The adoption process

Steps involved in the adoption process, from checks and references, to the assessment and placing a child with you.

1 Overview

The adoption process is split into the following stages and is usually completed within 6 months. At the end of the Stage 2 assessment a decision is made on your suitability to adopt:

  • Information stage
  • Stage 1 assessment
  • Stage 2 assessment
  • Approved adopters

The next sections are a summary of the process. More detailed information on the stages can be downloaded below.

Adoption information pack (PDF, 719KB)

2 Information stage

Initial enquiry

Find out more about the information process by:

  • reading the why adopt page and the adoption information pack
  • contacting one of our experienced social workers to ask any questions you might have
  • arranging an appointment at one of our monthly information sessions.

If you want to know more, or take the next steps towards adopting with West Sussex, you can make an online enquiry.

Initial call

Once your online application has been received, an adoption social worker will phone you to answer any immediate questions you have about adopting with us. We will send further information for you to read; this will also have a return slip inside requesting an initial home visit.

Once we receive this back from you we will contact you to arrange a visit within approximately 10 working days. If we cannot help you directly, we will guide you to another adoption agency that may be better placed to help with your enquiry.

Initial visit

At the initial visit we will run through in more detail what we are looking for in an adoptive parent, and what adoption involves. You will be able to ask more questions about adopting a child and the assessment process.

Expression of interest

A Registration of Interest form will be sent to you to complete. This is a formal application and signifies your readiness to progress with an adoption assessment.

3 Stage 1 assessment

We aim to complete stage one within two months.

Exploring adopter’s initial interest 

During this stage prospective adopters will be exploring the extent of their interest in, and capacity for, adoption. They will be asked to attend a preparation training course and undertake some individual reading, where appropriate. The course takes place over three days and it is essential prospective adopters attend the full programme.

During the process applicants will be expected to undertake additional childcare experience with children of the age they wish to adopt who are not known or related to them.

It is expected that at least three of these sessions will be completed in Stage 1 and we strongly recommend that this is continued throughout the process. This is important as it gives experience of developing and maintaining relationships with children who are not known to the applicants.  

We will undertake a further home visit. This visit will be to complete further statutory checks, including:

During this visit a Stage 1 agreement will be drawn up, covering all the areas outlined above so that all parties are clear and comfortable with the agreed process.

An adoption workbook will be provided and needs to be completed by applicants. Support for applicants to complete this stage will be offered by the Adoption Team through regular workshops.   

Applicants are also required to have a medical examination. This can be carried out by their own general practitioner, who will submit a report to the County Medical Adviser.


Stage 1 will reach a conclusion when a West Sussex Adoption Team Manager makes the decision whether the prospective adopters might be suitable to adopt. In order to do this the team manager requires access to all the completed Stage 1 checks and the write up of the initial adoption assessment. The manager will also need to have received confirmation that the prospective adopters have attended the adoption preparation training.

Once a decision has been made the prospective adopters will receive confirmation of this decision in writing. If successful, contained in this letter will be a notification slip for you to complete and return to us signifying that you wish to progress to Stage 2 of the process and commence an assessment with us. At this point the name of your adoption assessment social worker will be confirmed.

4 Stage 2 assessment

Your first assessment visit will be arranged to take place soon after we receive your notification slip. During this first visit your adoption worker will agree an assessment plan with you, where we will agree the dates of home visits in advance, working towards a panel date. This is sometimes known as a Stage 2 agreement.

Part of our role is to give you full information about the sorts of children in your area who need to be adopted.

The Prospective Adopter's Report 

As the assessment reaches its final stages your adoption social worker will start to put together your Prospective Adopter's Report (PAR). This report details your potential as an adoptive parent, along with the results of your adoption medical, police and authority checks and personal references.

The Adoption Panel and decision-making

The Adoption Panel is made up of two social workers, other professionals and independent people, including an adopter and possibly an adoptee. These panel members look at your completed PAR and consider if you should be approved to adopt.

You will be invited to attend an Adoption Panel meeting where the Panel will make their recommendation in relation to your approval as adoptive parents.

5 Approved adopters

Matching you with children

Once you have been approved to adopt your adoption social worker will visit you to draw up a matching agreement. This agreement will outline how we will go about finding the right match for you and your family. We will begin to consider whether there are children waiting for adoption locally who might be a suitable match for you.

We’ll begin the matching process by looking at the profile of children you have been approved to adopt by the Adoption Panel. If no local children are identified as possible matches our social workers will look for children across a wider area using the National Adoption Register (with your consent) and Adoption Link.

Introductions and placement 

Next we will arrange an adoption planning meeting where you, your social worker, the child’s social worker, your child’s foster carers and their social worker will get together.

You will discuss and pull together all the planning required to ensure you have everything you need and the child is as prepared as possible for the move to your care. At this meeting a very detailed introduction plan will be agreed to set out how best to introduce the child to you, and vice versa. Introductions last between 1-6 weeks, depending on the age and needs of the children. 

Supporting adopters and children

The early days and weeks of placement are life-changing and can be very exciting. They can also be exhausting and anxiety-provoking. Here in West Sussex we are very committed to providing adopters with high-quality support and we will make sure that you and the child or children you plan to adopt receive regular social work visits.

Adoption Order 

Following a period of post-placement support, and when everyone is happy that your child or children have settled successfully in your family, a discussion will be held about when you will apply for an Adoption Order. This will be undertaken at a looked after children review meeting.

6 Further information

Last updated:
29 June 2018

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