Adopting your stepchildren
Things to consider
Have you considered all options?
The local authority has a duty to ensure that you have considered whether any alternative legal options may be more appropriate than adoption. You may find that you don’t need to take the major step of adoption to achieve what you would like for the child.
Parental Responsibility Agreements
Having Parental Responsibility Agreement for a child means that you are responsible for, and have the right to be consulted about, the child’s health, education, religion, and welfare. A birth father automatically acquires parental responsibility if he is married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth or if he subsequently marries the mother. An unmarried father acquires parental responsibility if he is named, or becomes named, on the birth certificate (as of 1 December 2003).
Shared legal responsibility between stepparent and birth parents can be arranged by the making of a Parental Responsibility Agreement or an Order through court.
Changing the child’s name
If this is important for the child changing a name can be done in ways other than adoption. Any changes to a child’s status or a name change will need to be agreed by all of those with parental responsibility for the child.
Please refer to Gov.UK - Change your name by deed poll.
Guardianship of the child by the stepparent in the event of the death of the birth parent with whom the child is living, can be arranged by making a Will - this is testamentary guardianship, and this will also secure inheritance.
Child Arrangements Order
This order allows the child to remain living in the current residence. This does not remove the parental responsibilities from the birth parents.
What about the 'absent' birth parent?
Except where the absent birth parent has died, it is your responsibility to inform them of your plan to adopt. It is not the responsibility of the local authority to do this, although if it is not possible to trace the absent birth parent, this should be discussed with the social worker at the initial interview.
Moving forward – what happens next?
If you feel that adoption is the most appropriate way forward for the child and your family, please contact Adoption Central England using the enquiry form. This will register your interest in the next stage, and we will send you an information pack. Once you have read through this and considered all the options, if you are still interested in adoption please make contact and a duty social worker will talk to you about your enquiry. If you meet all the eligibility criteria and would like to proceed, a meeting will be arranged to understand your motivation, why adoption is your preferred option, and the process will be explained in more detail.
Following the meeting, if you decide that adoption is still what you feel is right for your family, you will need to provide in writing, to Adoption Central England, your notice of intention to make an application to the court for an adoption order.
What should we tell the child/ren and when?
It is important that children grow up with a truthful and meaningful understanding of their birth family history which includes any decisions that have had an impact on their lives. Before an application is made to the court, you will need to have spoken to your child, using narratives that they understand, about your plans for adoption and what this means for their future. As part of our assessment of your family, we will need to evidence the child’s wishes and feelings and whether they understand the lifelong implications of adoption. If you are unsure how to introduce the adoption process to your child, advice can be sought from the social worker at your initial meeting to support you.