The decision to adopt a child is a significant one. When individuals adopt a child, they become the child’s legal parents. The adopters hold all parental rights and responsibilities in relation to the child, and, the child’s birth parents’ parental rights and responsibilities are brought to an end. Adoption is a permanent and lifelong arrangement.
Adoption can take place in a number of circumstances. For some families, a child will have been placed with them by a family member who is unable to care for the child due to an issue or difficulty with their own health or circumstances. In other cases, children are placed by a Social Work Department in similar circumstances. Step-parents can also apply to adopt their step-child. The application to adopt can be made by a single person or indeed by the parties to a marriage, civil partnership or those who are in an enduring relationship.
Depending upon the basis upon which a child has been placed with you, it may be that prior to applying to the Court you have to intimate your intention to adopt to the local Social Work Department. The Social Work Department will then be in touch in order to make enquiries and prepare a report in connection with the adoption application. If you have decided to adopt and been assessed by an adoption association/agency, a report by the Local Authority Social Work Department will not be required.
Once your application to adopt the child is lodged at Court, it is allocated to a Sheriff. The Sheriff will appoint a Curator ad litem and/or Reporting Officer who will make enquiries on behalf of the Court in relation to a number of different matters, and prepare written reports, either supporting or not supporting your application to adopt. The Curator ad litem and Reporting Officer is independent of the Adoption Agency and/or Social Work Department
As set out above, there are a number of different circumstances in which applications to adopt can be made. The progress of the application depends, to a certain extent, on the basis of the application. There may still be a basis upon which the child’s natural parents can oppose the application. If that happens, then it is likely there will be some form of evidential hearing after which the Sheriff will decide whether the application to adopt should be granted or not.
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