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Intercountry adoption

It is an urban myth that adopting from overseas is quicker and easier than adopting within the UK. Adopting a child from another country is complicated and involves significant financial costs.


One of the surprising things about intercountry adoption is that much of the process is conducted in the UK. Potential adoptive parents have to undergo the same assessment and evaluation process as those who've chosen domestic adoption. The only difference is they have to pay for the process.

International adoption happens in three stages. First there is the UK side, then the foreign side and then the UK side again.

So, if you're considering intercountry adoption the very first thing you have to do is speak to your local authority. Not all of them will deal with the issue in the same way but whatever their systems all local authorities are obliged to help you and most want to know at the very beginning which country you are planning to adopt from. However, although naming the country is advisable it isn't recommended that you start looking for a child at this stage.

You will need to undergo a Home Study by a local authority social worker or accredited voluntary adoption agency to prove you will make a suitable parent. This can cost up to £7,500 and will involve several visits over a period of months. It will include financial, DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) and medical checks, interviews with any children or former partners and chosen referees.

Potential adopters say this process can feel very intrusive, with questions ranging from what sort of teenager they were to where the cat sleeps. However, for other potential adopters it is a positive learning experience.

At the end of this the social worker will compile a report that is then submitted to your Local Authority’s adoption panel, who will make a recommendation on your suitability as an adopter and the characteristics of a child suitable for you to be matched with.

Your journey to adopt then passes to the Department for Education (previously the Department of Children, Schools and Families). Since April 2011 the Government has begun charging a fee for intercountry adoption services, but this is subject to a means test to ensure low-income families are not discouraged from applying.

The Secretary of State for Children has to issue a Certificate of Eligibility to Adopt (COEA), confirming to the authorities in the overseas country that you have been assessed and approved as a suitable prospective parent.

Depending on which country you are adopting from the procedure differs but, generally speaking, once your COEA has been received by the relevant organisation it will be checked and if accepted you will be placed on a waiting list to be matched with a child. The time it will take to make it to the top of this list will depend on the situation in that country, but waiting times in many countries are steadily rising.

The last stage is permission for your child to enter the UK before they travel here. This permission is called "entry clearance" and will be in the form of a visa or entry clearance certificate.

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