The British Association For Adoption and Fostering estimates that there are as many as 4,000 children in the United Kingdom waiting for adoption. Babies are a very small part of that sum; most are children of school age. Adopting a baby in the UK can be a prolonged process, but when you hold that baby in your arms for the first time, it will certainly be worth the wait.
Check your eligibility. The only legal requirement for adoption is that you are over 21 years of age. There is no set upper limit for adoption, but most agencies will only accept potential parents who are less than 45 years older than the child they wish to adopt. You also may find that the birth parents express their desire for their baby to go to young parents. Both married couples and single people can adopt; in England and Wales, unmarried couples—heterosexual or homosexual—can adopt jointly, while only one partner in an unmarried couple can adopt in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Being disabled does not necessarily exclude you from adoption and neither do criminal offences, as long as they are not against children.
Contact adoption agencies. Unless you are a close relative of the child you wish to adopt, you will need to go through a voluntary adoption agency, such as Barnardo's, or your local social services department. You can find a list of adoption agencies in your area on the British Association For Adoption and Fostering's website (see Resources). At this early stage, you can contact more than one agency, but you can only officially apply to adopt with a single agency.
Cast your net wide. Many people want to adopt babies more than older children, and you may find that your nearest agency or social services department has closed its waiting list for babies. Other agencies may only take a few applications. Don't be limited to your immediate area; agencies will usually work within 50 miles of their location, so contact all within that area to see if they have an open waiting list.
Ask two friends to write personal references for your adoption report. Your friends will also be interviewed, so choose them carefully. You will also be asked to arrange a medical examination with your doctor, and the agency will confidentially check your history with police, welfare and social services. The agency's Adoption Panel will then consider a report on your adoption and decide if you can adopt or not.
Subscribe to the "Be My Parent" newspaper, published by the British Association For Adoption and Fostering (see Resources). Here you will find photographs and profiles of children who need adopting and can respond to them. Once you are approved for adoption, your agency will also try to match you with a child and, with your permission, will place you on the Adoption Register for England and Wales. Now you just need to wait for a baby!
Be patient. If the agency is taking applications, it will usually take six months for them to prepare you for the task ahead. They will want to get to know you first. Some adoption agencies offer financial help in certain situations. Ask your agency for details.
You may need to be prepared for members of the birth family to be in contact with you or the baby, via your adoption agency. You may have an exchange of written information once or twice a year. You may even be directly contacted bycertain members of the birth family, such as grandparents and siblings who may be placed elsewhere.