Placement for Adoption
Contact After Adoption - Support materials for practitioners working on making positive post-adoption contact plans and supporting birth relatives and adopters through contact planning for their child.
AMENDMENTThis chapter was fully revised in September 2018 and should be re-read in full.
1. Planning for Permanence
|1.1||Every Looked After Child must have a Permanence Plan by the date of his or her second Looked After Review.|
|1.2||When an adoption plan is being considered in relation to a Looked After Child, consideration should be given to inviting a representative of the Adoption Service to the relevant meeting.|
In relation to a Relinquished Child, an early planning meeting should be arranged to which a representative of the Adoption Service must be invited. Where adoption is considered to be the preferred option for a relinquished child, it should begin family finding immediately in order to achieve early placement following the decision.
The Adoption Team to attend all legal planning meetings for all children unborn and under the age of 7 years old (Matching Coordinator).In October 2017, Section 9 of the Children and Social Work Act 2017 amends section 1(4)(f) of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 added into the list of considerations whenever a court or adoption agency is coming to a decision relating to the adoption of a child, and now includes the child's relationship with any person who is a prospective adopter with whom the child is placed, as well as the relationships which the child has with their relatives and with any other persons the court or agency considers to be relevant.
|1.4||Family finding should begin as soon as adoption is under consideration, and before the Agency Decision Maker decides that the child should be placed for adoption or a Placement Order is made.|
With effect from July 2014, there is a duty (under s. 22C of the Children Act 1989 (amended by the Children and Families Act 2014)) imposed upon local authorities that where:
2. Assessing Sibling Relationships
In the case of assessing siblings, an early decision should be taken as to whether it is in the best interests of each child to be placed together or separately, and the impact on each child of that decision.
The term 'sibling' should be interpreted quite widely to include adopted, step and half siblings, foster siblings, cousins and other relatives who may have been brought up with the child whose needs are being considered, and even close friends. The latter may be more important to a child than a sibling whom s/he has never met.
Good practice says that sibling relationships are very important, but can be overlooked. Good practice also shows that at times it will not be in the siblings' best interest to be placed together. The decision should be based on a balanced assessment of the individual needs of each child in the group, and the likely or possible consequences of each option on each child. Factors that may need to be considered will include: the nature of the sibling group (do the siblings know each other/ how are they related); whether the children have formed an attachment; the health needs of each child; and each child's view (noting that a child's views and perceptions will change over time).The Permanency Plan needs information to determine whether children should be placed together and whether they should have direct or indirect contact.
The Sibling Relationship Checklist CSF4218 (Under Category of Assessment/ Matching/Selection) is a basic tool for studying the way siblings behave toward each other and through this, coming to a better understanding of their relationship. It is not a primary means of deciding whether siblings should be placed together, and though it should form one part of the evidence gathered for such a decision, it should not be used as the only basis for that decision.
It can appropriately be used on behalf of children in a wider variety of family or residential settings where sibling's relationships are causing concern or need to be better understood as part of future planning. It could, for instance, be part of a study of relationships on contact visits.
The aim is to avoid the ever present risk of making unwarranted assumptions or drawing false conclusions from partial or biased evidence. This is why the checklist focuses on actual, observed behaviour and it is essential to back up each statement with an example.
It can be helpful to compare relationships over time and in different settings, so notes about changes and whether a particular behaviour is only recent or of very long standing, may be illuminating. But the list should focus on the present.
Psychologists such as Judy Dunn have shown that behaviour patterns between siblings tend to be rather stable. However, the placement changes which occur when children are looked after by local authorities may provide opportunities to modify relationships quite profoundly. They can also put relationships under extra strain.
This checklist must be completed by people with first-hand knowledge of the children. Hearsay evidence will not do.
If the siblings are separated, they would have to be brought together for some of the assessment and some additional questions would be useful, e.g. do they try to keep in touch?
It may be appropriate for carers (past and present) to complete the checklist on their own or just with a social worker. However, very good results can be obtained by working on the lists in a group containing both past and present carers (including parents), the social worker(s), and any other people who are closely involved with the children as a sibling group. The presence of those who have observed the children at different times and in different settings helps to ensure a balanced picture and gives an opportunity to challenge allegations and assumptions. When it comes to the analysis, a group is really essential.
Relationships are always two-way. What may be mainly positive for one sibling may be very mixed or even mainly negative for the other. This means that it is important to look at each piece of behaviour from each child's point of view and then go on to consider more general aspects of their interactions. All three parts of the list should be completed for each sibling pair. If there are several children in the family, the main features of each pair's relationship can be brought together on a diagram using coloured pencils to denote positive, negative, etc.
It is better to leave a question unanswered than to complete it on inadequate evidence. However, too many blank answers will indicate the need for further observations.
If behaviour is found to vary greatly, it may be necessary to give several examples with details of circumstances. A pattern may then emerge.
Analysing and Interpreting the Checklist
The first step is to examine the recorded behaviours identifying those which appear to be positive and which are negative but remembering that both are present in all sibling relationships. The balance in this relationship will probably become evident, but it may be somewhat different or more complex than carers had previously realised.
Some types of behaviour have been found to have more significance than others in differentiating between a rich or poor relationship. For example, sharing in boisterous play, resolving conflict through age-appropriate reasoning and reciprocal attempts to alleviate distress, all seem to have special importance. The latter may be particularly relevant for siblings who have shared the experience of separation from adult carers.
When attempting to interpret the meaning of behaviour which has been observed and recorded and to understand this relationship, it is important to bear in mind the whole context in which this relationship has developed. Aspects to be considered include:
The children's position in the family, a simple family tree may help here:
The deeper and more accurate understanding which should emerge from the analysis will provide a more secure basis for making decisions about the children's future, for devising programmes to meet their needs and for effective support for carers in managing and modifying behaviour.Social workers should refer to the Family Finding Team for a more in depth, joint assessment, to be completed in order to build upon the checklist.
3. Obtaining Agency Approval to Adoption Plan
From 1 September 2012, not all cases must be referred to the Adoption Panel. Cases where the criteria apply for the local authority to apply for a Placement Order, i.e. the child is the subject of a Care Order or the Threshold Criteria for a Care Order are satisfied or where there is no parent or guardian, will not be referred to the Adoption Panel for a recommendation, but will be referred directly to the Agency Decision Maker (Adoption) for a decision. All other cases (i.e. where the parents have given consent and there is no application for a Placement Order) will continue to be referred to the Adoption Panel for a recommendation, which the Agency Decision Maker (Adoption) will take into account when making a decision.
As soon as adoption is the Permanence Plan for the child, the child's social worker must:
|3.2||The child's social worker opens an Adoption Case Record for the child once adoption has been identified as the permanence plan for the child at his or her Looked After Review or, where a child has been relinquished for adoption, as soon as the parent's request for adoption has been made. Where the plan relates to a group of siblings, there must be a separate Adoption Case Record for each child.|
|3.3||If not already obtained, the child's social worker should obtain 3 certified copies of the child's full birth certificate. These will be required for future Court applications and for the prospective adopters.|
The child's social worker should give both birth parents written information on adoption (The CoramBAAF leaflet "If Your Child is Being Adopted" and/or Hertfordshire leaflet "information for Parents of a Child or Children Who are to be Adopted" and ask them to sign confirmation of receipt, a copy of which should be kept on the child's Adoption Case Record and a further copy should be handed to the parents.If the birth parents are indicating consent, ensure they sign the CSF3964 Agreement (Section 20) to Placement as soon as possible after this meeting and place a copy on file. For fathers please refer to the section Fathers without Parental Responsibility if appropriate (See Parental Responsibility and Consent Procedure. If either or both of the birth parents refuse to accept or do not receive the information, this should be recorded, with reasons, on the child's case record and Adoption Case Record. Where the parents' address is known, the child's social worker should personally deliver or arrange for delivery by hand of a copy of the information to the address and record this on the Adoption Case Record. See also Section 4, Counselling and Support for Parents.
|3.5||If not already obtained, the child's social worker must seek the birth parents' consent to the disclosure of information on their medical history to facilitate the Adoption Medical for the child - for detailed procedures, see Section 5, Child's Adoption Medical.|
|3.6||The child's social worker must discuss with the parents their views on the adoption plan, and arrange the necessary counselling and support for both of the birth parents and any other significant relatives - see Section 4, Counselling and Support for Parents. If either or both of the parents decline or refuse counselling and/or support, then this should be recorded, including the reasons, in the child's electronic record and Adoption Case Record.|
|3.7||Where one or both of the birth parents cannot be found, the child's social worker must make extensive enquiries as to their whereabouts. The social worker should write to the parent's last known address and contact the Department for Works and Pensions and other agencies (including the Council Tax Register, the Passport Office and the housing authority) as appropriate. Consideration should also be given to the need to place advertisements in the local and national press and legal advice should be sought as to any additional steps that should be taken.|
|3.8||The child's social worker must contact the child's health visitor or school health for current information in relation to the child's health and development.|
|3.9||The child's social worker must contact the child's school or the relevant local education service for current information in relation to the child's educational needs.|
|3.10||The child's social worker must ask the child's carer to complete a report on the child. (This will be required for the Child's Permanence Report - see paragraph 2.13).|
The child's social worker must ensure that the adoption plan addresses the issue of post-placement and post-adoption contact. This will include a possible meeting between the parents and the adopters, and whether there may be ongoing direct contact or indirect contact via a letterbox system - see Section 7, Post-placement Contact.If the child has siblings, the plan must analyse the relationship between each child in the sibling group (using the Sibling Relationship Checklist) and, if the decision is to place siblings separately, address the issue of post-placement and post-adoption contact between them.
|3.12||The child's social worker must also carry out an assessment of the likely needs for adoption support services in relation to the child (including the likely need for financial support), the birth parents and any other person with a significant relationship to the child. For the detailed procedures, see Adoption Support Procedure.|
Using all the information obtained in relation to the above, the child's social worker must prepare the Child's Permanence Report. The Child's Permanence Report must be written by the social worker who knows the child best, who must also be a qualified social worker with suitable experience (see Adoption Panel and Agency Decision Maker's Decision Procedure).
The following areas must be included or addressed in the Report:
4. Preparation of Child for Adoption
The child's social worker will ensure that Life Story Work (see also Direct Work and Life Story Work with Children and Young People, Life Story Books and Later Life letters) with the child continues with the aim as far as possible that:
As part of the above, the child will be given a Children's Guide to Adoption as soon as adoption is part of the child's Care Plan. Any information given to the child should be confirmed in writing and any discussions with the child should be fully recorded. The child's preferred method of communication should be known and there should be no assumption that a child is unable to communicate. An interpreter should be arranged where necessary to ensure that there is effective communication with the child.
The social worker should specifically ensure that the child's wishes in relation to adoption, religious and cultural upbringing and contact with his or her birth family are ascertained.Where a child's wishes are not acted upon, for example a child's wish to be placed with his or her siblings, this should be explained to the child, with reasons, and should be fully recorded.
|4.2||The foster carers' supervising social worker will support the foster carers in playing their part in the implementation of the plan, including careful recording by the foster carers of any changes in the child's behaviour.|
Once an adoptive placement has been identified and approved, the child's social worker is responsible for ensuring the child is properly prepared for the first meeting with the prospective adoptive family and is appropriately counselled during the period of introductions - see Section 10, Planning the Placement.As part of the preparation of the child for the adoptive placement, information will be provided to ensure that s/he has a proper understanding about the accommodation and others living at the prospective adoptive home, the contact arrangements with the birth family and how to contact his or her social worker.
|4.4||The child's social worker will encourage the parents to write a 'Later Life' letter for the child, and to provide information to enable the social worker to write a 'Later Life' letter for the child (to give to the adopters) within 10 working days of adoption ceremony, i.e. the ceremony to celebrate the making of the adoption order.|
Presentation to the Adoption Panel or Agency Decision Maker
See paragraph 3.1 for circumstances when the case will be referred to the Adoption Panel, and when the case will be referred directly to the Agency Decision Maker. Where cases are referred directly to the Agency Decision Maker, paragraph 4.5 does not apply and the procedure is set out in 4.6 below.
This must take place within 6 weeks of the completion of the Child's Permanence Report.
To enable the Adoption Panel to consider whether the child is suitable to be placed for adoption, the child's social worker must present the following reports:
The child's social worker will send the relevant reports to the Panel Administrator at least 10 working days before the relevant date of the Adoption Panel.
The child's social worker together with his or her manager if appropriate will attend the Panel meeting during consideration of the matter. Where a Children's Guardian has been appointed, consideration should be given to inviting the Children's Guardian to the Panel during consideration of this item; however, there is no requirement upon the Panel to allow the children's guardian to attend the Panel and make oral submissions. The report of the Children's Guardian must not be disclosed without the leave of the court.
(N.B. Where the social worker is seeking a recommendation in relation to a proposed placement of the child with particular prospective adopters at the same time, the procedure set out in Section 9, Approval of Matching of Adoptive Parents must also be followed).
The Panel will consider the written reports and any additional information presented verbally. The Panel will make a recommendation to the Agency Decision Maker (Adoption). Where the Panel recommends that the child should be placed for adoption, it must consider and may give advice as to future contact arrangements for the child and whether an application for a Placement Order should be made.
The recommendation and advice will be recorded in writing, together with reasons, in the Panel's minutes. A copy of the relevant minute must be held on the child's Adoption Case Record.
For cases which are presented to the Adoption Panel, the final minutes must be produced promptly and agreed by the Panel members and then sent to the Agency Decision Maker, together with the reports considered by the Panel, to allow the decision to be made within seven working days of receipt of the panel's recommendation and final set of panel minutes.
The Agency Decision Maker must record his or her decision in writing, together with reasons.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. This discussion must be recorded and placed on the child's Adoption Case Record.
Referral directly to Agency Decision Maker
See paragraph 3.1 for circumstances when the case will be referred to the Adoption Panel, and when the case will be referred directly to the Agency Decision Maker.
Where cases are to be referred directly to the Agency Decision Maker for a decision, a time should be booked with the Agency Decision Maker for the decision to be made and this should be a maximum of 2 months from the date when the adoption plan was ratified at the child's Looked After Review. In order for the decision to be made within this timescale, the Agency Decision Maker should be sent the same reports and information as would be submitted to the Adoption Panel, as set out in paragraph 4.5 Presentation to the Adoption Panel.
The child's social worker will send the relevant reports to the Agency Adviser at least 10 working days before the relevant date booked with the Agency Decision Maker.
The Agency Adviser will be responsible for checking the quality of the reports before they are submitted to the Agency Decision Maker.
In making the decision the Agency Decision Maker may discuss the case with the Agency Adviser, Medical Adviser and legal adviser. However, there is no provision for adjourning the decision to allow time for taking advice. NB The Agency Decision Maker (Adoption) is expressly prohibited from referring a case to the Adoption Panel for advice.The principles of the decision-making should be as set out in Adoption Panel Procedure, Agency Decision Maker.
After the Decision
The parents will be informed orally of the agency's decision within two working days and written confirmation should be sent to them within five working days. These arrangements will be made by the Agency Decision Maker in conjunction with the child's social worker.
The letter setting out the agency decision will be sent by recorded delivery, except where delivery by hand has been agreed as appropriate, in which case the letter will be forwarded to the social worker for delivery by hand.
The child's social worker will also ensure that the child is informed of the decision in a timely and age-appropriate way.In cases where the case has been presented to the Adoption Panel and the decision is different from the Panel's recommendation, a copy of the Panel minute should also be sent to the parents.
|4.8||Where the Designated Manager (Placement Orders) has made a decision to seek a Placement Order in relation to the child, the child's social worker should consult Legal Services in order to prepare the Court application. The child's social worker should inform the child's Independent Reviewing Officer of the Court timetable including when the placement application is filed. NB Local authorities cannot make applications for Placement Orders until it has been decided by the Agency Decision Maker that the child is suitable to be placed for adoption.|
|4.9||Where there is parental consent to the child's adoptive placement and/or advance parental consent to the child's adoption, and the child is more than 6 weeks old, the child's social worker must arrange for a written request to be sent to CAFCASS to appoint an officer to witness the consent. Where there is parental consent to the child's placement and the child is less than 6 weeks old, the social worker should ask the parents to sign a written agreement in the prescribed form to facilitate an early placement.|
The social worker should send to the CAFCASS office closest to the parents' address, a certified copy of the child's birth certificate, the name and address of the parent, a chronology of the actions and decisions made by the local authority and confirmation that the parents have received counselling and written information on the legal implications of giving consent to the placement/adoption.Where the child lives in Wales, the request should be forwarded to the Welsh National Assembly.
|4.11||On receipt of the parent's consent witnessed by the CAFCASS officer, the original must be placed on the child's Adoption Case Record (as it will be required for the future adoption application).|
5. Counselling and Support for Parents
|5.1||Both parents must be offered counselling and support irrespective of whether they have Parental Responsibility unless there are exceptional circumstances, in which case legal advice should be taken and the reasons for not arranging counselling recorded.|
|5.2||It may also be appropriate for members of the extended family to receive counselling or support, where they have played a significant role in the child's life.|
|5.3||The child's social worker must explain to both parents (including a parent without Parental Responsibility) the reasons for the adoption plan and the key stages of the adoption process, including the likely time-scales and any contact arrangements; in addition the social worker should provide them with written information on the adoption process covering the areas set out in paragraph 5.8 a) to g), l) and m) below and this should be recorded.|
If either or both of the birth parents refuse to accept or do not receive the written information, this should be recorded, including the reasons, on the child's case file and Adoption Case Record.Where the parents' address is known, the child's social worker should personally deliver or arrange for delivery by hand of a copy of the information to the address and record this on the Adoption Case Record.
|5.5||The child's social worker must also seek to ascertain the parent's views on the matters set out in paragraph 5.8, h) and k) below and offer to arrange independent support for both birth parents (including unmarried fathers). The purpose of the support is to ensure that the alternatives to adoption have been explored and the implications of adoption fully discussed. It also offers the parents the opportunity to express their views in relation to the plans for the child, and to be involved in planning for the child's future wherever possible. Where the offer of support is accepted, the social worker should make the necessary arrangements for a referral for independent support to be made.|
|5.6||The support may need to be provided by a specialist worker, for example where the parent has poor mental health or learning disabilities. If so, the social worker should ensure that an appropriate resource is identified.|
|5.7||The specific needs of parents arising from their ethnicity must always be taken into account. An interpreter must be arranged where English is not their preferred language.|
The counselling and support will cover the following areas:
|5.9||The parents should be encouraged to seek legal advice particularly where they are opposed to the adoption plan. Where there is an unmarried father without Parental Responsibility, the social worker should also ascertain if he intends to apply for a Parental Responsibility Order and a Child Arrangements Order.|
|5.10||The parents and their solicitors, if appropriate, must be sent copies of any written consents and/or recording of their views.|
|5.11||Where the parents refuse or decline to accept counselling and/or support, the child's social worker must record the attempts made to persuade the parents and the reasons for their refusal in the child's file and Adoption Case Record.|
|5.12||Where the parents are seeking to have an expected child adopted, the counselling must start before the baby's birth. In addition, the child's social worker must cover practical tasks such as the arrangements for the birth, the parents' own contact with the child after the birth, the intended length of the mother's hospital stay and their wishes regarding the timing of the placement. After the child's birth, the counselling and support must continue. The social worker should then confirm with the parents that they still wish to pursue adoption for the child.|
|5.13||The social worker should arrange for photographs to be taken of the child and, if they agree, the parents and other significant people and places, for inclusion in the child's Life Story Book.|
6. Child's Adoption Medical
|6.1||As soon as the adoption plan becomes part of the child's Care Plan, the child's social worker should write to the Medical Adviser regarding an adoption medical for the child. The Medical Adviser should be asked for advice on whether a full developmental medical is required and if so, who should conduct the medical and whether any tests or opinions are required. (In some cases, the Medical Adviser may consider that there is already sufficient up-to-date health information on the child and a further medical examination is not required).|
|6.2||The child's social worker should send the Forms B and M (requesting an obstetric report on the mother and neo-natal report on the child) to the Head Midwife via the hospital social work team (if one exists at the hospital where the child was born) or the Hospital Administrator with a request that the Form be completed and returned to the social worker. Where the child was born at home, the Form should be sent to the mother's GP.|
The child's social worker should write to the Medical Adviser requesting a medical for the child and at the same time inform the Medical Adviser when Forms B and M were requested.The procedure needs to be started without delay so that the adoption medical can be arranged; the adoption medical must take place before the child's plan for adoption is considered by the Adoption Panel/Agency Decision Maker, (unless the Medical Adviser has advised it unnecessary - see paragraph 6.1). The Medical Adviser must be in a position to advise the Panel/Agency Decision Maker of the child's health needs.
|6.4||The child's social worker must seek the cooperation of both birth parents to provide written consent to the disclosure of medical information if this has not already been provided, including obtaining their consent to the Medical Adviser approaching their GP if necessary, as well as obtaining their written consent to the obstetric report on the mother and neo-natal report on the child.|
|6.5||The importance of the disclosure of medical information must be explained to the parents but where the parents refuse to sign consent forms, the social worker must complete as much as possible on the relevant forms, record the attempts made to engage the parents and the reasons for refusal in the child's file and Adoption Case Record, and inform the Medical Adviser of the position.|
|6.6||The child's social worker should send the relevant age-appropriate CoramBAAF Form for completion after the medical.|
|6.7||The foster carer should attend the medical with the child and, if appropriate, the child's social worker should also attend.|
|6.8||The information on the child's medical report must be kept up to date if a placement is not immediately forthcoming. This must be done twice yearly for a child aged below 2 and annually for a child of 2 and above. The Medical Adviser may, however, make specific recommendations in relation to particular children.|
7. Post-placement Contact
|7.1||The child's social worker must undertake a written assessment as to the best interests of the child to support any contact proposals as part of an adoption plan, or reasons why no contact is recommended. This assessment will take account of the views of the child, the parents, the foster carers and any other significant family members, as well as evidence of attachment and the quality of relationships, based on observations of contact and the child's behaviour before, during and after contact.|
|7.2||Where there is a sibling group, each child must be assessed separately and together as a group.|
|7.3||The assessment should determine whether post-placement and post-adoption contact between the child and the parents and/or siblings would be in the child's best interests, and if so, what form it should take. The nature and frequency of contact will be influenced by the need to maintain attachments and/or long-term identity issues.|
Post-placement and post-adoption contact may take the following forms:
|7.5||Any proposed post-placement and post-adoption contact should be in line with any Court Orders.|
|7.6||Where post-placement and post-adoption contact is considered to be in the child's interests, it should be part of the information shared with prospective adoptive parents during the matching process - see Section 8, Identification of Adoptive Parents (including Inter Agency Placements) and also part of the planning of the placement - see Section 10, Planning the Placement.|
When making an Adoption Order, or at any time afterwards, the court may (upon application or on its own initiative) make an order for contact with, or an order prohibiting contact with, the person(s) named in the order. Such orders have effect until the child's 18th birthday, unless revoked sooner.
An order for contact requires the adopter to allow the child to visit, stay with or otherwise have contact with, the person named in the order.
The following people may be named in an order:
- The child;
- The Agency;
- Any person who (but for the child's adoption) would be related to the child by blood (including half-blood), marriage or civil partnership;
- Any former guardian of the child;
- Any person who had Parental Responsibility for the child immediately before the making of the Adoption Order;
- Any person with whom the child has lived for a period of at least one year (this period need not be continuous, but must be within the last 5 years);
- Any person who had a previous order for contact under Children Act 1989, which order ceased to have effect upon the agency being authorised to place the child for adoption;
- Any person who had a Child Arrangements Order (previously Residence Order) immediately before the agency was authorised to place the child for adoption;
- Any person who had care of the child under the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court immediately before the agency was authorised to place the child for adoption.
The adopters or the child may apply without the leave of the court, whilst any other person, including the child's birth parents and other birth relatives, e.g. grandparents or siblings, would need the court's leave to apply.
In deciding whether to grant leave to apply, the court must consider:
- Any risk there might be of the proposed application disrupting the child's life to such an extent that s/he would be harmed by it (within the meaning of the 1989 Act);
- The applicant's connection with the child; and
- Any representations made to the court by the child and/or the adopter/prospective adopter.
Orders may contain directions about how they are to take effect, or may be made subject to such conditions as the court thinks appropriate.
The court will issue a timetable and directions with the aim of resolving the application without delay.
Applications prohibiting contact are unlikely to be necessary in the majority of cases and are only likely to be appropriate to stop unwanted, unsolicited and potentially harmful contact with the child, or to prevent such contact happening.
The circumstances in which a birth parent, relative or other person are most likely to seek the court's leave to apply for an order for contact after adoption are where an agreement for some form of continuing contact had been made, but was not adhered to.Application can be made to the court to vary or revoke such orders, by the child, adopter or person named in the order.
8. Identification of Adoptive Parents (including Inter Agency Placements)
See also Fostering for Adoption Procedure.
The adoption agency has a duty to identify prospective adopters as soon as reasonably practicable. Family finding should begin as soon as adoption is under consideration, and before the Agency Decision Maker decides that the child should be placed for adoption or a Placement Order is made.
In determining whether a prospective adopter may be suitable to adopt the child, an assessment must be made of the ability of the prospective adopter to meet the needs of the child throughout childhood.
Consideration must be given as to whether there are suitable carers available under the Fostering for Adoption Procedure.
The overall time-scale for matching a child with a prospective adoptive family is:
- The match is to be identified, recommended by the Adoption Panel and approved within 4 months of the agency's formal approval that the child is suitable to be placed for adoption, except in the following cases;
- Where a parent requests adoption for a child of less than six months of age, the match is to be identified, recommended by the Adoption Panel and approved within 3 months of the agency's formal approval that the child is suitable to be placed for adoption.
Following the identification of the family finder (see paragraph 3.1), the timing of the start of the family finding will depend on the legal position and be agreed between the child's social worker and the family finder.The Tracking Meeting is held weekly and Chaired by the Service Manager (Fostering and Adoption) 8 weeks from the Placement Order).
The child's social worker and the family finder will address the following issues:
The family finder will consider whether there are any potentially suitable in-house approved families (including families going through the assessment process) by sharing the child's profile with the Adoption Service and reading copies of any available Prospective Adopter's Reports.Where foster carers express an interest in adopting a child placed with them, see paragraph 8.12.
|8.4||Where there are potentially suitable in-house approved families indicating an interest, the family's adoption link worker will visit to clarify whether they wish to be considered. In complex cases, the child's social worker will accompany the link worker to enable specific issues to be discussed.|
|8.5||Where suitable in-house approved adoptive families are available, the family finder will arrange a Matching Meeting involving the child's social worker, the social worker's manager and the adoption link workers for the potential families. The Adoption Service Manager or his/her nominee will chair the meeting.|
The purpose of the Matching Meeting is to consider the available in-house approved potential families, and decide which appears the best able to meet the child's needs. The meeting should also consider:
|8.7||The relevant adoption link workers for the family/families concerned will inform the selected family and the unsuccessful families of the decision, together with reasons, on the same day as the meeting. They will also offer follow up discussions as required.|
Ethnicity must not be placed above everything else when identifying potential adopters for children.
It is unacceptable for a child to be denied adoptive parents solely on the grounds that the child and prospective adopter do not share the same racial or cultural background.
If a prospective adopter can meet most of the child's needs, but, for example they do not share the child's racial or cultural background, the core issue is what qualities, experiences and attributes the prospective adopter can draw on and their level of understanding of the discrimination and racism the child may be confronted with when growing up, at both an individual and institutional level. A prospective adopter can be matched with a child with whom they do not share the same ethnicity, if they can respect, reflect or actively develop a child's racial identity from the point they are matched and as they develop throughout their childhood. The prospective adopter needs to demonstrate that they fully understand that having a child from a different ethnic group will present a number of challenges, not least that there may be visible differences that can affect a child's self-esteem and increase their possible feelings of difference. For example, the child may have to deal with questions from their peers about why they are 'different' to their family.
With effect from July 2014, by virtue of the Children and Families Act 2014, adoption agencies no longer have to give due consideration to a child's religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background when matching a child and prospective adopters.
When a child has developed a sense of his or her culture or religion, and where he or she has already begun to speak a language other than English, it is important to find prospective adopters who, while not necessarily sharing any of these, are willing and able to help the child develop these important elements of their future identity.Where a child is very young, particularly when still in infancy, it is important not to make assumptions about religion, culture or language and these should not be imposed on a very young child. A sense of one's culture is developed over time and it should not be assumed that an infant possesses a cultural, linguistic or religious background. These issues can be explored with the child as he or she grows up and a sensitive prospective adopter will encourage the child, if he or she wishes to do so, to probe these aspects of their birth parents' background. All prospective adopters should help children placed with them to understand and appreciate their background and, particularly in the case of older children, their religion, linguistic or cultural background, for example, celebrating cultural or religious festivals. Prospective adopters should be able to access support, education and training to strengthen their skills together with their knowledge and understanding of the child's birth heritage, to help the child develop a healthy racial and adoptive identity.
|8.9||The family finder will provide the selected prospective adopters with full information on the child, including the Child's Permanence Report, the child's profile, a full description of the birth family including any siblings and the reasons for any decision to place the child separately, the child's medical history (including the birth details), the carer's report on the child, the current school reports and the child's PEP. The items provided should be clearly recorded and the prospective adopters should be asked to sign confirmation of receipt of this information. Relevant reports from any care proceedings should be disclosed to the prospective adopters, if the court has given permission for disclosure. Permission for disclosure should be obtained at the end of the care proceedings. If permission for disclosure was not requested, an application should be made on a Form C1.|
|8.10||The family finder should also arrange to meet the prospective adopters, with the child's social worker (and carer if appropriate), to give any further information to them and ensure they have a clear picture of the child and understand fully the implications of the information they have received. In appropriate cases, the prospective adopters should have the opportunity to meet other specialists involved with the child, for example the Medical Adviser.|
|8.11||If there are no suitable in-house prospective or approved adoptive carers who can meet the child's identified essential needs, the adoption worker must explore inter-agency options.|
Where foster carers express an interest in adopting a child they are looking after, and there is an adoption plan for the child, the family finder will talk to them about the implications of adoption and will convene a Matching Meeting involving the child's social worker, his or her line manager and the foster carers' supervising social worker (with his or her line manager where appropriate). The chair of the meeting will be the Adoption Service Manager or his/her nominee. If the outcome of the meeting is that the foster carers appear to be able to meet the child's essential needs, the case will be allocated for an assessment of the foster carers as adopters to proceed (see Assessment and Approvals of Prospective Adopters Procedure).
If they are approved as adopters, the requirements set out in Section 9, Approval of Matching of Adoptive Parents as to the approval of the matching and in Section 12, The Placement as to the provision of information and notification of the placement must be followed.
If the outcome of the meeting is that the foster carers are not able to meet the child's essential needs, the recruitment of adopters as set out in the preceding and following paragraphs of this chapter will apply. The foster carers' supervising worker will provide support and counselling to the foster carers as appropriate.
If the foster carers decide to proceed with an application to adopt the child without the agreement of the agency, the procedure set out in Non-Agency Adoptions will apply.
Inter Agency Placements
The Adoption Service Manager will ensure that consideration is given to all options for placement which will include referrals to the Regional Consortium, Adoption Match and other inter agency placements (for example through publicity in the specialist or wider press) according to the identified needs of the child. It should be borne in mind that the most suitable family may be one that has been approved by another agency.Where it is considered that a placement of the child with overseas adopters would be appropriate, see Section 14, Adoptive Placements Abroad.
Where recruitment of adopters from another agency has been authorised, the family finder will undertake the following:
|8.15||Other members of the Adoption Service as well as the child's social worker should be made aware of the dates of the publicity and a response to callers should be agreed.|
The procedure outlined in paragraphs 8.4 to 8.8 above will then be followed and the child's social worker and family finder will visit potential families prior to a Matching Meeting being held.
The Selection and Matching Process
Once a suitable match has been identified, (whether with in-house approved adopters, inter agency or a foster carer approved as an adopter), the child's social worker, prospective adopters' link worker and the family finder should prepare an Adoption Placement Report and a proposed Adoption Support Plan giving details of the family recommended, evaluating how this family may meet the child's needs and setting out the proposed adoption support services to be offered to the child, adoptive family and birth family. This will include including the support to be provided to the prospective adopters to promote the child's educational achievements and participation in leisure activities; to help the child develop positive relationships; and to manage any challenging behaviour which the child may display, The support plan will also include arrangements for contact including how to deal with unauthorised or unmediated contact through online social networking sites. For further information, please see Adoption Support Procedure.
The Adoption Placement Report must be written by a qualified social worker with suitable experience (see Adoption Panel Procedure) and must include the prospective adopter's views on the proposed placement, contact arrangements (including meeting with the birth parents), adoption support and any proposed restrictions on their exercise of Parental Responsibility after the placement.
|8.17||The child's social worker, family finder, the prospective adopters' link worker and their respective managers should sign both documents.|
|8.18||The family finder should also contact the Panel Administrator to arrange a date for the Adoption Panel to consider the proposed placement.|
|8.19||The child's social worker will keep the parents and child informed of progress (unless the parent has stated that he or she do not wish to be kept informed).|
The family finder should provide a copy of the Adoption Placement Report to the prospective adopters and give 10 working days to them to submit any written comments on its contents, or ask them to sign a disclaimer if they do not require the full 10 working days. A copy of the signed disclaimer should be held on the child's Adoption Case Record.
A meeting of the child's foster parents and the prospective adopters should be arranged (preferably at a neutral venue) before the Matching panel. The child's social worker, the Adopter(s)'s social worker and possibly the foster carer's supervising social worker should attend.
When the adopter(s) are clear they wish to proceed they should:
9. Approval of Matching of Adoptive Parents
The overall time-scale for matching a child with a prospective adoptive family is:
- The match is to be recommended by the Adoption Panel within 4 months of the agency's formal approval that the child should be placed for adoption, except in the following cases;
- Where a parent requests adoption for a child of less than six months of age, the match is to be recommended by the Adoption Panel within 3 months of the agency's formal approval that the child should be placed for adoption.
Where these timescales are not met, the Adoption Panel should record the reasons.
Presentation to the Adoption Panel
The family finder must present the following reports to the Adoption Panel (details in Matching paperwork):
|9.2||The family finder will send the relevant reports to the Panel Administrator at least 10 working days before the date of the Adoption Panel.|
|9.3||The Panel Administrator will arrange for the Agency Decision Maker or the Panel minutes in relation to the recommendations that the child should be placed for adoption and, where in-house approved, that the prospective adopters are suitable to be adopters, to be circulated to Panel members, with the reports. Where there is a proposed inter-agency placement, the family finder will obtain the relevant Panel minutes for circulation.|
|9.4||The child's social worker, the family finder and the prospective adopters' link worker will attend the Adoption Panel during consideration of the matter. Where a Children's Guardian has been appointed, consideration should be given to inviting the Children's Guardian to the Panel during consideration of this item.|
|9.5||The Adoption Panel's recommendation as to whether the child should be placed for adoption with the particular prospective adopters will be recorded in writing, together with reasons, in the Panel's minutes. The Panel must also consider and may give advice in relation to the proposed adoption support, the proposed arrangements for contact and any proposed restrictions on the exercise of Parental Responsibility by the prospective adopters and/or the birth parents. A copy of the relevant minute must be placed on the child's and the prospective adopters' Adoption Case Records.|
|9.6||The prospective adopters' link worker will convey the Panel's recommendation orally to the prospective adopters within 24 hours.|
After the Panel has considered the reports and made a written recommendation, the minute and reports considered by the Panel will be sent to the Agency Decision Maker who will make a decision based on this information within 7 working days of the Panel meeting. In urgent cases, for example where the Court timetable requires it, this timescale should be reduced to 5 working days. The decision will be recorded in writing.
If the Panel has given advice in relation to adoption support, proposed contact and/or the exercise of Parental Responsibility by the prospective adopters and/or the birth parents, the Agency Decision Maker may express a view on such advice.
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. This discussion must be recorded and placed on the child's and the prospective adopter's Adoption Case Record.
|9.8||The child's social worker will convey the decision orally to the parents within 2 working days. The child should be informed of the decision both verbally (within 48 hours) and in writing and be helped to understand what happens next.|
|9.9||The prospective adopters' link worker will convey the decision orally to the prospective adopters within 2 working days.|
|9.10||The Panel Administrator will prepare written notification of the decision to be signed by the Agency Decision Maker and once signed, sent to the child's social worker for sending by recorded or hand delivery to the parents within 5 working days.|
|9.11||The Panel Administrator will send the written notification, signed by the Agency Decision Maker, to the prospective adopters' link worker for sending to the adopters within 5 working days. Copies of this letter will also be sent to the family finder and the child's social worker.|
10. Planning the Placement
|10.1||Once the matching has been approved and the legal position allows it, the family finder will convene a Placement Planning Meeting to draw up an Adoption Placement Plan CSF3957, confirming the details of the introductions, placement and post-placement work. The Adoption Service Manager or Team Manager will chair the meeting.|
|10.2||For inter agency placements, a separate meeting will also be required, involving the Adoption Service Manager or his/her nominee, to complete the CoramBAAF Form IA (Interagency Placement Form) which details the contract between the agencies and the adoptive family in relation to the placement.|
The purpose of the first Placement Planning Meeting is to draw up a proposed Adoption Placement Plan. The Adoption Placement Plan should include:
It will also set out the steps required leading up to the child's placement with the prospective adopters, including the first meeting between the child and the prospective adoptive family, the programme of and detailed arrangements for their introductions (dates, times, venues, transport and accommodation), the reimbursement of any expenses of the introductions, any other financial assistance to enable the placement to occur and, where appropriate, a meeting between the parents and the prospective adopters.
As part of the preparation of the child for the adoptive placement, information will be provided to ensure that s/he has a proper understanding about the accommodation and others living at the prospective adoptive home, the contact arrangements with the birth family and how to contact his or her social worker.Introductions are an intense period for the child, the prospective adopters and the foster carers. Occasionally stresses in the relationship between the foster carers and prospective adopters develop. Professionals and the managers of the three social work teams must have an open discourse, and if necessary a meeting to consider any emerging issues and resolving them.
|10.4||The Adoption Placement Plan will also address when the prospective adopters will be supplied with all relevant written information about the child and who will provide it (for a full list of information to be supplied - see Section 12, The Placement).|
|10.5||The child's social worker must ascertain the child's views, where appropriate, and report these to the meetings.|
|10.6||Those attending Placement Planning Meetings will be the child's social worker, his/her manager as appropriate, the foster carers, the foster carers' supervising social worker, the family finder (minute taker), representatives of the health trust (where appropriate), the prospective adopters and their link worker, and any other worker engaged in direct work with the child.|
|10.7||The child's first meeting with the prospective adopters should be on the child's familiar territory (unless the child is older and requests otherwise) and a social worker should be present. This could be in the form of play dates / activity days. The pattern of introductory visits thereafter will depend on the child's age, needs and stage of development but consideration will be given to a gradual introductory programme involving visits increasing in length, progressing to an overnight stay, a weekend stay (where appropriate) and in exceptional circumstances with an older child, a longer period prior to the final move. The adopters should confirm with their social worker that they wish to proceed after the first meeting, and if the child is old enough, his or her social worker should seek their wishes and feelings about being ready to proceed with introductions. The Adopter(s)'s social worker should activate any financial support by means of Memo CSF3984 (located in the Finance Section of the Adoption Forms page).|
The family finder will be responsible for coordinating Placement Planning Meetings. However, all workers involved must be clear about their respective roles and responsibilities in the implementation of the plan, and what should happen in the event of difficulties. Changes to the Adoption Placement Plan can only be made with the agreement of the family finder or the Chair of the meeting and must be notified to the prospective adopters and/or family in writing.The child's social worker, family finder, adopters, link worker and foster carer link are expected to be in regular and frequent contact with the child, foster carer and prospective adopter during the period of the introductions and all involved share information with each other on a regular basis, at the frequency identified at the Placement Planning Meetings, ensuring that relevant managers are kept up to date. The Adoption Placement Plan will then be reviewed at an agreed date - see paragraph 10.10 below. The Plan will identify the named workers and when they will have contact with the child.
|10.9||The child's social worker will advise the parents of the plan whilst maintaining the confidentiality of the placement (unless the parent has stated that he or she does not wish to be kept informed).|
At the mid-point of the introductions, a second Placement Planning Review Meeting will be held, at which the following areas will be addressed:
|10.11||A further meeting can be called by any of the parties if issues of concern arise or if it is deemed helpful for the planning.|
|10.12||All Placement Planning Meetings should have the same people invited and take place at a venue accessible to all parties.|
|10.13||Where the child is to be adopted by his or her foster carers, whilst there will be no need for a plan for introductions, the social worker should still convene a Placement Planning Meeting, in order to draw up the Adoption Placement Plan to cover the areas other than introductions as set out above and to specify the date when the placement is to be regarded as an adoptive placement.|
|10.14||A copy of the final Adoption Placement Plan, signed by the child's social worker, should be given to the prospective adopters, their link worker and the child's Independent Reviewing Officer. The prospective adopters must confirm in writing that they wish the placement to proceed and that they agree to the Adoption Placement Plan. A copy must be retained on the child's Adoption Case Record.|
Where contact is part of the adoption plan, the proposals must be drawn up in written agreements to be signed by the birth parents and the prospective adoptive parents. The agreements must specify the form and timing of the contact and the arrangements for putting the contact in place. The agreements must also specify that the arrangements may change dependent upon the wishes of the child. The agreement should also include how the prospective adopters should deal with unauthorised or unmediated contact through online social networking sites. All parties must sign and retain copies of the agreement. The parent's copy should not reveal any identifying information about the placement. See also Section 7, Post-placement Contact.If the birth parents other members of the birth family have asked to meet the adoptive parents, a meeting should be arranged at a neutral venue as soon as possible.
|10.16||If the Adoption Placement Plan is varied or terminated, the child must be informed in a timely and age appropriate way.|
|10.17||Where the Adoption Placement Plan is terminated, the parents must be informed (unless the parent has stated that he or she does not wish to be kept informed).|
|10.18||If the Adoption Placement Plan is terminated, the Adoption Service Manager, in conjunction with the IRO Service Manager should consider the best way to conduct a disruption meeting - see Disruption of Adoptive and Long Term Foster Placements Procedure.|
|10.19||In the event of the placement's termination, direct work will be undertaken with the child to make sense of the reasons why the placement broke down and to prepare the child for any future placement.|
|10.20||In this event, the child's social worker and family finder must re-start the process of identifying a suitable prospective adoptive family or amend the plan for the child (depending on the outcome of the Disruption Meeting).|
11. Contact with Previous Foster Carers for Children Placed in Adoptive Placement
It is an exciting and also an emotional event when children move from a fostering to an adoptive placement. Children, foster carers and adoptive parents are supported by clarity about the contact arrangements between the foster carers and the child, after they have moved to the adoptive placement.
This plan is to be established at the Placement Planning Meeting and reviewed at the first Adoptive Review meeting.
Any contact must be shaped by the need of the child to feel as secure as possible, whilst given the space to develop new attachments with the adoptive parents, and recognising the much more limited role a foster parent actually will have in the child's future.
Contact is likely to consist of photographs, and small keepsakes. For a very young child something (e.g. a scarf) with the foster carer's scent may be of comfort initially. In the first few weeks telephone contact is often appropriate, reducing over a defined time to no direct contact. In the first year birthday and festival cards may be appropriate, but may be appropriate to have this as a time limited contact; although in the longer term, if appropriate, contact to be arranged via adoption and worker and foster carer.
The arrangements must be in the Permanence Plan and the Placement Plan before introductions commence. Where there are specific identified needs transition work should be agreed before introductions commence.
12. The Placement
|12.1||Once the matching of the child has been approved, the adoption agency has authority to place the child (either through a Placement Order or Parental Consent), the plan of introductions has been successfully completed and the Adoption Placement Plan has been completed and signed by all parties, the placement can go ahead. A social worker must be present when the placement takes place.|
Prior to the placement, the child's social worker must ensure that all the following information/items have been provided to the prospective adopters:
The prospective adopters should be asked to sign confirmation of receipt. Where the information/items are provided at different times, the prospective adopters must sign and date confirmation of receipt on each occasion.
S15 of the Adoption National Minimum Standards (ANMS) 2015 requires that adopters receive full information about any adoption support services to be provided; advice is given about available benefits and employee rights to leave and pay and that assistance is given with any cross boundary issues. Commissioning arrangements are to be underpinned by a written agreement. All adopters should be advised to apply to the Inland Revenue for Child benefit, supported by a letter form the social worker (see CSF3962 Notification of Adoption Placement to Child Benefit Agency within the Adoption Forms Folder under Placement).For the child S18 of ANMS 2014 requires that the Children's Guide to Adoption Support is provided to the child by the Adoption Agency or Adoption Support Agency and that this is a form which is appropriate to the child's age and understanding.
|12.3||Prior to the placement, notification must be sent by the worker identified in the Adoption Placement Plan to the present and new GP (CSF3960 Notification of Adoption Placement to GP), the local authority (where the adoptive family live outside the borough), the relevant Health Trust and, if the child is at nursery or of school age, the relevant local education authority (with information about the child's education history and whether the child has special needs). CSF3961 Notification of Adoption Placement to Out of County LA/Health Trust or Educational Authority and CSF3973 Notification of Adoption Placement to Child Health Systems. These notifications are still required where the prospective adopters were previously the child's foster carers.|
|12.4||Adopters would normally be requested to make an appointment with the child's new GP and take the medical report to the appointment for discussion.|
|12.5||Where the child's foster carers are the prospective adopters, the adoption service must confirm in writing to them the date from which the placement becomes an adoptive placement.|
|12.6||The child's social worker must inform the parents of the date of the placement, unless the parents have stated that they do not wish to be kept informed. No identifying information about the placement should be conveyed to birth parents or relatives.|
|12.7||The child's social worker should ensure the date of the placement is recorded, so that the records identifies that the child is placed for adoption but does not show the placement address. S/he should send CSF4162 Letters to Adopters - New Placement to the adoptive parents.|
|12.8||The family finder will inform the Panel Administrator of the date of the placement as soon as it is made and inform the relevant finance officer where the Adoption Support Plan includes financial support so that payments can start.|
|12.9||Agency of the placement, immediately after it has been made. CSF3962 Notification of Adoption Placement to Child Benefit Agency.|
13. Children Approved for Adoption for Whom no Placement has been Identified
|13.1||The child will be the subject of regular Adoption Reviews, chaired by an Independent Reviewing Officer - see Adoption Reviews Procedure.|
|13.2||In all cases, where a child has been approved for adoption but not placed within 6 months, the child's social worker must present a further report to the Adoption Panel identifying the length of the delay, the reasons and the steps being taken to address any difficulties, including consideration of a review of the adoption plan and/or a possible change to long-term fostering/separation of siblings.|
|13.3||The Adoption Panel may request an earlier progress report on an individual case when first considering the child.|
|13.4||The outcome of any reviews by the Adoption Panel should be notified to the child (if old enough), the birth parents (in appropriate cases) and any other relevant person.|
|13.5||The child's details should be passed to Adoption Match if no locally identified match is being actively pursued immediately after the decision by the Agency Decision Maker (Adoption) that the child should be placed for adoption and, in any event, at the latest by 3 months.|
14. Adoptive Placements Abroad
Where an adoptive placement outside the UK appears to be a viable option, applications for overseas adoption is managed by the Intercountry Adoption Centre (IAC) (commissioned through Hertfordshire County Council).