Information for Non-Agency (Step Parent) Adoption Applicants
Making an adoption application needs careful thought even where it is a step parent who is looking to adopt the child they are living with. This is because an Adoption Order transfers the parental responsibilities and legal rights and entitlements from the child’s birth parents to the adoptive parents. The decisions made by the court in these cases will affect the rest of the child’s life.
The local authority has a duty to ensure that you have considered whether other alternatives may be more appropriate than adoption.
You may find that you don’t need to take the major step of adoption to achieve what you would like for the child.
- Changing a name can be done in ways other than adoption and a solicitor can advise.
- Securing inheritance can be done by making a will through a solicitor.
- Guardianship of the child by the step parent, in the event of the death of the birth parent with whom the child is living, can be arranged by making a will through a solicitor - this is testamentary guardianship.
- Shared legal responsibility between step parent and birth parents can be arranged by the making of a Parental Responsibility Order. Again, a solicitor can advise you.
- Child Arrangement Order – allows the child to remain living in the current residence. This does not remove the parental rights or responsibilities from the birth parents.
What about the 'absent' birth parent?
Except where the absent birth parent has died, it is your responsibility to try to discover his/her whereabouts, and try to establish his/her views about the proposed adoption application. It is not the responsibility of children's services to do this, although if it is not possible to trace the absent birth parent, this should be discussed with the social worker at the initial interview.
We want to proceed - what do we do first?
If you think that an Adoption Order is the most appropriate way forward for the child and your family, please complete the following enquiry form registering your interest in the next stage of the adoption process. A social worker will then contact you to arrange an initial interview.
Following your initial visit, you may decide to go ahead with an adoption application and so you must give notice to the local authority where you are living of your intention to adopt the child/ren. The social worker will advise you of the process in your initial visit.
Please be aware that:
The local authority must be notified at least 3 months before you make an application to court for an Adoption Order, and that:
- The step parent must be 21 years old or over.
- The birth parent must be 18 years or over.
- Couples must be in a stable relationship for at least 12 months and preferably longer.
- The child must have lived with you both for a minimum of 6 months prior to the application.
Once your letter of intention to adopt has been received by your local authority, you will be sent a formal acknowledgement and further information which will explain the adoption process in more detail. Keep this letter safe as the court may need it. Notice of intention to adopt expires after two years, so you will need to lodge your adoption application with the court within this time.
What should we tell the child/ren and when?
All children require truthful information about their birth parents and a full understanding of who they are. Before you begin adoption proceedings you will need to have spoken to your child, in terms which s/he can understand, about your plans for adoption. The court will need to know the child's wishes and feelings. Again, if you are unsure how to introduce the adoption to your child, advice can be sought from the social worker at the initial interview.
The social worker will need to spend time with the child and then prepare a full report for the court, which will include the child's wishes and feelings.