Adoption and Children Act 2002

An Act to restate and amend the law relating to adoption; to make further amendments of the law relating to children; to amend section 93 of the Local Government Act 2000; and for connected purposes.





Reference: In the APA referencing system, Acts of Parliament do not need including in the reference list. On the first mention of the Act, a full citation is given in the text (ie. the name of the Act with date)




In summary, the Act:

  • aligns adoption law with the relevant provisions of the Children Act 1989 to ensure that the child’s welfare is the paramount consideration in all decisions relating to adoption;

  • places a duty on local authorities to maintain an adoption service, which must include making and participating in arrangements for the adoption of children and for the provision of adoption support services (to include financial support);

  • provides a new right to an assessment of needs for adoption support services for adoptive families and others;

  • sets out a new regulatory structure for adoption support agencies, requiring them to register under Part 2 of the Care Standards Act 2000, to ensure that adoption support services are provided to a high standard;

  • enables the appropriate Minister (defined in section 144) to establish an independent review mechanism in relation to qualifying adoption agency determinations;

  • makes provision for the process of adoption and the conditions for the making of adoption orders, including new measures for placement for adoption with consent and placement orders to replace the existing provisions in the Adoption Act 1976 for freeing orders;

  • provides for adoption orders to be made in favour of single people, married couples and unmarried couples;

  • provides for a new and more consistent approach to access to information held in adoption agency records and by the Registrar General about adoptions which take place after the Act comes into force, by ensuring that the release of this sensitive information about adopted people and their birth relatives is protected and that its disclosure is subject to safeguards;

  • provides for adoption support agencies to have a role in assisting adopted adults to obtain information about their adoption and to facilitate contact between them and their birth relatives where the person was adopted before the Act comes into force;

  • incorporates with amendments the Adoption (Intercountry Aspects) Act 1999 (other than sections 1, 2 and 7, and Schedule 1), as respects England and Wales;

  • provides additional restrictions on bringing a child into the United Kingdom in connection with adoption, aimed at ensuring that British residents follow the appropriate procedures where they adopt a child overseas or bring a child into the United Kingdom for the purposes of adoption;

  • provides for restrictions on arranging adoptions and advertising children for adoption (through traditional media and electronically) other than through adoption agencies, and prohibits certain payments in connection with adoption;

  • makes provision enabling the Secretary of State to establish an Adoption and Children Act Register to suggest matches between children waiting to be adopted and approved prospective adopters;

  • makes provision obliging courts to draw up timetables for resolving adoption cases without delay;

  • amends the Children Act 1989 to provide that an unmarried father acquires parental responsibility where he and the child’s mother register the birth of their child together;

  • amends the Children Act 1989 to introduce a new special guardianship order, intended to provide permanence for children for whom adoption is not appropriate;

  • amends the Children Act 1989 to make provision in respect of local authorities’ power to provide accommodation for children in need under section 17 of that Act;

  • amends the Children Act 1989 to amend, and widen the application of, the procedure for making representations under that Act and to impose a duty on local authorities to make arrangements for the provision of advocacy services to children or young people making or intending to make representations;

  • amends the Children Act 1989 to provide that regulations may require a local authority to review the care plan of a looked after child;

  • amends the definition of “harm” in the Children Act 1989 to make clear that harm includes any impairment of the child’s health or development as a result of witnessing the ill-treatment of another person;

  • amends the Children Act 1989 to make the application for a placement order specified proceedings and to enable rules of court to make applications for section 8 orders specified proceedings and to provide for the representation of children in proceedings.



Acts of parliament are continuously updated (revised) to reflect subsequent acts that impact them; the pdf we hold is the original act as printed. The following link is the latest revised version;


Adoption and Children Act 2002 - latest revised version



Crown copyright material is reproduced here under the Open Government Licence for public sector information.

Download this file (Adoption_Children_Act_2002_Original.pdf)Adoption_Children_Act_2002_Original.pdf[ ]3744 kB

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