Little boy smiling

Types of adoption

Many people may not realise that there are different types of adoption, designed to give each child the most appropriate care for their situation.

We explain them here:


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’. This is where a child is placed with prospective adopters who are also approved as foster carers.

These carers are assessed to take care of a specific child, and they could later adopt the child if a court of law agrees. This provides greater stability for the child and promotes early attachment and bonding with the family.

You can read more about concurrent care/fostering to adopt here.

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, birth parents remain a child’s legal parents with parental responsibilities, however their ability to exercise these responsibilities is extremely limited.

Special guardianship gives a child a loving and stable home without separating them from their birth parents.

Adopting a child with additional needs

The term ‘additional needs’ is often misinterpreted or misunderstood. It covers a wide spectrum of needs and behaviours and all children can have additional needs at times. These could be to do with their development, learning, communication, behaviour, or emotional wellbeing. Neurodiversity is also often referred to as an additional need. There are also children with physical disabilities that may require support, including adaptations to their home. Additional needs can be called special educational needs (SEN) or special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). 

Additional needs can be short or long term. Some children may need extra help during their childhoods, and others may still need support as adults. Adopting a child with additional needs is incredibly rewarding and gives them a chance to flourish. Many of the thousands of children in care waiting for an adoptive family have additional needs and wait much longer to find a forever home than other children. You could help us change that.

For more information read the Voluntary Adoption Agency advice guide on adopting a child with additional needs.

Adopting siblings

For many children in care their brother or sister has been the only constant presence in their lives. If you’ve room in your house and your heart, please consider adopting brothers and sisters.

Hear from LGBT+ adopters

Barnardo’s has supported the LGBT+ community for decades. We proudly believe any loving person can make a wonderful parent to a child in need of a stable, supportive home. 

Become an adoptive parent

The first step towards adopting with Barnardo's is making an enquiry.