What is the difference between adopting within the UK and from overseas?

Adoption can feel like an overwhelming process for hopeful parents.

There is a lot to know and a lot of preparation before people can adopt a child.

Different countries also have different laws surrounding adoption which can make it even more difficult, particularly if you want to adopt from overseas.

One of the biggest differences between adopting domestically and internationally is the cost.

If you are from the UK and you want to adopt domestically, you will be assessed by local authorities for free.

But there may be external costs for example for police checks or court fees.

If you’re from the UK and want to adopt from a different country, however, it is a much more expensive endeavour.

For our month-long series Adoption Month, we looked at the costs of domestic and foreign adoption. We also spoke to a British adoption charity, Barnado’s, and an American one, The Adoption Consultancy, to see how the process varies between the countries.

Barnado’s is a 100-year-old agency and encourages hopeful parents to adopt children with disabilities, learning difficulties and from sibling groups.

A spokesperson tells us: ‘At Barnardo’s, we know that all children are unique and so we encourage people from different cultures and religious communities, single carers, homeowners or renters and people from the LGBTQ+ community to get in touch with us if they are interested in finding out about adoption.

‘What is important is to be able to offer stability and commitment to a vulnerable child. Too many people don’t enquire because they think for some reason they are not eligible but we welcome enquiries from people in varied situations to meet the needs of a diverse group of children.’

The first step to domestic adoption will be to contact an agency of your choice and fill out the enquiry form or call the branch.

A member of the team will call you to talk you through what happens next and then, if everyone is happy, you will start the next stages of the assessment process.

This includes home visits, comprehensive background checks, training, and lots of information to ensure that you and all members of your family are ready and able to welcome a vulnerable child into your family.

You need to be over 21, be a non-smoker, and have a spare bedroom. Agencies will also consider your health, your relationship (if you are in one), other children in your family, and if you have a criminal record, although not all convictions will stop you from adopting.

The agency will then work with local authorities to find and make the right match for the children and the approved adoptive parents.

Barnado’s adds: ‘It may sound a bit daunting but Barnardo’s will be here to support you every step of the way to make it as smooth as possible, from the moment you enquire, through the assessment and training process to when you welcome your child into your family.

‘We will continue to support you even after your child has moved in and can offer ongoing training, therapy and counselling if it’s needed, a support group to meet other adoptive families and social days out.’

Becoming an approved adopter typically takes six to eight months. However each family and their circumstance is unique so the time scale can be different for each family.

There are no fees involved in adopting a child through Barnardo’s adoption services but other agencies may charge a fee.

Barnado’s also has some words of advice for hopeful families. They say: ‘Adopting a child is life-changing – for both the adoptive family and the child themselves. At Barnardo’s we have been finding families for children for more than 100 years, so have lots of experience. 

‘We particularly look for families for children who are older, who are part of a sibling group, who are disabled or who have additional needs and those who are from a religious or minority ethnic background. Therefore we are keen to hear from people who believe they can welcome them into their lives and meet their needs.

‘It’s important for families to consider any other children in their families too.’  

Hopeful parents embarking on the international adoption route will also face a long process, and will need to pay fees along the way.

Adoption of a foreign child will be done by a UK adoption agency that may charge a fee. And unlike UK adoption, the applicants hoping to adopt abroad will have to pay for the whole assessment process.

There are several other steps including an assessment for the overseas adoption authority. You’ll also need to visit the child in their own country after your application has been sent to the child’s agency.

The Department for Education (DfE) also charges a fee of £1,975 for processing your application and will deliver you a Certificate of Eligibility.

If your application is successful, the agency will teach you all the skills you need as an adoptive parent.

Costs for the application process can cost between £4,000 to £9,000 according to agency First 4 Adoption.

Those endeavouring to adopt overseas should contact their local council or a voluntary adoption agency that deals with international adoption.

Anyone 21 and over can adopt a child from overseas if the child cannot be cared for in a safe environment in their own country, the adoption would be in their best interests, and the adopter has been assessed as eligible and suitable to adopt from overseas by an adoption agency in the UK.

In the U.S, the process of adoption differs.

The first step is for the hopeful adoptive parent (HAPs) to determine which type of adoption is right for them – domestic newborn adoption, foster adoption, or international adoption.

Once that decision is made, then the HAPs can begin researching which adoption professionals they want to work with and creating their team.  

For those pursuing private domestic adoption, they should decide if they are going to use a consultant or find agencies/attorneys on their own.

Early steps will include creating a personal profile, completing a home study, and submitting agency applications. 

The Adoption Consultancy tells Metro.co.uk: ‘The time taken to process applications depends on a lot of different factors.

‘My clients adopt, on average, in about six months but some agencies have wait times of two to three years or more.’

In the the U.S private domestic adoptions often falls between mid-$30,000s (£23,123) and high-$40,000s (£30,831).

Although there are some different laws from state-to-state, the bigger factor is the expectant mum’s pregnancy-related expenses, as those vary from case to case. 

The Consultancy adds: ‘Technically, the only legal restriction is that one can pass their home study. However, agencies sometimes put their own restrictions on families regarding age, religion, sexual orientation, etc. Additionally, certain factors (such as being single or above age 50, for example) can make it harder (but not impossible!) to get selected by an expectant mother.’

They also have advice for hopeful parents, saying: ‘The key thing to know is that it’s not for the faint of heart. It will be difficult, it will be emotional, things may not go as you envision.

‘But that doesn’t mean that you won’t end up with a beautiful situation on the other side of it all. Be open-minded and flexible about where this journey takes you having faith that you WILL end up with the right baby at the right time. ‘

Adoption Month

Adoption Month is a month-long series covering all aspects of adoption.

For the next four weeks, which includes National Adoption Week from October 14-19, we will be speaking to people who have been affected by adoption in some way, from those who chose to welcome someone else’s child into their family to others who were that child.

We’ll also be talking to experts in the field and answering as many questions as possible associated with adoption, as well as offering invaluable advice along the way.

If you have a story to tell or want to share any of your own advice please do get in touch at [email protected]

  • Why we’re talking about adoption this month
  • How to adopt a child – from how long it takes to how you can prepare
  • The most Googled questions on adoption, answered
  • How long does it take to adopt a child in the UK
  • Adoption myths that could be stopping you from starting a family
  • How to tell your child they are adopted 

Visit our Adoption Month page for more.

Do you have a story you want to share?

Email [email protected] to tell us more.

Adoption Month

Adoption Month is a month-long series covering all aspects of adoption.

For the next four weeks, which includes National Adoption Week from October 14-19, we will be speaking to people who have been affected by adoption in some way, from those who chose to welcome someone else’s child into their family to others who were that child.

We’ll also be talking to experts in the field and answering as many questions as possible associated with adoption, as well as offering invaluable advice along the way.

If you have a story to tell or want to share any of your own advice please do get in touch at [email protected]

  • Why we’re talking about adoption this month
  • How to adopt a child – from how long it takes to how you can prepare
  • The most Googled questions on adoption, answered
  • How long does it take to adopt a child in the UK
  • Adoption myths that could be stopping you from starting a family
  • How to tell your child they are adopted 

Visit our Adoption Month page for more.

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