References and checks for adoption

Stage 1 is completed in partnership with you. Our team at Adopt South West will undertake the required checks and references, but we will also require you to complete all necessary paperwork. Along with references, we will be carrying out a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check and also a medical report.

Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check

The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check is part of the adoption approval process but having an offence on record does not automatically exclude you from adopting. It is only the more serious offences, such as offences against children, vulnerable adults, violent offences, murder or serious fraud that would legally bar you from adopting.

We understand that many people make mistakes, particularly in their youth, and so may have some ‘history’. Any offences will be treated with discretion, considering the circumstances, nature of the crime, regularity and how long ago. The important thing is that you are honest and open with us from the start. Secondly, it is important that if you are adopting as part of a couple, that your partner needs to know, from you, if there is anything in your offending history which could cause us concern.

If you have lived abroad for a period of six months or more since the age of 18, you will be required to get confirmation that there are no records of you offending during your time there. This is an equivalent to a DBS in a foreign country known as a Certificate of Good Conduct (CGC). You would need to obtain a CGC from the embassy of the country you resided in and there may be a charge for this.

We complete our DBS checks online at no cost to you. We will use your email address to send you the link to complete the DBS form and you will need to provide copies of your ID information for the DBS check which will be verified by the social worker when they carry out a home visit.


Medical report

You will complete part B of an AH1 Medical Form and return to us. We then forward the form to your GP with instructions. You are then advised to contact your GP directly to make an appointment for an adoption medical/health assessment.

Please note you will need to pay a non-refundable fee for your own medical. GP surgeries will charge between £74 to £135 per report, however surgeries can charge their own price for this. Adopt South West may be able to pay these fees if you are on certain benefits or have a low income.

Your GP will complete the form and send it back to us, and we will then arrange for the Adoption Medical Advisor to write a report for the Approval Panel.

Prospective adopters often worry that because they have had some depression in their lives at some point, this may prevent them from becoming adopters.  This is not the case. The Adoption Medical Advisor will look at each case individually and sympathetically in light of your history.

At its most basic, the Adoption Medical Advisor is looking for you to be fit and well enough to see a child through to adulthood from the point of adoption. The Medical Report will also look at your lifestyle, including alcohol consumption, smoking/vaping and obesity; they are looking to be reassured that you have an active and healthy lifestyle.

Personal references

We ask for at least four personal references which need to be:

  • people who have known you over five years, individually and as a couple
  • people who have seen you interacting with children
  • one of the references need to be from a family member. The remaining three must be from people who are not related to you

These referees need to be happy to complete a written reference as soon as they are asked to, and they will be interviewed face-to-face or online at some point by a social worker.


Former partners and adult children

If you have set up home previously with a partner, they will be sent a reference to complete if this was in the last 10 years. If children were part of the household or the relationship, either your own or stepchildren, we will send a reference regardless of how long ago this was.

If the relationship had been violent or you would be at risk if we contacted your ex-partner, or if you genuinely have no contact details for your ex-partner, we would ask you to find us a supplementary referee who knew you at the time of the relationship and who can verify your version of events.

Also, if there are adult children from current or previous relationships, we would require them to complete a family reference.

Other checks

  • We need to check with the local authorities covering all your previous addresses since the age of 18 to see if you were known to them for any reason.
  • If you have a school-age child within the family, we like to send a short questionnaire to the school checking that there are no concerns about the child, that they attend regularly and that the parents are active in their communication with school when needed.
  • We check with local health visitors if you are known to their service regarding children in the family. If you are currently employed, we will contact them to see if they have any concerns with you adopting.
  • Reference from previous work with children or vulnerable adults. If you have carried out paid or voluntary work in any setting involving children or vulnerable adults, we will require a reference from them.
  • Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS). A CAFCASS check is carried out for all prospective adopters.
  • Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA). A SSAFA check is carried out if you have served or are currently serving in the Armed Forces or Reserves.
  • Accountant (self-employed). If you are self-employed and have an accountant, we will contact them to confirm they are your accountant, that they are currently dealing with your professional account and the length of time you have been working with them. This is not to ascertain your finances but to establish professional activity.
  • Counsellor. If you have or are having counselling, then we will speak to you about taking up a reference