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What is adoption and who can apply?

Adoption is where a child legally becomes a member of a new family and has one or two new parents. If you are at least 21 years old and can provide a permanent, stable and caring home, your application to adopt will be welcomed. There is no upper age limit.

Adoption orders
Only a court can make an adoption order. The effect of the adoption order is that the birth parents no longer have any parental rights and responsibilities for their child. Those rights and responsibilities are given to the adoptive parents.

Once the court has made an adoption order the child becomes a full member of the adoptive family. They take the surname of their adoptive parents and have the same rights and privileges as if they had been born to them. This includes the right of inheritance.

A child's eligibility for adoption
Before the court can make an adoption order, the court has to be satisfied of all of the following:

  • the child was under the age of 18 when the adoption application was made
  • the child is not – or has never been – married or in a civil partnership
  • both birth parents have given their consent to the adoption

In some cases, it is not necessary to get consent from the birth parent or guardian. This happens when:

  • the birth parent or guardian cannot be found or is incapable of giving consent
  • the child's welfare would be at risk if the adoption order was delayed

Who can apply to adopt?
The following are eligible to apply to adopt:

  • single people (irrespective of their sexual orientation)
  • a partner of a parent of the child to be adopted
  • married couples
  • civil partners
  • unmarried couples (same sex and different sex) living as partners in a stable family relationship

Your application will be considered on the basis of whether you can meet the adopted child’s needs. It does not matter whether you own your own home or are in or out of work.

You and all adult members of your household will be required to have a police check.

Do you have to be a British Citizen?
You do not need to be a British citizen. However, if you are adopting as a couple with your spouse or partner:

  • one of you must be domiciled in the British Islands and both of you have to have been habitually resident there for at least one year before you apply to the court for an adoption order

If you are adopting as a single person:

  • you must be domiciled in a part of the British Islands and have to have been habitually resident there for at least one year before you apply to the court for an adoption order

British Islands means England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. You should seek legal advice if you are unsure whether you are domiciled or habitually resident in the British Islands.

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