ADOPTION and the law: Adopting a child in Scotland

The legal process by which a child gains new parents
If you are looking for a child to adopt contact an adoption society or a local authority social services department (or its adoption agency).
Because of widespread birth control and abortion, fewer and fewer unwanted babies — or babies needing adopting.



A child can be adopted once it is at Least 18 weeks old. No one over 18 years old can be adopted. Nor can anyone who has been married, even if still under the age of 18.
If a child has been adopted once, it can nevertheless be adopted again.

Anyone over 21 years old is legally eligible to adopt a child, but in practice there are restrictions.

Single people are rarely allowed to adopt. A single man is unlikely to be allowed to adopt a girl. Two people who are living together but not married cannot jointly adopt a child.

Most adoption agencies and local authorities also insist that applicants must be under 35 (for a woman) or 40 for a man that they will still be active and vigorous when the child is grow* up.

A married person cannot adopt without hid or her spouse's being a party to the adoption, unless the court is satisfied that the spouse:

1. Cannot be found, by the usual processes involve attempting to serve notice of legal proceedings. .
2. Lives permanently apart from the applicant.

You may have to wait for some time, and make the rounds of several adoption agencies more than once, before a suitable child is found. Some agencies may have temporarily closed their lists of applicants when you contact them. If so, try again, from time to time.
Some types of children are more likely to be available for adoption - for example, older children, those of mixed race, slow learners or the physically or mentally handicapped.

The applicants most likely to be successful are young married couples, living in reasonably good circumstances with a secure home.


Getting on the waiting list

Once you have contacted a society or local authority, it begins extensive inquiries into your background and motives for  adopting. A social worker meets each partner several times, together and separately.

Both partners must have full medical examinations and provide character references for themselves.

Choosing a child Children available for adoption are not usually put on show to the would-be adopters, although an exception may be made with a very young baby. Prospective parents are normally given only photographs and descriptions of the child available.


Taking the child home

Once chosen, the child is put into the provisional care of the adoption applicants.
Unless the child is over 16, you or the agency must notify the council social services department (or its adoption agency) of the proposed adoption.
Once the council has been notified, the child becomes protected, which means that the child is visited regularly by council social workers to make sure that the home is suitable.

If the parent (or guardian) has agreed to adoption, he or she is not entitled to remove the child without a court's permission. Protected status does not apply to a child who is to be adopted by a natural parent, or who is over 16. An adoption order cannot be made for at least 3 months after the council has been notified. During the 3 months, the child is protected.

Private adoptions If the child to be adopted has not been found through an agency or local council, the applicants must notify the council social services department and the child will have protected status for at least 3 months before an adoption order can be made.

Adopting a child who is a relative

In many cases, the child to be adopted is a relative of one of the adopting parents. For example, a parent who is divorced and has remarried may wish to adopt his or her own child, with the new step-parent.

Adoption in such circumstances excludes the other natural parent from any right to see the child, and a court must therefore make a custody order unless it can be shown that adoption is in the child's best interests.

A natural father or mother, acting alone, can adopt his or her own child if the court is satisfied that the other parent is dead, or cannot be found — or that there is some other good reason for excluding that parent (if, for example,


If a child has been living with the adoption applicants - for example, with foster parents or relatives - for 5 years or more, it cannot legally be taken away from them before the adoption hearing, unless the child is a ward of court and the court has ordered its removal.

Anyone who does take away a child without a court order in such circumstances - for example, a natural parent who opposes adoption - commits a criminal offence. The maximum penalty is 3 months' imprisonment or a £400 fine, or both.

If a child is illegally taken away, the courts can order premises to be searched and the child returned to the adoption applicants.

If the child has been living with the applicants for less than 5 years, it can be removed, unless it has acquired protected status with a view to adoption.

he or she has been convicted of a serious criminal offence against the child or the adopting parent).

Preparing an application

If an adoption is arranged by an agency or local authority, the agency or authority attends to all the formalities. A council makes no charge, but an agency may ask for expenses.

However, even if you decide to arrange the adoption privately, the procedure is generally straightforward:

1. Notify the local authority social services department, in writing, at least 3 months before you intend to seek an adoption order in the magistrates' court or county court.

2. Obtain two adoption forms - one to be completed by you, the other by the child's natural parent or guardian from the court office.

3. Complete your own application form, naming anyone or any organisation with a possible right to be heard in court when your application is heard.
People who should be named include:
•           The child's natural parent or guardian.
•           The local authority (unless one spouse is the natural parent).
•           The natural father, if the child is illegitimate and if an affiliation order has
been made against him or if he has been granted custody.

4. Ask the child's parent or guardian to complete the second form, giving consent to the adoption.

5. Ask your family doctor to issue medical certificates for you, your spouse and the child. The certificates must show that both adopting parents are physically and mentally fit. The child's certificate should indicate any handicap or illness, although that will not affect the application to adopt.

6. Send both completed forms and the medical certificates to the court office.
What the court does next

As soon as your application is received, the court fixes a date for a hearing, and appoints a guardian ad litem (guardian in the case), usually a social worker or probation officer.

The guardian's job is to investigate, on the court's behalf, all the circumstances surrounding the proposed adoption - the applicant's suitability, personality, marriage, home, religion and health, and whether he or she fully understands what is involved in adopting a child.

More on adoption: Further action on adoption: finding more loving homes - Publications - GOV.UK