What is the adoption register?

The Adoption Register has two main features:

  • There is an online database that stores the details of children waiting to be adopted where their own agency has not found the right adoptive family to match them. Similarly the database also holds the details of approved adopters who are waiting to be matched with the right child for them.
  • There is also a staff team of experienced database operators who look at the information on the database to see whether they can suggest possible matches between children and approved adopters who are waiting.

Why do we need an Adoption Register?

There are currently around 4,000 children waiting to be placed in adoptive families in England. Around a third of these children have to wait over 12 months to find their forever families.

There are also many people approved as adopters and eager to become a family who are waiting to be matched with the 'right' child or sibling group for them.

Adoption agencies cover local regions so they don’t have detailed information about all the children and families outside their catchment area. This means that there might be a family who are great match with a child that is in another part of the country. The Adoption Register works with adoption agencies and adoption consortia to share this information outside local regions. This makes sure that all children and families have the best chance of finding a suitable match and creating their forever family. 

How does the Adoption Register work?


The children referred to the Adoption Register by their agencies are the ones who already have a care plan for adoption but a local match hasn’t been found. 

The children will be referred by three months at the latest after the agency has formally decided that adoption is in the child's best interest and either:

  • A full care order with a plan for adoption has been made, or
  • There is an Interim Care Order and all required consents, including that of the Court, have been obtained, or
  • The child is accommodated and the consent of those with parental responsibility has been obtained.

Once a child's details have been recorded on the database, the Adoption Register team will search the system to identify potential adopters for them. Brief details of the families identified and of their adoption agency will be sent to the child's social worker who will consider the suggested database matches.

Prospective adopters:

Agencies can refer prospective adopters to the Adoption Register as soon as they have been approved by the agency. They usually do this if it seems unlikely that they will be matched quickly with a suitable child in their own region. Agencies must refer prospective adopters to the Adoption Register three months after they have been approved if there is not a match with an identified child being actively pursued.

Agencies who are referring families to the Adoption Register must confirm that they have the families' consent to referral. Adopters can decide that they do not wish to be referred to the Adoption Register, but this will reduce the opportunity for them to be matched with a child who is right for them.

Adopters who haven't been referred to the Adoption Register three months after their approval can fill in a form to refer themselves to the Register.

Once the details of a family have been recorded on the Adoption Register database they will be included in all the family finding searches carried out for children on the Adoption Register. When a suitable match is identified brief details of the family and of their adoption agency will be sent to the child's social worker who will consider it in more detail.