Adoption is a complex journey that brings together many different legal procedures. It can also be a very emotional experience.

Statistics show that in 2023, 2,960 children were adopted in England. The latest reports indicate that in this period, the average time between a child entering care and being placed for adoption was 1 year and 7 months, bearing in mind that it typically takes a further 10 months for an adoption order to be granted and completed. It’s a lengthy process with many different factors to contend with.

This is why it’s important to understand the legal steps involved and prepare for post-adoption challenges.

Navigating legal requirements

Adoption is the legal process of bringing up someone else’s child where their birth family is unable to.

To adopt a child, you will need to go through an agency – this can be a council-owned or a voluntary adoption agency. Representatives of the agency will give you all the information, invite you to preparation classes and arrange several social worker visits.

You’ll also receive police checks and a full medical examination. Beyond this, three personal references must be provided before the assessment takes place. Assuming the assessment goes well, the agency will help you find a child.

Being registered with an adoption agency, completing eligibility checks and passing the assessment are key to the legal process of adopting a child. Once you’ve been matched with a child, you’ll be introduced to them before confirming a trial period. If this is successful, you can apply to the court for an adoption order and a court hearing will take place. Once this is granted, the child will legally become a part of your family.

Adoption process

Emotional preparedness

The adoption process can be strenuous. Not only is it extremely long, but it can also expose you to ups and downs where things don’t quite go to plan.

Often, couples choose to adopt if they cannot have children themselves, which means there’s even more riding on the outcome. Being assessed to determine whether you’re a suitable parent can be intense.

The child’s birth parents will usually have to consent to the adoption, although there are some exceptions. For example, if they can’t be found or the child would otherwise be at risk. This can sometimes cause issues.

Beyond preparing for the adoption process itself, you should also make sure you’re ready for any challenges once the child is officially in your care. Age can make a big difference here. If a child is leaving behind a familiar environment, they may struggle to come to terms with the change and it may take time to build a bond. As the adoptive parent, it’s important to be patient and aren’t too hard on yourself.

Make sure you have a strong support network around you and while it’s only natural to hope for the best, you should be aware of the struggles it might bring. Fortunately, many stories of adoption are very happy ones – just make sure you’re prepared to offer extra nurturing and care.

If you want to seek legal help throughout the process, consider contacting a reputable family law solicitor so you receive the level of expertise and guidance required for this sensitive topic.