Taking place between 12th to 18th October 2020, National Adoption Week strives to raise awareness of adopting and its impact on the lives of those involved. This week is supported by those in the industry, from adoption agencies to parents and our family law team here at Jefferies. Every year in the UK, there are around 4,000 children waiting for loving adoptive parents. This year, there is a stronger emphasis on those children that need it the most, such as siblings, older children, BAME children and those with disabilities or illness.
Adoption can make such a positive impact on your own life and that of the child’s. If you’re considering adopting, we wish you all the very best with the process. At Jefferies, we are playing our part in National Adoption Week by offering advice and answering questions when it comes to adoption.
What is adoption and how does it differ from fostering?
Adoption is the legal procedure in which parental responsibility is transferred to adopters permanently. In most cases of adoption, the biological parent is willing to give up their parental responsibility of the child, then the prospective adopter will go through a process that entitles them to that responsibility instead. Adoption means that the adopting parent(s) will have full sole parental responsibility for the child(ren), and the biological parent will no longer be part of the upbringing of the child.
In contrast, fostering a child is usually a temporary care arrangement. With fostering, there is usually a shared responsibility for the child, often between the foster parents, carers, authority and the child’s parents.
What rights do the birth parents have once the child is adopted?
Once the Adoption Order has been granted, it is final and it cannot be reversed. In most cases, the biological parent will no longer be able to see their child after they have been adopted. However, if it is agreed with the new adopting parents and the court, the biological parent should be able to receive regular information about how their birth child is getting on. In most cases, they may be able to get in touch once or twice a year via letters or photographs, but this is always with the permission of the new parents. When a child reaches 18 years old, they also have the option of seeing their birth certificate, where they may look to trace their biological parent.
What if the biological parent changes their mind about the adoption?
There can be a chance for the biological parent to stop the adoption from moving forward if it’s early on in the adoption process. However, there is a certain point in the process that biological parents are no longer able to revoke the adoption, certainly when the Adoption Order has been granted. So, if the process is still underway, it is critical that the biological parent instructs a Solicitor as soon as possible for the best advice.
If the Adoption Order has been granted, biological parents can only revoke consent to the adoption in very rare cases, such as if they gave consent due to fraud or coercion, or if they were mentally incapable of making the decision in the first place. However, even in those rare cases, the court will always need to consider the best interest of the child.
What is the legal criteria to become an adoptive parent?
There are many misconceptions about who can and cannot adopt, however, there are just three main criteria that you need to meet in order to be considered for adoption:
- You need to be at least 21 years old
- Living in the British Islands
- With a clear record free of any convictions or cautions for criminal defences – also taking into account the same for your family members
You can apply if you are a single parent, married or in a civil partnership, or same-sex relationship to be considered an adoptive parent. It also does not matter if you have a disability or illness, so long as it doesn’t put the care of the child at risk.
This process can sometimes be lengthy and will involve police checks, references and various requirements to check the child will be safe in your permanent care. If there are other children involved in the family, this will also be factored into the process. If you need more advice as to whether you are eligible, get in contact with our team for more advice.
How long does it take to adopt a child?
The whole adoption process can vary on a case-by-case basis. On average, however, it usually takes about six months for the adoption to become official through court proceedings. Under the review of social workers, there are also certain minimum periods that a child must live with you to prove that you are suitable to become an adoptive parent. The child must have lived with you at least 10 weeks before you can apply for the Adoption Court Order.
Can I choose the child that I want to adopt?
You can discuss with the adoption agency the backgrounds of the children that you hope to care for, such as age, gender, or interests, for example wanting to help children that may have learning difficulties. There are some private adoption agencies that will be able to cater for more specific criteria, but you should bear in mind that private adoptive agencies will involve costs.
There are often cases that people want to adopt a child that they are already close with. A common example is when the biological mother remarries a new partner and they want to establish parental responsibility as a couple, making the new partner an adoptive step-parent. This can sometimes lead to conflicts, especially if the biological father does not agree with the adoption. If you are in this situation, make sure you get in touch with a Solicitor to advise you on what to do next.
Can I adopt a child abroad?
As with any adoption in the UK, you will also need to be assessed like any prospective adopter to ensure you are suitable to adopt a child overseas. However, it is important to note that there are certain countries that you will not be allowed to adopt from and criminal penalties can be imposed if you break the law. Always be cautious about whom you seek advice from and ensure they are qualified to advise you and preferably a member of the Child Law panel i.e. approved with the Law Society as a specialist in the field. We at Jefferies are.
If you need advice with adopting a child overseas, our Family Law team are particularly experienced in cases that involve international child matters so can advise with this but advise should be taken at an early stage.
How Jefferies is supporting National Adoption Week
To mark National Adoption Week, our Family Law team have created a series of posts to help you understand the adoption process and other related legal matters. Follow the links below to read our advice on:
How Jefferies can help
Thinking of adopting or have more questions? To ensure all bases are covered and the adoption process runs as smoothly as possible, we always recommend getting a Solicitor by your side whatever step of the process you are at. We have a wealth of understanding in the most complex adoption cases, so we can advise in any matter.