Young people and family

This advice applies to England. See advice for See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Scotland, See advice for Wales

A child means someone aged under 14 and young person means someone aged 14 or over but under 18. Parent means someone with parental responsibility.


You can be adopted if you’re under 19 years old, as long as the application is made before you’re 18. You can’t be adopted if you’re married or in a registered civil partnership.

As a child, you’ll have little say over who adopts you, but you should be consulted by the adoption agency or social services department involved in the adoption.

If you're under 18, you have no legal right to know the identity of your birth parents. Once you reach 18, you have a right to apply to see your birth record and to use the Adoption Contact Register. The register helps adopted people get contact details of birth relatives who have also registered.

You can find out how to see your birth record or use the Adoption Contact Register on GOV.UK.

Changing your name

You cannot change your name until you are 16 years old. Between 16 and 18, you might need parental consent to change your name.

If you're under 16 years old, an adult might be able to change your name for you.

You can find out how to change your name by deed poll on GOV.UK.

Local council care

You can only be taken into care if you are under 18 and the local council has obtained a court order. You have a right to know why you are in care, under which law and how long you are likely to remain there.

You can be accommodated by a local council without a court order if a parent requests it or gives permission. However, the local council must take your wishes into account. Further information may be available from Become (see under heading Further help).

You can find out about living in care on the Childline website.


If you're aged under 18, you can't legally marry in England or Wales. If you got married in a country where the minimum age for marriage is 16 or 17, it won't be legally recognised in England or Wales if your permanent home is England or Wales.

If you got married before 27 February 2023

If you or your partner were 16 or 17 years old when you got married, your marriage will still be legal in England and Wales if you both:

  • met the minimum age for marriage in the country you married in

  • had parental consent or permission from the court to get married

Both opposite sex and same sex couples can get married. For more information on marriage, see Getting married.

Civil partnerships

A civil partnership is a legal relationship which can be registered by two people.

Civil partnerships are available to both same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples.

Registering a civil partnership will give your relationship legal recognition. This will give you added legal rights, as well as responsibilities.

You are not allowed to register a civil partnership if one of you is aged under 18.

For more information about registering a civil partnership, in England and Wales see Registering a civil partnership.

Parents aged under 16

Mothers aged under 16

If you're under 16 and have a baby, you have the same legal rights and responsibilities towards the child as any mother.

Benefits and tax credits

If you live with your parents and they're claiming Child Tax Credit, both you and your child can be included in the claim. Your parents might also be able to claim a Social Fund Maternity Grant for you and your child. If they're claiming Housing Benefit, they can include you and your child in their claim.

Find more information about Housing Benefit.

As a young mother, you can claim Child Benefit once the baby is born - check if you're eligible for Child Benefit.

Benefit claims in these circumstances can be complicated. You or your parent should get advice from an experienced adviser – contact your nearest Citizens Advice.

Vouchers for free milk, fruit and vegetables

If you're at least 10 weeks pregnant, your parents can get vouchers for free milk, fruit and vegetables for you. It doesn't matter what their income is.

Once you've had the baby, your parents can continue to get vouchers for you only if they get:

  • Income Support

  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance

  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance

  • Child Tax Credit and have an annual income below a certain amount

Check what extra help and benefits you could get for maternity and children.


Local education authorities have a duty to make sure that all children under 16 get an education. They still have this duty to you, even if you become a mother.


As a young mother you won't normally be able to get privately rented or council housing because you're too young to have a tenancy. You can still contact social services at your local council and ask them to find you housing if your parents agree.

If you have housing problems you should talk to an adviser.

Child maintenance

If you aren’t living with the child’s other parent, the Child Maintenance Service can arrange for them to pay maintenance.

Read more about arranging child maintenance payments.

Fathers aged under 16

If you're a father aged under 16 and you’re having problems staying in contact, you can apply for parental responsibility and a child arrangements order.

Child maintenance

If you're aged under 16 and father a child, you have to make maintenance payments when you start earning money or get benefits.

Read more about arranging child maintenance payments.


If you are under 18, you cannot make a valid will unless you are in the armed forces or a seafarer. No one under the age of 18 can act as a trustee, executor or administrator of a will.

Further help

The Office of the Children's Commissioner for England

Children's Commissioner for England

Office of the Children's Commissioner

33 Greycoat Street



Tel: 020 7783 8330

Fax: 020 7931 7544



The Office of the Children's Commissioner for England looks after the interests and acts as the independent voice of children and young people.

Children's Commissioner for Wales


Children's Commissioner for Wales

Freephone: 0808 801 1000

Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm


You can use the contact form on the commissioner's website

South Wales Office

Children's Commissioner for Wales - South Wales office

Oystermouth House

Phoenix Way




Tel: 01792 765600

Fax: 01792 765601



North Wales Office

Children's Commissioner for Wales - North Wales office

Penrhos Manor

Oak Drive

Colwyn Bay


LL29 7YW

Tel: 01492 523333

Fax: 01492 523336



The Children's Commissioner for Wales can give children and young people living in Wales advice about their rights and welfare. The Commissioner can also help you make a complaint about your treatment if you are using the usual complaints procedure of an institution such as a school, care home or social services department. If your complaint is unsuccessful, the Commissioner may be able to carry out a separate investigation.

The Children's Commissioner also has powers to take action over 'whistleblowing'. 'Whistleblowing', in this case, is where an employee of an organisation for children and young people raises concerns that the organisation is acting against the interests of children in its care.

Children can use the special freephone and freetext numbers to contact the Commissioner, which won't show up on any phone bill. There's also a special email address for children to use. The service is bilingual and if you want to talk to someone in a language other than English or Welsh, they will try to make this possible.

The CCLC offers free legal information and advice on child, family and education law in England to children, young people, their families, carers and professionals. You can get legal information on their website at, or telephone their legal advice lines:

  • child and family law: 0300 330 5480

  • education law: 0300 330 5485

Lesbian and Gay Switchboards

There are a number of regional switchboards nationwide which supply information for gay men and lesbians and which can put you in touch with organisations providing counselling and support. To find details of your local switchboard, visit, or phone the London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard 24-hour helpline (see below).


Switchboard LGBT+ Helpline

PO Box 7324


N1 9QS

Helpline: 0300 330 0630 (Monday to Sunday from 10.00am to 10.00pm)



Switchboard (previously the London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard) provides an information, support and referral service for lesbians, gay men and bisexual people from all backgrounds throughout the UK.



15-18 White Lion Street


N1 9PG

Helpline: 0800 023 2033 

Relay UK - if you can't hear or speak on the phone, you can type what you want to say: 18001 then 0800 023 2033

You can use Relay UK with an app or a textphone. There’s no extra charge to use it. Find out how to use Relay UK on the Relay UK website.

The helpline is available 10.30am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.



Become provides information and advice for young people in care or those who have recently left care.

Meic - in Wales


Freephone: 08088 023456 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week)

Free text: 84001



Meic is an information, advice and support helpline for young people in Wales. A trained adviser will give you information, or signpost you to someone who can help you more. They're open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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