navigation top

Adoption law: the basics

When did adoption become legal?

In England and Wales adoption first became legal in 1926, while in Northern Ireland it was 1929 and in Scotland it was 1930.

Does this mean that there were no such thing as adoption before then?

Before the introduction of legislation adoptions were arranged informally by organisations, or directly between the birth mother and adopting parents, and in some cases agreements may have been drawn up by lawyers. Permanent placements may also have been made by Guardians of the Poor or Public Assistance bodies and county record offices are now the main holders of this information.

Were all adoptions arranged through a registered adoption agency or local authority?

No, not all adoptions were arranged through a local authority or voluntary adoption agency.  Until 1983 private adoptions were legal. These were placements arranged through private individuals, often doctors, nurses, lawyers, local vicar etc. In such cases there was no Adoption Agency involved in the placement of the child with prospective adoptive parents. For people who were adopted privately it can be a much harder to find information about their adoption. In these situations it is possible that the court records will have some background information.

Copyright BAAF and its suppliers © 1999 - 2014.
British Association for Adoption and Fostering is a registered charity no. 275689 (England and Wales) and SC039337 (Scotland)
Registered as a company limited by guarantee in England and Wales no. 01379092. VAT no. 235 3764 58
Registered office at Saffron House, 6-10 Kirby Street, London EC1N 8TS (map)
Tel 020 7421 2600 | email