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Chapter 8: Adoptions

“There were 472 adoptions in 2019 - half the number in the mid-1980s, and less than a quarter of the number in the late 1960s.”

Adoptions and COVID-19

The registering of new adoptions and the issuing of new adoption certificates was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This chapter contains information on adoptions registered up to 2019, so does not cover the period affected by the suspension. More information about Registration is available in Chapter 10 – Statutory registration.

Adoptions up to 2019

The Registrar General recorded 472 adoptions during 2019, which is one more than in 2018. This is around half the number recorded per year in the mid-1980s, and less than a quarter of the number recorded in the late 1960s.

Adoptions of children have been registered by law in Scotland since 1930. Today the Registrar General for Scotland registers them under the Adoption and Children (Scotland) Act 2007.

Adoptions include cases of step-parents adopting the children of their spouse or partner, and relatives adopting children of other family members, as well as people adopting children who are not related in any way to them. The figures include small numbers of foreign adoptions registered in Scotland, and parental orders granted following a birth by a surrogate mother.

Figure 8.1: Adoptions, Scotland, 1930-2019

Figure 8.1

Figure 8.1 shows that following a steady rise to a post-war peak of 2,292 in 1946, the total number of adoptions fell back to lower levels over the next few years, falling to 1,236 in 1959. The total number of adoptions then rose again, reaching 2,268 in 1969. After this time, increased access to birth control and changing public attitudes towards single or unmarried parents led to a decrease in the number of children available for adoption. The annual number of adoptions declined fairly steadily to around 400 in the year 2000. There has been a gradual increase in adoptions since then, up to 543 in 2017, before falling again to 472 in 2019.

Figure 8.2 shows the ages of adopted children. In 2019, 15% of children adopted were aged under two, and from age three onwards the numbers tend to fall with age. Seven per cent were aged 15 or over.

Figure 8.2: Age at adoption, Scotland, 2019

Figure 8.2

Figure 8.3 shows the age of the child and the relationship to the adopter(s). Of the 73 children aged under two, 79% were adopted by non-relatives. In contrast, only 18% of the 95 children aged 10 or over were adopted by non-relatives.

Of the 472 children adopted in 2019, 32% were adopted by a step-parent and 64% were adopted by non-relatives of the child.

Figure 8.3: Adoptions by age of child and relationship of the adopter(s), 2019

Figure 8.3

Other relation(s) include grandparent(s).

More detailed information about Scotland’s Adoptions can be found in the Vital Events - Adoptions section and the Adoptions chapter of the Vital Events Reference Tables on the National Records of Scotland website.

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