Each adoption is unique and built around the needs of the child. All adoptions involve permanently transferring parental responsibility from one or both birth parents to someone else. Some children are adopted after being placed with their new family by an adoption agency. In other cases adoption is a means of confirming a relationship that already exits and is known as non-agency adoption if an agency did not place the child.
There are various types of adoption and long term care arrangements:
- Adopting a child in care including 'fostering to adopt'
- Adopting a stepchild
- Adopting a relative or child you already know
- Kinship carers or connected persons
- Private fostering
- Adopting a child from overseas
Adopting a child in care
In this situation a local authority has looked after the child because they are unable to remain at home with their birth parents. In most cases a foster carer first cares for the child whilst plans for their future are made.
With fostering to adopt a child is placed with foster parents who are also approved as adopters. This means that the child does not have to move placements if they do not return to the care of their birth parents.
However the foster carers need to understand that the court may decide the child should return to the birth parents or other relative. They will also need to help the child maintain regular contact (often five times a week) with birth parents during the court process.
We are always keen to hear from anyone interested in being approved to foster and adopt. Please discuss this option at your Readiness to Adopt sessions.
Adopting a stepchild
A Non agency adoption enables a step parent to take on full parental responsibility for the child. In adopting the child the non related partner would have the same legal status as any child born to (and registered at birth as the child of) the applicant. Parental responsibility and all legal rights are removed from the other birth parent.
Adoption by a step parent is a big step and is not suitable in all cases, especially if there is, or has been, a relationship between the child and the parents that they do not live with, or their extended family.
The process involves extensive checks and references to be carried out, including DBS checks. A Social worker is allocated to complete an in depth assessment about the family. The views of the child and each birth parent are sought by the social worker who makes a recommendation to the court who will make the final decision.
It is the policy of the Surrey adoption service that, if the child is not of an age or ability to fully understand the significance of adoption, we may recommend that adoption is not appropriate at this time.
Surrey's policy is that there is a two year period of living together as a family to enable the assessment of an enduring relationship, however in some special circumstances this requirement can be waived.
Alternative legal arrangements must be considered before the court is able to make an adoption order. We require that you seek legal advice before making contact with the adoption service in order to fully analyse whether there are other legal arrangements that can be put in place to achieve your outcomes that you are seeking in considering this step.
If you want to explore adopting your stepchild contact us on 01932 794347 between 2:30pm - 4:30pm (Monday - Friday) for information, advice on next steps and the answers to frequently asked questions.
Adopting a relative or child you already know
You may want to adopt a child you know who cannot live with their birth parents. If we are looking after the child, we will need to assess you as an adopter, following our usual process and if you are caring for the child already, you will need to check whether this would be considered a private fostering arrangement. If you are considering adopting a child not being looked after by us or another local authority, you may be able to apply for an adoption order using the non-agency adoption process. A report is made to the court advising whether adoption would be right for the child. Please contact us for more information.
Kinship carers or connected persons
There are various other legal arrangements for children not able to live with birth parents. For example, residence orders or special guardianship could enable you to care for a child whilst sharing parental responsibility with the child's birth parent(s).
It is important that you seek advice on which is the best arrangement for you and the child. Please contact us or seek independent legal advice from a solicitor experienced in family work.
If a child's birth parent wants you to look after their child for more than 28 days and you are not a close relative, you must register this with us as a private fostering arrangement. In this arrangement the parental responsibility for the child remains with the birth parents who delegate day-to-day decisions to you.
Adopting a child from overseas
Although the initial process for adopting a child from overseas is broadly similar to adopting a child in the UK, there are some extra stages and you will also need to meet criteria set in the child's country of origin. You will have to pay all charges connected to the process, which can be substantial.
Each country has its own adoption processes and you will need to find out what these are and also check whether the adoption order from a particular country is recognised in the UK. In some cases, you will need to apply to the UK courts following your return to the UK and a qualifying period. Some countries also require reports to be provided by an approved social work agency after the child has been placed for adoption oversees. The adoptive parent(s) must pay for this.
Many people think it is possible to adopt a younger child or one with fewer medical or emotional needs, than available in the UK. This is not always the case and you should carefully research the countries possible to adopt from and the needs of the children available for adoption.
If you are domiciled or habitually resident in the UK and hope to adopt and bring a child to the UK you must first seek approval from a recognized UK adoption agency. You must follow this process even if you are a UK based foreign national, planning to adopt from your own country or the child is a relative. If you don't you could be prosecuted.
Surrey Children's Services does not provide an assessment service for prospective adopters seeking to adopt overseas. The Inter Country Adoption Service (ICA) now carries this out on our behalf.
Files available to download
- Adoption and fostering in Surrey leaflet (335.0 KB)
This leaflet aims to help you understand the differences between fostering and adoption, allowing you to make the choice that’s right for you and your family.
- Guidance on applying for a visa for a child adopted from overseas (197.9 KB)
Adopting a child from overseas and applying for a visa for a child adopted from overseas.