Becoming an adopter involves several stages. Firstly, your agency will provide you with the chance to understand more about adoption and what it will mean for your family and then they will assess your suitability to adopt. An adoption panel will then review all the information about you and make a recommendation to the agency. Once you are approved you will be able to look, with the support of your social worker, for a suitable “match” – a child whose needs you can meet.

For practical information about the processes involved in adopting and beyond, read The adopter's handbook.


Once you have chosen and contacted an agency and they have agreed to assess you, you will be allocated a social worker who will work with you through the assessment process. The procedure is the same if you want to adopt a child from abroad. In England the assessment is carried out in two stages with checks and training taking place first followed by the home study.

The assessment will include:

  • preparation and training
  • background checks
  • following up on the references you have provided
  • health checks
  • a recommendation about whether you are suitable to adopt.

The home study was relatively painless. Our social worker was nothing short of brilliant. It felt like having free therapy at times! In time , she turned into more of a good friend, even part of the family, rather than being just a social worker, and we can feel that she is extremely fond of us.

Adoptive parent, The pink guide to adoption for lesbians and gay men

You can read more about the process in England here

At the end of this process, your social worker will write a report about their findings.

Going to panel and approval

We found the panel very friendly and not intimidating at all. Of course there are a lot of faces there but they are looking towards the children’s best interests; that’s what you’ve got to remember.

Dave, adoptive parent, Adopting a child in Scotland

An adoption panel is made up of a range of people who all have a professional or personal connection to adoption. They will review the report about you prepared by your social worker and meet and talk with both them and you before they make their recommendation. There is no obligation for you to attend the “panel meeting” but it is encouraged.

At the end, they will make a recommendation as to whether you are “approved”, which means that you are suitable to adopt. This recommendation will go to your agency’s “decision maker” who will then make the final decision.

Occasionally a panel may defer making a recommendation while further work is done but it is unusual for a panel or agency decision maker not to approve prospective adopters if their social worker is supporting their application. However all agencies will have in place a formal complaints procedure if you are not happy with the decision made or the assessment process. In addition, if your approval is not agreed then you will be given a choice of going through a review process within your agency or applying to an independent provider. In England, you can contact the Independent Review Mechanism  to ask them to review your agency’s decision, or in Wales you can get in touch with the Independent Review Mechanism, also known as the Independent Review of Determinations.

Being matched with a child

After you have been approved, your agency will work with you to “match” or “link” you with a child. They will consider the child’s needs and how you are best able to meet these. You will be encouraged to take an active part in this process.

After being approved as potential adopters, the waiting began!...We waited eight months from approval to the eventual placement of our children. I think that time does not matter. Putting the right child into the right family is more important.

Jane, adoptive parent, Adopting a child in Scotland

There are also national services which help match families with children, including:

You can also be proactive by searching yourself and making enquiries using family-finding services such as Adoption UK’s Children Who Wait, or Link Maker

Local and national exchange events are held where you can hear more about a child. Find out more here. At some events known as Adoption Activity Days you have the opportunity to meet some children who are waiting to be adopted. Find out more here.

Once a child has been identified, there will be meetings with you to make sure you have all the information you need to make your decision to proceed with a proposed match and to look at what support will be offered to you. The proposed match will then be presented to an adoption panel, who will recommend to the agency decision maker whether the placement should go ahead.

Read more on the First4Adoption website.

After the match has been approved at panel, the social workers involved will discuss with you how you will be introduced to the child, what support will be in place for you and any proposed contact arrangements with the child’s birth family.

We’re preoccupied with thoughts of meeting Jessie…It’s like the feeling you have before a first date…butterflies in the stomach, nervous, nauseous. Will she like us? Will we bond?

Jayne, adoptive parent, Our adoption journey

Read about the next step in your adoption journey - living together as a family.