This is a study of the processes for freeing children for adoption in Northern Ireland. The focus was the time taken from admission to care to adoption order. The findings confirmed that the process is dogged by delay at each stage. In total the average time from the child becoming looked after to the granting of an adoption order was 4.5 years. Most of the time taken was in the stages for which social services had lead responsibility, principally the decision to pursue adoption as the plan for a child. The children were very young when admitted to care - average age 1 year 7 months. Most were admitted to care because they were being neglected. Their parents were well known to social services and had multiple problems. Most parents unsuccessfully contested the social services' application and this contributed much to the delay. Their former foster parents adopted almost half of the children and these children tended to be placed more quickly with their adopters than those placed with adopters who were not their foster parents prior to the adoption process.