Adoption and Permanence
020 8583 3437



There are far more myths and misconceptions about adoption than factors that prevent people from adopting. Find out the reality in the answers to these Frequently Asked Questions. Just click on a question to reveal the answer.

What is Adoption?

  • A life long commitment to a child
  • A legal process
  • Providing a permanent family for a child.

When you adopt you take on all the rights and responsibilities for a child that the birth parents held. Providing a secure, stable, loving family life is what makes adoption such a positive option for children.

What is a Special Guardianship Order?

A special guardianship order is an order appointing one or more individuals to be a child's 'special guardian'. It is intended for those children who cannot live with their birth parents and who would benefit from a legally secure placement with either another family member or another responsible adult. (see article on Special Guardianship Orders here)

Can I adopt?

Yes, we want to hear from you if you

  • aged 21or over
  • have space in your home
  • and most importantly, in your life to  provide a permanent, stable and caring home.

What sort of person do you have to be?

We’re not looking for superheroes; all sorts of ordinary people make good adoptive parents. We welcome enquiries from a wide range of people.

You can be:

  • straight, lesbian or gay,
  • married, single, divorced or living with a partner and
  • and from any religion and culture.

We need a wide range of people from different backgrounds because we have children from a wide range of cultural, religious and ethnic backgrounds who need families.

You may be a parent already with either children at home or children who have moved away. Or you may be childless, in which case you should have finished investigations or treatment for infertility.


Is there an age limit?

You need to be 21 or over.  There is no upper age limit. People of all ages can and do successfully adopt. We just need to know that you can provide a stable and loving home for the child into adulthood.

What if I am overweight?

This would only be a problem if your weight was impacting on your health and this would affect your ability to look after a child.  We would always take the advice of the Council’s Medical Advisor in any particular case.

What if I smoke?

We don’t judge you on your smoking habits unless they pose a serious threat to your health or that of the adopted child.

Is there anyone who can’t adopt?

Few can’t.  There are however, some criminal offences – such as violent crimes or those against children that would disqualify an applicant.  

You would be disqualified if you were identified as posing a risk, or potential risk to children under the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 (previously a Section One offender) or anyone with a Disqualification Order under the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000.

Which children need adopting?

All sorts: from 0-10year-olds.

There’s a whole range of children that need to be adopted but they have one thing in common – their birth parents can no longer look after them and they need a loving family if they are going to thrive.  Most will have experienced loss and disruption in their lives.  Some of their needs may be complex but we would provide support and training with these.

Do you always place children with parents from a similar background?

No. Culture and ethnicity can be important components in a child’s development (and we always try to match children to families with consideration of this) but they are not a barrier to placing a child or children with a loving family. A good family life is more important.

What is the first step if I want to adopt?

First we need to take your details: you can either

What happens next?

We need to both assess and prepare you as potential adopter: this is very much a two-way partnership with us providing you with information and answers to your questions and support throughout the entire process.

You will be

  • invited to an Information Session where you have the chance to speak with Social Workers who are skilled in this field; 
  • be visited by a Social Worker in your home for an Initial Home Visit and asked detailed questions about your life and circumstances.

This Initial Home Visit period gives you the opportunity to reflect on your reasons for wanting to adopt and to explore with the social worker issues that you may not have considered previously.

At the end of this you will need to be absolutely sure if you want to make a lifelong commitment.

After that?

You make an application and attend a Preparation Group, following which you will be allocated a social worker.  They will work with you to prepare a Prospective Adopters Report (PAR) made up of a home study, statutory checks and references. 

The PAR  is presented by your social worker to an Adoption Panel made up of social workers, other professionals, lay people and an adoptive parent. The panel will make a recommendation based on the report identifying whether or not to approve your application to adopt.

How long does it all take?

About  6-8 months (unless there are unusual circumstances) from enquiry to panel decision. Once you are approved we will begin the process of matching you to a child. This time-frame is more elastic because

  • it is crucial this is done right and
  • it is dependent on the children who are available nationally.

How is the adoption made legal?

Initially, when a child is placed with you, they still remain the responsibility of the council.  Together we will agree a time to make an application to Court for an adoption order: this will be after a minimum of 10 weeks after the child has been placed with you. 

Once granted, the adoption order ends all legal ties the child has with their birth family.  The child takes your surname and becomes a full member of you family.

What rights do birth parents have after adoption?

None.  Once the Adoption order is made they cannot claim your child back.

Will the child see their birth parents or other relatives?

There may be benefits for your child to continue to see family members (such as other siblings) or other people with whom they already have a strong attachment. 

Plans for this will have been determined by the court and explained during the matching period such as whether the contact should be direct or at a distance using the LetterBox system.

What is LetterBox?

A means by which a you may send letters to birth parents or other family members without direct contact or revealing where they are living.

What is an Activity Day?

An activity day is an opportunity for children and approved adopters to meet in a relaxed and natural scenario. 

Activity days are usually based around a theme such as pirates, the circus or cartoon characters.  It’s a bit of a party, a day of fun wrapped around a serious business. Children get to see that they are not the only ones in the situation of needing parents and approved adopters get to see the children as who they are rather than a case-history or profile.

There is quite a bit of preparation preceding such an event for adopters, children and social workers so that everyone understands how the event is to run and what its aims are. It is expected that this will form part of the matching process.

Will I be told about the child’s background?

Yes.  During the matching process you will be given as much information as possible on prospective children to help you make an informed decision.

Is there any financial support?

You may be eligible for an allowance scheme to help you adopt a child whose needs involve additional costs. Eligibility depends solely on an individual evaluation of your child’s situation and your means.

What support will I get from the council after adopting?

You can ask the Council to carry out an assessment of support needs for your new family. If the assessment identifies support therapies which will deliver beneficial outcomes for you then they may apply to the Adoption Support Fund to cover the cost of these.

The council also provides a post-adoption service for all adopters offering:
  • Information and advice on a wide variety of adoption issues
  • An annual summer picnic for adoptive families and their children
  • Other get-togethers for adopters 4 times a year
  • LetterBox – a contact service providing the regular exchange of information between birth families and adopters.
  • Assistance in arranging, supervising and maintaining direct contact arrangements.
  • Counselling for adopted people over 18 who wish to access their records.