The court process
An adoption order transfers parental responsibility from the child’s birth parents to the adoptive parents (except for a step-parent adoption where parental responsibility is shared with the birth parent(s)).
If an adoption order is made, the adoptive parent will become the legal parent of the child (along with their partner if they have one). The legal relationship between the child and the other birth parent will be broken. This is a permanent decision and cannot be reversed once the order is made.
If everyone agrees to the adoption
If everyone agrees to the adoption the Cafcass social worker is appointed as a Reporting Officer. The Reporting Officer 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.
The Reporting Officer will not be able to witness consent if the birth parent lives out of the country and this will likely have to be done by an official in that country.
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 you do not agree to your child being adopted
If you do not agree with the plan for your child to be adopted, it is important that you get advice from your solicitor as soon as possible. You should let the court, Cafcass and the local authority know about the reasons you do not agree with the plan to adopt your child.
An application for a placement order
If a local authority is seriously worried about the safety and welfare of a child and they want to make decisions about that child, they will need to apply to the court. These are called care or supervision proceedings.
The local authority social worker will carry out some investigations into the child’s welfare and suggest a care plan.
If they feel adoption is the best option for the child, the local authority will apply for a placement order. A placement order allows the local authority to place a child with suitable adopters, even if the parents do not agree.
To learn more about placement orders, visit applications for supervision and care orders.
Once the adoption order is made
Once an adoption order is made, you will no longer have any legal relationship with your child.
Contact with children after adoption
When making an adoption order, the court will decide whether it is appropriate for the birth parents to have any contact with, or receive any information about, their child.
The court can make an order specifically preventing any contact between the child and certain people. The guardian may make a recommendation to the court about what they think is best. Any decision will be based on the best interests of the child.
At any time after the making of an adoption order an application can be made for post adoption contact to be considered by the person(s) in whose favour the adoption order was made, the child or any person who has been given permission by the court to make an application.
I want my child to be adopted
If you decide that being placed for adoption is right for your child, or just want some help with considering it further, you should inform your local authority.
Adoptions are arranged by adoption agencies but are made legally binding by the family court making an adoption order. Once granted, an adoption order is final and cannot be overturned.
Although preparations for the adoption can begin before your child is born, nothing will be arranged until after the birth.
Cafcass' role if you want your child to be adopted
When your baby is at least six weeks old, the local authority social worker will arrange for you to be interviewed by a Cafcass Officer. Their role is to make sure that you have received all the important information about the process and have thought through all the issues.
They will ask you to sign a formal document consenting to your child’s placement for adoption. You may also give advance consent to an adoption order being made when the adopters apply for it.
Our officer will then send the signed consent forms, along with confirmation that consent was given freely and unconditionally, to the local authority. This will be used as evidence that the birth parent or parents have agreed to placement, and possibly to adoption.
Once the child has been placed with prospective adopters, and has lived with them for at least ten weeks, they can then apply to the court for an adoption order.
Support and further information
You will be encouraged to see a specialist adoption worker to assist you in making your decision, and there are also services available for birth parents after their child has been adopted.
There are many agencies who provide support groups and workers who know a lot about adoption. You can ask the social worker for details about this and other support services available.
Local authorities also provide support to everyone involved in adoption throughout a child’s childhood and beyond. They will be there to assist if any difficulties arise in relation to contact with your child, or if you have any queries about the process.