Pregnant and thinking about adoption?

What exactly is adoption?
How do I find out about adoption?
How is an adoption arranged?
Must the father of the baby give his permission?
What sort of people will adopt my baby?
What happens after my baby is born?
Can I arrange the adoption myself?
What if I change my mind?
Will I see my child again?
Can I keep it secret?
Making the decision
Sources of information and help

What exactly is adoption?

Adoption is a way of providing a child with new legal parents. It ends the legal relationship between the child and the birth parents and establishes a new one with the adoptive parents. Adoptions are arranged by adoption agencies but are made legally binding by the courts. Once granted, an adoption order is final and cannot be undone.

How do I find out about adoption?

It is a good idea to get expert advice as soon as possible. You can get this advice from:

  • Social workers from the social services department (or social work department in Scotland) of your local authority
  • A voluntary adoption agency
  • Hospital social workers who work with maternity clinics

Your local BAAF Office will be able to tell you who to contact in your area.

How is an adoption arranged?

If you decide that adoption is right for your baby, the social worker at the agency will spend some time with you to help you with your decision. You will, in due course, need to give some personal information about yourself, your family and your family's health, for the adopters to be able to share with the child as s/he grows up.

However, although preparations for the adoption can begin before your child is born, nothing will be definitely arranged until after the birth. You will be completely free to change your mind.

Must the father of the baby give his permission?

  • If you are unmarried and the father is not named on the birth certificate, his formal permission isn't necessary. The social worker will need to contact him, if possible, as the adoption agency and the court will want, if possible, some information on the father and his family health / medical history so they can pass it on to the adopters and the child. However, you won't be forced to reveal the father's identity.
  • If you are married, and your husband is the father of the child, his formal agreement to the adoption is necessary.
  • If you are unmarried and the father is named on the birth certificate, his formal agreement to the adoption is necessary.
  • If you are married but your husband isn't the father, the law will still consider your husband the legal father unless he has signed a declaration otherwise. In this case your husband's consent to adoption is necessary. The adoption agency and the court will also want, if possible, some information on the actual father so they can pass it on to the adopters and the child.

The baby's father may not agree with your adoption plan and may want to bring up the child himself.

If you and he are unable to agree the court will have to decide whether it thinks adoption or a life with the father is likely to be best for the child in the long term.

What sort of people will adopt my baby?

There are so many people who want to adopt a baby that it should be possible to find an excellent home for your child. The social worker will discuss with you the kind of family you want your child to grow up in.

You should talk to the social worker about the possibility of meeting the family (if you want to), or about other sorts of contact such as exchanging letters.

What happens after my baby is born?

When you leave hospital after the birth your baby may be looked after by a temporary foster carer or may possibly go straight to his or her adoptive parents.

Your social worker will have discussed this and agreed with you what the best plan is. Your social worker will make regular visits to the child to check everything is going well and offer support.

When the baby has settled down with his or her adoptive parents, they will make an application to the court.

The court will then arrange for you to be visited by someone who will make sure that you understand what adoption involves. You will be asked to sign a formal document. You cannot give this formal agreement until the baby is at least six weeks old.

The agency will have to provide a report to the court about how the child is settling in, and if the court is satisfied that all is well then an adoption order will be granted. This can't happen until the baby is at least 19 weeks old and has lived with the adopters for 13 weeks.

Your social worker will be able to advise you on which procedure is best for you.

Can I arrange the adoption myself?

No, unless your child is to be adopted by a close relative. To protect the child, all other adoptions must be arranged by an approved adoption agency, which can make full enquiries about the new parents. All adoptions must be agreed by the courts.

What if I change my mind?

  • If you change your mind before your baby is placed with adopters you can ask for his or her immediate return to you.
  • If you change your mind after your baby has been placed with adopters but before they have made an application to the court the baby would also normally be returned to you, unless there are very good reasons.
  • Even when the adopters have made an application to the court for an adoption order and you have given your agreement you can still change your mind. However, the court will have to be convinced that it is in the child's best interests to be returned to you. If you want your child back at this stage, you should tell the adoption agency at once and get legal advice.
  • When the adoption order has been made by the court you will no longer have any legal relationship with, or responsibilities for your child and won't be able to have the child returned.

Will I see my child again?

Adoption can sometimes involve continuing contact between the birth parents and the adoptive family, either face to face or by letter.

The agency will usually try to find a family for your child who are happy with having the sort of contact that you would like, as long as this is also in your child's best interests.

Can I keep it secret?

Adoptive parents are advised to tell children from an early age that they are adopted.

As they grow up, most adopted people are curious to know something about their background.

Adopted people can obtain their original birth certificate when they are 18 years old (16 in Scotland), and your name will be on the certificate.

Using that information the adopted person could try to trace you.

There are special post-adoption counsellors in local authorities and voluntary organisations who can discuss your particular situation with you.

There are adoption contact registers covering England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to facilitate contact between adult adopted people and their birth relatives.

You can find the contact details for these registers and counsellors in our advice note Pregnant and thinking about adoption.

Making the decision

The decision you make about your baby's future is so important that you should not be tempted to rush into it. Get all the advice you can before you make up your mind.

If, after considering all the possibilities, you decide on adoption, you should not feel that you are abandoning your baby. Although it is a difficult decision to make, it is a responsible and caring one.

Sources of information and help

  • Your doctor
  • The social worker at the hospital
  • Voluntary adoption agencies
  • The social service or social work department of your local council
  • Your local BAAF office or one of our regional advice lines.