There are many reasons why people consider adoption but there is no such thing as a typical adopter.

The single people, and the married and unmarried couples from all ages, backgrounds and circumstances who decide to provide a permanent home for children who can no longer live with their birth families, do so for many different reasons.

And this is something that the people at Chester-based Adoption Matters North West know all about.

Last year leading UK adoption agencies Adoption Matters and Blackburn Diocesan Adoption Agency merged to form Adoption Matters North West.

With 110 years of experience between them, they have been responsible for finding new homes for no fewer than 4,500 children.

Their aim is to highlight the plight of the estimated 4,000 children who are still in care throughout the UK and desperate to find a new family.

Some never receive a single enquiry from potential adopters - even after years of waiting - and this is something the new agency hopes to change.

"We're looking forward to leading the way in adoption and continuing to provide an increasing number of well prepared and resourced adopters willing to open their homes - and their hearts," said chief executive Norman Goodwin.

"We're proud of our national reputation for recruiting and preparing adoptive parents for those children most in need of a family and of our significant track record for maintaining and ensuring the success of placements."

Adoption is a popular route for couples with fertility problems to create the family they yearn for but increasingly others are adopting to extend their family or to start a second family once their own children get older and leave home.

There are others for whom adoption is a preference to having their own children naturally, such as Michael Jones and Louise Philips.

Both professionals in their mid 30s, Michael and Louise have been together for 15 years.

"We both knew that we wanted children," said Louise, an airline cabin manager.

"We did discuss the issue from time to time and we knew that one day we would have a family, but the fact is that neither of us ever craved for a baby and we were never in a rush.

"There's certainly no medical reason why we couldn't have children of our own - it's just that the natural route didn't appeal to us as much as it does to other people. We're all different, after all."

In 2000 the couple read an appeal to find a permanent home for a four-year-old called Kriss which left a strong impression in their minds.

Following an initial informative interview with the agency the couple decided they did not want to rush into adopting but over time and after further contact with Adoption Matters they changed their minds.

Workshops, thorough assessments and preparation followed, with the question of why the couple wanted to adopt often cropping up.

"We agreed we'd like to adopt two boys aged between three and seven but decided from the outset if one of us had any doubts, we would stop. We needed to be 100 per cent sure," said salesman Michael.

The couple were eventually approved to adopt two children.

"It was so hard looking at all the profiles," said Louise.

"We were warned the first time we looked at the children we'd choose quite a few and you just end up falling in love with all of them. It was so difficult but eventually we realised we needed to be practical."

After three months of searching, the couple finally found the perfect fit in brothers Thomas, then six, and Andrew, then five.

"Our social worker told us about two brothers who were looking for a new family. As soon as we saw the photos of them, we knew they were for us. We'd always been told we'd know when we saw our' children. It was instinctive," said Michael.

In the weeks that followed they discovered another couple were also interested in the brothers but to their delight, Louise and Michael were chosen.

"It felt wonderful but I also felt awful for the other couple. We knew exactly what they had gone through," said Louise.

When adoption day arrived it was a nerve-wracking affair for everyone.

"We didn't know what to expect. We knew the boys had been told they were getting a new mummy and daddy but it's always in the back of your mind - what if I don't like them? What if they don't like us?" said Louise.

"We needn't have worried. We saw them walk up the path. They didn't hesitate even though they knew they were about to meet their new parents. The first thing that struck us was how tiny they were."

The meeting passed in a blur for the couple, but Louise recalls one moment that will always be with her.

"It was when Andrew pointed at me and said you're my new mummy'. It took my breath away and I realised how much our lives would change.

"It was nerve-wracking taking them home but it always felt right. We've had tantrums as you'd expect, especially considering the boys' background but we have been lucky.

"For the first two months we whispered when they were asleep, terrified we'd wake them up! But we soon got used to it and wouldn't be without them."

Michael added: "There's an idea that to adopt you need to be perfect, almost super human. I think that might put some people off.

"No one's perfect and that's not what adoption agencies like Adoption Matters North West are looking for - adopters are ordinary people living ordinary lives and facing the same challenges as the rest of us."

He added: "Children waiting for adoption don't need saints - they need parents."