Non-agency adoption (Step parent or private adoption)

What is a non-agency adoption?

Non-agency adoption is a private application to adopt a child already living with you, who is either closely related to you or who is your partner's child.

It is called "non-agency" because the plan to adopt was not made by a registered adoption agency.

Notifying your Local Authority

The first step is to write to the local authority telling them about your intention to adopt.

Your letter should:

  • be both signed by you and your partner (if applicable).
  • give the child's full name and date of birth and say whether the natural parents of the child are in agreement with the adoption. (This particularly means the parent who will lose parental rights and responsibilities if the adoption goes ahead.)
  • state how fully the child is aware of what you are proposing to do.

Letters should be sent to:

The Service Manager, Children's Services, Randall House, Macmerry, East Lothian, EH33 1RW.

Once the letter has been received, we will send:

  • a written acknowledgement giving the official date of receipt that you will need to quote when you submit your application to the court. The court cannot grant an adoption order until at least 12 weeks after the local authority has been notified.
  • a form asking for more detailed information about you and the child.
  • written information about adoption and about alternatives to adoption that might be appropriate for you and the child.

If the child is already known to the local authority because the child is subject to a supervision order through the children's hearing then the local authority must notify the reporter that an adoption application is pending.

The court report

  • The court requires a local authority social work report before it can consider an adoption application.
  • Once we have received your completed form a social worker will arrange to meet with you.
  • The social worker will help you to consider all the options and be sure adoption is right for you and the child.
  • If you decide to continue with an adoption application the social worker will prepare a report.
  • This will require a series of meetings with you, the child, the child's parents and any other relevant family members.
  • The report will record the views of everyone affected by the proposed adoption and will include a recommendation about whether adoption is in the child's best interests.
  • You will have the opportunity to see the report before it is submitted to the court.

Lodging the formal adoption application

Adoption applications are usually made to your local Sheriff Court. The Sheriff Clerk can provide you (or your lawyer if you choose to use one) with a special form called the adoption petition.


  • The local authority does not charge for preparing the report or for completing local authority checks.
  • You will however be asked to pay for a Disclosure Scotland check, currently £25.
  • You will also have to pay the cost charged by your GP for a medical check.
  • When you lodge the petition in court the court will charge a fee of (currently) £80. If you employ a lawyer to help you then his or her costs will vary and you should ask about this in advance.

Curator and Reporting Officers

Once the adoption petition and the local authority report are lodged the court will appoint an independent Curator who will meet with you to confirm your circumstances and a Reporting Officer who will ask the child's parents' whether they are willing to give written agreement to the proposed adoption. If the child is 12 years or over then his or her consent is also required before an adoption can be granted.

The Court process

  • The Sheriff will arrange a date to consider the proposed adoption.
  • The child's birth parents are formally notified and given the opportunity to attend the court to give their views.
  • If both parents agree, and the Sheriff believes adoption is in the child's best interests, then the adoption may be granted.
  • If there is no agreement then a date will be set to allow the Sheriff to hear the circumstances and decide if there are sufficient grounds to grant an adoption without consent.

Adoption Certificate

An adoption certificate is issued replacing the child's original birth certificate. You can apply for a copy of this from:

The National Records of Scotland, General Register House, 2 Princes Street, Edinburgh, EH1 3YY.