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The Role of the DfE in the adoption process

The Department for Education is the Central Adoption Authority for the UK and therefore has a major role in inter-country adoption.

Role of the Department of Education Inter-country Adoptions


Although the D of E has its official mandate which is outlined below - for us adopters their role isminimal. They provide no information and you can only engage with them if you already are and adopter. They collate documents and issue the Certificate of Eligibility which can take several weeks to be issued.

If you are adopting from China or Thailand where there is a government to government agreement the D fE has a role as they are involved in the match and the paperwork to legalize the adoption

 DfE is the central government department responsible for adoption policy and legislation in England. Under its umbrella comes the processing  of inter-country adoption cases for England, and in some cases the rest of the UK.  

The DfE is s responsible for the legal framework of inter-country adoptions  and provides information on procedures in general terms.  

It issues Certificates of Eligibility in respect of all non- Hague Convention adoption applications, and certificates for applications for adoptions effected under the Hague Convention.

The Department also carries out a number of functions (unspecified) when the prospective adopters are matched with a child ( not applicable to Russian adoptions)

Once the DfE receives the dossier from the LA and VAAs it checks that the paperwork is in order and complies with the legislation.  Once this has been checked they issue  a Certificate of Eligibility.

These documents are then notarized and legalised depending on the requirements of the state of origin. The DfE then sends the certificate and supporting documents to the Central authority of the relevant country (or to the agencies working in those countries).

The relevant authorities in the country of origin will match the prospective adopter with a child. In Hague cases the matching documents are sent to DfE who complete a number of processes ( ?) and then forward to the prospective adopter(s) via the adoption agency.  In non-Hague cases, matching information on the child may be sent directly to the prospective adopters by the adoption agency abroad, or it may be sent to the DfE  (Not applicable in Russian adoptions)

The adoption agency and the prospective adopter then meet to discuss the match. If the match is acceptable then DfE and the Central Authority in the state of origin have to exchange documents, which enables the adoption to continue and this allows the adopter to visit the child in the state of origin. Depending on the country in question the prospective adopter will either obtain an adoption order in the relevant country or bring the child back to the UK to adopt the child here. In Hague convention cases entry clearance is automatic but Non-Hague cases will require entry clearance.

The DfE will have some processing throughout the process and even after the adoption takes place (?). Some countries request that a post placement is done by a qualified social worker and sent to the foreign country. The requirement is on the PA, but in practice some central authorities ask that the reports come via DfE. 

Introduction of Charging

11. The charge is being introduced because it is a service for the prospective adopter, rather than the child, as the child is usually unknown at the application stage. In contrast there is not charge for domestic adoption cases as the service is provided directly for a child in care. The extra revenue raised via charging could be used towards priority front line services. 

12. Most countries of origin levy a charge for comparable administrative work they carry out on behalf of the prospective adopter.  Adoption agencies, include Local Authorities in that capacity, can and do charge for their services, but not for profit.  

13. Section 91A(5) of the Adoption and Children Act (inserted by section 13 of the Children and Adoption Act 2006), states that the income from fees cannot exceed the total cost for providing the service. DfE will not make any profit on the fee and regular reviews will ensure that the charge will not exceed the cost of running the service.


14. The fee has been set as a flat rate per case, except in the case of Devolved Administrations and Overseas Territories, which is discussed separately below. The fee is based on the average time it takes to complete a case. Analysis of case data has shown that it is only in a minority of cases that the time taken is lower than the average, and these cannot be identified at the outset (or subsequently without increasing the overall processing time) .  

15. The fee will be £1775 for the first year and assumes 200 new cases in 2010-11.  The fee should be submitted in full with the application, and work on the case will not begin until the full fee has been received.  The fee would be reviewed, initially after the first year.

Chargeable and Non-chargeable Work

16. DfE is the Government department responsible for adoption policy and legislation (England) and therefore do not propose to charge for all the work carried out by the casework team. The elements that will be excluded are: 

  1. a.    General advice; 
  2. b.    Outbound cases; 
  3. c.    No objection letters and 
  4. d.    Costs associated with residual cases received and accepted by DfE prior to charging being implemented 


17. There may be instances where adopters do not go through to the matching stage because they have withdrawn from the process or withdraw before any substantial work is done prior to Send to Country (STC). In these instances it is recommended that we reimburse:

                                          i.    50% of fee if application is withdrawn after it has been STC but not yet matched;

                                        ii.    75% if case is withdrawn before it has been sent to Notary or any other external party.

Means Test

18. It was agreed during the passage of the Bill that any fee levied on prospective adopters would be subject to a means test.  The means test criteria should be specific to the client profile and the service provided. For DfE, the criteria should be:

  • Non discretionary – clear and simple ;
  • Simple and cost-effective to administer, so that the cost of administering the means test does not add significantly to the cost or time of processing applications; ;
  • Linked to household income not status e.g. relative adopters, second time adopters etc;
  • The thresholds should be reasonable when considering our client profile.

19. We recommend a model that provides : 

  • Full exemption if household income is less than £25,000;
  • If between £25,001 and £45K,  50% reduction;
  • If more than £45K then 100% fee payable.

Devolved Administrations and Overseas Territories

20. Adoption services are a devolved function in Hague compliant cases. However, they are not devolved for Non-Hague inter-country adoptions. In these cases the Secretary of State issues a ‘Certificate of Eligibility’, where applicants are from the Devolved Administrations (DAs), Channel Islands, Isle of Man and British Overseas Territories.


21. The level of functions carried out by the DAs for the Secretary of State in Non-Hague inter-country adoption cases varies dependent on the individual agreements between the DAs, Channel Islands, Isle of Man, DfE and any secondary legislation in place. The split of responsibility is quite complex and we are working with the Devolved Administrations, Channel Islands and Isle of Man to determine the legal powers on how to introduce a fee to prospective adopters resident there.


22. The power to charge does not extend to those adopters who are habitually resident in the British Overseas Territories.

Improved Service

23. It was agreed by Ministers that charging would only be implemented once we could guarantee a 12 – 14 week service from receipt to STC, excluding any time beyond stated assumptions with external agencies (e.g notary, translators, and embassies).

24. The casework team have introduced a number of improvements over the last year and feel confident that the 12 – 14 week deadline can be maintained. They have been completing cases to STC in 90% of cases within 12 weeks. Cases that have exceeded this timeframe have had delays with external agencies, or at the request of the prospective adopters.

25. On the basis that the time taken with external agencies is as set out in table 1 below, the case work team will complete a case from receipt to STC in 12 weeks and if it requires translation then in 14 weeks.  Acknowledgement of receipt of application will only be issued once all paper work is submitted correctly and the 12-14 weeks will start from that point.

External Agency Times


Send to Notary

2 weeks

Send to FCO

1 week

Send to Embassy

2 weeks


1 week

                              Table 1: Time with External Agencies

26. Matching takes just over 2 days to process (but may necessarily be spread over a longer period) and once a match is received the case work team aim to process the match within 48 hours.

27. To avoid delays, DfE can arrange for a courier to deliver the application to the agencies instead of the adopters organising it. DfE already has a contract with TNT, which could be used, which has adequate insurance in case the application is lost/stolen. This cost would be passed on to the prospective adopters in addition to the fee.

28. We plan to make ongoing changes to the website to help reduce the number of general queries. 

  • Section 13 of the Children and Adoption Act 2006  gives the Secretary of State the power to charge for the processing of inter-country adoption applications. DfE plans to bring this into force by September 2010.
  • The charge is to be introduced because the Department assures an improved service: applications would be Sent to Country within 12-14 weeks of receipt by the Department (excluding any time papers need to be with third parties such as notary and FCO).
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3 October 2011 - change to telephone number of the Payment Advice Line

The telephone number of the Intercountry Adoption (ICA) Advice Line has changed with immediate effect.  If you wish to pay the ICA fee please contact the Advice Line on 02920 80409002920 804090.

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