SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This procedure applies to applications in relation to adoptive placements that have not been arranged by a local authority or registered adoption agency, other than children brought into the UK for the purposes of adoption. This will include adoption applications by step-parents, relatives, private foster carers or local authority foster carers who have not sought or obtained the local authority's approval for the placement becoming an adoptive placement.
In relation to such applications, the residence requirement are as follows:
- If the applicant or one of the applicants is the partner of the parent of the child, the child must have lived with the applicants continuously for a minimum of 6 months prior to the application;
- If the applicants are local authority foster carers, the child must have lived with the applicants continuously for 12 months prior to the application;
- In any other case, the child must have lived with the applicant(s) for three out of the last five years prior to the application or the Court must have granted leave for an earlier application.
It is an offence for any person to arrange for the adoption of a child without the involvement of a local authority or registered adoption agency unless the child is related to the applicant or has been living with the applicant for the required period.In step parent applications, where the applicant is a British citizen and the child is not a British citizen, the applicant must provide evidence that s/he has notified the Home Office of his or her intention to adopt the child.
For the procedure in relation to children who have been brought into the UK for the purposes of adoption - see Inter Country Adoption Procedure.
For the contents of the Court report for adoption applications, see Court Reports in Adoption/Special Guardianship Guidance.
This procedure was updated in January 2019.
- Initial Contact
- Medical Information
- Other Checks
- Local Authority Duty to Supervise Child in Private Fostering Cases
- Court Request for Report
- Parental Consent
- Child's Wishes and Feelings
- The Applicants
- Adoption Support
- Alternatives to Adoption
- Adoption Hearing
- After the Court Process
1. Initial Contact
Where residents of the local authority area request advice by letter, telephone or in person in relation to a non-agency adoption, the matter should be referred to the the ATV enquiry officer who should offer the enquirer general information, invite them to an information meeting and record their details on the enquiry spreadsheet. A telephone call with a social worker can be arranged to discuss the process.
A social worker should offer the prospective applicants information and advice on the adoption process and the implications of adoption, including the following:
- Alternatives to adoption;
- The child's need to know that s/he is adopted and have information about the birth family;
- The requirement for the consent of parents with Parental Responsibility to be obtained;
- The role of CAFCASS;
- The need to notify the local authority of their intention to apply for an Adoption Order.
If it is clear that the applicants do not fulfil the criteria of Domicile / Habitual Residence in the UK, the enquiry officer or social worker manager for non agency adoptions should advise them to obtain legal advice.
When it is established that the family concerned wish to pursue adoption, they will be asked to return the application papers (Notification of Intent to Adopt or Registration of Interest). They may do this by post or e mail. The responsible manager will check that the application is complete and then the administrator will send confirmation of the acceptance of the application and invite them to bring into their local office the documents needed for the DBS checks, which include passports, driving licences etc. The administrator will start the checks, send out personal reference letters etc. The case will then be allocated to a social worker or sessional worker in the Adoption Team. The allocated worker must fulfil the qualifications and experience criteria set out in Adoption Panel Procedure, Reports to Adoption Panel
Where a foster carer is making a non-agency application to adopt a Looked After child, with the support of the local authority, the case will be allocated as soon as possible.
Applicants for adoption, in the case of non-agency placements, must notify the local authority for the area where they live of their intention to apply for an Adoption Order. The notification should be sent at least three months and not more than two years before the date of the adoption application.
Any such notification received should be passed to the Adoption Team Manager overseeing non agency work who will arrange for the notification to be acknowledged and allocate the case to a social worker, once all checks have been completed. The allocated worker must fulfil the qualifications and experience criteria set out in Adoption Panel Procedure, Reports to Adoption Panel.
Upon receipt of the notification, the local authority will have a duty to supervise the welfare of the child if the child is within the definition of Privately Fostered - see Section 5, Local Authority Duty to Supervise Child in Private Fostering Cases and this will be referred to the Private Fostering Team. This will not apply to step parent adoptions or adoptions by close relatives.
An Adoption Case Record should be opened for the child or each of the children involved.
As soon as practicable after notification is received, forms will be sent for the prospective adopters to complete for DBS checks for all members of the household aged 18 or over
3. Medical Information
Except where the application is by a step parent in which case a medical report is not required, the social worker will check that the applicants(s) and the child have received a medical examination before the adoption application is submitted to the Court.
If medical examinations are required, the social worker will provide the applicants with the relevant CoramBAAF medical forms for completion. These should be submitted to the Court with the adoption application and the Court will send copies to the local authority when a Court report is requested (see Section 6, Court Request for Report).
4. Other Checks
On receipt of the notification of intention to apply to adopt, the social worker should arrange a Disclosure and Barring Service check on the applicants and any member of the household aged 18 or over. Consent should also be obtained for checks to be carried out with the local authority and the NSPCC - and the necessary checks should be made (LADO and client index, LAS (Liquid Logic), school reference, personal references and previous partner reference. The birth parent letter and adult children references can be sent once the allocated social worker has met with the family).
5. Local Authority Duty to Supervise Child in Private Fostering Cases
On receipt of a notification in relation to a child who comes within the definition of Privately Fostered, the social worker must ensure that the child is supervised until an Adoption Order is made in accordance with the Private Fostering Procedure, except that, where the child is already known to the local authority, the requirements under the Private Fostering Regulations as to the initial visit to the placement will not apply.
The aim of the supervision is:
- To ensure the child is well cared for and in receipt of appropriate health and education services;
- To support the prospective adopters and help them focus on the task of integrating the child into their family and of providing the child with full information about his or her background and birth family.
All visits should be recorded, including whether the child was seen and if so, whether the child was seen alone.
The social worker should advise the prospective adopters of the need for them to provide medical reports on themselves and the child to accompany their adoption application (see Section 3, Medical Information). The social worker should also attempt to obtain medical information on the birth parents and a neonatal report on the child if under 5 years old. The social worker should send all available medical information to the Medical Adviser for comment.
The social worker should ask the prospective adopters for the names of two personal referees, whom the social worker should interview.
The child will continue to have the status of a privately fostered child until an Adoption Order is made or until notification is given that the prospective applicants no longer intend to apply to adopt.
Prospective applicants should be asked to clarify their intentions if there is a delay and no adoption application is lodged. If this is not forthcoming, the social worker involved should write to the prospective applicants indicating that unless confirmation is provided of an intention to adopt, it will be assumed that the notification is withdrawn. In any event, after 2 years the notification will lapse.
6. Court Request for Report
Where a Court receives an adoption application in relation to a non-agency adoptive placement, the Court will notify the local authority of the hearing date and request a Report be prepared and submitted to the Court, usually within 6 weeks of the receipt of the notification.
The social worker responsible for preparing the Report should gather available information on the child and parents - see sections below.
The allocated worker must fulfil the qualifications and experience criteria set out in Adoption Panel Procedure, Reports to Adoption Panel.
For the contents of the report, see Court Reports in Adoption/Special Guardianship Guidance.
Once completed, the social worker should send the Court Report to the Adoption Team Manager responsible for supervising non agency adoption cases or the manager of the Private Fostering Team for approval so that it can be filed with the Court within the required timescale.
7. Parental Consent
The adoptive applicants will have to indicate in their adoption application whether or not there is Parental Consent to the application. If the parents do not consent, it is for the applicants to ask the Court to dispense with the agreement of the parent or parents on the grounds that he or she cannot be found, lacks capacity to give consent or that the welfare of the child demands it.
The social worker preparing the report should attempt to interview both birth parents in relation to the adoption application and ascertain their views. If the parents do not live within a reasonable travelling distance, the social worker may request that a social worker from the local authority for the area where the birth parents now live interview them.
The report should address the significance of the role played so far by the birth parents in the child's life and the implications of an Adoption Order for any future parental role.
8. Child's Wishes and Feelings
The social worker should speak to the child to ascertain his or her wishes and feelings in relation to the adoption and report on these to the Court. Where the child is not aware of the adoption application, the social worker should discuss with the adopters the best way to address this so that the child's views can be obtained.
The discussion with the child should address any confusion on the part of the child in relation to the implications of an Adoption Order, for example, where the adoptive applicant is a relative.
9. The Applicants
The report will need to comment on the strength and duration of any new family relationships, particularly in the case of an adoption application by a step parent. Where there is limited evidence of the strength and stability of the relationship, the applicants should be advised to consider deferring the application until there is more evidence of stability.
In addition, alternatives to adoption should be discussed and explored with the applicants, who should be encouraged to consider them.
For example where the main concern is the child's name, the applicants should be advised to seek legal advice on how to achieve this without the need for an adoption order.
10. Adoption Support
Other than an application by a step parent, the social worker should consider the likely need of the child and adoptive family for adoption support. See Adoption Support Procedure.
11. Alternatives to Adoption
The report should address any alternatives to adoption, which may offer a better framework for the child and the birth parents' future role.
12. Adoption Hearing
The social worker responsible for preparing the report should attend the adoption hearing.
13. After the Court Process
Once the adoption proceedings are complete, the social worker should complete the child's Adoption Case Record and arrange for its safe storage in the Adoption Archives.