Adopting a child in Scotland

Last updated: 7 September 2017

Who can adopt

You can adopt in Scotland if you're:

  • aged 21 or older (there's no upper age limit)
  • single or in a couple
  • a gay man or woman, either on your own or with your partner or spouse
  • a parent already or not
  • not born in Scotland, as long as you have lived here for more than a year

There can be different rules if you want to adopt from abroad.

Find your nearest adoption agency

You can use a local council adoption agency or a charity.

Charities that you can adopt through include:

Apply to adopt

If you want to adopt you need to contact a registered adoption agency unless the child's a close relative or your step-child (find more information about this below).

The adoption agency will check whether you're suitable to adopt - this assessment is often called a 'home study'. It will include checking your:

  • medical history
  • criminal record
  • finances
  • home - to make sure it's a safe environment for a child

The home study will involve a series of visits and meetings with a social worker who is allocated to work with you. They will visit you at home and may meet with your friends or family members as part of the process.

The agency will make a decision about whether you can adopt after speaking to the 'adoption panel' (a group of experts, for example social workers).

If they decide to let you adopt, the agency will then try to match you with a child. You can be involved in this by using Scotland's Adoption Register to help you find the right child or children.

This home study can take months and matching you with a child can take up to a year.

When a child is placed with you

After a child is placed with you, adoption agency staff will check how things are going. If they are happy that the match works for you and the child they will get the court to issue an 'adoption order'.

An adoption order gives you legal guardianship of the child. This means you are now their legal parents.

If the child's a close relative or your step-child

You must tell your local council that you want to adopt the child. They will check your situation and will prepare a report for the court. The court will then decide whether to grant the adoption.

Appealing if you're rejected

If your application to adopt is rejected, you can:

  • ask for a meeting with the adoption agency to find out why
  • write a letter to the agency asking them to change their decision and explaining why they should
  • use the agency's complaints procedure
  • complain to the Care Inspectorate.

You could also try applying to another agency but you have to tell them about your first application.

Costs of adopting

You legally can't be charged a fee from an adoption agency. You may have to pay for a police check and sometimes court fees for the adoption order.

You can ask the agency about whether they cover all costs.

Adoption pay and leave

When you take time off to adopt a child you may be eligible for:

  • Statutory Adoption Leave
  • Statutory Adoption Pay

Find out more about adoption pay and leave and plan your adoption leave on the GOV.UK website.

You may also be able to take Shared Parental Leave and Pay.

Further support

There's more information about adopting overseas on the Centre for Adoption's website including:

Adoption UK is a charity offering advice, support and information to families who want to adopt, or who have already adopted. They also have factsheets on their website with more information about adopting.

Get support: The organisation's Scottish helpline: 0131 201 2489 (Monday to Friday from 10am to 2.30pm)

Email: scotland@adoptionuk.org.uk