Despite a positive outcome for many, all adoptions are first created through loss; birth parents must part with their child and the child must part with the birth parents.

Adoption loss can be caused by a range of factors, including relinquishment of the child by birth parents, removal of the child by child welfare authorities, or a voluntary decision by adoptive parents to end an adoption. In each unique case, the individual may experience a sense of disconnection, loss, and a longing for what could have been. It can have a significant impact on a person’s sense of identity, relationships, and mental health; there may be feelings of abandonment, trust issues, rejection, or not belonging, as well as difficulties in forming and maintaining relationships. Birth parents may also experience grief and guilt over the loss of their child and may struggle with feelings of regret.

Adoption is a largely positive way of providing a child, who cannot be raised by its own parents, with a new family and is the legal procedure which transfers parental responsibility to the adoptive parents. Once an adoption order has been granted, in most cases it cannot be reversed; a child who has been adopted no longer has any legal ties to their birth family and is recognised by law as a part of their new family.

    • Whichever way adoption comes about, it is a legal process that involves complex legal procedures and there is much legal paperwork to navigate, legal requirements to be met and court attendances if necessary.
    • Adoption can be emotionally challenging and stressful, and having a solicitor on side can help alleviate some of the stress by taking care of the legal aspects of the adoption, leaving you free to focus on bonding with your new child.
    • A solicitor can also provide support and advice on issues such as contact arrangements with birth parents or other legal issues that may arise during the adoption process.
    • They can also help ensure that your adoption is legally recognised and that you have all the legal rights and responsibilities that come with being a parent.
    • This can include issues such as parental responsibility, inheritance, and custody. In some cases the adoption may be contested or challenged by birth parents, relatives, or other interested parties and a family law solicitor who specialises in adoption can provide legal representation and advocate for your interests in court.
    • This is invaluable in ensuring that your adoption process goes smoothly and that your legal rights as a parent are protected.

Who can adopt?

    • You must be over 21 and there is no upper age limit.
    • You must have lived in the British Isles for at least a year to apply to adopt.
    • You must have the time and space for a child.
    • There are no limitations on your relationship status.
    • People with disabilities can also adopt.
    • You don’t have to own your own home.
    • People on low incomes or benefits are eligible.
    • People with criminal records can also apply but this is dependent on the offence.
      Quite often families will temporarily foster a child before moving onto the adoption stage, making it a legally permanent arrangement; it is not uncommon for some step-parents to start the adoption process of their step-child.

How do you start the adoption process?

The first step is to contact your local authority adoption agency to find out about their particular adoption process. The agency will meet the prospective adoptive parent(s) and this will lead on to the formal adoption application and assessment.

The adoption assessment

    • Once a formal adoption application has been received, the agency will invite you to a series of classes that provide advice about adoption and the effects it can have on you, outlining the challenges of child adoption.
    • There will be a series of visits by a social worker who will assess your suitability, followed by a police check.
    • Three referees will then need to provide personal references (only one of whom can be a relative).
    • You must undergo a full medical examination.
    • The assessment will be sent to an independent adoption panel. The panel may ask further questions before submitting a recommendation to the agency, which will then decide on suitability.
    • If the agency approves the adoption, you will be referred to the Adoption Register for England. If the agency refuses the application, you can challenge this in writing or apply to the Independent Review Mechanism for England and Wales.
    • The approval process normally takes 6-8 months overall.

How do you get parental rights and responsibility?

After the adoption has taken place, and the child has lived with you for at least 10 weeks, an application for an adoption court order is made to a Family Court. This will confer parental rights and responsibilities upon the adoptive parent(s), provide them with an adoption certificate, and make the adoption fully legal and permanent.

Do the birth parents have any rights?

The child’s birth parents must give consent to the adoption unless:

    • they are absent and cannot be found
    • they do not have the mental capacity to provide consent due to mental health conditions
    • the child would otherwise be at risk

Managing the emotional wellbeing of the child after adoption

Grief, separation and loss can play a big part though the loss of birth parents, siblings, grandparents and extended family. Older children who were adopted later in life may grieve the loss of foster families, friends and neighbours. Everyone processes grief and loss in their own way and at their own pace, and some children may require extra support as they come to terms with these difficult emotions.

Self-esteem and identity issues may surface as adopted children struggle to find their place in their new family unit. Some adopted children view themselves as different, unwelcome or rejected and may struggle to fit in. Children who face feelings of rejection and struggle to settle often experience low self-esteem.

Attachment issues and other challenges can occur in older children who experienced early trauma such as neglect, abuse, multiple foster care placements or institutional care leading to developmental, social and emotional difficulties including ADHD, substance abuse, learning disabilities, depression, anxiety and attachment disorders.

There are many agencies available to help you and your adopted child cope with these emotions and behaviours.

Here at Arlingsworth Solicitors, we expertly understand the complexities and legal requirements of the UK’s adoption process and we are here to offer professional legal guidance 24/7 to provide you with the very best legal advice, support and representation. We can assist with:

    • adopting a child in this country who has been brought into the UK from overseas
    • adopting a child from social services care
    • adopting a child within the family
    • support services for adopted children at the point of adoption and in the long term, and negotiating with social services to obtain support
    • problems being assessed to be approved as an adopter or where there are disputes between adopters and social services or other adoption agencies
    • contact for children who are adopted or are about to be adopted
    • applications by birth families in adoption proceedings

If you need assistance with any adoption issues, please contact our Brighton office on: +44 (0) 1273 696962 or our London office on: +44 (0) 203 358 0058. Alternatively, request a callback, or email You can also follow us on social media for any other important news and updates.
The information in this blog is intended for general information only. It is up-to-date at the time of writing. However, it does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated or relied upon as such. It is provided without any representations or warranties, express or implied.