Adoptive parents – through a legal process - take on the full parental responsibility for the child, and a life-long commitment to change their life for the better.
This is the key difference between adoption over fostering and Special Guardianship Orders. With adoption, full parental responsibility is transferred to the adoptive parents; fostered children remain the responsibility of the local authority, while children under Special Guardianship Orders are the responsibility of the special guardians and - to a lesser extent - the birth parents.
Having full legal responsibility for the adopted child means that the child is also recognised as having the same rights within an adopted family as if they were a birth child within it.
With adoption, full parental responsibility is transferred to the adoptive parents.
Special guardianship provides parental responsibility for the child, but unlike an adoption order, the child still has a legal link to their parents.
On the whole, the process for adopting a stepchild is the same as if applying to adopt an unknown child.
If part of a couple is adopting their own child (for example, in the case of step-parent adoption) they need be only 18 years of age, provided their partner is at least 21 years of age. We would also typically expect applicants who are part of a couple to have been living together for more than two years before the assessment begins.
It is not unusual for there to be an exchange of written information between birth parents and adoptive parents, often on an annual basis, using the adoption team as an intermediary.
This may also include grandparents and other significant persons from the child's birth family.
The particular circumstances of the child may also make it important for that child to have direct contact with birth family members. On occasions, the court will require a Contact Order to be made and adhered to on behalf of a child.
The simple answer is yes - children should be aware that they are adopted. From the outset, adoptive parents should provide appropriate knowledge to the child so they are aware of their past, circumstances and heritage.
Our Adoption Support Service provides the following for birth family members where their children have been adopted.
- Independent advice on all matters relating to adoption
- Support groups
- Advice on - and negotiation of - contact arrangements, including postal contact
- Advice on tracing family members placed for adoption, including mediation
- Management of face-to-face contact with adoptive family members
The child will begin living with you after an approved matching and linking process. However, the child is not legally recognised as a member of your family at this stage. This cannot take place until an Adoption Order has been made.
Over a period of around eight weeks, the child and adoptive parent/s will have several reviews of the placement by an Independent Review Officer, who reports on how well the placement is running.
During this time you will also receive regular visits from your adoption social worker and the child's social worker. It is their statutory responsibility to visit the child, and they will assist and support you in helping the child settle into the family.
After a minimum of 10 weeks, and if the placement is considered successful by all parties, a review will take place to confirm the findings. Once approved, an application will be made to the court for an Adoption Order. Where necessary, we will pay for you to be represented by a solicitor.
Once the court has approved the Adoption Order, the child is legally recognised as a member of the adoptive parent’s family, and given all rights as if they were their birth child. Ongoing support for the adoptive parents and adopted child is also available.