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Health and Wellbeing
A Health and Well-being Wales Partner

All children benefit from growing up in a stable, secure and loving home; however, there are many reasons that some children cannot live with their birth parents.

Some will live with foster carers, which leaves open the possibility of them one day returning to their natural families. In some circumstances, however, there is no chance that will happen and the child is put up for adoption.

Adoption is very different from fostering because the adopted child will live with you permanently. All the parental responsibilities and duties of the birth parents will be transferred to you by a court order.

The child’s birth parents usually have to agree to the adoption unless:

  • they cannot be found
  • they are not capable of giving consent, e.g. due to a mental disability
  • the child would be put at risk if they were not adopted

The permanence of adoption means the decision should not be taken lightly. You can adopt a child up to the age of 18 if they are not, or have not been, married or in a civil partnership.

Who can adopt a child?

There are no hard and fast rules about who can adopt a child, except that you must be over 21.

  • You can be single or a couple, in a same sex relationship, married, divorced or living together.
  • There is no upper age limit as long as you are fit and well enough (physically and mentally) to meet the demands of looking after a child.
  • You can be from any cultural or religious background. 
  • You might have children of your own, adult children or no children.
  • You can work part-time or full-time, as long as you can care for the child at weekends and in school holidays, and be able to attend meetings.
  • Your home can be owned or rented, large or small.
  • You don’t have to be a British citizen but you must have a permanent address in the UK and must have lived here one year before you begin the application process.

Adopting your partner’s child

When a child has been living with one natural parent in a step-family for more than six months – and the other birth parent is dead or they have no contact with them – it might seem logical for their step-parent to formally adopt them.

Adoption ends the legal relationship between the child and their other living parent, including maintenance and inheritance rights. The new adoptive parent must now assume parental responsibility for the child until they reach adulthood even if their own relationship with the birth parent ends before then.

You need to formally inform your local council of your intention to adopt your step-child at least three months before you issue your court application. A social worker will assess your circumstances and write a detailed report for the court, who will decide if adoption is best for the child. If the birth parent is alive and has parental responsibility – even if there is no current contact – they must agree to the adoption.

Getting the ball rolling

While adoption is not something to take lightly, there are hundreds of children across Wales who are waiting for families to give them a home. Those waiting the longest are usually brothers and sisters who need to stay together and disabled children.

In certain instances, a foster carer may be able to adopt a child they have been temporarily caring for.

If you are serious about wanting to adopt the first thing to do is to contact an adoption agency for information and advice.  All local councils act as adoption agencies and there are also voluntary adoption agencies.

You can make enquiries to more than one adoption agency; however, if you decide to go ahead, you must decide which adoption agency to use and stick to one.

It’s best to start the adoption process when your life is settled with no big life events looming. The adoption process usually takes about six months and you will be matched with a child once you have been approved.

All potential adopters must undergo a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.

It is generally expected that at least one of the potential parents will take at least six months off work when the child first comes to live with you to help them settle in (you will probably be entitled to paid adoption leave).

More information

The National Adoption Service promotes and supports adoption across Wales.

Barnardo’s Cymru and St David’s Children’s Society are voluntary adoption agencies which will advise, prepare and assess potential adoptive parents. 

Last updated: 06/01/2023