We know there are a lot of questions and considerations to take into account when looking to adopt – here we’ve compiled the most frequently asked questions to help answer some of the questions you may have.
If you’d like to discuss your circumstances in more detail please complete our enquiry form or consider attending one of our information events or one-to-one appointments which can be viewed on our events page.
To adopt a child in the UK you must register with a Regional Adoption Agency (RAA) or a Voluntary Adoption Agency (VAA). Both RAAs and VAAs will recruit and assess prospective adopters and support them through the adoption process.
Adopt Coast to Coast is a RAA and represents the three local authorities of Cumbria County Council, Durham County Council and Sunderland City Council (through Together for Children). The main difference is that an RAA is working on behalf of local authorities who are responsible for Looked After Children and therefore when a child or children have a plan of adoption the RAA considers its own prospective adopters before considering those approved by a VAA.
The first step in the adoption process is to make an initial enquiry i.e. complete our ‘take the next step’ enquiry form and speak to one of our team.
From here you would have an initial visit (in-person or virtually) from an adoption social worker to discuss adoption and your own circumstances in more detail. If you decide to progress you will complete a Registration of Interest Form. A Team Manager will decide whether to accept this registration within 5 working days. After which, stage one training and checks take place. If you successfully complete stage one and you decide to progress you will move onto stage two. Stage two is an assessment where you work with your social worker to complete a Prospective Adopter Report (PAR). This PAR is then taken to panel who make their recommendations on whether you are suitable to adopt. Once approved by an Adoption Decision Maker as a prospective adopter, you will be matched with a child or children. After a child or children have been living with you for 10 weeks you can submit an application to the court for an Adoption Order. Once the Adoption Order is granted you become the legal parent of the child or children.
Read about the adoption process.
Prospective adopters do not pay a Regional Adoption Agency (RAA) like us or a Voluntary Adoption Agency (VAA) for arranging the adoption of one or more children or babies. At Adopt Coast to Coast our priority is finding loving, safe and secure families for children in need of forever homes. Each RAA is different, however, at Adopt Coast to Coast we do not charge for UK-based background checks and we also provide advice on financial support available to you as well as offering a contribution towards travel expenses and accommodation in some instances – for example when you are meeting and getting to know your child or children.
Adopt Coast to Coast is responsible for recruiting and supporting adopters for children cared for by our three local authority partners in the UK, so does not look after international adoption. However, if you are thinking of adopting a child from overseas, you will first need to be approved as a suitable adopter in the UK and then have your application processed by your country of choice. Please speak to your local authority for more information.
Cumbria – ARAT@cumbria.gov.uk - 0303 333 121
Durham - AdoptionDuty@durham.gov.uk - 03000 269 291
Together for Children - firstname.lastname@example.org - 0191 561 2221
This is one of our most frequently asked questions and the only legal limitation is that you must be over 21 and have lived in the UK for over 1 year. There is no upper age limit, but you need to be able to meet a child’s needs into adulthood. You can adopt regardless of your sexuality, marital status, race, ethnicity, financial situation, employment status or whether you already have a family or not. Read more about who can adopt.
Most people are eligible to apply to adopt and having a criminal record doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t adopt. There are some criminal convictions which would eliminate you from consideration as a prospective adopter. If you or a member of your household has a criminal conviction or caution for offences against children or certain sexual offences against adults, you will not be able to adopt. The best thing to do is to speak to us about any concerns you may have about any criminal convictions and be honest about your answers.
There are several checks carried out during the adoption application process – an overview is below:
Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS)
A DBS check will allow us to check if you have committed any criminal offences. Having an offence on record doesn’t rule you out, suitability depends on the type of offence and the potential impact for children.
If you’ve lived abroad for a considerable time, you may have to get that country’s equivalent of a DBS to confirm that there are no records of you offending in that country. You may have to pay for this check.
We will give you a form to fill in and take to your GP for a medical examination. Your GP then fills in their section and sends the form back to us. This form is then given to our medical adviser, who will determine your medical suitability to adopt.
There are few conditions that would cause the medical adviser to give an outright no to an application, but they might need to seek more information on specific health needs such as diabetes, kidney problems, heart conditions, mental health conditions and cancer. If they need to take it further, they will ask your permission to speak in more depth with your GP and/or specialist.
We ask for at least three personal references, ideally from:
- people who have known you for a significant period, both individually and as a couple if you’re making a joint application
- people who have seen you interact with children
- people who aren’t related to you (for two out of the three references)
These referees need to be happy to complete a written reference, as well being interviewed face to face by an adoption social worker.
Former partners and adult children
We are required to check out all previous relationships for any factors that might be relevant. The reference is done with discretion and with consideration to previous, possibly difficult, circumstances. If there was domestic violence in a past relationship, we would not put you at risk by contacting an ex-partner.
We need to check with the local authorities covering all your previous addresses for the last ten years to see if you were known to them for any reason.
If you have a school-age child(ren) or children in a nursery in the family, we ask for a reference from the school/nursery to check that they attend regularly and that you as parents are active in your communication with the school or nursery when needed.
Health visitor check
We check with your local health visitors for any pre-school age children in your family.
We will ask for a reference from your current employer. If you have done any paid or voluntary work in any setting involving children or vulnerable adults, we will seek a reference from them too.
If you have served or are currently serving in the Armed Forces or Reserves, we’ll check this.
We do a check across the internet, including social media channels, to see what information about you is in the public domain.
Adoption is a way of providing a new permanent family for children who are unable to live with their birth parents or extended family. There are many reasons why children cannot live with their birth family. Adoption by a new family enables these children to have a stable, secure, and loving family life.
The adopters become the child’s legal parents once a Court makes an Adoption Order. An Adoption Order ends the child’s legal relationship with his or her birth family and the child becomes a full part of the adoptive family.
Through adoption, Parental Responsibility and the duties of the birth parents are legally transferred to the adoptive parents.
There are several reasons why people choose to adopt, and reasons could include:
- You may not have your own children but want to be a parent
- You may already have a family but feel you still have space for another child or children
- You have masses of love, security and happiness to offer to a child who has not had a great start in life.
Stage one of the adoption process should take around 2 months and stage two takes around 4 months, meaning you could be approved as an adopter in as little as 6 months. You could be matched with a child or children within 6-12 months of approval.
Fostering is temporary, while adoption is permanent. When fostering you are caring for a child on behalf of the local authority and their birth parents. Some foster placements are short-term until a child can return to live with birth parents, or a permanent home is found for a child – whether through adoption, long-term fostering or Special Guardianship with a family or friend.
Foster carers have no legal rights or responsibilities unlike when a child or children are adopted, the rights and responsibilities of their birth parents are legally removed, and parental responsibility is given to the new adoptive parents.
Foster carers sometimes adopt children in their care. Foster carers need to s speak to the child’s social worker about their care plan, so you can express an interest in being considered if the child or children’s plan becomes adoption.
There are many benefits of adoption – most importantly it provides safe, secure, stable and permeant homes for children in need. Adoption also keeps brothers and sisters together and it allows people to start their family or to grow their family.
Yes – single people are eligible to adopt and we work with single parents every day. Hear first-hand from one of our single parent adopters in our case study about their experiences of adoption.
No, you don’t have to be married to adopt. You can adopt regardless of your marital status – you can be single, in a same or different sex relationship or be married or in a civil partnership.
Yes absolutely. Lots of our adopters already have biological children – they are considered as the most important person to match to throughout the adoption process and encouraged to ask questions about adoption. Read our FAQs on adopting when you have a biological child.
Each year in England alone there are around 4,000 children waiting in foster care to be adopted (Adoption UK).
Across Cumbria, Durham and Sunderland between March 2020-April 2021 we had more than 100 children looking for their forever family through adoption. Of these, around 42% of the children with an Adoption Order were part of a sibling group and had a plan of adoption for them to be adopted with their brothers and sisters.
Very few babies are actively given up by birth parents for adoption now (this is known as relinquished) – this is due to changes in social expectations and support, medical advancements and family networks supporting or caring for babies. Babies and children mainly come into care because a professional assessment has concluded this is the best way for them to receive the love, care, safety and support, they need to thrive.
It’s unlikely – there isn’t an upper limit for adopters, but you do need to be fit and healthy, and able to care for a child or children until they are a young adult.
During conversations with your adoption social worker they will discuss the needs of children and what you can best provide for a child or children – some people have a very set idea of what needs they can best meet and the best fit for their family , whilst others will want to use the assessment time to work this out. We would recommend being open-minded so you can consider this carefully. You may end up waiting longer for a child or children to meet more specific needs, but the offer needs to be realistic, and we need you to be honest with us. Ultimately, we are a child-led service and have to ensure we find the best homes for the children in our care so would not make placements where we are not confident of success.
Sadly yes, it takes longer to find forever homes for children aged over 5, and groups of brothers and sisters. It can also be trickier to place children with additional health needs and disabilities. As with all of the children in our care, we would explain the situation and background of each child clearly to prospective adopters so they can consider if they can meet the needs and are prepared for what may lie ahead.
We ask for you to have completed IVF treatment before applying to adopt. It’s important to let yourself adjust emotionally from treatment, and to think deeply about how adoption is a very different way of becoming a parent. If you are considering adoption, we would love to help you work out the best approach and timing for you.
Prospective adopters often worry that because they have suffered from depression or other mental ill-health at some time in the past, that this may rule out their application. This is not always the case and seeking help to overcome health issues is positive. During stage one our medical adviser looks at every case individually and sympathetically considering your history, and a decision is made according to their assessment of the potential impact of this on a child or children. The prospective adopter’s mental and physical health is of equal concern to us and we encourage you to have honest and open conversations about your concerns and ask any questions you may have.
Mainstream adoption - generally, a child or children are removed from birth families due to concerns about their well-being. The child or children are placed into short term foster care whilst assessments and court proceedings are ongoing to determine the long-term plans for the child or children. These assessments take on average 6 to 9 months and at the end of that time the child or children will either live with a family member/ friend, be placed in a long-term fostering placement, or it will be agreed they will be placed for adoption.
Fostering for Adoption – this form of early permanence places a child or children with prospective adopters who are also approved as foster carers specifically for the child or children who are to be placed with them. A Fostering for Adoption placement will only be made where there is clear evidence to the local authority that there is little likelihood that the birth parents can resolve their problems or that other family members can care for the child or children. During the fostering stage of the placement, the court will decide what is in the child or children’s best interests in the longer term. The Fostering for Adoption carers need to be able to deal with the uncertainty of the period before the court’s final decision as well as usually promoting contact between the child and the birth family while the court proceedings are underway. If the court agrees that the child or children should be adopted and the adoption agency approves the ‘match’ between the Fostering for Adoption carers and the child or children, then the placement becomes an adoption placement.
Concurrent Planning – is used for babies and young children usually under the age of 2 who are in care and who are likely to need adoption, but where attempts to reunite the child or children with their birth family are also being made. It is a form of early permanence. Children are placed with concurrent carers, who are dually approved as foster carers and prospective adopters. They initially foster the child or children and will adopt the child or children if the courts decide that the birth family is unable to meet the child or children’s needs. This scheme asks a lot of the concurrent carers who know that the child or children they are fostering may return to the care of their birth parent or relative at the end of court proceedings. However, it is a scheme which ensures that the child or children have the best possible start in life, and like Fostering for Adoption allows a child or children to develop their primary attachment to their caregivers who may then become their adoptive patents. At present within Adopt Coast to Coast we are not assessing people for concurrency, but we are seeking to develop this service in the future
What is the difference between a Voluntary Adoption Agency (VAAs) and a Regional Adoption Agency (RAA)?
Voluntary Adoption Agencies (VAAs) recruit and assess prospective adopters to provide matches for children in the care of the Local Authority. VAAs are paid by the local authority to cover their costs (no profits). Regional Adoption Agencies like Adopt Coast to Coast recruit, assess and train and support prospective adopters and match children to approved adopters. RAAs work with both prospective adopters and children’s social workers so can often progress a match more quickly.
Yes – adoption leave and pay in the UK is similar to the maternity/paternity leave and pay rights of birth parents.
If you are employed and take time off work to adopt a child or children, you are likely to be eligible for Statutory Adoption Leave and Pay for up to 52 weeks. This does not apply to self-employed people. This leave can start on the day the child or children starts living with you or up to 14 days before the expected placement date. If you’re adopting as a couple, only one person will be able to get adoption leave and pay, although the other parent might be able to get shared parental leave or paternity leave.
Your employee might offer additional adoption leave schemes for their employees – speak to your HR department or check your employment contract or staff handbook for details.
You must be over 21 to adopt a child or children in the UK, but there is no upper age limit, although your health and fitness will be taken into account to ensure you can look after a child or children into adulthood.
You don’t get paid to adopt a child or children however there are several ways you might receive financial support:
Government benefits – you may be eligible to government benefits which are available to all families and include child benefit, family tax credit and disability living allowance, as appropriate. The government website can help you see if you are eligible for these benefits.
Adoption pay and leave – working parents are entitled to adoption pay and leave.
One-off payment from the child’s local authority – if the child or children have additional needs, or you have limited resources, we may be able to help.
Travel expenses – where you need to travel away from home to meet and get to know children, we will contribute towards essential travel costs and overnight accommodation
Adoption allowance – regular financial support may be paid on a weekly or monthly basis to adoptive parents if the child or children meet the eligibility criteria. This allowance is aimed at encouraging the adoption of children who might otherwise not be adopted due to the extra support the children need. The amount payable is determined and paid by the local authority caring for the child or children and it is means-tested. This payment could be in the form of lump sums or ongoing payments. Adoption allowance is subject to an annual review process and is based on the child’s changing needs as well as the financial circumstances of the adopters.
Adoption Support Fund – this is available for children who are placed for adoption, or already adopted, and who are assessed as requiring designated therapeutic services. These therapies are designed to improve relationships with friends, family members, teachers and school staff, help the child or children learn better, manage their emotions and behaviour, and grow their confidence.