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Applying to adopt a child in Scotland

Adopting a child will be one of the biggest decisions and lifelong commitments an individual will make, however, the process of adoption can feel daunting and overwhelming. Every adoption process, and every child looking to be adopted, is different. In this blog, we have covered the basics of who can adopt and how the application process works in Scotland.

What is adoption?

Adoption is the legal process and a permanent step in which the birth parents transfer their parental rights and responsibilities to the adopter.

Who can adopt?

In order to adopt a child in Scotland, you must usually be at least 21 years old. If you are part of a couple and one of you is the parent of the child, the birth parent must be at least 18 years of age, and the step-parent - the adopter - at least 21. There is no legal upper age limit. It should be noted, however, that agencies will look for adopters who have both the physical and mental capability to care for a demanding child and who will continue to have this level of energy once the child reaches their teenage years.

You can apply to adopt if:

- You are part of a couple. A couple includes those who are married, civil partners and couples (including same-sex couples) who live together.
- You are a single person
- You are divorced
- You have another child/children
- You have past criminal convictions. This will be thoroughly investigated by an adoption agency or local authority, and should the offence involve children, you will not be unable to adopt.

The assessment process of adoption

Once you have applied to an adoption agency, the agency will assess your suitability of becoming an adoptive parent; a process often referred to as a ‘home study’. It will include checking your:

- Criminal record
- Finances
- Home
- Medical history

It is possible the social worker who is allocated to you may want to meet your family and friends as part of the home study. Once the assessment is completed, your application will then be referred to the agency’s adoption panel to decide whether the agency should approve you.

How long does the assessment process take?

In Scotland, the procedure of assessing a potential adopter typically takes around six to eight months to complete. It may take longer, but the agency should keep you informed of any delays in the process.

My application was rejected – can I appeal the decision?

Should your application not be approved, the adopter can:

- Write a letter to the adoption agency asking them to reconsider, clearly explaining why they should do this
- Use the agency’s complaints procedure
- Complain to the Care Inspectorate
- Apply to another agency, although the adopter must inform them by law about the first failed application.

What are my next steps if my application is accepted?

Once you have been approved as an adoptive parent, it may take some time before a child is found to match you with (typically up to a year). Once an adoption panel has approved you, your details will be referred to Scotland’s Adoption Register, which contains information of all children who are waiting to be adopted nationally.

If the agency has found you a possible match, you should meet your social worker to learn more about the child. Following your meeting, the child’s social worker and the adoption agency will decide whether you are a suitable match for the child.

What if the child’s a close relative or my step-child?

To adopt the child, you must inform your local council. They will check your circumstances and suitability to adopt the child and then prepare a report for the court. The court will then determine whether or not to grant the adoption.

What happens once the child is placed with me?

After a child is placed with you, adoption agency staff will continue to check in to see how things are going. If they are happy that the match works well for both you and the child, the adoption agency will get the court to issue an ‘adoption order’.

Contact our Adoption and Family Lawyers Glasgow, Hamilton & East Kilbride

If you are considering adopting a child, our qualified family lawyers can provide you with first-class legal guidance on the adoption process in Scotland. Get in touch with Austin Lafferty Solicitors today via the online enquiry form.

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