Applications for an adoption order
In this section of our website, you can find out about adoption proceedings in the family court and the role of a social worker employed by Cafcass Children’s Guardian in children’s cases where adults are applying to adopt a child (‘non-agency adoption’).
The role of the child’s Guardian in these cases is to make sure the adults understand what the adoption means for them and the child, and that the birth parents really do agree to it.
The court may appoint a Children’s Guardian to become involved in children’s cases where the local authority as an adoption agency or an independent adoption agency wants to place a child for adoption (‘agency adoption’).
The role of the child’s Guardian in these cases is to make sure that the birth parents fully understand the process and agree to it, or, if they do not agree to it, to tell the court what they think is best for the child.
Adopting a child
In order to legally adopt a child, you must apply for an adoption order. This takes parental responsibility away from the child’s birth parents or anyone else who holds parental responsibility for the child and gives you parental responsibility for the child. You can only do this when the child has been living with you for a certain amount of time.
In most cases, an adoption order cuts all legal ties between an adopted child and their birth parent(s) and creates a new legal relationship between the child and the adoptive parents. The exception is children’s cases involving adopting a stepchild, where the child’s birth parents and the step-parent share parental responsibility.
If everyone agrees to the adoption, the social worker appointed by the court who is employed by Cafcass is known as a Reporting Officer. They will speak to everybody involved to make sure that they:
understand what the adoption means for them and the child; and
really do agree to the adoption.
They will then witness the consent forms being signed and inform the court. If the birth parent lives out of the country, an official in that country (specified by the court rules) will likely have to assist in witnessing the consent of the birth parent.
The forms will be sent to the court together with a short report. This provides the court with the evidence that the parent(s) consent to the adoption.
If a parent does not agree to the adoption, or cannot be found, the court may appoint a children’s guardian. Find out what happens if a parent does not agree to adoption on our court process webpage.
Adopting a stepchild
To adopt your partner’s child, you need to apply for an adoption order. The court may then appoint a Reporting Officer. Their role is to make sure the adults understand what the adoption means for them and the child, and that the birth parents really do agree to it.