How old do you have to be to adopt a child – and other criteria

When can you think about applying to become an adoptive parent? (Picture: Getty)

The importance of adoption cannot be overstated – it can change the very course of a child’s life, as well as making parents out of willing adults. This is why have shone a spotlight on all things to do with adoption for our inaugural Adoption Month.

Charity Family Lives states that, in the UK, there are around 6,000 children who need to be adopted every year.

Many of these children are of school age and over 50% of them are brothers and sisters who would need to be placed together.

While there’s lots to consider before adopting – and the process is not a quick one – who is eligible to think about applying to become an adoptive parent?

How old do you need to be to adopt?

In the UK, the minimum age to be eligible to apply to become an adoptive parent is 21.

A person can apply to adopt a child at the age of 18 in England and Wales only if they are in a couple with a child’s birth parent.

People can adopt over the age of 21 – but there are other requirements to meet first (Picture: Getty)

There is no upper age limit.

That is one of the adoption myths have looked at – being older doesn’t automatically go against you in the adoption process.

As long as you are over the age of 21, you can apply to begin the adoption process – though the process involves a lot more than just being over a certain age.

Many factors will be considered by an adoption case worker, including any history of criminal records, whether you’re a UK resident and your health.

Single people, LGBTQ+ people and more can apply to adopt – there’s only a specific set of restrictions that would stop an application (Picture: Getty)

What other criteria must you meet before you can adopt?

Other than being over the age of 21 – or 18 if you’re adopting your partner’s birth child – the only criteria that you must absolutely meet is being a UK resident.

If you’re adopting from the UK, you must be a legal resident in the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man, and have been so for at least 12 months.

Anything else can be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

This includes applying to adopt with a criminal record – only cases where it’s a sexual offence or an offence against a child will automatically prohibit you from adopting – or adopting with a disability.

MORE: From Angelina Jolie to Madonna – celebrities who have adopted children and what they’ve said about it

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Adoption Month

Adoption Month is a month-long series covering all aspects of adoption.

For the next four weeks, which includes National Adoption Week from October 14-19, we will be speaking to people who have been affected by adoption in some way, from those who chose to welcome someone else’s child into their family to others who were that child.

We’ll also be talking to experts in the field and answering as many questions as possible associated with adoption, as well as offering invaluable advice along the way.

If you have a story to tell or want to share any of your own advice please do get in touch at

Here is a selection of the stories from Adoption Month so far:


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