Adoption & UK adoption laws

The process of adoption is an extremely difficult and emotional process. The decision to give a child up for adoption is not one that’s taken lightly. Not to mention, figuring out the nitty-gritty of it all. The Mix explains the current state of UK adoption laws and how to handle adoption.

A young woman is considering adoption. This is a wide-angle image.

Giving a baby up for adoption

If you’re thinking about adoption, obviously it makes sense to get informed about all your options. Giving a baby up for adoption isn’t an easy choice to make – for either parent. If you’d like to consider adoption, your doctor can put you in touch with Social Services. From there, you’ll be able to get advice as well as detailed information on what the next steps will be.

Counselling will be provided, to make sure you’re 100% certain about going through with it, and fully aware of the implications of your decision moving forward. You can find also out more about types of therapy and counselling here. Keep in mind that the agency itself can’t guarantee that your child is brought up in a way that you’d agree with. But rest assured that its main priority will always be putting the child’s welfare first.

We know that this is a major decision. Luckily, so do adoption laws in the UK. As such, you’ll have time to change your mind if you want to. UK adoption law states that formal consent can’t take place until at least six weeks after the baby is born. Within that time-frame you can choose to keep your baby if you wish.

Your relationship to the adoptive parents

If you end up choosing adoption, on your end you’ll have to make some final choices. You can choose to know as little or as much about the adoptive family as you want. And you can decide whether or not to keep in touch via the adoption agency or Social Services. To help clarify these decisions, you might want to draw up an adoption plan with your adoption professional.

When giving your baby up for adoption, you should also consider waiting for a suitable family. Alternatively, you can transfer your parental rights to the agency who’ll find a home on your behalf. Whatever you feel most comfortable with. Once the agency finds a loving family, they can then apply for their own adoption order.

When does the process become legal?

Although social workers arrange adoptions and look at adoption applications, they’re made legally binding by the courts. The court’ll make sure that you’re firmly decide on giving your baby up for adoption. On top of that, they’ll ensure that the baby’s new home is a safe environment. It’s worth noting that throughout the entire adoption process, the baby’s well being is one of the, if not the, main concern. 

In line with adoption law in the UK, the adoption is usually made legal three months after the birth of the child. After that point the adopted parents, whether they’re an unmarried couple or a married one, will be considered the legal parents meaning they have complete parental responsibility.

Will my child ever know about me?

If you want, the adoptive parents can keep a ‘life book’ which tells the child all about you. That way they grow up with a sense of where they came from.

However, neither birth parent has the right to see their child after they’ve been adopted. Although the child can get in touch with them after the age of 18. Even so, some adoptive families feel it is healthy for the child to be aware of their origins. If this is the case, they may consent to some contact with the birth mother and/or father. Once the child is under the care of the adoptive parents, it’s up to them to decide what’s best for their child’s development.

What’s the difference between adoption and fostering?

Adoption and fostering being the same thing is a common misconception which couldn’t be further from the truth. 

Adoption means giving up legal and parental responsibility for your child. Fostering, on the other hand, means that another set of parents will temporarily look after your baby. For all intents and purposes you’ll remain the legal guardian. The latter is usually done with the hope that you’ll be in a position to care for your child in the future. If, for whatever reason, you can’t look after your baby for a certain period of time, social services will arrange temporary fostering. While this is happening, they’ll also try to work with you to reunite you with your child. 

Making a decision 

Making a decision about adoption or fostering is something that should not be taken lightly. You should feel able to take time to make the right decision for you and speak to organisations that can help you make an informed choice. To find out more about what to consider, have a read of Adoption: Your Feelings. Plus, if you need help, are living in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland and don’t know where to go, you can find support on a whole range of issues on our website.

Next Steps

By Nishika Melwani

Updated on 14-Jun-2022