Frequently Asked Questions


What is adoption?

Adoption is a way of providing a new permanent family for children who are unable to live with their own birth parents or within their extended birth family. It is a legally binding arrangement and all the parental responsibilities and the duties of the birth parents are transferred by an adoption order made by the court to the adoptive parents. This gives adoptive parents the same rights and responsibilities as all other parents.

Who are the children placed for adoption?

There’s no typical person who applies to adopt a child, as there are no ‘typical’ children who are placed for adoption. We have children of all ages and needs waiting to be adopted. However in Knowsley, we have a real need for people who are willing to adopt brothers and sisters of all ages, older children and children of all ages who have special or complex needs. Children may be part of a sibling group of brothers and sisters who need to be placed together.

Some children who need adopting may have experienced separation, ill treatment or neglect in their early years. So you need to be aware of this as it might affect their ability to make relationships, accept boundaries or express their feelings. But of course the main thing that every child is longing for is the understanding, encouragement and above all love that you can give them.

Rest assured that we will provide plenty of support. We will work with you throughout the process of becoming an adoptive parent and beyond, making sure you’re ready to take a child into your home and family.

Who can adopt?

There is no such thing as an ideal adoptive parent. Just as every child hoping to be adopted is unique, adoptive parents are all very different, with a range of life experiences and backgrounds.

The most important thing is that you are realistic about what adoption involves, how you will be able to support your adopted child and the impact it will have on your life and the life of your family. It’s an incredibly positive experience but is not without challenges and it’s essential that you have an understanding of this before embarking on the journey to become an adoptive parent.

Can I adopt...?

I am over 40 or older?

Yes. We do not operate an upper age limit, but you would need to be fit and healthy enough to see your adopted child safely into adult life. The youngest age at which you can adopt is 21.

I'm not married?

Yes. Single people can adopt a child. However, it is important that you have a strong support network around you. Those in a long term relationship who aren’t married can also adopt, including same gender couples.

I’m currently undergoing fertility treatment?

No. We can only start to consider your application to become an adoptive parent if six months have passed since you completed your last fertility treatment. This is in order to give you and your partner time to come to terms with your situation, grieve and perhaps consider counseling, before you begin the often demanding and time-consuming adoption process.

I am unemployed?

Yes. We approve people from every walk of life regardless of employment or financial status.

I work full-time?

Yes. As long as you can provide space and time to meet the children's needs. This is especially important when the children are young and for all children in the early stages of an adoptive placement. Statutory adoption pay and adoption leave are available for adoptive parents. You can find out more from

I don't own my home?

Yes. As long as you have a secure tenancy it doesn’t matter if you don’t own your home. You’ll need to show that you have enough room to care for a child or children, in a safe and secure environment, whether you rent or own your home.

I'm gay / lesbian?

Yes. The council is firmly committed to equality of opportunity and therefore we are primarily interested in the skills and ability that you have to offer and not your sexuality. I have a disability and / or health problem?

Yes. Everyone who applies to adopt will need a health assessment as part of the approval process to make sure that they have the ability to care for a child. If you are disabled or have a medical condition, our medical adviser will take these factors into consideration and make recommendations on your suitability.

I smoke?

Yes. But you will not be able to adopt a child under five years of age. We have a responsibility to protect children from exposure to second hand smoke and we have to balance the positive elements of any adoptive placement against the negative impact of smoking.

I have a criminal conviction?

Yes. People who have a criminal record or have been cautioned can adopt a child. Much depends on the seriousness of the offence, how long ago since the crime was committed and how you have lived your life since. People with convictions for violent offences or sexual offences against children cannot adopt.

I already have children of my own?

Yes. Your own children would be included in the approval process too, as they are so important in the family. In adoption, we usually advise a minimum age gap of two years between any birth children and an adopted child.

I don't live in Knowsley?

Yes. Sometimes it is in the best interests of the child to be placed outside of our immediate area and therefore we will consider people applying from outside Knowsley (up to 35 miles radius) if we feel they will be able to meet the needs of our children.

We work in partnership with Halton Council and Cheshire West and Chester Council to make sure we make the best possible matches of children and adoptive parents. We may also redirect you to your local adoption service if that is more appropriate.

I don't live in the UK?

No. You must have been habitually resident in the UK for at least one year before applying to adopt a British child. Or one of you must be domiciled in the UK. These are legal terms which imply an intention or durable residence in the UK. It may be helpful to seek specialist
legal advice on your status.

What is the adoption process?

We will try our best to make sure that the process takes no longer than six months from your application, which is a timescale set by the National Adoption Standards for England. We obviously need to ensure that any child we place into an adoptive family will be safe and well looked after – and it also gives you time to make sure you’ve made the right decision and help you to appreciate what you can offer as an adoptive parent. Although every application to adopt is individual, this is an outline of what you can expect.

There are two stages which take place:

1. Your initial enquiry (Pre-Stage One – no time limit)

To find out more about adoption, please give us a call. We will have an initial chat with you, send you an enquiry pack and discuss a convenient time to contact you for a home visit once you have received the pack, and had an opportunity to read through it.

2. A home visit

A member of the adoption team will visit to discuss your interest further. A copy of the kind of information we will be discussing will have already been sent to you in your enquiry pack, and the visit will provide you with an opportunity to ask further questions. It will also enable us to give you an open and honest opinion of your eligibility to become an adoptive parent and ensure it is the right decision for everyone concerned. You can withdraw from the process at any stage. 

3. Registration of Interest

If it is agreed that adoption is for you, you will need to complete a Registration of Interest form. Once this is accepted you will move onto the next stage of the adoption process.

4. Stage One (Pre-Assessment stage – 2 months)

We will draw up a written agreement that clearly sets out our own, and your, responsibilities to enable us to work together as quickly and effectively as possible with you.

  • You will be asked to provide three referees (one family member and two personal friends) who we will send a questionnaire to for information. However, we will not visit your referees until later on in the process.
  • We will need to carry out various checks including a Disclosure and Barring Service check and Local Authority checks and ask you to undergo a medical assessment with your GP.
  • You will be invited to attend some initial Preparation Training where you will meet other prospective adopters and learn about the benefits, and challenges, of adoption.
  • You will also be encouraged to further your knowledge of adoption, for example, through self –evaluation exercises or reading articles on the internet, etc.
  • If you have any questions you will have an allocated social worker you can contact who will visit you at least once at this stage.

We aim to complete Stage One within two months. However, if there are any delays in obtaining information we will keep you fully informed.

At the end of Stage One, we will let you know whether you are approved to move onto the
next stage of the process.

5. Application for Assessment

You will need to formally let us know in writing if you wish to move onto the next stage of the process. You may decide you would like to take a break from the process and you can do this for up to six months.

6. Stage Two (Assessment Stage – 4 months)

Once your application has been received and accepted, an allocated social worker will draw up a written assessment plan which will detail the further preparation we would like you to undertake and the visits needed to collate information for your home study assessment.

7. Home Study

Your allocated social worker will conduct a series of visits to your home to learn more about you, your lifestyle, and your attitudes towards parenthood.

  • You will be asked to attend a one day workshop on specific adoption issues and will be given an opportunity to share your adoption learning with your friends and family, as you will be able to invite them to a supporters group.
  • Your referees will be visited and references will be obtained from your employers and ex-partner(s) (if applicable).
  • A Prospective Adopters Report will be completed, which you will be able to read and comment on before it is presented to the Adoption Panel.

8. Adoption Panel

Your completed Prospective Adopters Report will be presented to Adoption Panel and you will be invited to attend. The Panel will make a recommendation about your approval and a final decision will be made by the Agency Decision Maker for Knowsley. From the time your application is accepted at Stage Two until the Agency Decision Maker’s decision regarding your approval decision should take no longer than 4 months.

9. Following Approval

Once you have been approved to adopt, it is unlikely that a child will be placed with you immediately. The next stage will be for you to be ‘matched’ with a child who will become a member of your family and we will begin to look for a child whose needs you are able to meet.

Throughout this time, your adoption social worker will maintain contact on a regular basis to let you know how we are progressing and to support you through this process.

What if my application is unsuccessful?

Very few adoption applications that are presented to the Adoption Panel are unsuccessful. This is because we ensure that we are open and honest at each stage to ensure that adoption is appropriate for you and your family, and for any children for whom we are seeking adoptive parents.

In the event that you are not approved, we have to provide you with a ‘qualifying determination’, or a specific reason why an approval has not been made. You can either:

  • Make a representation to the Panel so your case can be re-considered, or
  • Apply to the Independent Review Mechanism (IRM), which is an independent review Panel.

Contact details for IRM are:

Contact Manager
Independent Review Mechanism (IRM)
Unit 4, Pavillion Business Park
Royds Hall Road
Wortley, Leeds
LS15 6AJ
Tel: 0845 4503956

What happens when a child is placed with me?

When a child whose circumstances match yours is found and the match is approved by the Agency Decision Maker you’ll be invited to meet with them. If all goes well then this child will eventually be placed with your family. Your social worker and the child's social worker will continue to visit you until the court grants a formal adoption order, and the social workers will be there to advise and help during this period of settling in and adjustment.

The legalities

After a child comes to live with you, the court will make an adoption order. An adoption order ends all legal ties the child has with their birth family. They can now take your surname and become a full member of your family. Once an adoption order has been made, the birth parents have no legal rights over the child and cannot claim him or her back.

However, we do arrange in most circumstances for birth family members to have news of their child, and adoptive parents are asked to write to birth parents via the adoption team letter box exchange service.

Contact with birth parents or other relatives

Sometimes, there can be direct contact arrangements between some children and their birth relatives. This is because many children benefit from continuing to have direct contact with some members of their birth family. This will depend entirely on the child. It could, for example, be a birth parent or foster carer who has looked after the child for a long time or perhaps brothers or sisters, grandparents or other relatives who they have a strong attachment to.

After all, birth families are an important part of an adopted child's life. It's only natural to be curious about your background. So we encourage you to try to be positive about the role birth parents play in their child's life if possible. Any arrangements for contact will be made in agreement with the adoptive parent(s).

What support will I receive?

From the moment you apply to adopt, we’ll be there to support your decision every step of the way. But we realise that adoption is a lifelong process. It doesn’t start or stop with the making of an adoption order and it can also have a huge effect on your life. That’s why our support doesn’t stop once you’ve been approved to adopt. We’ll stick with you afterwards too, offering help and support when you need it, through the placement stages and beyond.

Post approval

Once the adoption panel has approved your application to adopt, there will be a period of time, when you wait for a child to be matched with you and placed with your family. This can sometimes be quite an anxious time and often attending our adoption support group can help. This meets regularly to discuss various topics around adoption.

It’s attended by adopters at all stages of the process so as a result it’s a great comfort to lots of people and provides a good opportunity to share experiences with people like you.

Post placement

Once a child has been placed with you, the length of time in which you’ll wait for a court hearing can vary. During this time your social worker will offer you support, whilst the child's social worker will ensure that they are supported and have settled into their new home and life with you.

Once an Adoption Order has been made by the court, the social workers who visited you will normally withdraw. But don’t worry, there’s still help available if you need it as a post adoption support package is available to all adopters. What’s more, you can always contact us to request additional support in the years to come if any issues arise. We also offer postadoption training if we feel it’s appropriate. So we’re there for you, if you need us.

Other Support

After Adoption Yorkshire is an independent adoption service in the UK and Knowsley Adoption Service has a contract with After Adoption Yorkshire to provide support, counselling and family work through a wide range of services. These services are available to adopted children, adoptive and birth families.

After Adoption Yorkshire
Hollyshaw House
2 Hollyshaw Lane, Leeds
LS15 7BD

Tel: 0113 2302100

Other useful resources

The British Association of Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) have offices throughout the UK and provides up to date information about all aspects of adoption. They also produce lots of useful publications and guides. Call 0207 421 2600 or visit: British Association of Adoption and Fostering.

Adoption UK is an adoption support agency that provides a range of services for its members, including a bi-monthly magazine and a library service. Membership is £34 a year and you can access the free online chat room at Adoption UK or call: 01295 752 240.

Fostering for Adoption

Fostering for Adoption places a child during the period of temporary Local Authority care with approved adopters who are able to take on the responsibility of foster carers. If the court agrees that the child should be adopted, and the adoption agency approves the ‘match' between the carers as adopters and the child, the placement becomes an adoption placement.

What are the advantages of fostering for adoption?

  • Children are placed with carers who may become their adopters, giving permanence
    at an early stage.
  • It avoids the damage caused by ending temporary foster care relationships which they
    will have experienced as the primary parenting relationship.
  • It allows a bonding period to begin sooner with adoptive parents.

Is fostering for adoption right for me?

There will be a number of things that you will need to think about as a Fostering for Adoption carer. In the fostering role you are caring for the child under the direct supervision of the local authority so you’d need to consider whether this is something you’d be comfortable with. It is highly likely that you would go on to adopt the child but you would have to deal with the uncertainty of this outcome. You would need to think about the possibility of of the court not agreeing the adoption plan and the child leaving your care.

It is important for you to consider what support you might need, what access you have to support and how you typically deal with stressful, upsetting or painful situations. There will be specific issues to be thought about in Fostering for Adoption placements and you should try to identify what this might mean for you and your family and then discuss this with family members and close friends. You would do this anyway if you were planning to adopt a child but there are specific issues about preparing yourselves for that period of uncertainty in the fostering phase.

Fostering for Adoption is still in its infancy and may only apply to a very small number of children within a Local Authority.

If you would like further information, Knowsley Adoption Service will discuss this further with you.

Concurrent Planning

Concurrent planning is for babies and young children under the age of 2 in care who are more likely to need adoption but who still have a chance of being reunited with their birth family. Concurrent carers perform the role of a foster carer whilst the courts decide whether or not a child can return to its birth family. They are dually approved as foster carers and adopters. During this time, the children will need to see their parents regularly and the concurrent carers will need to support the birth family’s efforts to regain the care for their child.

If the courts decide that the birth parents have shown they can be reliable, able and loving parents, the babies will be returned to their care. The concurrent carers will have the satisfaction of knowing that they have given these children the best possible start in life by providing care and security from the earliest time, and will help them settle back into their family.

However, if the courts decide that the child’s parents cannot provide the security and care they need, and there are no alternative carers, the child will remain with their concurrent carers and be adopted by them.

What are the benefits of concurrent planning?

The great advantage for the babies and young children is that:

  • It speeds up the planning for their lives.
  • It will avoid the stressful upheaval for the child when moving from foster home to a
    new adoptive family.
  • The bonding period with their adoptive parents can begin sooner.
  • Their adoptive parents will have had the opportunity to get to know the child’s parents and will be in a good position to understand their background and struggles which will be helpful for them and their adopted child in the future.

Who can be a concurrent carer?

To be a concurrent carer, you need to be resourceful and emotionally mature, able to put the needs of babies and young children first, and respect and work with a child’s birth family in the early months.

People from different backgrounds and religions, single parents as well as couples are welcome to apply to become concurrent carers. It is important that you have a strong support network to rely on.

It is likely that many concurrent carers will go on to adopt the children they have cared for and helped through the early, unsettling months when plans were still uncertain. However, the decision whether or not to return the child to its birth family is made by the court and as a concurrent carer you would need to be able to deal with the uncertainty of this. Social workers and other professionals involved in concurrent planning provide specialist preparation and support for concurrent carers.

Further information

You can contact our adoption agency or Adoption Matters North West or Caritas Care Voluntary adoption agencies who are supporting Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council in the recruitment of concurrent carers.

Adoption Matters North West – 01244 390938
Caritas Care – 01772 732313

Partner adoption (formerly known as step-parent adoption)

If you are seeking to adopt your partner’s child please contact us for further information on 0151 443 3958.

Frequently asked questions about partner adoption

I would like my partner to adopt my child

The first issue that many adults tend to forget is that adoption is about what is best for the child. What the adults want is relevant, but the Court will prioritise the welfare of the child when it makes its decision.

Do I have to be married to my partner to adopt their child?

No. You do not have to be married to adopt the children of your partner.

Do I have to get the other parent’s agreement to the adoption?

If the other parent is the mother: You will need her agreement. A court can dispense with the need for her agreement but there have to be very good reasons for them to do so.

If the other parent is the father and he was married to the child’s mother: You will need his agreement. A court can dispense with the need for his agreement but there will have to be very good reasons for them to do so.

If the other parent is the father and he was not married to the mother but has Parental Responsibility: You will need his agreement. A court can dispense with his agreement but there will have to be very good reasons for them to do so.

Will the other parent have to be involved?

Irrespective of the birth parents legal status the court will require a report to be completed and wherever possible the wishes of both birth parents will be ascertained including what role they might intend to play in the child’s life. Your current relationship with him or her, or the amount of contact they have with the child will not remove the responsibility for finding out their views, and reporting them back to the Court.

Do I need a solicitor?

A solicitor is not normally needed for a partner application unless the adoption is opposed or there are complicated issues; but you have the right to have a solicitor if you wish.

For birth relatives seeking an adopted adult

If you are a birth relative of an adopted adult and live in Knowsley you can apply for an Intermediary Service via our contract with After Adoption Yorkshire which may then lead to a re-establishing of contact, if that is what the adopted adult also wishes.

The adopted adult must be over the age of 18. The outcome of any service provided will rest with the wishes of the adopted adult.

No identifying information can be shared with a birth relative seeking information about an adopted person, for example the name given at adoption, the geographical location etc.

At present there is an obligation, within adoption law, that prioritises enquiries relating to adopted adults whose Adoption Order was finalised before 12th November 1975. However, there is capacity to assist those relatives who have birth links with adults adopted after 1975.

There is a national Adoption Contact Register run by the General Register Office. There is a fee to place a birth relative’s name on the register. Further information is available at the Directgov website.

Another useful website is Adoption Search Reunion which has information for birth relatives, adopted adults and birth parents.

Support for adopted adults

Adults aged 18 and over can apply for access to information about their birth origins. Those adopted before 12th November 1975 can apply to the General Register Office (now part of the Identity and Passport Service, based at Smedley Hydro, Trafalgar Road, Birkdale Southport PR8 2HH) for a copy of their original birth certificate. By law, you will need to attend an interview with a registered social worker from either a local authority adoption team or an approved adoption support agency in order to receive this information. You can also access such a service at the General Register Office in Southport.

Adults who were adopted after 12th November 1975 can apply for their original birth certificate themselves and there is no requirement in law that they need to meet with a social worker before obtaining their birth certificate. It is however always advisable to request such a service, and Knowsley will be happy to assist those adopted adults who live within the local authority area in the process of obtaining information.

The purpose of the counseling interview is to help and prepare you for the process ahead. It can assist in looking at aspects of the information that may cause distress or conflict. Such a service may assist the adopted adult to make an informed decision on the journey they are about to embark upon.

If you live outside Knowsley but have an awareness that your adoption order was made by a court within the geographical area it may be more appropriate to make a contact with your own local authority and seek support from the Adoption Team there.

Useful websites:

Adoptive Parents of adults seeking birth information

Often adoptive parents wish to support their adult children in finding out information about their birth origins. The website adoption search reunion has a section with information for adoptive parents. On occasions adult children do not wish to cause distress to adoptive parents and do not feel able to share the fact that they are seeking birth origin information.

Research indicates that for the majority of adopted adults who do seek birth origin information, such information does not harm the relationship with their adoptive parents. Knowsley Adoption team would be happy to discuss any concerns that an adoptive parent may have, to share with them any changes in the legislation since they adopted and to signpost them on to other agencies if appropriate.

How do I adopt from abroad?

Although there are many children in England who are looking for an adoptive family, there are also many children overseas who need homes too. For these children, inter-country adoption may be their only hope of finding a permanent family to love and care for them.

For humanitarian reasons, the Government allows inter-country adoption to proceed where the child cannot be cared for in any suitable manner in their own country. In which case, if it’s believed that adoption would be in the best interests of the child and with respect to the child’s fundamental rights as recognised by international law, you can apply to adopt them. However, you must have been assessed as eligible and suitable to adopt from overseas by your local council or agency.

How to adopt from overseas

Anyone in England and Wales who wants to adopt a child from overseas has to undergo the same procedures as they would to adopt a child in their own country. This is regardless of the country they wish to adopt from or the nature of their relationship to the child. So you’ll need to:

Undergo standard checks, training and assessments steps before you can proceed. Once you have been approved as a suitable adopter, the relevant Department of Health will be notified of the decision. They will then decide whether or not to endorse your application and notify you directly.

Next, the Secretary of State will provide consent to issue a certificate of eligibility.Once the certificate has been issued, the papers will be sent to the authorities in the country from which you wish to adopt a child. Those authorities will consider your application and if they agree, will suggest a match with a child.

The maximum penalty imposed for failing to comply with the requirements set out in new inter-country regulations prior to adopting a child from overseas is 12 months imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine upon conviction.

Knowsley Council is not able to undertake the necessary assessment for inter-country adoption; we use an external agency to undertake these assessments on our behalf.

The contact details for this agency are:

The Nugent Care Society, Blackbrook House, Blackbrook Road, St. Helens, Merseyside, WA11 9RJ

Telephone: 01744 605 700 or visit the Nugent Care website

Other useful websites to help you find out more information about adoption are included

Support for adopted children

Sometimes it can be difficult growing up as an adopted person. Maybe no-one knows very much about your early life or you don't have photos of yourself or information about things you did as a younger child. Maybe children at school are unkind to you because they don't understand about adoption.

We may be able to help you by:

  • Listening to your story
  • Sharing information from your records
  • Putting you in touch with other young people who are adopted
  • Giving you information about other organisations specifically for young adopted people
  • Helping you understand your own life story.