How to contact us for advice

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Our advice service

We provide advice to parents, grandparents, relatives, friends and kinship carers who are involved with children’s services in England or need their help. We can help you understand processes and options when social workers or courts are making decisions about your child’s welfare.

Our advice service is free, independent and confidential.

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By phone or email

To speak to an adviser, please call our free and confidential advice line 0808 801 0366 (Monday to Friday 9.30am to 3pm, excluding Bank Holidays). Or you can ask us a question via email using our advice enquiry form.

Discuss on our forums

Our online advice forums are an anonymous space where parents and kinship carers (also known as family and friends carers) can get legal and practical advice, build a support network and learn from other people’s experiences.

Advice on our website

Our get help and advice section describes the processes that you and your family are likely to go through, so that you know what to expect. Our webchat service can help you find the information and advice on our website which will help you understand the law and your rights.

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Who can apply for an adoption order?

Sections 49 – 51 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 set out that:

  • Prospective adopters must be over the age of 21 before they can proceed with adopting a child
  • Single people and those in a couple can both adopt
  • Partners do not need to be married or in a civil partnership in order to adopt
  • But if a couple is married or in a civil partnership, they need to make the adoption application together. The only exception to this is if they are separated or one partner cannot be found.

Most children are adopted after they have been placed for adoption by an adoption agency on behalf of children’s services. See the FAQs in our Placing a child for adoption section.

A child must have been living with the prospective adopters for at least 10 weeks before the prospective adopters can apply to the court for an adoption order (section 42 (2) of the Adoption and Children Act 2002). The next steps following this are set out below, under What happens during the court proceedings for an adoption order?

Sometimes a foster carer, or a family member may want to apply to adopt a child that is living with them. To do this, the carer must:

  • Write to children’s services explaining it is their wish to adopt the child
  • Do so at least three months before they make their application for an adoption order
  • Have had the child in their care for the required period of time before making the application – see the table below.
Applicant How long does the child have to have lived with someone, before they can apply for an adoption order?
Step-parent 6 months
Unrelated foster carer 1 year
Other family member or friend 3 years, out of the last 5 years
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