More often than not, the children who are waiting to be adopted will have suffered some form of abuse; either emotional, physical, sexual or neglect. What these children need most is stability and security and they need to live in a family that will put them first.

In spite of all the publicity about adoption and the need to find more carers, many people believe that it is only white, heterosexual, married, home owning couples who can adopt or foster. This is not the case and adoption agencies deal with many applications and enquiries from people who do not fit into the description above.

You need to be able to provide a safe and nurturing environment for children to grow up in for the rest of their childhood and until they are adults.

Although there has never been a law preventing lesbian, gay or bisexual individuals from adopting children, same-sex couples (or indeed any unmarried couples) have not previously been able to apply for adoption jointly in England and Wales. In the past, only one partner could become the adoptive parent, whilst the other would apply for a residence order so that they too would have some legal status as a parent with parental responsibilities.

In November 2002, the Adoption and Children Act passed into law allowing unmarried couples, including same-sex couples, to apply for joint adoption. Any unmarried couple wishing to adopt will need to be able to demonstrate that their partnership is an ‘enduring family relationship’.

Although the Act became law in 2002, it was not until December 2005 that the necessary regulations were in place in order to bring about this change. Since then, unmarried couples in England and Wales have been able to apply to adopt jointly.

You do not have to register a Civil Partnership to adopt jointly. Additionally, a single person or one partner in an unmarried couple - heterosexual, lesbian or gay - can adopt.

All the agencies listed here welcome applications from all backgrounds and communities. They do not discriminate against race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or age. They assess people solely on their ability to care for a child.

Criteria for Applicants

There are very few infant placements made these days and when they are, Local Authorities tend to have an over supply of potential adoptive parents. If you feel that you are really looking to adopt a very young child, the best thing to do is contact your Local Authority family placement team, but remember the approval process and timescales are the same for all agencies.

There are also some legal criteria for anyone hoping to adopt:

  • You must be 21 or over
  • You will not be considered suitable to adopt, if you or any member of your household aged 18 or over has been convicted of certain offences or been cautioned by a constable in respect of certain offences
  • You must be a UK citizen or have the right to permanently reside in the UK

Adopting a Sibling Group

There are lots of brothers and sisters out there needing permanent placements.

As a rough guide, over 50% of children come to need placements as part of a sibling group. These groups are often made up of two children but there is also a need to keep together groups of three, four and five children. What often happens is that children for whom a family cannot be found, are split up into smaller family groups and placed apart.

When you first think about adoption you may only be thinking of one child. Many childless couples come to adoption thinking of caring for an infant and it is often a tricky process to begin to consider looking after a family rather than an individual child.

Who are the Children

There are two routes for children to be available for adoption; either children relinquished voluntarily by their birth parents or, as is more common, the outcome of local authority involvement (looked after children).

For many children who the Courts decide are unable to be cared for or returned to their birth families, adoption is clearly the first alternative. The majority of these children may have had a level of social services involvement since very early in their lives and attempts will have been made to support their birth families to care for them appropriately. It is only when this is clearly not in the child’s interests that adoption is recommended.

Many of these children will have experienced at the very least disrupted care through living with birth parents then foster carers. Many have experienced abuse, neglect, inconsistent parenting and may have witnessed levels of domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse.