Adoption - what is the process?

The adoption application process currently takes around six months to complete in most cases. We make sure that you're fully prepared and supported and ready to meet the needs of different children.

You'll undertake tailored training before you're approved and we'll continue to offer support once a child has been placed with you.

Watch the video below for a quick overview

The steps to adopting in more detail: 

All journeys begin with finding out about the road ahead; your adoption journey may start with reading background information, looking online or attending an Information Event. 

You can then make an enquiry and get the opportunity to meet a member of the Team on an Initial Visit to discuss your interest in adoption further.

Ways to get in touch

If you're thinking about adoption then we'd love to help.

This is known as the pre assessment process and normally takes 2 months to complete, unless there are exceptional circumstances.

During this time, you will undertake adoption training and preparation, whilst we carry out background checks and take up your references. In Cumbria the adoption preparation course is held bi-monthly and consists of three days of intensive information about and exploration of the process. This will provide you with an opportunity to meet experienced adopters and staff. You will learn about the challenges you may face during the process of adopting a child. We will also provide you with the information you need to continue to stage two - the assessment process.

Stage one of the adoption process begins when we accept your registration of interest form, which we will have offered you. As part of this process, we will produce a prospective adopter stage one plan with you, which will identify and define roles and responsibilities and explore what adoption will mean for you and your family at a pace which is right for you.

This stage allows you to make an informed decision about whether you want to continue your assessment, based on your understanding of the information provided and if adoption is the right journey for you at this time in your life. 

We will work closely with you to help and advise you during this process, and give you the support you need.

The second stage of the adoption process should take 4 months, unless there are exceptional circumstances.

The purpose of this stage is to assess your suitability to adopt more thoroughly and produce a report known as the Prospective Adopters Report (PAR) which will be presented to the Adoption Panel.

During your assessment, your allocated social worker's task is to consider whether you are suitable to adopt, and what type of child or children you would best be able to care for.

Your social worker will ask you about your feelings towards supporting your future adopted child, and the experiences he or she may have had before coming to live with you.

You will also need to think about your feelings towards your child's birth family, the reasons the child needs a new family, and how you would feel about maintaining some level of contact between the child and their birth family.

We will be interested in your reasons for wanting to adopt and want to know about any experience you have with children and childcare, for example you may have children in your extended family or you may volunteer at your local school or nursery.

Your worker will ask if you are planning to return to work or, for example, reduce your working hours to care for your child.

Your prospective adopter report will be prepared by your social worker.  The sections of this report that can be shared with you will be done so prior to the report being presented to the Adoption Panel.

The Adoption Panel

Our independent Adoption Panel will review the information prepared by your social worker and consider it in detail. The panel should receive all the necessary information from us within six weeks of the completion of the social worker's report. You would then normally be invited to attend the first part of the panel's meeting should you wish to do so.

The Adoption Panel is made up of adoption experts and experienced adopters and is independent of the council. It is their job to make a judgement on your suitability to be an adoptive parent. The panel meet to consider all the evidence presented to them and then make a recommendation back to us.

The Adoption Panel's recommendation should be made within eight months of the receipt of your formal application form.

Making a decision

Once the adoption panel have made a recommendation our decision maker will decide if you are suitable to adopt. The decision maker is a nominated person who has the legal responsibility to make an approval decision. In most circumstances this decision accepts the Adoption Panel's recommendation.

The search begins

Once you have been approved you are now a prospective adopter. We will now begin the search for an appropriate child.

Appeals - what to do if you don't agree

We generally try to ensure that the applicants that we accept for assessment have the experience and strengths that would enable them to meet the needs of the children who are waiting to be adopted. If for some reason your application is not approved by the adoption panel and you disagree with the reasons for their recommendation, you may request that it be reconsidered.

You can also request that your application is considered by the 'Independent Review Mechanism' (IRM), an independent body. In these cases the IRM undertakes a review of your application and then makes recommendations to us. It is then up to the decision maker to make a final decision.

Matching you with a child/children

Once you have been approved as a prospective adopter by the Adoption Panel, we will then begin the process of matching you with a child.  We will draw up a 'Matching Plan' to help us to work together to identify and successfully match you with a child or children.

Sometimes there may not be an appropriate 'match' for you within Cumbria so we may need to look further afield.  We will expand the search to find the right match for you.

Find out a bit more about our Family Finders.

North West Consortium

Cumbria is part of a North West Consortium and your details are shared where children and adopters can be 'linked' should this be the right match.

The adoption register

If you have not been matched with a child within three months of being approved, we will place your details on the 'Adoption Register'. This register holds information on children waiting to be adopted throughout England and Wales and of approved prospective adopters who are available and able to meet the needs of different children. You can also refer yourself to the register three months after getting approval to adopt.

'Children Who Wait'

Children Who Wait is run by Adoption UK and profiles children from all over the country who are looking for adoptive parents. You may need to be an approved prospective adopter to access all the features of this website, but his could be a helpful way to find out about children who are looking for adoptive parents from around the UK. You can also register for an online service where you may find videos and additional information on the children.

Adoption Link

Adoption Link is a live system that allows adopters and family-finders to add profiles online and search for potential links. Adopters can receive enquiries from social workers through the system, and make their own enquires about children. Adoption Link is run by adoptive parents, and operates across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Approved adopters can make their profiles available free of charge, including photos and video.

Suitable Match

When you are identified as a potentially suitable prospective adopter for a specific child, we will provide you with all the information you need about the child, including a background report and medical information. If, once you have read this information you are happy to proceed, you will then be visited by the child's social worker, and have the opportunity to meet the child's foster carer and any other relevant health and education professionals; in addition to receiving your child's adoption medical report you will also have the opportunity to have a discussion with Cumbria's agency medical adviser.

We will draw up an 'Adoption Replacement Report' which sets out a list of all the relevant factors which make you a suitable match, and an 'Adoption Support Plan' which will detail the support the child and you will need and who will provide this. Any specific needs the child may have, such as contact with birth families or medical conditions will be included. You will also be provided with a 'Parental Responsibility Agreement' which will clarify what decisions you are able to make in respect of the child up until the making of the 'Adoption Order'.

Prior to the Adoption Panel a draft 'Adoption Placement Plan' will be shared with you which includes a programme of introductions between you and the child.  This will be finalised at the 'Adoption Placement Planning' meeting which is held following panel but only after the Decision Maker has agreed with the link. You will be delegated day to day parental responsibilities for the child by the Local Authority. The introductions will vary considerably depending on such factors such as the child's experiences, age and understanding.

These arrangements are planned to best meet the needs of the child, and will be reviewed during this period to ensure the plan continues to meet the child's needs and to confirm the date of placement.

Once the child is placed in your care the child's Social Worker will visit weekly until the first 'Child Looked After' review meeting which will take place within four weeks. Your own Social Worker will also visit. We want to ensure that the child is settling in your care and you are all receiving the support you need.

Following this you will have regular support visits and further Child Looked After Reviews to make sure everything is going well and that you are receiving the support you need. You will receive a 'Life Story Book' for your child to help them understand their early life.

Making the adoption legal 

During this period of learning to live together, a social worker will continue to visit you and support you. After the child/ren have been placed with you for ten weeks you can apply to the courts for an adoption order. Your social worker will support you in making your application.  

Once you have applied for an Adoption Order and this is granted by the court, the child is legally adopted by you and you have full parental responsibilities for him or her. The child is now a full member of your family. 

On-going support

Cumbria offers a comprehensive adoption support service which you can access at any time following Approval as an adopter and once an Adoption Order is granted. We offer a yearly Calendar of Events that you will be able to attend (see example).

You will receive post-adoption support from us, every family's needs are unique and support is tailored accordingly.


Additional Information


There are circumstances where the adoption process, which usually takes around 6 months, can be sped up.

If you are an approved foster carer who wishes to adopt or have adopted previously the process should not be as lengthy. The pre assessment decision stage may not always be a necessary part of your adoption process, as you may have previously filled the criteria for this assessment. We cannot guarantee this will be the case, as your application might be affected by the time period that has elapsed since your first assessment, or whether there have been any changes in your circumstances.

Generally we must decide whether you, the prospective adopter is suitable to adopt a child within 4 months of the date on which you formally registered your interest in adopting a child. As with all parts of the adoption process, the outcome will be decided on an individual level.

If you have fostered or have previously been approved for adoption, you may be able to submit a fast-track application with us. If you'd like to find out whether this option is open to you, please do contact us and we'll discuss your options for adoption.

There are voluntary organisations that are there to provide additional support at all stages of your journey.

Here are some useful links:

Consortium of Adoption Support Agencies: CASA  is a national forum representing registered Adoption Support Agencies (ASAs) in the UK, whether individuals or organisations. CASA provides information on ASAs, peer support between agencies, networking opportunities, a representational forum and a channel for promoting best practice.

The Post-Adoption Centre: A London-based organisation offering advice, counselling, therapeutic services and regular seminars and training events for adopters and professionals.

Adoption UK: the only national self-help charity run by, and for, adoptive parents and foster carers, offering support before, during and after adoption.

New Family Social: the UK network for LGBT adoptive and foster families.

If you're thinking about adoption then we'd love to help.