A birth parent's guide to the adoption process

What is adoption?

Adoption is a way of providing a new family for a child when living with their birth family is not possible.

Adoption ends the child’s legal relationship with its birth family and gives parental responsibility to its adopters.

If your local authority believes that your family cannot care safely for your child, it will have a ‘permanency planning meeting’, where it will recommend that your child is placed for adoption. Unless there are particular reasons why you shouldn’t be there, you will be invited to this meeting.

Helping your child

Before your local authority can arrange an adoption, it is required by law to ask you for a lot of information. You can help by telling us about yourself, your child’s other birth parent and your family background.

It is important for us to know about any health issues in your family as this may have implications for your child’s future health.

This information will help your local authority to find a family for your child which will meet his or her needs. The information you give will contribute to your child’s understanding of their birth family history.

This information is personal, so the law says we must treat it as confidential. However, there are some circumstances where we need to pass some of it on to other people, such as prospective adopters. You will be able to see the information that we have gathered about you and will have an opportunity to comment on it.

The information you provide is used to create a child permanence report. The report is presented to a group of people called an adoption panel.

What will the adoption panel do?

The adoption panel will look at all the information and will decide if adoption is the right plan for your child. It will also consider the proposed plan for contact with your child.

The adoption panel will then make a recommendation about whether they feel that adoption would be in your child’s best interest. This recommendation is checked by the Agency Decision Maker (ADM).

The ADM will make a decision about whether or not they think your child is suitable for adoption.

What happens after the adoption panel?

The case will be taken to a court, as only a magistrate or judge can make the legal decision that your child cannot live with you.

The magistrate or judge will look at a care plan for your child and will talk to you, your solicitor, the child’s guardian and your local authority before making a decision.

If the magistrate or judge thinks that the birth parents should not have parental responsibility, they will grant a care order. This means that the local authority holds parental responsibility for the child and will make all the important decisions about the child, for example, where they live, and who they live with.

The judge may also make a ‘placement order’. This means that the judge has enough evidence to show that the child will need a new permanent family and that the child will not be returning to live with the birth family.

When this order is made, we can look for a new family for a child.

Choosing the right adoptive family

Your social worker can explain the details of how we decide to match the right adoptive family with your child. Your views and involvement can be really important for your child and for you in this process.

Adopt South West is required by law to make very thorough enquiries about any prospective adopters. We ask them for a lot of information about themselves and their background, and we try to make sure we understand what kind of upbringing they would offer your child.

Please tell your social worker if there is anything special you would like us to consider when choosing a family for your child.

You might, for example, want your child to have a particular religious or cultural upbringing, that there should be other children in the new family, or that they have the opportunity to develop any special interests or talents.

Older children will be given help to understand how adoption affects them in relation to you and your family and will be asked their views about the type of adoptive family they wish to live with.

Once the right adoptive family has been chosen, a lot of thought and consideration is given as to how they will meet your child’s needs now and as he or she grows up. This information is presented to the adoption panel who will make a recommendation about the family. The ADM will consider the panel’s recommendation and, if they agree, your child will go to live with the new adoptive family.

The local authority is responsible for monitoring and reviewing the quality of care and for your child’s welfare up until an adoption order is granted. The earliest that the new adoptive family can apply for this is ten weeks after your child has been placed with them.

We try to arrange for all birth parents to meet the prospective adopters of their child if this is appropriate, as it helps both sets of parents to know a little more about each other.

This can be an emotional meeting and the birth relative support service can help you get ready for this, and talk through it afterwards.

What happens after the adoption order is made?

When a child is adopted, this ends all legal ties with the birth family. He or she will usually keep their first name and take the adoptive family’s surname.

When the court makes an adoption order, the adopters get an adoption certificate from the general register at the office of national statistics. This will show the child’s new names and list the adopters and the child’s parents and will replace the child’s original birth certificate for all legal purposes.

When the child goes to live with the adoptive parents, a copy of the child’s original birth certificate will be given to them.

Adoptive parents are encouraged to bring the child up knowing they are adopted and knowing about their origins.

It is understandable that adopted people will want to know something about their birth family when they are old enough to do so (18 years of age). This is why it is important that your local authority knows as much about you as possible and why you may be asked to provide photographs or other information.

When your child begins living with the adoptive family, the adoptive parents will already have received a lot of information that will be important to your child growing up.

Your child will also understand as fully as possible what is happening and will have a Life Story Book explaining their life in words, pictures and photos. We hope that this book will have been made with your help, as your child may want to know about you as they’re growing up.

Can I keep in contact with my child after adoption?

Please see Contact with a birth child for more information.

Will my child be able to find me after adoption?

From the age of 18 onwards, your child, like any other adopted adult, has the right to have a copy of their original birth certificate if they choose. This will show their original name, the name of their birth mother and possibly the name of their birth father, as well as the address where they were living when their birth was registered.

There is a national adoption contact register, which helps put adopted people and their birth family in contact with each other if this is what they both want.

You can record your name and contact address on this register. Then, if your adopted adult child chooses to trace you, they can get information about you from the register. It is up to your child to decide whether or not to contact you.

You can also use the register to record that you do not want to be contacted.

If you have a letterbox agreement, the letterbox service will have details of both birth and adoptive families which will make it easier for an adopted person to establish a more direct link with their birth family if they want to.

For this reason, it’s important that you keep the letterbox service up to date with your contact details.

Post-adoption support services

If you have been affected by your child/ren being adopted and live within the region of Adopt South West,  please give us a call on 0345 155 1076 or email Our adoption support team members understand the emotions involved (you may be feeling confusion, grief, loss and anger). It may not be easy for you to discuss these feelings with family or friends so we are able to listen to you and offer support with understanding, and together we can look at what support may be helpful to you.

We are currently looking at how we can develop support to birth relatives affected by adoption across the region and would welcome any ideas regarding this so please do email