Voluntary Adoption Agency or Local Authority?

All adoption agencies in England are one of two types of organisation; either they are part of a Local Authority (LA) or they are an independent Voluntary Adoption Agency (VAA).

The main difference between the two is that LAs have children in their care, and VAAs do not. Both however prepare and support people to become adoptive parents.

Voluntary Adoption Agencies

Voluntary Adoption Agencies  recruit and assess prospective adopters; they create matches for children who are in the care of a Local Authority, and are then paid by the local authority to cover their costs (no profit is permitted).

There are currently 45 voluntary adoption agencies registered with Ofsted and they vary in scale: some are regionally based, such as the Yorkshire Adoption Agency while others are major national organisations, such as Barnardos.


The Local Authority children’s services team have responsibility for finding homes for children in care. Both voluntary adoption agencies and local authorities search for prospective adopters to become new parents.

Neither Local Authorities nor voluntary adoption agencies charge for their services to prospective parents from within the UK, though there are some charges for those who wish to adopt children from abroad.

All adoption agencies are subject to strict regulatory control and regular Ofsted inspections.