Adoption is a permanent way of finding families for children who need them. Adopters come from a variety of backgrounds, just like the children waiting to be adopted.

If you're just starting to think about adoption why not have a look at our handy guide Adoption: some questions answered.

What is adoption?

Adoption is a way of providing a new family for children who cannot be brought up by their biological or "birth" parents for whatever reason. When you adopt a child, they become a permanent part of your family, usually taking your name. Adoption is a legal procedure in which all the parental responsibility is transferred to you, the adopter.

Who can adopt?

All types of people from all kinds of backgrounds can adopt. All you need is:

  • to be over 21 - there is no upper age limit
  • to have the physical and mental energy needed to care for demanding children
  • not to have been convicted of or cautioned for specified criminal offences against children, or some sexual offences against adults - your agency will carry out police checks. Having other convictions or cautions will not automatically rule you out especially if they were some time ago - you should ask a social worker what this would mean for you.

Like any other parent, you should also be patient, flexible and energetic. You will need to be ready to make space in your life and home for a child to make a real difference to their life - for a lifetime.

Find out more about whether you could adopt here.

Who are the children who need adopting?

There are children of all ages and backgrounds across the UK who need adoptive families because they cannot be cared for by their birth families. Apart from a very small number who are relinquished for adoption by their parents, the majority of these children will have experienced difficult early experiences pre-birth or before coming into the care of the local authority. These children need an adoptive family to give them love, support and security to help them achieve their potential.

Families are needed for all ages of children but particularly for the groups of children who can wait the longest. They include:

Groups of brother and sisters who need to stay together

Siblings usually need to be placed together although they are sometimes separated if the social worker has assessed that their needs cannot be met when living together or because no suitable family comes forward for them. If they are not placed together, they will usually have some form of contact after adoption. Extra support can be offered to help manage the additional demands of parenting siblings.

Black and minority ethnic children

Children who are black Caribbean or black African, Asian (particularly Asian Muslim), and of mixed ethnicity (black African and white, black Caribbean and white, or Asian and white) need to be placed with families who can support their identity and their understanding of their culture and heritage and there will be support available to families with this. These children can wait much longer for an adoptive family than white children and the government has said that agencies should not seek to match all aspects of their ethnicity and cultural background where this will cause delay to a child achieving a permanent family but should look at what is needed to support the child and family. You can read more about adopting black and minority ethnic children in our book Looking after our own.

Older children

There are relatively few healthy babies available for adoption these days. Children over the age of four can wait considerably longer to be matched with a new family than younger children but are often very keen to have an adoptive family and need the love, security and stability that adoption can offer them.

Children who are disabled or have complex needs

Due to their early life experiences often children needing adoption may be behind in their development compared to children of a similar age and they may have a learning or physical disability, or emotional or behavioural difficulties, and in some cases particular health condition. Some of these children may need adopters with specific experience or skills but often their needs can be met by families who are able to accept them for who they are and who will be able to use the ongoing support available from social workers or health and education professionals. For more information about some of the complex needs some children may have why not look at the Parenting a child... series of books available in our bookshop. You could also read The family business, the true story of the adoption of a boy with cerebral palsy.

Find out how to begin your adoption journey.