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  • Lisa Smith

The Current Law on Adoption Counselling

Updated: Feb 9

UPDATE - BACP and UKCP have successfully lobbied the government to change the law to improve access to adoption related therapy

"There are still circumstances where registration with Ofsted is required, including working therapeutically with children and young people around adoption issues or when providing other adoption related support to anyone in addition to counselling." (BACP, 2023) and most therapists will await the competency framework BUT we finally have movement.

Full Press release - Here

"In December 2010, the law changed so that only counsellors and psychotherapists registered as an adoption support agency (ASA) with Ofsted are able to offer specialist adoption services. These amendments to the Adoption and Children's Act of 2002 were designed to ensure that the one in four UK individuals affected by adoption in some way, are provided with support and services from practitioners who hold the proper qualifications and experience. The introduction of this legislation now means that any counsellor working with a client for whom any aspect of adoption is the main focus, must be registered with Ofsted and subject to regular inspections.

It may be that some individuals are seeking counselling for issues they feel may be related to adoption (such as low-self esteem) but where adoption is not the key issue. In cases such as these where the entire counselling experience is not likely to revolve solely around the adoption itself, it is fine to seek help from a professional who is not an Approved Adoption Counsellor." (Becky Beckham, Counselling Directory)

"Although therapists are trained to a high level and can work with a variety of other presenting problems unless a therapist has undertaken specific adoption training and registered as an independent ASA through Ofsted or through an ASA, navigating working with someone becomes a complex ethical dilemma. Introduction to adoption support agencies." Ofsted, 11 November 2014 states:

- A counsellor would need to register as an adoption support agency if they set themselves up in business to provide an adoption-related service to adults, children or families who need counselling around adoption issues. This can include circumstances surrounding their own adoption or their child being adopted.

- If an adoption-related issue only emerges after counselling is established and is not the primary concern or focus of counselling the law does not require you to register. However, it is good practice for you to seek advice from someone registered to provide adoption support services. It may be better for your client to be referred to a specialist service. If however, during the first counselling session it becomes clear that matters related to adoption is the main purpose for the counselling, you should make clear to the client their right to access adoption support services and consider referring the client to a registered adoption support agency. The law says you cannot provide counselling on adoption matters without registering or being under contract with an approved adoption support agency

The lower of the two statements, unfortunately, makes it very clear, that as a therapist without adoption training or ASA registration, my only option is to refer.


Although BACP and UKCP have success challenging the current law, following a chart navigating working with adoption or anything closely linked to adoption ethically it is the only thing to do. How can I work with someone and miss a huge and impactful part of their life?

If you are currently looking for adoption counselling then please take a look at the links below:

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