Stonewall Cymru | Adoption and fostering in England and Wales
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Adoption and fostering in England and Wales

The law

In November 2002, the Adoption and Children Act passed into law and for the first time allowed unmarried couples, including same-sex couples, to apply for joint adoption. You can also adopt as an individual. The Adoption and Children Act came into effect on 30 December 2005.

How to adopt

Applications for adoption must be made to an adoption agency. These may be run by the local authority or an approved agency.

The adoption assessment is lengthy and very thorough. If you are a couple applying to adopt you will both be assessed and will need to demonstrate the stable and enduring nature of your relationship.

Following a successful assessment the application is referred to the Adoption Panel. If you are approved by the Adoption Panel you will go through a matching process and a child or young person may be placed with you; depending on the success of the placement an application can then be made to the court for an adoption order, when further reports will be placed before the court.

Adoption leave

Once a person has had a child placed with them it is time to consider who will take adoption leave. The other partner will normally be entitled to paternity leave.

The couple must decide which one of them will elect to take adoption leave (the ‘primary adopter’); the other will normally be entitled to paternity leave.

The primary adopter is entitled to 52 weeks statutory adoption leave> statutory adoption pay is payable for 39 weeks, at the statutory rate or 90% of average weekly earnings, whichever is lower.

Paternity leave

The spouse or partner primary adopter, who will share responsibility for the child’s upbringing can receive paternity leave.

You will be entitled to two consecutive weeks of Paternity Leave during the 56 days following the child’s birth.You must take your leave in one go. A week is the same amount of days that you normally work in a week, eg if you only work on Mondays and Tuesdays a week is 2 days.

Shared parental leave

In relation to children born or placed for adoption on or after 5 April 2015, employees who are parents (whether by birth, adoption or surrogacy) will be able to take Shared Parental Leave (SPL) during the first year of the child’s life, or the first year after their placement for adoption.

If the primary adopter returns to work before the end of their period of statutory maternity or adoption leave has finished, the couple can share the remaining leave between them. The remaining leave can be taken in 3 separate blocks, allowing the primary adopter to return to work for a period and then return to maternity leave for a further period. Similarly, maternity or adoption pay can be shared between the couple if the primary adopter returns to work before their entitlement to pay has ended.


Fostering involves providing a home for a young person who cannot live with their own parents because of problems at home, or because they are going through a difficult period of their life. There are several types of fostering, with some foster parents deciding they want to provide emergency or short-term placements for children while problems are resolved, and others wishing to provide long-term foster care. For some people fostering is a route into adoption.

People applying to become foster parents will experience a similar process to those applying to become adopters and it takes about 6 months.


For further information please contact Stonewall Cymru's Information Service on 08000 502020 or email