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Finding a child

Once approved to adopt, prospective adopters enter the matching stage of the adoption process. Prospective adopters and social workers liaise to identify possible matches and tools such as the National Adoption Register and Children Who Wait work to speed up the process.

Children waiting for adoption in the UK

Adoption has changed.

Today, very few babies are 'given up' for adoption in the UK. 

Instead, each year in England alone, there are around 4,000 children waiting in foster care, unable to live with their birth families. The majority are older children, sibling groups who need to be placed together or children with disabilities.

These children come from a wide range of ethnic and cultural backgrounds.

Children waiting for adoption have had unsettled starts in life and all will have experienced some form of loss by being taken into care.

Many have also sadly experienced abuse and/or neglect. Adoption transforms their lives.

Matching adopters with a child

Once approved to adopt, prospective adopters enter the matching stage of the adoption process. The exact length and detail of this stage can vary from adopter to adopter.

Prospective adopters' social workers liaise with children's social workers to identify possible matches.

They take care to consider the needs of the child(ren) with what the type of family and care prospective adopters can provide.

Sometimes they have a child for adopters in mind early on and sometimes social workers need to look to others areas of the UK for a match.

The Adoption Register

There are adoption registers for England and Scotland. They record the details of approved prospective adopters and children waiting for adoption.

Social workers representing approved adopters as well as those representing children looking for families can search the register and it works to reduce delays in the matching process.

Prospective adopters are placed on the register within three months of approval (if they have not already been matched in that time).

Once a possible match has been found, prospective adopters are given further information and can discuss with their social worker whether they feel they can provide the family and type of care the child(ren) needs.

Prospective adopters can then decide whether to proceed to matching panel, where an independent panel will formally decide on the match. Once a panel has approved the match, introductions can commence.

Find out more about the adoption process on the First4Adoption website.

Children Who Wait

Family-finding services, like our 'Children Who Wait', can also assist the matching process.

Available as a secure, online tool and a wide-reaching printed publication, the service features profiles of children waiting for adoption including information on the children's backgrounds and needs as well as photographs and, in some cases, online video content.

Prospective adopters and social workers can access 'Children Who Wait', by joining Adoption UK and the service enables them to contact the child(ren)'s social work directly for further information.

Adopting a child from another country

The information above relates to adopting children from the UK. If you are interested in adopting a child from another country, information on inter-country adoption can be found from: