Stonewall Scotland | ​Adoption and Fostering in Scotland
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​Adoption and Fostering in Scotland

Same-sex couples in Scotland are now able to jointly adopt a child, and one partner in a same-sex couple can adopt the other partner's child. Same-sex couples should also be considered as foster parents on the same basis as anyone else.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people are protected from discrimination under the Equality Act, 2010. This means an adoption agency must assess you fairly, using the same criteria. They could not turn down an adoption application just because the applicant was LGBT.  


Who can adopt?

  • To adopt a child you must normally be at least 21.

There is no legal upper age limit, but adoption agencies do look for adopters who have the physical and mental energy to care for demanding children, and who will continue to have this energy once the child is a teenager.

  • Couples can apply to adopt a child together

This includes married couples (including same-sex marriages), civil partners and couples (including same-sex couples) who are living together in what is called ‘an enduring family relationship’. This means a relationship which is like a marriage or a civil partnership and where the couple live together. It does not apply, for example, to two platonic friends or two siblings who live together. There are no legal minimums on how long the couple have been together, but adoption agencies will want to see that its is stable and enduring relationship and often this will include evidence that you have been together for at least two years.

  • Single people can adopt a child
  • You can apply to adopt a child if you are divorced or
  • If you have other children

The adoption process

If you are considering adoption, you can choose to go through either the adoption agency provided by your local authority or any registered adoption agency in your area. You can find registered agencies through the Care Inspectorate.

If you want to adopt a child who is a close relative or a partner’s child, you do not need to involve an adoption agency. You must tell your local authority that you want to adopt the child and they will investigate your situation. Based on their report, the court make the final decision about whether or not to grant the adoption.

The adoption assessment is lengthy and very thorough. If you are a couple applying to adopt you will both be assessed and will need to demonstrate the stable and enduring nature of your relationship.

If the initial assessment is favourable the application is referred to the agency’s adoption panel. If you are approved by the panel you will be placed on the national adoption register and a child or young person may then be placed with you. Depending on the success of the placement an application can be made to the court for an adoption order, when further reports will be placed before the court.

For further information about the adoption process in Scotland see Citizen’s Advice Bureau Scotland’s adoption information.


Fostering is when children are placed with families other than their own on a short-term or long-term basis. Unlike adoption, fostering is often a temporary arrangement and many fostered children will still have contact with their own families. Some will eventually return to their families, while others may eventually be adopted – either by their foster carer or by another family.

Who can foster?

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people are eligible to foster, as individuals or as a couple. There are no upper or lower age limits and single people can foster as well as married or unmarried couples. Same-sex couples should also be considered as foster parents on the same basis as anyone else.

The fostering process

Most fostered children are looked after by local authority foster carers, who are people who have applied to the local authority or to a voluntary organisation which looks after children to become a foster carer. Once they have been approved, the local authority or voluntary organisation will place children with them. There are also some of independent foster care agencies in Scotland.

Local Authorities may only place children with approved foster carers and there is a thorough assessment process for applicants. If you are applying as a couple, both will be assessed. In an emergency, local authorities may place a child with an unapproved foster carer, for example, a family member or friend of the child, on a short term basis.

For further information about the fostering process in Scotland see Citizen’s Advice Bureau Scotland’s fostering information.