Criteria for Prospective Adopters


Any practice that classifies couples/single people in a way that effectively rules out the adoption because of their status, age or because they and the child do not share the same racial or cultural background is not child-centred and is unacceptable.

This should be read in conjunction with Smoking Procedure.


This chapter was added to this manual in March 2014.

1. Individual and Joint

Applications will be considered from married couples, civil partners, unmarried couples or single people. In the case of joint applications, there is no minimum requirement on the length of the marriage/civil partnership/relationship, but the Panel will need to be satisfied about the stability of the relationship.

2. Religion

Applications will be considered from people of any or no religious persuasion.

3. Ethnicity

Applications will be considered from people of any race or culture.

4. Age

The minimum age for adopters is 21 years. There is no specific upper age limit.

5. Gender

Applications will be considered from people of either sex.

6. Sexual Orientation

Applications will be considered from people of any sexual orientation.

7. Income

Applicants may be in work or not. Whatever the applicants' income, they will need to consider the financial implications of increasing their family.

8. Health

Applicants will be required to have a full medical and undergo any further tests/checks that may be required by the Adoption Panel's Medical Adviser. The Medical Adviser will advise on the applicants' ability, from a health point of view, to meet the needs of a child throughout his or her childhood.

It is unlikely that a very young child or a child vulnerable to chest complaints would be placed in a household where one or both parents are smokers.

9. Criminal Convictions

A person who is seeking approval as an adoptive parent will not be considered if s/he or any adult member of the household has been cautioned for or convicted of an offence against a child which involves violence or bodily injury (other than common assault or battery), cruelty (to a child under 16), indecency, abduction, the supply of Class A drugs or the importation/possession of indecent photographs of a child under 16 or a sexual offence against a child unless the offence was contrary to sections 6,12 or 13 of the Sexual offences Act 1956 and the person concerned was under 20 when the offence was committed.

Other convictions will not necessarily preclude an application, but this will depend on the seriousness of the offence and how long ago it was committed. In cases of doubt or dispute, the matter will be referred to the Adoption Service Manager who may also consult the Panel Adviser and/or the Agency Decision Maker.

10. Accommodation

Applicants may own their own home or live in rented accommodation. They will have to demonstrate that they have a secure home environment in which to bring up a child.

They will need accommodation appropriate to the number and ages of the children the are seeking to adopt.

11. Fertility Tests/Treatment

Childless couples wishing to adopt will usually be required to have completed any fertility tests and treatment, and to have had a period of time, probably about 6 months, since completing the tests before an application can be accepted. This is because it is important for couples to have accepted their infertility and grieved before moving on to start the adoption process.

12. Applicants who have a Child or Children

Applications will be accepted from people who already have a child, in which case any children should usually be at least two years older or younger than the age of the child an applicant is seeking to adopt. If the intention is to adopt a child in the middle of the family, there should be a three year age gap between the siblings.

13. Domicile/Habitual Residence in the British Isles

The Applicant or one of the applicants should be:

  • Domiciled in the British Islands; or

Have had have their Domicile or Habitual Residence in the British Isles for a period of not less than one year before they apply to the court for an adoption order. In all these cases it is essential to see all relevant documents in order to fully establish nationality and immigration status. See also paragraphs 3.2 - 3.5 Statutory Guidance on Adoption (July 2013).

Where there is doubt, potential applicants should be asked to seek independent advice.

14. Location

Applications are welcome from those who reside within Hertfordshire or elsewhere.

Applicants must be prepared to travel for group meetings, introductions etc and be available for assessment and home visits.

15. Child Care Experience

It is important that the applicant who is going to be the main carer has some experience of children of the age group in which the applicants are interested.

16. Support Network

Applicants will need to demonstrate that they have accessible and established support networks of family and friends who will be in a position to provide support with parenting.

17. Post Placement/Post Adoption Contact

Prospective adopters will be expected to comply with arrangements for post placement/post adoption contact with the child's birth family, where the agency considers it is in the child's best interests for such contact to take place.