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When was adoption legalized in the UK?

Adoption is the legal process of taking on the responsibilities of raising and caring for a child who has been separated from their birth parents. It is a huge undertaking and comes with a lot of legalities, but it can bring immeasurable joy to both the adopting family and the child. However, adoption wasn’t always recognized as a legal process, and it wasn’t until the early 1900s that adoption was officially legalized in the UK. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the history of adoption in the UK and explore when it was finally legalized.

The Early Days of Adoption in the UK

Before adoption was a recognized legal process, there were other means of taking in children in need. For centuries, people had been taking in orphans and abandoned children in a process known as “fostering”. However, fostering was not a legal process, and the children weren’t officially recognized as part of the family. This meant that fostering was a temporary solution, and the children could be moved on to another family at any time.

In the early 19th century, a social reform movement began to gain momentum in the UK. This movement aimed to improve the lives and conditions of the poor and vulnerable, including orphaned and abandoned children. One of the most notable figures from this movement was Thomas John Barnardo, who founded a network of homes for destitute and orphaned children. At first, Barnardo’s homes were not legally recognized, and the children weren’t officially adopted. However, in 1887, the UK Parliament passed the Children Act, which recognized Barnardo’s homes and other similar institutions.

The First Adoption Legislation

The Children Act of 1887 was a significant step forward for the rights of children, but it did not yet recognize adoption as a legal process. It wasn’t until nearly 40 years later, in 1926, that the first official adoption legislation was passed in the UK. The Adoption of Children Act 1926 brought adoption under the law and gave adoptive parents the same legal rights and responsibilities as birth parents. The act also made it possible for children to be adopted regardless of their age, religion, or ethnicity. This was a breakthrough for children who had previously been stuck in foster care because of their background.

The Impact of Adoption Legislation

The passing of the Adoption of Children Act of 1926 had a profound impact on society in the UK. Suddenly, children who had been living in the care of institutions or foster families had the opportunity to be adopted into a loving, permanent home. The act also helped to reduce the stigma around adoption, making it a more socially acceptable option for families who wanted to expand and care for children in need.

The act was updated in subsequent years, notably with the Adoption Act of 1976, which established the Adoption Register for England and Wales and created the National Adoption Society. These developments helped to make the adoption process more streamlined and accessible for families wanting to adopt, while also supporting adopted children and their adoptive families.


The legalization of adoption in the UK has had a vast impact on society, both in terms of giving vulnerable children the opportunity for a loving, permanent home, and in breaking down the traditional barriers to adoption. Though it took several centuries for adoption to become a recognized legal process and for children in need to be provided with such an opportunity, the UK has come a long way since the days of fostering. Thanks to the vision of social reformers and the bravery and dedication of adoptive families, more and more children in the UK are being given the chance to grow and thrive in loving homes of their own.


When did forced adoption stop in UK?

Forced adoption is a highly controversial practice where children are taken away from their biological parents by the state and placed for adoption against the parents’ wishes. Between 1949 and 1976, the United Kingdom was a country that widely practised forced adoption, with an estimated 185,000 babies being taken away from their mothers and families.

Forced adoption in the UK came into the picture as part of a wider trend started in the 1940s. The primary justification for forced adoption was to provide a better future for children who were deemed to be “illegitimate,” with the purpose of preventing them from entering into a life of poverty and institutional care. During this period, the legal framework around adoption was pretty lax, with little regulation or oversight on which babies were adopted and by whom. The state placed babies into the care of religious orders and private agencies who made decisions on the child’s future without any input from the biological parents.

The practice of forced adoption continued throughout the 1950s and 1960s in the UK. Still, during this period, questions began to arise concerning the rights of biological parents and whether the current legal framework provided adequate support and protection for their interest. In the early 1970s, several high-profile cases of forced adoption were brought to the attention of the public, leading to widespread criticism of the practice. In 1975, the Adoption Act was established, which aimed to create a more standardised and regulated system for adoptions and to provide more rights and protection for biological parents.

Although forced adoption technically did not end with the introduction of the Adoption Act, there was a significant change in the legal framework regulating adoption in the UK. The act introduced stricter measures and greater protection for the rights of biological parents, including the requirement for parental consent to be obtained before an adoption could take place. The role of religious groups in adoption was significantly reduced, and greater oversight measures were introduced to oversee the adoption process and ensure that all adoptions were justified and in the best interests of children.

Forced adoption in the UK was a widespread and highly contentious issue that persisted for nearly three decades. It was only addressed through the introduction of new legal frameworks that aimed to provide greater protection and support for the rights of biological parents. Though forced adoption might still be practised in some cases, it is now heavily regulated and faces greater oversight from regulatory bodies.

What is the history of adoption legislation in the UK?

The history of adoption legislation in the UK dates back to the early 20th century when the first legislation was introduced to regulate the practice of adoption. In 1926, the Adoption of Children Act was passed in England and Wales, followed by equivalent legislation in Northern Ireland and Scotland in 1929 and 1930 respectively.

The 1926 Act established the legal framework for the adoption of children and provided a mechanism for the transfer of parental responsibility from birth parents to adoptive parents. It was also designed to protect the interests of the child and to ensure that the adoption process was carried out in accordance with specified procedures.

In the decades that followed, various reforms were introduced to further regulate the practice of adoption. In 1948, the Adoption Act provided for the establishment of adoption agencies and the appointment of welfare officers to assist with adoption proceedings. The Adoption Act 1958 extended this further, making it a legal requirement for adoption agencies to be registered with the government.

The Children and Young Persons Act 1969 introduced more extensive provisions for adoption, including the creation of a centralized adoption service and the establishment of adoption panels to assess prospective adopters. In 1975, the legislation was further amended to allow married couples to adopt jointly, regardless of whether one of them was the biological parent of the child.

The Adoption Act 1976 introduced further changes to the adoption process, including a requirement for social workers to carry out home visits and assessments of prospective adopters. The Adoption (Scotland) Act 1978 established a centralized adoption service in Scotland.

The next significant piece of adoption legislation was the Children Act 1989, which introduced a range of measures to protect the welfare of children, including those who were being considered for adoption. It also established the principle of the child’s welfare being the paramount consideration in all adoption proceedings and provided for greater involvement of birth parents in the adoption process.

In 2002, the Adoption and Children Act was passed, which further reformed and modernized the practice of adoption. It established a new framework for adoption, prioritizing the interests of the child and promoting greater openness and transparency in the process. The Act also made provision for the adoption of children by same-sex couples and for the recognition of adoptions carried out overseas.

The history of adoption legislation in the UK shows a steady evolution of legal provisions designed to regulate and safeguard the adoption process, while prioritizing the welfare and best interests of the child.

When did the law of adoption end?

The law of adoption is a ritual that was practiced in temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) in the mid to late 19th century. The law of adoption allowed men who held the priesthood to be sealed in a father-son relationship with other men who were not related to them. This practice was seen as a way to link families together and create a sense of brotherhood among church members.

The law of adoption was introduced by Brigham Young, the second president of the LDS Church, in 1846 and was practiced until 1894. During this time, thousands of men were sealed to adoptive fathers. The practice was discontinued in 1894 by church leaders, and a new ceremony was introduced to replace it.

The reasons for the discontinuation of the law of adoption are not entirely clear. Some historians have suggested that it was due to the confusion caused by the practice, as adoptive relationships were difficult to trace and maintain over generations. Others have suggested that it was done in response to pressure from the United States government, which was cracking down on polygamy and other questionable practices within the LDS Church.

Despite the discontinuation of the law of adoption, its impact is still felt within the LDS Church today. Many families have adopted a sealing ordinance that was performed during the time of the law of adoption, creating a sense of connection to the early pioneers of the church and to its history. The law of adoption is also seen by some as an example of the evolution of doctrine within the LDS Church, as it was introduced and then discontinued over a relatively short period of time.

The law of adoption was a practice that was introduced in the mid-19th century by Brigham Young in the temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The practice allowed men who held the priesthood to be sealed to adoptive fathers, creating a sense of brotherhood among church members. The practice was discontinued in 1894 for reasons that are still debated by historians. Despite its discontinuation, its impact is still felt within the LDS Church today as families adopt sealing ordinances that were performed during the time of the law of adoption.