Frequently Asked Questions
A few things you need to know about intercountry adoption
If you are at an early stage and are just beginning to think about intercountry adoption you probably have many questions. Answers to some of the most frequently asked questions are given below. Please be advised that this information is provided as a general guide only, it is not exhaustive and does not represent legal advice.
You can gather more information from our Publications or by contacting our Advice Line. An advisor would be pleased to receive your call or email.
1. Is there a formal process that I have to follow if I want to adopt a child from overseas?
If you are resident in the UK , there are steps you must take here before you adopt a child in an overseas country. Intercountry adoption is governed by UK legislation and regulations in order to safeguard children, birth families and prospective adopters. If you circumvent the intercountry adoption procedures you may commit an offence. The process is set out in our publication, “A Guide to Intercountry Adoption” and, should you wish to discuss this in person, you may contact the Advice Line. In addition, Information Days, which run at IAC on a monthly basis, provide a detailed introduction to the process and to some of the issues which arise for families adopting from overseas. Information about the intercountry adoption procedures can be also be found on the DCSF website.
2. Where do I start?
If you are interested in adopting a child from overseas begin by gathering as much information as you can about the procedures and about the countries that might be both open to receiving your application or where you might have links. IAC’s Publication, “Choosing a Country” will be of help. Your Local Authority Adoption Team will offer further advice and guidance. Some Local Authorities contract with Voluntary Adoption Agencies to provide their intercountry service and they will advise you if this is the case and direct you to the appropriate agency for residents in your area.
3. What does the process entail?
You will be required to comply with both UK law and the law of the country from which you wish to adopt. If you make an enquiry about adoption from overseas you will be provided with written information, offered the opportunity to attend an information meeting. This will usually be followed by a counselling interview to explore whether you meet the UK’s requirements and whether you would be eligible to adopt from the country of your choice. If at that stage you are thought to be eligible you will be invited to make a formal application. The adoption agency must provide appropriate preparation for prospective intercountry adoption and this is usually offered through attendance at a preparation course. Your suitability to adopt will then be assessed and your application presented to the agency’s adoption panel for consideration and its recommendation and the agency’s decision as to your suitability.
Your application will be sent overseas by the Department of Children, Schools and Families in England or to the relevant authority in the other countries in the UK. A Certificate of Eligibility is issued prior to your application being sent to the country of choice. Once your papers are in the overseas country and your application is accepted by the relevant authorities there you will be placed on a waiting list to be matched with a child. UK regulations set out the steps that you and your UK adoption agency must take, both here and the child’s country of origin, before the legal processes are completed overseas. The process will vary, principally according to whether the country from which you wish to adopt has ratified or acceded to the Hague Convention on intercountry adoption, whether it is what is known as a Designated List country or whether it falls outside both these categories.
In many cases a visa is required to bring the child into the UK. See the Home Office leaflet on Intercountry Adoption and the Immigration Rules. In some cases the court order made in the overseas country is not recognised in the UK as an adoption order. In those circumstances it is necessary to adopt the child following your return to the UK with the child.
4. How long does this take?
This varies but it will take between 6 – 8 months from the time when you make your formal application to your application being heard at an adoption panel. The Department of Children, Schools and Families currently takes 12-14 weeks to send papers overseas.
How long you would wait for a match with a child will vary from country to country and on a case by case basis but it could be several years.
If you need to adopt in the UK after having completed the procedures in the overseas country, the child must have lived with you for 6 months (or 12 months if the proper procedures have not been followed) before you can apply to the Court in the UK. An adoption order might not be made for a further 6-9 months.
Adopting a child from overseas is a long and complex process and it is important to understand that before you start on the journey.
5. Should I identify a child before I start the process?
We would strongly suggest that you do not identify a child before receiving your Certificate of Eligibility as there can be no guarantees that you will be approved as prospective adopters. You should also be aware that some countries do not permit the adoption of a child who has been identified by prospective adopters before all the required procedures in the UK and that country have been followed.
6. If I am related to a child do I need to go through this process?
Even if you are related to a child you wish to adopt you must follow the same process outlined above. There are some differences in this requirement in Scotland and Northern Ireland and if you live in those countries you should seek further advice. You should also be aware that it must be demonstrated that the child is in need of adoption. Immigration rules also apply to children being brought into the country by relatives and this can be a complicated matter. IAC Advisors would be happy to discuss with you some of the issues that arise in adopting a related child from overseas.
7. Do I have to pay for an assessment?
Most Local Authorities and Voluntary Adoption Agencies will charge prospective adopters for an assessment of their suitability to adopt from overseas. Charges vary but are generally between £3000 and £6,500. There are many other fees you will also have to meet and these need to be properly researched from the outset.
8. What are the characteristics of children overseas who are free for adoption?
The profile of children varies from country to country depending upon the social context. Their ages vary from under one year old to much older. They can be male or female, healthy or have special health or other needs. It is important to understand however that even children who are deemed healthy at placement may have health, developmental, or emotional needs as a consequence of their early life experiences and for this reason IAC would view all children adopted from overseas as being children with special needs. You will learn more about the children’s needs both short and long term during preparation and assessment.
9. What countries could I adopt from?
The UK’s population is diverse and adopters may therefore have close links with a country. However, not all countries place children overseas for adoption. The countries where prospective adopters resident in the UK made most applications to adopt children in 2009 were Russia, India, Thailand, Ethiopia and China. Whichever country you choose it is important to only make arrangements through an accredited agency or body in that country.
10. How can I find out if I would be eligible to adopt from a country?
You must first be sure that you would be eligible to adopt in the UK which means that you must be:
- Over 21 years of age
- Habitually resident in the UK
- Not been found guilty of or cautioned for a prescribed offence.
If you are not a British Citizen and you do have indefinite leave to remain in the UK, or permanent residence you should seek legal advice on whether you are eligible to sponsor a child in intercountry adoption.
Other countries have their own eligibility criteria and IAC’s Publications and our Advice Line will be able to provide information about these. They are often more extensive than the UK eligibility criteria. Some countries have upper age limits, they might accept single applicants or only couples, state on what health grounds an application might be excluded and they might prioritise applications according to the prospective adopter’s proven links to the country.
11. Do I have to travel to the country in order to adopt from overseas?
You will need to travel to the country overseas on at least one occasion. For some countries you would need to travel there on more than one occasion or be prepared to remain out in the country for a period of time. You must also accompany the child into the UK on your return and if you are adopting as a couple both of you must accompany the child into the UK. It is not possible for the child to be brought to the UK by a carer or other party. Under UK regulations there are clear rules relating to the process from being assessed through to being matched, meeting a child and returning to the UK.