From a UK perspective, this chapter explores the legal boundaries that frame the terms of reference for 'adoption' and differentiates it from other care arrangements. It considers the historical background: the evolving legislative framework; the interface between the laws governing adoption and those relating to divorce and childcare; and the growing professional input to the adoption process. The chapter introduces the core legal definitional matters in the adoption process –'child', 'family', consent, adopters, etc. –and explains the 'contract', the parties, the governing principles and the roles played by mediating statutory and voluntary bodies. It deals with: legally defined eligibility to adopt and to be adopted; the rights/duties of the parties; the existence of statutory regulatory bodies and their responsibilities. The chapter identifies the different stages of an adoption process, outlines the outcomes and notes the emergence of associated human rights issues.