Adopting a child from abroad


This section gives a very brief outline of intercountry adoption. If you have any queries, please contact us on 0191 211 6777.

Intercountry adoption means adopting a child from another country. As with all adoptions the needs of the child are the most important to consider.

Why do people adopt a child

You may have relatives in a country and want to adopt a child from your extended family, or you may have seen publicity where children look abandoned or orphaned.

Adoption and children's needs

If a child can no longer live with their birth family, there are several choices (in order of preference): First choice - the child stays with their family of origin. Second choice - the child is found a placement within their extended family (in their own country or elsewhere). Third choice - the child is found a new permanent family in their country of origin. Fourth choice - the child is found a new permanent family outside their country of origin

Circumstances leading to adoption from overseas

There are many reasons why children would be adopted from overseas. These include: poverty, family planning policies and population control, attitudes towards illegitimacy, attitudes towards single parenthood. Many countries are developing their own family placement services so that children can stay in their country of origin, even if it's not with their birth family.

Emergency situations

While events such as war, famine and environmental disasters may cause some parents to try to secure their child's safety by having them adopted abroad, when the emergency is over, these parents may want their children back. Or relatives who were thought dead, may return to look for their family. In emergency situations there is rarely a systematic approach to placing children. They can be moved between countries without any proper record being kept as it is impossible to gather information and make a decision in these circumstances. Some questions need to be answered, such as: Are the child's parents still alive? Would they agree to the plan? Are there any birth relatives? Children in an emergency situation need a secure and safe environment where long-term plans can be made. Aid agencies report that most of the children displaced by disasters can eventually be reunited with their families.

Adopting a relative

Many families in the UK have family abroad. If there is a problem they can offer a home to a child who can not be cared for. If you live in the UK and are thinking of adopting a child from overseas, you have to be assessed as suitable to adopt by an adoption agency in the UK. In England and Wales only, this includes relatives. In England and Wales there are also restrictions on taking children out of the UK to be adopted.

Adopting a non-relative

As an adoption agency, Newcastle City Council follows the Children Act 1989. The Act recognises the importance of considering a child's cultural, racial, religious and linguistic background when making decisions about their future. Where possible we place children with a family of the same heritage.

Things to think about

  • Could you adopt or foster within the UK?
  • Health needs - medical reports for some countries may not reflect the child's health.
  • Helping the child to make attachments - you will need to spend a lot of time building a relationship with the child.
  • What does your family think of you adopting from abroad?
  • What if things go wrong?
  • Sharing information with birth families and continuing contact

Legal aspect

You must apply to your local council or a voluntary adoption agency  approved to assess intercountry adopters. Newcastle Adoption Service charges for this service. The exact legal procedures will depend on the law in the country where the child comes from and if Adoption Orders passed in that country are recognised by UK law. These are known as designated countries.

Getting information

To help you decide which country you would like to adopt from contact the Department for Education or the Overseas Adoption Helpline (OAH).

Identifying a child

The authorities in the child's country of residence have the responsibility of identifying children for adoption. It is best to be approved as adopters in the UK, before you try to identify a child abroad.

Preparation and assessment

Initial checks will be carried out with the Police, Department of Health, Probation, Children's Services, NSPCC. You will also have to nominate personal referees and get a medical report from your GP. Preparation usually involves some preparation group sessions with other adopters and interviews with a social worker. This process usually takes six months and gives you the opportunity to see if intercountry adoption is right for you.

Home study report

This is written at the end of the preparation and assessment process. It is then presented to the adoption panel.

Adoption panel and approval

If the adoption panel approves you as an adopter, the home study report about you will be passed to the Department for Children, Schools and Families. They will pass on your papers to the authorities or independent agencies in the country involved. If your application is accepted by that country, your name will be placed on a waiting list for a child unless you are making an application for a named child. Information will be sent about children matched to you.

Factors affecting approval to adopt a child from abroad include:

  • Age
  • Your health
  • Your children
  • If you're married or single
  • Finances
  • Criminal record

Entry clearance

Once you have agreed to accept the child, you need to apply for entry clearance. This means you can bring the child into the UK.

Relative adoptions

If you want to adopt a relative, you still might have to go through the same process.

Steps once the child is in the UK

You must tell the us within 14 days of the child's arrival into the country. It is an offence if you do not do this. 

If the child came from Hague Convention State

Adoption orders made under the Hague Convention are accepted in the UK. The child automatically becomes a British Citizen when adopted by British parents. You can apply to register the adoption at the Office of the Registrar General.

If the child is from a designated country

If the adoption order is from a designated country, it is recognised in the UK but the child does not automatically become a British citizen. You need to apply for registration from the Nationality Directorate of the Home Office. You can apply to register the adoption at the Office of the Registrar General.

If the child is from a non-designated country

The adoption order is not recognised in the UK. You will need to apply to the Court in the UK for an adoption order. When this is passed, your child automatically becomes a British Citizen. Before applying to the Court, you need to tell your local authority in writing. Children's Services will then write a report on you for the Court. If the child is not your relative, they will need to live with you for one year before the adoption order can be made.