What is adoption?
Adoption is a process which allows someone other than the child's birth father and mother to become their parents. It is a legal procedure in which all the parental rights and responsibilities are removed from the birth parents and transferred to the adopters.
What is the need in Shetland for families for children?
Shetland is limited in the number of children requiring adoption; however adopters from Shetland are frequently matched with Children from the UK mainland. Adoption is very different from how it used to be: very few young babies are available for adoption, and there is a need for secure and stable adoptive homes for children of all ages. Our greatest need is beyond babyhood, and occasionally for children who have a physical or learning disability. Many of the children we place will exhibit challenging behaviour.
There is now much more openness in adoption: where possible, the birth parents and adoptive parents will meet before the placement, and the child may have contact with their birth parents, sisters, brothers or grandparents throughout their childhood, possibly face to face or by letter.
Who can adopt?
We promote non-discriminatory practices in all our services and seek individuals or couples from a variety of backgrounds who can make a permanent commitment to a child or children who need a new family for life.
Applicants should normally be at least 23 years of age, single or married. Couples may be:
• in a civil partnership
• living together as if husband and wife or civil partners in an enduring family relationship
There is no upper age limit, although if an Adoption Order is applied for in Scotland, the Sheriff must consider whether the age difference between the adopters and the child is normal. Adopters need to have sufficient health and vigour to be able to bring up a child at least until early adulthood, so age is one of the factors to be considered.
If you have a child or children, our practice is to place children below the age of the children already in the family and to make sure there is a gap of at least three years between the youngest child and a child placed for adoption.
How do I find out more?
Our first step is normally to send an information pack. If you wish to receive a pack please:
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone us on 01595 744400
When you register your interest with us, a Social Worker will offer an informal home visit to discuss the process, give you information including the current needs of children in Shetland and help you to consider what adoption will mean for you. We hope this might help you to decide whether you wish to proceed further.
The National Care Standards for adoption agencies set out what you can expect from the service you receive from us.
What happens if I wish to proceed?
You will be asked to attend a Preparation for Adoption training course.
The training will focus on the needs of children who need permanent care.
We ask that all applicants attend our adoption preparation course. The course offers the opportunity to learn more about adoption. Occasionally due to our limited numbers of adopters being assessed at one Time, participants will have already started their home study report before attending this course.
The training includes:
- the reasons why children become available for adoption
- understanding children's growth and development
- the impact of difficult early life experiences on the child's ability to develop an attachment to their new family
- medical issues
- legal issues
- the ongoing support and information that adopted children need about birth families
- parenting issues
- an opportunity to meet with adoptive parents & adopted people
The focus of the course is preparation for adoptive parenthood.
As part of your assessment we carry out a number of checks:
- Checks of Police and Social Work records are always carried out on anyone in the household who is over 16 years of age. If you have any convictions, then it is wise to discuss these at an early stage.
- A medical check is requested to make sure you are fit and well enough to care for children.
- You will be asked to provide the names of referees who can comment on your suitability to care for children. A health and safety check of your home will be done as well as any other checks relevant to your situation, which will include an employment reference.
- A Social Worker will visit you and your family over a period of time to assess your suitability, and complete a Home Study Report in partnership with you. The whole process, including training, might take up to a year.
What happens next?
The Home Study Report will be presented to our Permanence Panel. You will be invited to attend part of the meeting to discuss your application. The Panel's recommendation is passed to the Agency Decision Maker, Executive Manager for Children and Families, Social Work who will make a decision within 14 days.
Adopting a Step-Child or Relative
The Adoption and Children (Scotland) Act 2007 says that only adoption agencies can make arrangements for children to be adopted, unless the proposed adopter is a relative. It goes on to give a definition of a relative as a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt, whether "by affinity, and in the cases of a brother, sister, uncle or aunt, whether of the full-blood or half-blood". It includes the civil partner of the grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or child.
This means that it is possible to adopt a child where:
The child was placed with you by an adoption agency, such as Shetland Council Social Work, or the child is a relative, as explained above.
It is also possible to adopt the child of your husband, wife or civil partner - known as step-parent adoption. It is possible to adopt the child of your partner, provided you are living together in an "enduring family relationship".
Adoption is the legal process where a parent and child relationship is created by court order. Adoption Orders transfer parental rights and responsibilities in relation to the child to the adoptive parents. After the Adoption Order has been granted, the child who has been adopted is treated as if they had been born to the adoptive parents.
A child can be adopted up to the age of 18, although the child's consent is required if they are aged 12 or over.
A person who is:
- has been married, or
- in a civil partnership
- and is under 18 cannot be adopted.
The Adoption Order cannot be made until the child is at least 19 weeks old, and has lived with you for at least 13 weeks.
Thinking about adoption
You will be caring for the child that you wish to adopt, and you will have considered how you can give the child as much security as possible. You will have considered the advantages of adoption:
It will bring security for the child
The child will have the same surname as the rest of the family (if the child has a different surname)
It will give the child rights of inheritance, shared with any other children that you have.
There are also disadvantages to adopting a step-child or a relative's child which you should consider:
Adoption can be very confusing for the child, and it can be difficult to help a child to understand the complicated relationships that adoption will create.
Adoption may cut the child's links with family members, and this may be distressing and confusing for the child. It is known that openness and a continuing relationship with family members is generally helpful to most children, and you may want to make sure that although legal ties are cut, the child does not lose all contact with their birth relatives.
The child may have a sense of loss that their birth parent was unable to care for them, and may feel cut off from their past. The child may lose rights of inheritance from their birth family.
Alternatives to adoption
In every adoption, including step-parent adoption, adoption by the parent's partner or civil partner, and adoption by a relative, the court has to consider whether adoption can best meet the needs of the child throughout their life and whether there is a better practicable alternative. The court needs to know that the following alternatives to adoption have been fully considered:
- A Residence Order
- A change of name
A Residence Order
An Order, under Section 11 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995, confers or removes parental rights and responsibilities in relation to a specific child. This Residence Order can require a child to live with someone who does not have parental rights and responsibilities in relation to the child. Your solicitor could ask the court to give you parental responsibilities such as:
The right to decide where the child lives.
The right and duty to safeguard and promote the child's health, development and welfare.
The right and duty to provide direction and guidance to the child/control the child's upbringing.
To act as the child's legal representative.
Section 11 applications relate to individual children and therefore each one will be unique. Legal advice would be necessary to establish what powers should be applied for.
A Section 11 Order would last until the child is 16 years old, although the responsibility to guide the young person lasts until they are 18 years old.
It is advisable to seek legal advice from a solicitor in relation to a Section 11 application.
Change of Name
If the child's surname is different from yours, you may wish to change it. You may wish to think very carefully about this, as this could be confusing for the child. You do not need to adopt the child to change their name. If the child has been known by the name for at least two years, you can go to your local Registrar's Office, who will give you information on how to change the child's name. You may wish to seek legal advice.
You could include the child in your will, if you wanted to make sure the child has the same rights of inheritance as any other person in your family. Again, you may wish to seek legal advice.
- A birth father gaining parental rights and responsibilities
- If you are the birth father of a child, and were not married to the mother of the child at the time of your child's birth, and (after 4th May 2006) you did not jointly register the child's birth with the mother you can either enter into a written agreement with the child's mother under Section 4 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 or seek a Court Order under Section 11. This would give you parental rights and responsibilities and it would not be necessary to adopt your own child.
- However, if you are a:
partner of the child's parent
civil partner, or
relative of the child
the Section 4 option is not available to you. After considering Section 11, you may feel it is in the child's best interests to adopt the child.
Making an adoption application
To apply to adopt a child, application is usually made to the Sheriff Court which covers the area where you live. You may wish to speak to the Sheriff Clerk about making an application - they may be able to give you:
the adoption petition (the form that the application is made on)
information on the documents that you would have to put into court along with the petition
details of the fee which you would have to pay to the court.
You can arrange for a solicitor to complete the petition and to lodge it in court, or you may be able to do it yourself.
When you lodge the Adoption Petition in court, and the court has not previously dispensed with consent, a birth parent with any parental responsibilities and rights in relation to the child or a birth parent whose rights have been extinguished by virtue of a permanence order or any guardian of the child will receive intimation of the adoption application together with a copy of the Petition. In such circumstances where there are any reasons to withhold your name and address you, or your solicitor, should write to the Sheriff Clerk to request that a serial number is assigned to the case. This will mean that any identifying information will be withheld from such a birth parent or guardian.
By law, you must notify Social Work that you intend to apply for an adoption order if the child has not been placed with you for adoption by us. It is best to do this and to talk to the allocated Social Worker, before you start the adoption petition, as the court cannot grant the adoption order until at least three months after Social Work has been notified. You, or your solicitor, should write to:
Step Parent Application
Family Placement Team
notifying that you intend to adopt the child. You should include:
- the child's full name and date of birth
- their birth parent's full names
- your full name as step-parent, civil partner, partner or relative who is applying to adopt
- your address
You should keep a copy of this letter.
The Family Placement Team will acknowledge your letter and you should lodge this letter in court along with the adoption petition. A Social Worker will arrange to visit you to get full information about your circumstances, in order to prepare a report for the court. Normally the court will expect to receive the Social Worker's report within four weeks. It is best to discuss the timing of the lodging of the petition in court with the Social Worker, so the report can be ready at the same time. The Social Worker must see the child, and, where appropriate, will discuss with them their views about the proposed adoption.
There is a requirement for the Social Worker to prepare a report for the Court. There is specific information the Court expects the Social Worker to find out and this will be explained to you by the Social Worker at an early stage. The Court also has to appoint a Reporting Officer and Curator ad litem (usually the same person). This is an independent person who must also get full information to prepare a detailed report to the court on all the circumstances and on whether the adoption is in the child's best interests.
The court must have the agreement of the child's birth parent or parents to the adoption, if they have parental responsibilities and rights. The Social Worker has a duty to find out the wishes of the child's birth parent or parents and their views on the alternatives to adoption. Where a birth father is not married to the mother of the child and has never had parental rights and responsibilities for the child, the Social Worker has a duty to take reasonable steps to notify him of the application for adoption. The Reporting Officer will also usually meet with the birth parent or parents to seek their views. If the birth parent or parents do not agree to the adoption the court has to be asked to dispense with that consent on one of the grounds set out in the 2007 Act. If the child's birth parent or parents do not give consent, you may wish to consult a solicitor.
When the court receives all the reports, a hearing date will be set about four weeks ahead, to consider the application to adopt.
More information can be obtained by contacting:
Tel: 01595 744400
and Step-Parent adoption information from: