also agree that the match is right, in order for the adoption to go ahead.

7. Meeting your child
You will be introduced to your child once a match has been approved.
You will spend quality time getting to know each other with the support of social workers, including:

  • visits to the child’s current home
  • visits and eventually overnight stays to your home
  • enjoying activities and social events together

By spending time with your child before he or she moves in, you can help to build a trusting relationship.

8. Welcoming your child
A final planning meeting is arranged before your child comes to live with you.

Your social worker, the child’s social worker and other professionals will attend, to determine the best interests of the child.

An adoption placement plan will be agreed. This ensures that you and your child are fully supported. The plan gives details about reviewing the placement, and the future support provided.

Once the plan has been agreed your child will come to live with you.

9. Making the adoption legal
You must apply for an adoption order to make the adoption official. Your child must live with you for at least 10 weeks before you can apply.

We will come with you to court when you make the application. When the adoption order has been granted you will have parental responsibilities for your child.

10. Your life together as an adoptive family
It is important to keep in contact with you after the adoption process. Your family will receive on-going support and training.

Adoption records

Finding your records
We know that finding and accessing adoption records can be difficult. Our friendly international service Making Connections can help you find and view your information.

We only keep records of children adopted through Barnardo’s. Data we hold may include the following documents:

  • birth certificate
  • progress reports
  • school reports
  • medical history
  • information about birth relatives.

You must be over the age of 18 to access your records.


Looking for your birth relatives as an adopted adult
We provide support for adopted adults searching for their biological family members, and facilitate contact through our intermediary services.

Finding a birth relative who was adopted
We can help the birth relatives of adopted adults reach out to their long-lost family members. We offer support and counselling throughout the process.

Researching your family history
We keep information about former looked after children in the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada.

If your ancestor was cared for by Barnardo’s as a child, our genealogy services can help you trace their history.

Please be aware that we cannot share family histories that do not conform to the Data Protection Act 1998.

Reconnecting adults who grew up in care
The Barnardo's Guild Messenger is a biannual magazine dedicated to reuniting former children in care.

Contact the Making Connections service at Barnardo’s:

Making Connections
Barnardo’s
Cottage 4
Tanners Lane
Barkingside
Essex
IG6 1 QG

Email: [email protected]

Telephone: 020 8498 7536

Office hours are Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.

Can LGBTQ+ people adopt?

Barnardo’s supports LGBTQ+ people adopting children - and we were one of the first charities to do so. We believe fiercely in the importance of a loving home for children who do not have one, and provide training and support for all our amazing adoptive families.

We are searching for adoptive parents who can adopt children:

  • of all ages, particularly older children
  • in sibling groups
  • from Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities
  • with challenging behaviours
  • with physical and/or learning disabilities
     

Can I adopt if I’m single?

Your relationship status and sexual orientation are not barriers to adoption and fostering. Whether you are single or married, male or female, homeowner or renting, straight, lesbian, gay, trans or bisexual - you could adopt a child.  

As you’d expect, to adopt a child there is a minimum criteria to satisfy, you must:

  • be over the age of 21,
  • stopped infertility treatment if you’re trying to have a child,
  • have a spare room at home: this could be a spare bedroom, or a room you’re not currently using as a bedroom, such as a study.
     

Is there an allowance?

A local authority might pay an adoption allowance if they determine it necessary to secure an adoptive home for a child, who could not otherwise easily be readily adopted. The scheme allows for the payment of a regular allowance to adopters under certain circumstances. These could include where the child has additional needs, requires special care for a disability or behavioural difficulties involving extra expense. The amount of money offered as an adoption allowance will vary and any allowance will usually take into account your financial resources as a family.

Will I get maternity/paternity pay?

Adoption pay and leave entitlements for adoptive parents are similar to the pay and leave rights available to birth parents. If you’re working when your adopted child joins your family, you’ll usually be entitled to paid time off work known as Statutory Adoption Pay and Leave
 
If you’re adopting as a couple, only one person will be able to get adoption leave, although the other parent might be able to get shared parental leave or paternity leave.
 

How much is statutory adoption pay?

First six weeks: 90% of your average weekly earnings before tax.
The next 33 weeks: £145.18 per week or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is less).
The next 13 weeks: unpaid.
 
Self-employed people are currently not entitled to any adoption pay.

Is LGBTQ+ adoption legal in the UK and Ireland?

Same-sex couples in the United Kingdom have had the right to adopt since 2002, following the Adoption and Children Act 2002.

What if I have a history of mental illness?

We look at the current health and resilience of individuals and couples and how they worked through their mental health issues. It can show resilience, strength and openness.

Is there an age limit to becoming an adoptive parent?

We are looking for people with life experience and there is no upper age limit to adoption and fostering.  It is all about what that person can bring to the life of a child in care. 

Can I adopt if I'm living with HIV?

We want to stress that successfully managing your health, whatever your HIV status (or other illnesses) can show that you are a responsible adult and can be considered for adoption and fostering.