Adoption International or Domestic

Adoption is a means by which parental responsibility for a child, under the age of eighteen, is legally removed from a birth parent and granted to those who are applying to adopt the child. Once the adoption order is granted by the Court the child and adopted parents assume the same legal relationship as that of a birth child and parent.  

Adoption can involve a child from the applicant’s country (domestic adoption) or from overseas (international adoption). Both forms of adoption involve an assessment of the applicants and legal proceedings. In the UK both domestic and overseas adoption are governed by the Adoption and Children Act 2002.

In the UK there is no difference between the making of an adoption order in domestic or overseas adoption. During the proceedings applicants need to show the Court that the they have been successfully assessed, the birth parents are aware of the proceedings and that the child is free to be adopted.  If the birth parent does not give consent or cannot be found the Court needs to consider whether to dispense with their consent before making an adoption order.  This issue is particularly important in respect to international adoption when illegal practices are known to take place.


The majority of children who are available for adoption in the UK are known to Social Services and have been subject to family court proceedings to enable the local authority to gain a Care Order and share parental reasonability with the birth parent. Once the care order is granted and prospective adopters found the child can be placed for adoption and after six months the adopters can make an application to the Court for an adoption order.

Children available for adoption in the UK tend to be over two years of age and are likely to have experienced abuse, neglect and a number of placements.  However because the child has been known to social services the adopters will be provided with details of the child’s history and birth family. In some circumstances the child may have ongoing contact with the birth family.

International Adoption

Children who are available for adoption oversees tend to be younger than those found in the UK. The children may have been orphaned or abandoned from birth. They are more than likely to have been placed in an orphanage where emotional and physical care can be limited.  The carers and authorities may have little, if any, information about the child’s history or birth family. The birth parent is likely to have given consent to overseas adoption when the child was placed in the orphanage but is unlikely to have had ongoing contact with the child.

Children who are subject to international adoption will have been subject to adoption proceedings in their home country before the adopters can take them to the UK.  However until an adoption order is granted in the UK the child is in a limbo situation because the overseas adoption order is not recognized by the British courts and as a consequence no one legally holds parental responsibility for the child until an British adoption order is granted.


According to the International Adoption Guide overseas adoption takes approximately three years from the day the first enquiry is made to the making of an adoption order. A domestic adoption in the UK is estimated to take eighteen months once the child is matched with the prospective adopters. 


An international adoption can cost the applicants thousands of pounds to pay for the assessment, travel, overseas accommodation and legal costs. A domestic adoption costs the applicants nothing and in some circumstances the local authority will fund the placement following the making of the adoption order.

International and domestic adoption in the UK have similarities and differences. However no matter what form of adoption is preferred both surely must benefit the child. All children no matter what their ethnic origin have the right to experience family life. For those who are not able to live with their birth family it is surely only right that they are placed with alternative parents who hold the same responsibilities as a birth parent.