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Adopting a child already living with you

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Adoption is an important matter, and makes a change in a child's life that will last a lifetime. It is for that reason the focus of in-family adoption is on the child's needs; not just for now, but also looking ahead to his or her future. The courts will only make an adoption order if they are satisfied that this is the only way that the child's needs an be met. There is information below on some alternatives to adoption.

There are a number of reasons why people may consider adopting a child who already lives with them:


Applicants do not have to be married, but evidence is needed of a long-term stable relationship, where both parties have been parenting the child together for a significant period of time, usually at least two years. We would not normally make a recommendation to the court for an adoption order to be made on a child under five years old. This is because the child needs to be old enough to have some understanding of adoption, and to be able to express their wishes and feelings.

Quick guide to the step parent adoption process

  • Initial conversation with a social worker: Following your initial contact with us, an adoption social worker will have a telephone conversation with you. This will enable us to gather basic information about your situation and advise whether we feel it is appropriate for your enquiry to proceed. If not we may offer advice on other available options. If we are able to proceed, you will be offered an appointment for an initial meeting. Usually there is a waiting list for this service.
  • Initial counselling meeting: This meeting explores in more detail the applicant's motivation and the child's understanding and wishes and feelings about the proposed adoption. The issue of contacting the absent parent will also be discussed at this time. At the end of this meeting a decision as to how to proceed is agreed. It is also at this point that we begin our statutory checks on the applicant. This includes a fully enhanced police check (DBS) and local authority checks.
  • Case allocated to a social worker: Once checks have been completed a social worker is allocated to your case, there is usually a waiting list for allocation. The social worker will undertake 2-3 home visits to complete the required assessment. Family references, ex-partner references, school references, talking to other children in the family will all take place at this point, as will conversations with the absent parent. The assessment of the applicant will consider the relationship with the child and how the applicant has parented the child. The child will also be spoken to about their views on the proposed adoption. Once our assessment complete we will be able to advise you whether we are able to recommend the making of an adoption order.
  • Court application: The final part of the process is where the applicant makes an application to court. The applicant is responsible for the costs of the application (it is currently £170). The court process generally takes anywhere between 3-9 months to complete.

We will guide you through the process step by step but we hope that this summary gives families some understanding of what this process can look like.

Other relatives

This would include for example grandparents, aunts or uncles. Usually the child would need to have been living with you for at least 3 years before an application can be made to adopt.

Special guardians

Again the child would need to have been living with you for at least three years.

Same sex parents

In some circumstances it may be appropriate for a same sex parent to adopt a child conceived via surrogacy or sperm donation.

Parents who have adopted a child in another country

Some legal adoptions made in other countries (who have not signed up to the Hague Convention) are not recognized in England, and therefore an application to adopt is needed to the English courts if the child comes to live in the country.

Foster carers

Foster carers wishing to adopt a child in their care need to speak to their social worker and the child's social worker.

Note: The court expects to have the views of all birth parents, in almost all adoption proceedings. If at all possible birth parents will therefore be interviewed in all cases, whether or not they have parental responsibility.

Applications with a foreign element

Is the child in the UK and is the child's parent in the UK? If the parent and child are in the UK, the process is a little easier.

Relatives (other than parents) will need a home study to adopt.

Nationality and immigration issues are often very complex, and legal advice will be needed.

Alternatives to in-family adoption

  • Change of name by deed poll
  • Parental responsibility agreement drawn up by a solicitor
  • An application can be made to court for a special guardianship order, or child arrangements order, both of which could extend parental responsibility to another person or people, without ending the birth parents' parental responsibility
  • If you are considering any of these options we would recommend that you seek independent legal advice

Contact us

If you're interested in adopting a child already living with you, contact us on or 01603 638343

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