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
  • The Midlands
  • North East England
  • Southern and South East England
  • Yorkshire

1. Express an interest

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

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

If, once we've spoken to you, we can see a potential great fit, we will arrange an informal face-to-face catch up so that we can get to know one another better.

2. Getting to know each other better

At the meeting, we'll tell you more about:

  • the types of children in need of adoption
  • how the process works
  • our support for adopters.

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

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

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.

During this time you will complete tasks about you and your family’s lives as well as 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 and 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 that we keep in contact with you after the adoption process. Your family will receive ongoing support and training.

Your decision to adopt has the potential to change a child's, life and yours.