Adoption agencies responsible for placing children with their new families look for adopters from all walks of life. Gender, marital status, disability and employment status will not automatically exclude you from adopting a child. What matters most is your ability to provide a permanent, caring and stable home, to meet the needs of a child from the care system.
Single people, married couples, cohabiting couples and same-sex couples can all adopt. Sexuality is not a barrier to adoption.*
Adopters in England and Wales must be over 21 years of age (18 if one of a couple is the birth parent). There is no upper age limit, but the placing authority must be confident anyone adopting a child will have the energy required and be in good enough health to offer a stable home.
You do not need to be wealthy or a homeowner to adopt, but will need to give details of income and explain how you would support a child. You must have adequate space to cater for the needs of the child and, depending on your circumstances, may be eligible for financial support from the local authority, reviewed annually. You can apply for means tested benefits and tax credits like any other family.
Adoptive parents need the energy to cope with family life and meet the child’s needs throughout childhood and into early adulthood. Health and well-being play a part in the assessment process, but you are not automatically disqualified for being disabled, overweight or having a medical condition. If you have a medical condition or disability, but are unsure how you would cope on a practical level, use Adoption UK’s PAL service to speak to an adopter with that condition.
If you have a criminal record, you must disclose this when applying. It will not automatically disqualify you from adopting, but the law will not permit anyone to adopt or foster if they, or a member of their household, has been convicted or cautioned for offences against a child.Due to the effects of passive smoking on babies and children, some adoption agencies are cautious about placing a young child in a smoking household, particularly if they have a history of heart or respiratory problems. Smokers are not automatically discounted from adopting, but an adoption agency will consider the possible effects and discuss the issues with prospective adopters.
*Same sex adopters in Northern Ireland are not currently able to adopt, although the law may change in the future.