Navigating adoption law can be a long and complicated business, with plenty of forms, assessments, and often a lengthy wait after the initial application. However, the good news is that adoption law is changing to make for quicker placements of children.
Thanks to the new laws announced in November, and the new Children and Social Work Bill unveiled in the Queen’s Speech, the process of placing a child with an adoptive family is getting simpler and faster. The government is not only looking to increase adoption rates but also to improve care for young people transitioning into adult life.
Over the last 2 years, the number of adoption decisions made by courts and councils has fallen by around 50%. The government has now made it clear to the courts that where adoption is in the best interests of the child, they must be placed with their new family as soon as possible.
Who can adopt?
Firstly – the basics. To adopt a child you must be aged 21 or over. You may be single, married, in a civil partnership, or unmarried, and this includes same sex and opposite sex couples. Adoption by single parents, grandparents and step-parents is also possible.
Although you don’t have to be a British citizen to adopt a child, either you or your partner must have a permanent home in the UK. Both of you must have lived in the UK for at least one year before you begin the adoption application process, which may require you to contact adoption agencies and get the advice of friendly solicitors like We Talk Law.
To be adopted, a child must be unmarried and under the age of 18 at the time of the adoption application.
Foster care and adoption
Foster care and adoption differ in the fact that foster care is usually temporary, while adoption is permanent. Foster care can be informal, or arranged through the courts or a social service agency. The goal for a child in the foster care system is usually the reunification with their birth-family. If this can’t be achieved, foster care may be changed to adoption, if it’s in the child’s best interest.
What the law will change
The government are really focusing on adoption as a solution to the amount of children in care. They are not only speeding up the processes of adoption, but redoubling efforts to be thorough in choosing the right families. Once again, they’re focusing on the interests of the child.
Ministers say the new Children and Social Work Bill will:
“tip the balance in favour of permanent adoption, where that is the right thing for the child.”
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said:
“Every single day a child spends waiting in care is a further delay to a life full of love and stability – and this simply isn’t good enough. We have a responsibility to transform the lives of our most vulnerable children, making sure they get the opportunities they deserve.”
“That’s why we are changing the law on adoption to make sure decisions rightly prioritise children’s long-term stability and happiness, so that children are placed with their new family as quickly as possible, helping them fulfil their potential and get the very best start in life.”
The government are providing funds totalling £200 million. These will help efforts to break down bureaucratic barriers in the adoption system which can lead to children waiting in care for months longer than necessary, and can keep adoptive parents waiting also.
This money will:
- see the speeding up of adoptions of harder-to-place children
- support the creation of new regional adoption agencies to improve the recruitment of adopters and the placement of children
- strengthen voluntary adoption agencies
- ensure social workers have the right knowledge and skills to make decisions about the best placements for children
The government’s successful Adoption Support Fund will be extended for the next 4 years, so adoptive families can access funding for crucial therapy services from day one of caring for their child, rather than waiting months for the adoption order to be finalised.
There are also plans to change regulations so that councils have to carry out more thorough assessments of special guardians to make sure children are in the right home and with the right relatives, rather than distant family members they’ve never met.
After the care system
The new legislation also aims to give young people leaving the care system more help when they make the transition into independent living, with a commitment by local authorities to act as “corporate parents”. Under the new law, care leavers will have a personal adviser, until they are 25, to help them with the move into adulthood.
In summary, it’s a great time to think about adoption if you can provide a loving home. We hope this blog has given you hope if you’re looking to adopt, and we’ll keep you updated of any further changes when they crop up. In the meantime, if you need advice on your adoption process, or want to know more, chat to our helpful solicitors on 0203 002 4898. We charge just £68 per call and you can ask as many questions as you like. You can also email us at [email protected].