View Hertfordshire SCB Procedures Manual View Hertfordshire SCB Procedures Manual

8.4a Assessment and Approval of Prospective Adopters

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter was developed/entirely revised in September 2013 and should be read in full. This will be under review for 6 months pending Government update and advice. If in any doubt please contact and adoption service Team Manager for advice.

RELEVANT GUIDANCE

For additional guidance see Statutory Guidance on Adoption July 2013.

BAAF Forms

See LCS Guidance

AMENDMENT

This chapter was significantly updated in March 2014 and should be re read in full.


Contents

  1. Statement
  2. Adoptive Recruitment Process - Pre-Stage Initial Contact to Stage 1
  3. Adoption Recruitment Process Stage 1 Registration of Interest, to Stage 2 Formal Application
  4. Adoption Preparation Training (APT) Stage 1 to Stage 2
  5. Checks and References Pre-Stage 1
  6. Fast-track Approval Process
  7. Home Study / Assessment Stage 2
  8. Prospective Adopter's Report (PAR)
  9. Second Opinion Visits
  10. Brief Prospective Adopter’s Report
  11. The Panel Recommendation
  12. Agency Decision Maker’s Role End of Stage 2
  13. Referral to Adoption Register
  14. Representations / Independent Review Procedure
  15. Adopter Recruitment Process Flowchart

    Appendix: Form A


1. Statement

The adoption agency recruits and assesses prospective adopters who can meet most of the needs of children for whom adoption is the plan.

The adoption agency assesses couples or single people of differing status, age, abilities, religious beliefs or non religious background. S/he/they may or may not share the child’s racial or cultural background. See Criteria for Prospective Adopters Procedure.

The combined Adoption and Fostering Recruitment Team manages the Pre-Stage 1 and Stage 1 of the adoption recruitment process. After the Adoption Service agrees that the application may proceed to Stage 2, the assessment is transferred to the Adoption Assessment Team to proceed to a full assessment.

See Adoption Recruitment Process for flowchart with roles and tasks.


2. Adoptive Recruitment Process - Pre-Stage Initial Contact to Stage 1

All members of the public who make an initial enquiry by telephone will have their details matched against initial criteria and the Registration of Interest Form. The Adoption Team Manager will consider whether the  criteria is met and (see Criteria for Prospective Adopters Procedure) and a decision will be made about whether to pursue or refuse the offer within the Registration of Interest within 5 working days of it’s receipt.

If they do not match the criteria or If the Adoption Agency is not currently recruiting  the Team Manager will write providing a clear explanation and they will be referred back to National Gateway To Adoption, or another agency which is recruiting. If they have not already been provided with a copy of the Adoption Passport: A Support Guide for Adopter from First4Adoption this will be done now.

If they do match the initial criteria, they will be invited to an information evening. They will be sent an information pack, within 1 working day, that outlines:

  • The assessment process and timescales (including the checks, references and Adoption Preparation Training), matching, support;
  • Placement Orders;
  • Information about the children requiring adoptive placements (including their age ranges, background and characteristics) and priority needs of the service;
  • The Habitual Residence and Domicile requirements for adoptive parents;
  • The Independent Review Mechanism (see Section 14, Representations/ Independent Review Procedure);
  • The Complaints procedure;
  • Dates of forthcoming Adoption Preparation Training;
  • That there is a statutory duty to conduct background police checks into prospective adopters and any other adult member of the household;
  • They will be given the Registration of Interest Form to sign.

If the enquirer is responding to publicity for a specific child, the person taking the enquiry will complete a Registration of Interest Form and this will be passed immediately to the worker with responsibility for family finding for the child concerned. See Placement for Adoption Procedure.

On receipt of the signed Registration of Interest Form the Recruitment Officer/Support Officer will commence, checking the identity of the prospective applicants and the statutory checks. The enquirers are now referred to as the prospective adopters, Stage 1 of the process starts and s/he or they will receive an initial social work visit.

If at this stage, or at any other stage of the process, there appear to be issues of concern in relation to the prospective adopters' health, the Medical Adviser should be consulted for advice before a decision is made. Where advised by the Medical Adviser, the prospective adopters should be requested at this stage to obtain a medical report from their G. P.

Dependent on the outcome of the health information received and the medical advice from the Medical Adviser, the Adoption Service Team Manager will decide whether to proceed with the application and the decision will be communicated to the enquirer in writing with reasons foster carers who are requesting to adopt a child they are currently looking after see Adoption by Local Authority or Independent  Foster Agency, Foster Carers of a Foster Child Already Placed with them Procedure. The procedure for any enquirer requesting a second placement will be more concise than for new applicants.

On an initial visit, the social worker should also check that the accommodation is acceptable and discuss with the prospective applicants why they wish to adopt and the type of child they would wish to consider. At this visit the following checks are undertaken:

  • Health and Safety;
  • Pet Assessment;
  • Disclosure and Barring Service.


3. Adoption Recruitment Process Stage 1 Registration of Interest, to Stage 2 Formal Application

If the decision is to proceed, the case will be allocated to a social worker, who will write to the person(s) with the decision to draw up a BAAF Form - Stage One Agreement Form to Accompany PAR out lining the checks to be undertaken and the Adoption Preparation Training.

An Adoption Case Record for prospective adopters should be set up as soon as a the Registration of Interest has been accepted (including where it is a second or foster carer application, in which case copies of relevant information from other files should be placed on the new Adoption Case Record).

If any factors emerge which may have an adverse effect on an application, appropriate advice will be given. Prospective Adopters should be specifically asked to identify anything that they know may preclude them from adopting.

The Adoption Team Manager will decide whether it is appropriate to invite an application to adopt. The decision will be based on the information obtained so far in relation to the prospective applicants and the needs of the children waiting for adopters

Where a decision is made to proceed, the prospective adopter will be sent and invited to attend Adoption Preparation Training 1 and 2. (The invitation to Adoption Preparation Training 3 is only done when checks have been returned and are accepted).

If applicants are employees of HCC, see Hertfordshire County Council Employees Who Wish to Become Substitute Carers for Children and Young People Procedure.

Once the checks and references (except the employment references) are fully completed, the Adoption Team Manager makes a decision that the application may progress to Stage 2, an invitation to Adoption Preparation Training 3 will be sent and the assessment is transferred to Adoption Assessment Team. The case will then be allocated for a full assessment to a qualified social worker with suitable experience (see Reports to Adoption Panel and Agency Decision Maker of Adoption Panel and Agency Decision Maker's Decision Procedure).

3.1 Stage 1 to Stage 2

Stage 1 should take no longer than two months, unless the agency is satisfied there are good reasons for it to take longer. Detailed reasons should be recorded for the extended timescale with supporting evidence.

If the Team Manager decides that a prospective adopter is not suitable to adopt during or at the end of Stage One, it must inform the prospective adopters of the decision with clear written explanation of why they will not be able to proceed to Stage 2. The Prospective Adopter may wish to make a formal complaint, or raise general concerns with the National Gateway for Adoption. The Independent Review Mechanism is not available for decisions made during Stage One.

A break may be taken between Stage 1 and 2 of up to six months, at request of prospective adopter or recommendation of the agency. If the break is longer, then the prospective adopters will need to restart Stage 1, and the agency respond within 5 working days of such a request. The Stage One Plan should take into account activities previously undertaken.


4. Adoption Preparation Training (APT) Stage 1 to Stage 2

All prospective adopters (except those identified below) will be required to complete APT.  This is an integral part of the application process, and all applicants are expected to attend all sessions.

The objectives of the Groups are:

  • To raise awareness and understanding of the key issues which need to be addressed by all prospective adopters, including information to enable them, to understand the purpose and importance for the child of maintaining contact with the birth family;
  • To assist applicants to consider more thoroughly the implications of adoption and to decide whether or not adoption is right for them;
  • To assist applicants to determine the type of resource they can offer to the children needing adoptive placements.

Where issues emerge during the Preparation Groups as a result of which the Adoption Team Manager decides that it is not appropriate to proceed with the application, the applicants should be visited by a member of the Adoption Service and notified in writing of the decision, with reasons. Advice should be given of any steps they may take in order to meet the criteria or of how they might pursue their interest elsewhere, if appropriate.

Where they disagree with the decision and/or are not willing to withdraw, they should be informed of the Complaints process.  If this occurs at APT 3 a brief Prospective Adopter's Report on the application should be presented to the Adoption Panel and the procedure to be followed should be the same as if the report was a full report on the Prospective Adopters (see Section 11, The Panel Recommendation to Section 14, Representations / Independent Review Procedure).

For foster carers who go on to adopt, second time applications or those applicants who have attended a preparation course with other agency specific arrangements may be made on a case by case basis in relations to attending APT. The reasons for this need to be noted on the case file, the prospective adopter's report and agreed by the Team Manager.


5. Checks and References Pre-Stage 1

5.1 Checks Police and Local Authority Stage 1

Applicants will be asked to complete the Registration of Interest Form for the necessary checks to be undertaken for all members of the household aged 18 and over.

On receipt of the completed forms, the following checks will be taken up on all adult members of the household aged 18 and over: Disclosure and Barring Service (enhanced criminal record certificates will be sought), Probation, NSPCC, Health Trust, Education Service, Children's Social Care Services and the Disclosure and Barring Service.

Where the applicants live in another local authority area, the checks must be made with the local authority and health trust where the applicants live.

Where applicants have recently moved to the UK (within the last 10 years) or have worked/resided/had a holiday home abroad, checks will also be made through International Social Services (now called CFAB) and/or the relevant Consulate on all members of the household aged 18 and over, for a certificate of good conduct.
Where there are concerns about an applicant's circumstances as a result of the information obtained from the above checks, for example as a result of a conviction, or has received a police caution in respect of a specified offence which they admitted at the time the caution was given,  which means the applicant or a member of the household is a Disqualified Person (Adopter), the applicant will be advised not to proceed with the application.

A further visit may be arranged to the applicants to explain the decision not to proceed. The applicants must always be notified in writing of the decision, with reasons.

If the information leading to this decision relates to a previous conviction of a member of the applicant's household, the details of the offence can only be disclosed to the applicant with the consent of the relevant person; without such consent, the applicant can only be informed that the reason relates to information obtained from the checks but no details can be given.

Where the applicants are not willing to withdraw, they should be informed of the Complaints procedure, unless they have already progressed to Stage 2 of the process. Then a brief Prospective Adopter's Report on the application will be presented to the Adoption Panel and the procedure to be followed should be the same as if the report was a full report on the Prospective Adopters (see Section 11, The Panel Recommendation to Section 14, Representations / Independent Review Procedure).

This information is highly confidential. In the case of a joint application the social worker should explain to the person with a concerning record, that the agency will not inform the other person of the specific conviction or caution but will inform them that because of information obtained from the checks the joint application cannot proceed. A similar approach must be taken regarding any other adult members of the household.

Information from the Disclosing and Barring Service (DBS) should be retained for a short period only. The agency should record that the DBS information has been destroyed and that this information led the agency to form a particular view, without citing the information itself.

The agency must ascertain whether the local authority (social services including child protection register/child protection plan and education services), in whose are the prospective adopter has a home, has any information about them that may be relevant to their assessment. If so the agency must obtain a written report setting out the information. This should be provided within 15 working days. If the prospective adopter has only lived a short time in the local authority the agency should obtain information from former local authorities.

Where the prospective applicant has made a previous application to foster or adopt, the relevant agency must be asked to confirm in writing the outcome of the application and provide a written reference.

5.2 References

Pre Stage 1 and Stage 1: Where an application is accepted, applicants will be asked to provide the names of three personal referees, who are adults, not more than one of whom should be related to them. Referees should be people who know the applicants well in a personal capacity, and it is desirable that the referees have direct experience of caring for children, either in a personal or professional capacity and have known the applicants for at least two years. There should be an initial phone call with referees to see if there is any reason people should not go forward at Stage 1.

Where there is a joint application, referees should know both applicants, or additional referees will be required.

Stage 2: A written reference must also be obtained from each applicant's last/current employer where they work or have worked with children or vulnerable adults. Further references from previous employers may need to be considered.

At Stage 1 will arrange for requests for written references to be sent.

The referees should be asked to comment on the following:
  1. The length of time the referee has known the applicant, in what circumstances, how they met and how regularly they are in contact;
  2. Where there is a joint application, the couple's relationship including its stability and quality, the couple's strengths and ways of coping with stress and how mutually supportive the couple is;
  3. The applicants' general physical and emotional well being;
  4. How the applicants relate to children, with examples, and what experience the applicants have of caring for children;
  5. How the applicants have adjusted to childlessness if this is the case, how they have prepared to become adoptive parents, how much they have shared with the referees and how open they are in talking about the issues surrounding adoption;
  6. If the applicants have children of their own, how the referee thinks a child from a different ethnic background will impact on the other children in the family;
  7. Any reservations the referee has and whether the referee wholeheartedly supports the application.

As well as providing a written reference, referees will also be interviewed during the home study part of the assessment process by allocated social worker as part of Stage 2

At the start of the interview, the referee should be informed that the written report of the interview will not be shared with the applicants but that any issues arising during the interview may be discussed with them.

Issues for discussion include the following:

  • The applicant as a personality;
  • The stability of the couple's relationship (if a joint application);
  • The referee's impression of the applicant's general physical and emotional well being;
  • The referee's opinion on the applicant's ability to relate to children, and the basis of the opinion;
  • The referee's opinion on whether adoption is appropriate for the applicant;
  • Any reservations the referee may have to express about any aspect of the application;
  • Whether the referee wholeheartedly supports the application;
  • What support the referee is able to offer the prospective adopters;
  • Whether the referee has any reason to believe the applicant would harm the children in their care.

Pre Stage 1: The assessing social worker will also contact the previous partners of the applicants; where there were any children of the relationship or where children were cared for jointly, the social worker will arrange to interview them face-to-face wherever practicable. All children of the applicant(s) living away from home will also be contacted. Where former partners have not jointly parented or cared for a child with the prospective adopter, they should generally not be approached unless there is a specific reason for doing so.

In addition, as part of the assessment, where the applicant has school age children, the relevant school(s) will be contacted, with the permission of the applicant, for information regarding the applicant's ability to promote the child's education.

5.3 Health Stage pre stage 1

(Please also see Smoking and Obesity Procedure).

The applicants will also be asked to arrange for (and fund) an adoption medical examination and report from their G.P., unless the Medical Adviser does not consider such a medical examination is necessary, for example where the applicant is a foster carer and a health report is already available.

The social worker will provide the applicants with the relevant BAAF medical forms for completion by the GP. The prospective adopter’s GP may not have a full health history, particularly if they have received private medical care outside the NHS. They should be encouraged to make their full health history available to the agency’s medical advisor.

The completed Medical Form should then be sent to the Medical Adviser, together with a covering letter providing a pen picture of the family, their life-style and the sort of child they are considering.

The GP's report must have been written within the 6 months prior to the Adoption Panel meeting which considers the application.

Where the applicant's GP has expressed concerns or where clarification of the implications of any health issues is required, detailed advice must be sought from the Medical Adviser and the implications fully discussed with the applicant. It may be necessary for reports from other health professionals also to be obtained and presented to the Medical Adviser and the Adoption Panel.

Where there are concerns about an applicant's circumstances, for example where there are concerns about their health or about the information obtained from referees, the applicant may be advised not to proceed with the application. Any such advice must be confirmed to them in writing and the reasons explained.

Where the applicant disagrees with the decision and/or is not willing to withdraw, should be advised of the complaints procedure, unless this is in Stage 2 then a brief Prospective Adopter's Report on the application should be presented to the Adoption Panel and the procedure to be followed should be the same as if the report was a full report on the Prospective Adopter (see Section 11, The Panel Recommendation to Section 14, Representations / Independent Review Procedure)


6. Fast-track Approval Process

This process must be completed in four months. The initial enquiry details are taken by Recruitment Team and then passed immediately to the Adoption Assessment Team.

Some previous adopters:

  • Adopters who have previously adopted in a court in England or Wales;
  • Inter country adopters who adopted after having been assessed under the Adoption with a Foreign Element Regulations 2005.

and any one approved as a foster carer at the time they apply to adopt  may bypass Stage 1 and enter the process at Stage 2.

The agency should provide any identified additional training and determine required references and/or prescribed checks. Guidance on sharing information for the purposes of foster carer or adopter assessments is in Assessment and Approval of Foster Carers.

Prospective adopters should be provide with a copy of the Adoption Passport First4Adoption.   

Foster carers should be encouraged to participate in the adoption agency process, rather than institute their own adoption application ( non-agency case). Eligibility for adoption support must be explained.  If the local authority opposed the application they and the child will be limited ineligibility to counselling, advice and information only. If the local authority supports the application they will be eligible for assessment of adoption support needs as the child is a looked after child.

These applicants’ assessment is firstly regarding their suitability to adopt, and subsequently their suitability to adopt a specific child is undertaken as part of the matching process. This should be explained to them.


7. Home Study / Assessment Stage 2

Stage 2 starts when the agency receives notification from the prospective adopters that they wish to proceed with the adoption process. It should take four months, unless there are exceptional circumstances, which the agency must record on the case record.

The assessment must be carried out by a qualified social worker with suitable experience (see Reports to Adoption Panel and Agency Decision Maker of Adoption Panel and Agency Decision Maker's Decision Procedure).

The assessment will comprise a series of interviews, the majority of which will take place in the applicants' home. Applicants should be interviewed at least once both individually and with their partner, and all other members of the household will also be interviewed, including the children.  The social worker should draw up an agreement with the prospective adopters about what will be required at Stage 2.

The areas covered in interviews will follow the subject areas:

  • Individual profiles of all members of the household, including racial origin and religious persuasion;
  • Information about the home, the local community and the neighbourhood;
  • Details of education and employment - past and present;
  • Income and expenditure;
  • Details of past and present relationships;
  • Motivation to adopt/childlessness;
  • Parenting capacity, experience of being parented and experience with children;
  • Support network, including wider family network;
  • Expectations of the placement, including understanding of issues from the preparation course;
  • Attitudes to birth families and approach to openness in adoption.
  • Whether they are interested in fostering a child for whom an adoption agency is considering adoption. See Fostering for Adoption Procedure.

As part of the assessment:

  • A family tree and Chronology of key events in the applicant's life must be compiled, showing his or her educational, employment, marital and/or relationship history and addresses for the previous 10 years; any gaps and/or unusual patterns should be explored;
  • All information provided by the applicant must be independently verified where possible, by checking it against other sources such as referees. See "Preparing and Assessing Prospective Adopters", Practice Guidance (Chapter 2);
  • Where an applicant has been divorced or separated, factors contributing to the breakdown of the relationship must be verified. This applies equally to significant relationships between couples who are not married;
  • The adequacy and safety of the prospective adoptive home and transport will be assessed.

The time taken to complete the assessment and present the report to the Adoption Panel after a formal application has been received will generally be no more than eight months from the receipt of the application unless the need for additional work with the prospective adopters is identified or recommended by the Adoption Panel. Where the timescale is not met, the Adoption Panel should record the reason.

If the assessment is of foster carers wishing to adopt a child in their care, the assessment should be completed by the social worker and the draft Prospective Adopter's Report submitted to the manager within four months of the application prior to being submitted to Panel.

The assessment will consider the likely need for adoption support services of the prospective adopters and any member of their family - see Adoption Support Procedure. As part of this, the family's finances and the criteria for financial support should also be discussed.

Where the prospective adopters live in another local authority area, the social worker should ascertain the extent of any support services identified as necessary in their local area.

The assessment will also cover the applicants' willingness to notify the adoption agency if the adopted child dies during childhood or soon afterwards, their views on post-placement and post-adoption contact and their willingness to pass on information to birth parents about the progress of the adopted child. These issues should be specifically reported on to the Adoption Panel.

If, during the course of the assessment, any issues emerge which cast doubt upon the likelihood of the applicants being approved, such issues should be discussed openly with the applicant at the time, and the advice of the Adoption Panel may be sought at any stage. A 'brief prospective adopters' report should include details of the work done so far, an analysis of the issues raised, a recommendation to the adoption panel and or a request for their views. It must be shown to the applicants who have 10 days in which to reply giving their views. Both the social worker and the applicants must then sign the report. Finally the Adoption Manager must check that the report is accurate, up-to-date and is evidentially based before signing it the report (S10 of ANMS 2011) after which the report and the applicants' views must then be copied and sent to the panel administrator in the normal way. Applicants can attend in the same way as approval cases. The recommendation and timescales around the decision maker remain in force. No 'brief prospective adopters' report should come before panel without a second opinion visit with the Team Manager.

On receipt of the brief report the panel may:

  • Request further information;
  • Ask the agency to continue to a full report;
  • Recommend that the prospective adopter is not suitable.

Towards the end of the assessment, a financial support for adoption form is to be completed by the applicants. It will then be sent to CS&SS Finance by the assessing social worker for a provisional assessment of the adopter's financial situation. The social worker should ensure at this stage that the applicants have had the leaflet on "information on benefits and financial support". It should be noted that this is a provisional assessment and even if the assessment shows that the adopters have financial needs, they will not automatically qualify for financial support. The child they are matched with also has to have been assessed as being in need of financial support for the adopters to qualify for financial support. This process needs to be explained to the adopters by their assessing social worker.

In addition, a settling-in grant is available to applicants who quality for financial support providing that the child qualifies for financial support as well. The amount is four times the weekly maintenance rate (adopter's social worker to apply for a settling-in grant on memo which is part of Form CSF3957.


8. Prospective Adopter's Report (PAR)

The information gathered during the assessment, the Preparation Groups and the checks and personal references, will form the basis of the Prospective Adopter's Report. The report will also include a summary by the Medical Adviser of the health report obtained on the applicant/s. Prospective adopters should be informed that the PAR will be presented to the Adoption Panel.

The PAR should indicate whether the prospective adopter is interested in Fostering for Adoption.

Reports should address anti-discriminatory practice issues. It should contain a summary of the assessed strengths and weaknesses of the applicants, together with an opinion of the type of placement likely to be provided successfully. Potential risk factors should be highlighted.

Once the assessing social worker has completed the report, it should be submitted to the Team Manager for approval. The Team Manager will check that the report is accurate, up to date and contains evidence-based information before it is presented to the Adoption Panel. If there are any issues of concern raised in the assessment or there are issues which require clarification, the Team Manager should obtain a second opinion on those issues from another experienced practitioner, before approving the report.

When the Prospective Adopter's Report is finalised, a copy should be sent to the applicants. The applicants should be asked to sign and return the report, if agreed, and/or send their comments in writing to the assessing social worker. It should be explained to them that they have up to 5 working days to do this (unless there are exceptional circumstances), (or they can be asked to sign a disclaimer stating they do not wish to take 5 days to comment) and that any written comments they make will be circulated to Adoption Panel members, with the report. A copy of any disclaimer will be kept on the applicant's Adoption Case Record.

The applicants should also be advised of their right to attend the meeting of the Adoption Panel, which considers their application. They should be provided with written information about the Panel process, its membership, who will attend and their respective roles. If the applicants know a particular Panel member, the applicants may request that the Panel member stand down. (Panel members are in any event expected to declare an interest in these circumstances - see Adoption Panel and Agency Decision Maker's Decision Procedure).

Applicants should not be shown any comments made by referees or any other third party information, including the medical report. and police information using their common law powers to prevent crime. Additionally in a joint application, information about one partner should not be shared with the other prospective adopter.

The social worker will then send the Prospective Adopter's Report, the applicants' written comments (if any), a full health report, the report on the interviews with the referees, the report from the local authority for the area where the applicant lives (if they live in a different local authority area) and any other relevant documents, to the Panel Administrator at least 10 working days before the relevant Adoption Panel meeting. See Panel Papers Required by Adoption Panels Considering the Approval of Adopters Procedure.

The date of the Adoption Panel meeting will be communicated to the applicants as soon as possible, together with an invitation to attend the Panel during consideration of the report.

The Panel may request additional information (e.g. additional social work reports)  and the agency should obtain it so far as reasonably practicable.  Unless there is good reason to justify not doing so information obtained in this way should be shared with the prospective adopter.


9. Second Opinion Visits

Where there are any issues of significant concern the Team Manager may arrange for a second person to visit the prospective adopter to discuss these, but must be mindful of the timeframe for Stage 2 (four months). 


10. Brief Prospective Adopter’s Report

A decision not to complete the full assessment is a serious step and should be made by  the Team Manager. Advice may be needed from the medical adviser, legal adviser or both. The decision and the reasons for it should be explained to the prospective adopter and counselling, involving other professionals, as appropriate should be offered. If the prospective adopter does not decide to withdraw their application, a Brief Prospective Adopter’s Report should be written.

A copy must be given to the prospective adopter who must be invited to send their views to the agency within 5 working days, or longer if there are exceptional circumstances. Then the Brief Prospective Adopter’s Report and the views expressed by the prospective adopters should be sent to the Adoption Panel.


11. The Panel Recommendation

The Prospective Adopter's Report should be presented to the Adoption Panel within 6 weeks of its completion.

The assessing social worker will attend the Panel meeting (and his or her manager where appropriate), together with the applicants if they so wish. The decision to attend rests with the applicants and a wish not to attend will not prejudice consideration of their application.

Applicants who decide they wish to attend should be fully prepared as to the procedure prior to their attendance (see Section 8, Prospective Adopter's Report (PAR)).

The Panel will consider the Prospective Adopter's Report together with all the supporting documentation (see Section 8, Prospective Adopter's Report (PAR)) and any additional information presented verbally, and make a recommendation to the Agency Decision Maker regarding the suitability of the applicant to adopt a child. The Panel will have due regard to the stability and permanence of the relationship of any couple whose case is referred.

When the Panel considers it has insufficient information it should request that the agency obtains further information, or in the case of a Brief Report completes a full Prospective Adopter’s Report, and the agency must comply with this request.

Panel may give advice to the agency about the children the prospective adopter may be suitable to adopt, but the agency is not restricted by this advice.

The recommendation will be recorded in writing and, where approval is recommended, the record will include any advice given about the number of children the prospective adopter may be suitable to adopt, their age range, sex, likely needs and background.

Reasons for the recommendations and any advice as set out above will also be recorded in the Panel's minutes.

The adoption worker undertaking the assessment will advise the applicant of the Panel recommendation within 24 hours of the Panel meeting. This will be verbally, by telephone or, where appropriate, a home visit.


12. Agency Decision Maker’s Role End of Stage 2

The Agency Decision Maker will make a decision as to the suitability of the applicant, and express a view on any Panel advice given, based on the reports presented to the Adoption Panel and the minutes detailing the Panel's recommendation and advice. He or she may express a view on any advice given by the adoption/Review panel about the children the prospective adopter may be suitable to adopt. This may be taken into account by the adoption agency and should be recorded on the adopter’s case record.

This is the end of Stage 2. It the decision is delayed the agency must detail the reasons for the extended timescale on the prospective adopter’s case record, along with supporting evidence.

Where the Agency Decision Maker is minded to disagree with the Panel recommendation, he/she must first discuss the case with another senior officer with relevant experience, who must not be a Panel member, before arriving at a final decision. This discussion must be recorded and placed on the child's and the prospective adopter's Adoption Case Record.

The decision must be made within 7 working days of the Adoption Panel meeting and must be recorded, together with reasons.

The Panel Administrator will arrange for the applicants to be sent oral notification of the decision within 2 working days and written notice of the decision, signed by the Agency Decision Maker, within 5 working days of the decision

Where the decision differs from the recommendation of the Adoption Panel, a copy of the Panel recommendation will be sent to the applicant/s with the written notification of the decision.

The agency should provide the adopters with information that explains the role of the Adoption Agency and include the Register’s website address (www.adoptionregister.org.uk).

The Agency Decision Maker must use standard letter (see Appendix: Form A) if the prospective adopters are considered unsuitable to adopt. They may need support or counselling. The case record should not take further action for 40 working days, and then the agency decision maker may make a decision on the suitability of the prospective adopter to adopt a looked after child and must notify the prospective adopter in writing.


13. Referral to Adoption Register

Domestic prospective adopters will be referred to the Adoption Register as soon as possible but no later than 3 months from approval, unless they have identified a particular child with whom they are considering placing with the prospective adopter.

The consent of the prospective adopter must first be obtained and the information will be kept  up to date.

Prospective adopters may choose to refer themselves to the Register, three months after approval, using the Adopter Self-Referral form (AD02).


14. Representations / Independent Review Procedure

If a decision is made to refuse an application, the applicant will be advised that if he or she wishes to challenge the decision, representations should be submitted within 40 working days either directly to the agency or they may request a referral to the Independent Review Mechanism. N.B. Applicants can decide which representation procedure to choose - they cannot choose both. The prospective adopter will also be able to raise concerns about the process with the National Gateway for Adoption.

The Agency Decision maker may discuss the case with the prospective adopters or refer to the adoption panel.

The Panel Administrator must receive notification of the wish to attend or make written representations to the Adoption Panel within 40 working days of the date of the written notice of the decision.

If no written notification or representations are received within this period, the decision to refuse the application can be confirmed.

If a request to attend or make written representations to the Adoption Panel is made within the period, the matter must be referred to the Panel for further consideration. The Panel Administrator will advise the applicant within 7 days of the date of the Panel meeting when they can attend or their written representations will be considered.

In these circumstances, applicants who wish to attend the meeting of the Adoption Panel can arrange for a friend or supporter to accompany them.

After considering the representations, the Panel will make further recommendations either confirming or amending their previous views, which the Agency Decision Maker will consider before a final decision is made.

Written notice of the final decision, together with reasons, must be sent to the applicant within 7 working days of the Panel meeting.

Where the decision is still to refuse the application, a copy of the report to the Panel, the Panel's recommendation and the decision, with reasons, must be retained on the applicant's Adoption Case Record.

If the applicant decides to refer the matter to an Independent Review, the relevant Panel reports, any new information obtained since the Panel meeting, a record of the decision made and reasons, a copy of the written notification of the decision and a copy of the Panel minute, if different, will be sent to the Independent Review within 10 working days of their written request.

The procedure for the Independent Review is carried out by BAAF; the applicant and a representative of the adoption agency will be invited to attend the Independent Review.

After considering the representations, the Independent Review may make a recommendation, which the Agency Decision Maker will consider before a final decision is made.  If the Agency Decision Maker remains minded not to approve the prospective adopter, they should discuss with a senior colleague within the agency before making a final decision.

Written notice of the final decision, together with reasons, must be sent to the applicant within 7 working days of the receipt of the Independent Review recommendation. If the Adoption Panel or Review Panels recommendation was different the prospective adopter must be provided with a copy of their recommendation as well. If a case has been referred to the independent review panel the Secretary of State must be given written notification of the decision.

A copy of the report to the Panel, the Panel's recommendation and the decision to refuse an application must be retained on the applicant's Adoption Case Record.

See Review of Suitability to Adopt Procedure


15. Adopter Recruitment Process Flowchart

Click here to view the Adopter Recruitment Process Flowchart.


Appendix: Form A

Standard letter

I am writing to tell you that having considered your application to become an adoptive parent and the recommendation of the adoption panel, this agency does not propose to approve you as suitable to be an adoptive parent. This is because [insert full and detailed reasons so that the prospective adopter understands fully why they are considered unsuitable to adopt a child. Include a copy of the adoption panel’s recommendation if different - See chapter 1] (this is referred to in this letter as “the determination”).

I know this will be disappointing news for you but before this determination is implemented, you may:

  1. Accept the determination; or
  2. Make written representations to this agency; or
  3. Apply for the determination to be reviewed by an independent review panel.

Option a - Accept the determination

It would be helpful if you could advise me, within 40 working days from the date of this letter, if this is your preferred option. The determination will be confirmed and a formal decision will be sent to you.

Option b - Representations to the agency

If you choose to make representations to this agency, these must be in writing and be received at this office within 40 working days from the date of this letter. On receipt, I may consider your case again or refer it and your written representations to the adoption panel to consider and to make a fresh recommendation to me. If I do refer your case to the adoption panel you will be invited to attend the panel meeting to answer any questions the adoption panel may have. If I reconsider your case I may invite you to meet me to discuss your case. If I do refer your case to the adoption panel, I will take its recommendation into account when I make the final decision on your suitability to adopt.

Option c - Application to an independent review panel for a review

If you wish to apply to the independent review panel to review the determination, your written application and your reasons for the application must be received by the administrator to the independent review panel within 40 working days from the date of this letter. You will be invited to attend the review panel’s meeting. The function of the review panel is to consider your case anew and to make a fresh recommendation to the 81 agency which will be taken into account alongside the original adoption panel’s recommendation when I make the final decision on your suitability to adopt. For information on the independent review mechanism (IRM) please see www.independentreviewmechanism.org.uk

If I have not heard from either you or the independent review panel’s administrator after the period of 40 working days has expired I will write to you confirming my decision on your suitability to adopt a child.

Click here to view the Adopter Recruitment Process Flowchart.

End