An Overview of Adoption Laws in the UK

The United Kingdom1976 Adoption Act gives the Court the power to transfer parental responsibility of a child from the birth parents to adoptive parents who may be family members or strangers.

Process for Adoption

The process for adoption in the United Kingdom is currently lengthy and under review by the Government. However the current practise is for prospective adopters, who have been assessed by the local authority, to make an application to the Court to adopt a child who has been placed with them for six months or more.

Care Orders

Children who are subject to adoption applications are usually placed with approved potential adopters but are in the care of the local authority and subject to Care Orders granted by the Court.  A Care Order means that the local authority shares parental responsibility for the child with the birth parent and can decide where the child will live.

Reporting Officer

Once the adoption application is lodged by the potential adopters with the Court, a Reporting Officer is appointed whose role is to visit the birth parents to gain written consent to the adoption. If the birth parents consent is given freely and unconditionally then the reporting officer writes a report for the Court and a date is made for the adoption hearing ,when an adoption order is likely to be granted.


In the event that the birth parent does not agree to the adoption, the court appoints a Guardian whose role is to ascertain the wishes and feelings of the child and make enquiries of the birth, adopted family, school etc. Once the report is filed with the court a date for a contested hearing is set where the birth family, child via the Guardian, local authority and sometimes the adopted parents are legally represented.

Court Hearing

The first step in the proceedings is for the Judge to decide whether the parent is withholding their consent unreasonably. If the judge decides that the parent is not being unreasonable then the adoption order will not be granted and the local authority will need to re think plans for the child. If however the judge decides that the parent is being unreasonable then he/she can decide to dispense with the parent’s consent and either then or at a later date grant the adoption order.

Once the adoption order is granted parental responsibility for the child is held by the adopters and no longer lies with the birth parents or the local authority.