Disclaimer: please note the below information is a number of years old and does not necessarily represent the current landscape. We're working to update the information, and to ensure it's fully bi and trans inclusive.
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 Act came into effect on 30 December 2005.
Lesbian, gay, bi and trans people are protected from discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. This means an adoption agency must assess you fairly, using the same criteria. They could not turn down an adoption application just because the applicant was LGBT.
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 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 an Adoption Panel. If you are approved by the Panel, you will go through a matching process. This involves a child or young person being placed with you. Depending on the success of this placement, an application can be made to the court for an adoption order. At this stage further reports will be placed before the court to help them reach a final decision.
Once a child has been placed with them 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. If the primary adopter returns to work before the end of their adoption leave entitlement, the remaining period of adoption leave can be shared between the two adopting parents, in accordance with the rules on Shared Parental Leave.
For more information, see our section on parental leave.
Lesbian, gay, bi and trans people are also eligible to foster, as individuals or as a couple. Fostering involves providing a home for a young person who cannot live with their parents because of problems with their families, or because they are going through a difficult period of their life. There are several types of fostering; some foster parents provide emergency or short-term placements for children while problems are resolved, and others 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 six months.
You can find LGBT-friendly solicitors and other useful contacts through Stonewall's online database What's In My Area.
For further information contact Stonewall's Information Service.