Adopting a child into your family is one of the most challenging and rewarding things you can do. If you’re thinking about adopting a child, all the information you need is here.
What is adoption?
Adoption is when you become the legal parent of a child who can no longer be cared for by its birth parents or family. It provides stability and permanence to children who have had a difficult start in life.
The children waiting to be adopted
On average, it takes 2 years and 3 months for a child to be adopted and in 2022, the average time between a child entering care and being placed for adoption was 1 year and 6 months. It then takes a further 9 months (on average) for an adoption order to be granted and the adoption to be completed. The average age of a child at adoption is currently 3 years and 3 months. Sadly, the time it takes for a child to be adopted is also increasing. This is due to factors such as an emphasis on assessing potential carers related to the child and court delays. Read more about the children awaiting adoption here.
The difference between adoption & fostering
Both adoption and fostering allow children to grow in a safe and loving environment and realise their full potential within the security of a family. However the key difference between them is a legal one. An adoption order ends the child’s legal relationship with their birth family, whereas children living in foster care remain the legal responsibility of the local authority and their birth parents. Children who are adopted live permanently with their adoptive parents and are the legal responsibility of their adoptive family.
Who can adopt?
Parenting adopted children, whilst presenting unique challenges, can be extremely rewarding. Whether you are married, single, divorced, living with a partner, gay or straight, unemployed or disabled, and whatever your cultural background adoption may be for you. The only things that will automatically disqualify you from becoming an adopter are a. If you are under 21 years of age and b. If you or a member or your household have a criminal conviction or caution for offences against children or for serious sexual offences. Find out more about applying to adopt here.
What if I decide adoption isn’t for me?
Adoption isn’t for everyone and you may decide that it’s not currently right for you and your family. However, if you’ve been considering adopting, chances are you already have some of the important characteristics that are essential to being a foster carer. Unlike adoption, fostering is not typically a life-long commitment but foster carers can transform a child’s life and have a profound impact on the children they care for.
The fostering application process is similar to the adoption application process (with assessment undertaken in two stages) but the final piece of the puzzle – finding the right match – is likely to happen a lot sooner. This is because there is a national shortage of foster carers in the UK and demand for fostering placements is high.
Find out more about becoming a foster carer here.