It has been reported that during the COVID-19 pandemic, adoption agencies have seen a rise in enquiries about the process behind adoption. It is thought that the forced downtime has given people some time and space to think about their personal circumstances and wish to bring a child or children into their family.
So, if you are amongst those thinking about adoption, what are the steps involved?
The Adoption and Children (Scotland) Act 2007 states that, generally speaking, anyone over the age of 21 can apply to adopt, either on their own or with their partner, civil partner or spouse. In the first instance, you will need to contact a recognised adoption agency (such as your local authority, Scottish Adoption or Barnardo’s) who will undertake the relevant checks and provide guidance through the next steps. Many adoption agencies are currently offering online adoption information events to hear more about the adoption process, what checks are required and what support is available.
Once successfully matched with a child or children, a legal petition seeking an adoption order can be lodged with the appropriate court after 13 weeks of the child or children living with their adoptive parent or parents. A court reporter is appointed to visit you and complete a short report to the court with their recommendation to the sheriff on whether the adoption can be granted, and also obtain confirmation for any children over 12 years old that they have consented to the adoption. How long the court process takes can depend on whether there is any opposition from the birth parents and therefore whether further court procedure is required.
If you are looking to adopt a child who is a relative or a step-child, then you do not need to undergo the same pre-adoption checks with an adoption agency, but you do still need to give notice to your local authority of your intention to adopt. They will then investigate your situation and meet with you in order to prepare a report as part of your court application, in addition to the court reporter’s conclusions.
Once granted by the court, an adoption order means that the adoptive parents will become the legal parents and the birth parents will no longer be legal parents or have parental responsibilities and rights.
It is also becoming increasingly common for adoptive parents to look to adopt children from overseas. The rules can vary depending on where the child is being adopted from, where you are currently living and whether the adopter has been assessed as eligible and suitable to adopt from overseas by an adoption agency in the UK. The process is necessarily complex to safeguard the needs of the child.
More information can be found here.