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OxfordshireChildren's Services Procedures Manual

Placement for Adoption

RELATED GUIDANCE

Contact After Adoption

AMENDMENT

This procedure was significantly updated in Novemebr 2017 to reflect local practice.

Contents

  1. Planning for Permanence
  2. Obtaining Agency Approval to Adoption Plan
  3. Preparation of Child for Adoption
  4. Independent Counselling and Support for Birth Relatives
  5. Child's Adoption Medical
  6. Post-adoption Contact
  7. Identification of Adoptive Parents (including Inter-agency Placements)
  8. Formal Approval of Proposed Match with Prospective Adoptive Parents
  9. Planning the Placement
  10. The Placement
  11. Children Approved for Adoption for Whom no Placement has been Identified
  12. Adoptive Placements Abroad

1. Planning for Permanence

See also Permanence Planning Guidance.

1.1

Every Looked After Child must have a Permanence Plan by the date of his or her second Looked After Review.

1.2

A referral is needed to Adopt Thames Valley when the child's Care Plan becomes adoption or there is a parallel plan for adoption, and a Family Finder will be identified. In relation to an unborn child and/or a child relinquished for adoption by the parents and not yet looked after, Adopt Thames Valley should be informed and a Family Finder will be immediately allocated.

1.3

In the case of a Relinquished Child, an early planning meeting should be arranged to which a Family Finder from the Adopt Thames Valley must be invited. Where adoption is considered to be the preferred option for a relinquished child, family finding should commence immediately in order to achieve early placement, with consideration of whether a fostering for adoption placement should be sought.

1.4

In the case of an unborn infant for whom Care Proceedings are to be progressed family finding should begin as soon as adoption is the preferred plan, and before the Agency Decision Maker decides that the child should be placed for adoption or a Placement Order is made. Again consideration should be given to whether a fostering for adoption placement should be sought.

1.5

In the case of siblings, a 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. A formal Sibling Assessment should be completed and the decision should be based on a balanced assessment of the individual needs of each child in the group, the assessment of the relationships between all the children, and consideration of 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 and the strength and quality of that attachment; the health needs of each child; and each child's views (noting that a child's views and perceptions will change over time and may be strongly influenced by familiarity and current contact and living arrangements).

The Family Finder can make preliminary searches and advise on the likelihood of finding adoptive families for a particular sibling group, and the relevant in-house therapeutic team or an independent provider may be able to provide a consultation to assist with the assessment of sibling groups where there are more complex needs.

1.6

A Permanency Planning Meeting should be arranged following any referral to Adopt Thames Valley in order for case details to be fully shared and to ensure joined up working and shared decision making. This meeting will agree the Family Finding process, the responsibilities of the child's social worker and Family Finder, and the associated timetable. This meeting will be convened by the Family Finder and chaired by Adopt Thames Valley.

1.7

Since July 2014, there has been a duty (under s. 22C of the Children Act 1989 (amended by the Children and Families Act 2014)) imposed upon local authorities that where:

  • They are considering adoption for a child (this can be at an early stage, and can be before a decision has been made by the Agency Decision Maker that the child should be place for adoption); or

  • They are satisfied that the child ought to be placed for adoption, but do not yet have authority to place the child for adoption (either by way of parental consent or by way of Placement Order);

  • Then the local authority MUST consider placing the child with:

    • (Firstly) a relative, friend or Connected Person who is also a local authority foster carer; or

    • Where they decide that a placement with such a person is not the most appropriate placement for the child, they must consider placing the child with a local authority foster carer who has been approved as a prospective adopter (a 'dually approved carer') or a Carer approved under Regulation 25.

See Fostering for Adoption, Concurrent Planning and Temporary Approval as Foster Carers of Approved Prospective Adopters Procedure.

2. Obtaining Agency Approval to Adoption Plan

2.1

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 there is no parent or guardian, the case will be referred directly to the Agency Decision Maker for a decision.

Cases where the parents have given consent and there is no application for a Placement Order are referred to the Adoption Panel for a recommendation, which the Agency Decision Maker will take into account when making a decision.

In both instances the arrangements are made through the Adoption Panel Administrator.

As soon as adoption is part of the plan for the child, the child's social worker must:

  • Book the Agency Decision or Panel. The date of the ADM or Panel must be a maximum of 2 months from the date when the adoption plan was ratified at the child's Looked After Review. Where this timescale is not met, the reason should be recorded;
  • Confirm the adoption medical for the child; (adoption medicals should be provisionally booked at the earliest possible stage due to Medical Adviser's availability;
  • Continue to provide counselling for the child (subject to the child's age and understanding)- see Section 3, Preparation of Child for Adoption.

2.2

The Care Plan for adoption for a child should be made at the child's Looked After Review, and it may be necessary to reconvene an early LAC review for this purpose. Where this is not possible, the case file must still demonstrate the date this Care Plan was decided upon, who was involved in the decision, and the rationale for this, with IRO agreement recorded.

The child's social worker must restrict access to the casework file for the child once adoption has been identified as the Permanence Plan and family finding has progressed to consideration of prospective adopters. The file is restricted using the  pre-adoption criteria.

Once family finding is enacted the Family Finder will set up the child's adoption file which will then run in parallel with the Child in Care file held by the local authority (In some of the Adopt Thames Valley authorities this will be a section of the Child in Care file, while in others it will be a separate file).

All adoption related documents, such as the Permanency Medical Report, Carer's Report, Legal Advice to Panel and the Child Permanency Report will be included on the adoption file. Case notes must not name any prospective adopter/s until the file has been restricted.

Adopt Thames Valley must be notified immediately once the Care Plan becomes adoption, so that if this has not already happened a Family Finder can be allocated. The child's social worker should begin to liaise with the allocated Family Finder who will advise on the prospects of finding an adoptive family within the Regional Adoption Agency, and the family finding actions which will be needed. Close liaison between all the social workers will be needed to ensure the best outcome for the child.

The Family Finder should be asked to provide a Family Finding Statement for the Court if this is likely to be helpful in any particular case.

2.3

If not already obtained, the child's social worker should obtain 2 certified copies of the child's full birth certificate. One will be required for future Court applications, for the prospective adopter/s. A copy must be scanned onto the adoption case file.

2.4

The child's social worker should inform the birth parents and other significant relatives about the Birth Relative Support Service. Written information about adoption should be provided to the birth parents and to anyone else who holds parental responsibility for the child at an early stage. This should be handed to them in person and they should be asked to sign confirmation of receipt. A copy of the receipt should be kept on the child's case file. If the parent refuses the information or refuses to sign receipt this must be recorded on the case file and if in proceedings a copy of the written information should be provided to their solicitor.

Where the parents are not engaging with the local authority but their address is known, the child's social worker should personally deliver a copy of the written information or arrange for delivery by hand to the address, and record this on the child's case file. See also Section 4, Independent Counselling and Support for Birth Relatives.

2.5

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.

2.6

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, any other significant relatives and anyone else who holds parental responsibility for the child. The birth parents should (with their agreement) be referred to the Birth Relative Support Service, for independent counselling. For detailed procedure, see Section 4, Independent Counselling and Support for Birth Relatives. If either or both of the parents decline counselling and/or support, then this should be recorded, including the reasons, on the child's file and the child's Adoption Case Record.

2.7

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 three last known addresses and contact the Department of Work 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.

2.8

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.

2.9

The child's social worker must contact the child's school or nursery and the Virtual School for current information in relation to the child's educational needs.

2.10

The child's social worker must ask the child's carer to complete the CoramBAAF Carer's Report appropriate to the age of the child, to accompany the medical report and Child's Permanence Report.

2.11

The child's social worker should discuss the issue of post-adoption contact with the Family Finder at an early stage. Where Care Proceedings are ongoing this must be discussed before Final Evidence is submitted in order to ensure that the level of contact proposed is not likely to prevent adoption being achieved. The Adoption Plan must detail the contact arrangements proposed both post placement and post Order, including any plan for a possible meeting between the birth parent/s and/or other significant birth family members and the child's future adopter/s, and whether there will be ongoing direct contact or indirect contact via a Letter box arrangement. Usually an exchange of photographs will be included in any Letter Box contact agreed, but consideration will need to be made about how these may be used by the birth relative concerned. In rare circumstances birth relatives have posted photographs of children placed for adoption as “missing children” and this could pose a risk to the security of the child's placement. However, most birth parents will respect the need for exchanged photographs to remain private.

It should be borne in mind that if birth relatives do not receive photographs with their Letter Box contact, they may be more inclined to search social networking sites for photos.

See Section 6, Post-adoption Contact.

If the child has siblings, the Adoption Plan must analyse the relationship between each child in the sibling group and, if the decision is to place siblings separately, address the issue of post-adoption contact between them (using the “Together or Apart” summary may be helpful in completing this analysis).

2.12

The child's social worker and Family Finder must also make a written assessment of the likely needs for adoption support services in relation to the child, the birth parents and any other person with a significant relationship to the child, this will involve consultation with the Adopt Thames Valley Post Adoption Service. For the detailed procedures, see Adoption Support Procedure.

2.13

Using all the information obtained in relation to the above, the child's social worker must prepare the Child's Permanence Report. This is an important document for the child and should be written not just for the Agency Decision Maker, but for prospective adopter/s. It should be borne in mind that the child will most likely read this in the future. Work on the Child Permanence Report should begin as soon as adoption is being considered. 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. The criteria for suitable experience is that the social worker must have a minimum of 3 years post qualifying experience with Children and Families and must have experience of an adoption case through all its stages to an Adoption Order being made.

Social workers who are not yet suitably qualified must be supervised by someone who has the required experience and who supervises and countersigns any adoption reports.

The following areas must be included or addressed in the Report:

  • Profile of the child, based on the report from the child's current carer as well as other information about the child's personality nationality, racial origin, religious persuasion, legal status and relationship with his/her birth family;
  • A summary, written by the agency's medical adviser, of the state of the child's health, health history and any need for health care which might arise in the future;
  • A chronology of the child's placements and significant life events since birth;
  • The preparation work, undertaken and planned, with the child, and the views of the child in relation to: the adoption plan: future contact with his or her birth family, and the child's preferred method of communication;
  • The views of the Children's Guardian (where possible);
  • The views of the birth family and significant others in relation to the adoption plan and contact, and their opportunity to receive and comment on the report before the report is presented to Adoption and Permanency Panel or the Agency Decision Maker;
  • A report of the child's educational history and current needs, including a summary of the Personal Education Plan (PEP);
  • Any other relevant specialist reports on the child;*
  • An assessment of the child's emotional and behavioural development;
  • A Chronology of the decisions and actions taken by the agency with respect to the child
  • An assessment of the child's needs for post-adoption contact, including with siblings, and the child's and birth relatives' needs for adoption support services;
  • A full analysis of the options for the child's future care, the alternatives to adoption considered and the reasons why adoption is the right option for the child;
  • Where the child has siblings, whether the decision is to place siblings separately or together and the rationale for the decision (using the “Together or Apart” summary);
  • Any other information which the agency considers relevant.

*This will include any available experts reports prepared for Court proceedings whether they are supportive of the adoption plan or not.

Those parts of the Report that contain factual information about the birth family should be shared with the relevant family members to enable them to confirm their accuracy and agree to it being passed on to a child in due course. Any such agreement should be clearly recorded on the child's case record. Each of the child's parents should be shown those parts of the Report which set out their views and wishes, and given the opportunity, if they so wish, to express these in their own words. Where appropriate, the relevant sections of the Report should also be provided to the child.

2.14

Obtaining the formal Agency Decision for Adoption

See Paragraph 2.1 for the circumstances when a case will be referred directly to the Agency Decision Maker, and when a case will need to be referred for a recommendation by the Adoption Panel. The majority of cases will be referred directly to the Agency Decision Maker, the main exception being where a birth parent/s is/are requesting that the child be adopted and has/have signed or expect to give written consent to the local authority to purse an adoption plan. The child's social worker must in both scenarios provide the following reports. with numbered pages:

  1. The Child's Permanence Report, signed by the child's social worker, the manager and the parent (if willing), incorporating the child's and parents' views;

  2. The Form CR-C or CR-YP Carer's Report completed by the child's carer;

  3. The Medical Advisers report on the child (if applicable);

  4. d. Written legal advice from the advising Legal Services - including advice in relation to parental consent and the option of seeking a Placement Order;
  5. An up-to-date school/nursery report on the child;

  6. Any available psychological/psychiatric or other experts' reports on the child commissioned as part of the Care Proceedings)[1]

  7. The proposed Adoption Support Plan for the child;

  8. A photograph of the child which should be inserted into the CPR.

The above must also be added to the child's adoption file and will be needed by the Panel and/or ADM, the Family Finder, the prospective adopter/s and their link worker, and later on, by anyone providing adoption support services, including where the adult adoptee requests access to his/her adoption file.

[1]This will include any available experts reports prepared for Court proceedings whether they are supportive of the adoption plan or not. The full reports should be presented unless they are voluminous, in which case, as a minimum, those sections setting out the expert's opinion, conclusions and recommendations should be provided. A written summary of such reports should only be provided if all parties to the Court proceedings agree in writing that the summary is fair and accurate. Copies of the full reports should be available for Panel members (at the Panel meeting) and the Agency Decision Maker, to consult if desired.

The child's social worker must send the relevant reports to the Panel Administrator, to then be provided to the Agency Adviser, at least 10 days before the date of the Agency Decision Maker's consideration of the case, or 14 days before the Adoption Panel is due to consider the case.

The social worker's Team Manager (assuming the Team Manager is qualified according to the Adoption Agency Regulations) will be responsible for quality assurance of the reports before they are submitted to the Agency Adviser. The Agency Adviser is then responsible for checking the quality of the reports before they are submitted to the Agency Decision Maker.

The child's social worker does not attend if the case is being presented to the Agency Decision Maker only, but (together with his or her manager if appropriate) will attend if the case is being discussed at an Adoption Panel meeting.

(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, ( for example for a relinquished baby) the procedure set out in Section 8, Approval of Matching of Adoption Parents must also be followed).

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 is expressly prohibited from referring a case to the Adoption and Permanency Panel for advice.

For cases going to the Panel

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 may also consider and give advice as to future contact arrangements for the child and whether an application for a Placement Order should be made. 

The recommendation will be recorded in writing, together with reasons, in the Panels minutes. A copy of the relevant minutes must be held on the child's Adoption Case Record.

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. Then the decision must be entered on the child's adoption case record.

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.

2.15

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.

The child's social worker will arrange for a letter from the appropriate Manager in the Children's Team to be sent to each of the birth parents for the child and to anyone else who holds parental responsibility for the child, informing them of the decision. The letter will be sent by recorded delivery or delivered 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. The letters should be uploaded onto the child's Adoption Case Record.

2.16

Where a decision has been made to seek a Placement Order in relation to the child, the child's social worker should consult the local authority's Legal Services in order to prepare the Court application.

See Court Reports in Adoption/Special Guardianship Guidance for the contents of the Court Report.

2.17

Where the parents wish to give their consent to the child's placement and/or the child's adoption, the child's social worker must arrange for a written request to be sent to CAFCASS to appoint an officer to witness the consent. The CAFCASS officer cannot do this until the child is 6 weeks old. The child can be placed with prospective adopters before 6 weeks with the agreement of those with Parental Responsibility, and it is good practice to consider this. This would be a placement under the Fostering Regulations, albeit with the intention of achieving adoption. Formal consent would still be sought via CAFCASS and the case should be referred to Panel as soon as possible.

For further detailed information about the relinquishment for adoption of children less than six weeks, see paragraphs 2.48-2.52 (on pages 43/44) of the Adoption Guidance issued in July 2013.

See also the Protocol between CAFCASS and Adoption Agencies for Children Relinquished for Adoption.

2.18

As set out in the Protocol with CAFASS 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.

2.19

On receipt of the parents' consent witnessed by the CAFCASS officer, it should be uploaded onto the child's Adoption Case Record, but the original must be kept by the child's social worker as it will be needed when the prospective adopters submit their adoption application to the Court.

2.20

The child's social worker and Family Finder should start active work aimed at achieving a placement for the child, well before the Placement Order is made, for the following reasons:

  1. To avoid delay in matching the child with prospective adopters. This is especially the case for very young children. Where approved prospective adopters are available within the Regional Adoption Agency a family can be provisionally selected, and if appropriate, can be approached before the Placement Order is made. A provisional date can also be identified for the Matching Panel. This procedure is within the spirit of concurrency planning, and has significant benefits, especially for young children who will have an enhanced opportunity to form a secure attachment with their adoptive families when matching and placement takes place with a “sense of urgency and care. Depending on the individual circumstances of the case consideration should be given to the possibility of pursuing Fostering for Adoption;

  2. Once the agency has authority to place a child there should be no unnecessary delay in implementing the adoption plan for the child. To achieve this will require considerable liaison between the child's social worker and Adopt Thames Valley
  3. When children need to move placements, it is important that they have a social worker who knows them and in whom they trust. Their social worker is a key source of support to a child who is getting used to new parents, a new home, new school and a whole new life. Moving to an adoptive placement is a very significant move for a child and it is essential that the child is properly prepared and supported. The prospective adopter/s also need the involvement of a social worker who knows the child well;

  4. In order to best achieve any agreed plan for post placement contact, the child's social worker should have met the birth family members with whom contact is planned and discussed the plan with them acknowledging their wishes and feelings about the contact arrangements proposed (in some of the Adopt Thames Valley contributing authorities this role may be undertaken by the Birth Parent Project Worker);
  5. It is important that matters, such as proposals and arrangements for contact are clearly understood and recorded, along with the rationale for the decisions which have been made. It is also important that any follow up actions arising from the permanency medical are followed through and recorded;
  6. Life Work should always be undertaken by an appropriate professional who has a good understanding of the child's life experiences to date and how these have impacted on the child. Similarly the Life Book, and Later Life Letter should be completed by a social worker who has a thorough understanding of the child's journey and the reasons underlying the significant decisions made that have profoundly impacted on the child's life: wherever possible the person who completes the child's Life Book and Later Life Letter should be someone who has actually met the key people in the child's life.

3. Preparation of Child for Adoption

3.1

The child's social worker will ensure that when a child who has a Care Plan of adoption has the ability to understand his or her situation Life Story Work is undertaken with the child with the aim, so far as possible, that:

  • The child has an understanding of the reasons for the adoption plan and what adoption will mean;

  • The child has an opportunity to express his or her wishes and feelings about the future; and

  • The child has information on his or her birth family, which is kept safe and provided to the adopters and the child at the appropriate time.

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.

Click here for Children's Guide to Adoption for under 5's.

Click here for Children's Guide to Adoption for over 5's.

Any information given to the child and any discussions with the child should be recorded. The child's preferred method of communication should be known and there should be no assumption that a child is unable to communicate. If English is not the child's first language, an interpreter should be arranged as 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 and included in the Child's Permanence Report.

Where a child's wishes are not acted upon, for example a child's wish to be placed with his or her siblings, the decision and reasons should be explained to the child and should be fully recorded.

See Oxfordshire County Council Letterbox Service.

3.2

The foster carers' supervising social worker will support the foster carers in playing their part in the preparation of the child and achieving the adoption plan, including careful recording by the foster carers in the Daily Record of any changes in the child's behaviours.

3.3

Once an adoptive placement has been identified and approved, the child's social worker is responsible for ensuring that the child is properly prepared for his/her first meeting with his/her prospective adoptive family, and is appropriately counselled and supported during the period of introductions - see Section 9, Planning the Placement. As part of the preparation of the child for his/her adoptive placement, information will be provided to ensure that he/she has a proper understanding about the accommodation and others living at the prospective adoptive home, the planned contact arrangements with his/her birth relatives and how to contact his/her social worker.

3.4

child's social worker will prepare a Life Book for the child. This is to be provided in two stages, the first stage being not later than the second adoption review, and the final book within 10 working days of the Adoption Ceremony, i.e. the ceremony to celebrate the making of the Adoption Order). In many cases the child will need his/her Life Book as soon as possible to aid his/her understanding and support him/her in making attachments to his/her prospective adoptive family. The only section of the book which would need to wait until after the Adoption Order is granted, is the photographs and account of the day of the Adoption Ceremony.

A copy of the Life Book should be placed on the child's Adoption Case Record.

3.5

The child's social worker will also write a 'Later Life Letter' for the child, to be provided to the child's adopter/s within 10 working days of the Adoption Ceremony, i.e. the ceremony to celebrate the making of the adoption order). It is expected that the adopter/s will share this fuller account of his/her life experiences and the circumstances that lead to him/her being placed for adoption, with the child at an appropriate stage. Examples of Later Life Letters are available from Adopt Thames Valley.

A copy of the Later Life Letter should be placed on the child's Adoption Case Record.

4. Independent Counselling and Support for Birth Relatives

4.1

Birth parents, and other relatives where appropriate, are entitled to an assessment of their support needs both before and after adoption, and this should be provided independently of the child's social worker.

4.2

Both birth parents must be offered independent counselling and support irrespective of whether they hold Parental Responsibility unless there are exceptional circumstances, in which case legal advice should be taken and the reasons for not arranging support recorded. Any other adult who holds Parental Responsibility for the child should also be offered independent counselling and support.

4.3

Subject to the birth parent or other significant adult agreeing to the referral the child's social worker must make a referral to the Birth Relative Support Service to provide this service as soon as adoption starts to be considered as the plan for the child. This will usually be at the second LAC review where adoption or twin-tracking becomes the agreed plan.

4.4

Before making the written referral it can be helpful to have an initial conversation with the Birth Relative Support Service by telephone.

4.5

It may also be appropriate for the child's social worker to make a referral to the Birth Relative Support Service for the provision of counselling and/or support to members of the extended family, where they have played a significant role in the child's life. Again, the individual concerned must consent to the referral being made.

4.6

Referrals to the Birth Relative Support Service can also be made directly by others, e.g. members of the birth family, drug and alcohol support workers, solicitors or CAFCASS. These referrals will need to be made by telephone in the first instance and a referral form will be sent out.

Where such referrals are received, they will be acknowledged in writing and the referrer will be advised whether it is considered appropriate to accept the referral. Either way, the referral and the decision will be recorded.

4.7

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 possible contact arrangements and seek to ascertain their views. 

4.8

The Birth Relative Support Worker should provide the birth parents/relatives with written information on the adoption process covering the areas set out in Paragraph 4.13 a to g, l and m, below. This should be recorded (including the method of delivery and the date) on the birth relative's record in an open case note. The child's social worker should also record this information on the child's Adoption Case Record.

4.9

Where the birth parents decline support and/or do not accept written information, the attempts made to engage and the reasons for failure/refusal should be recorded by the Birth Relative Support Worker on the birth relative's file in an open case note. The child's social worker should also record this information on the child's Adoption Case Record.

4.10

The Birth Relative Support Worker will offer an initial session and further sessions, as required and appropriate, to ensure that the implications of adoption are fully discussed and understood. The birth parents should also be offered assistance to contribute positively to the plans for the child, including the provision of important information for the Child's Permanence Report and if so disposed information, photographs or other materials for inclusion in the child's Life Book.

4.11

The support provided to the birth parents may need to be provided jointly with a specialist worker, for example where the parent has poor mental health or learning disabilities or is engaged with drug and alcohol services. In exceptional circumstances, a counsellor from an independent agency may be appointed.

4.12

Any specific needs of the birth parents arising from their ethnicity must always be taken into account. An interpreter must be arranged where English is not their preferred language.

4.13

Broadly it is the responsibility of the child's social worker to explain agency plans, decisions, procedures, and the legal processes to the significant birth family members.

The Birth Relative Support Service may reinforce this if needed but broadly their responsibility is to listen to and acknowledge the views and feelings of the birth relatives, to provide information and advice as requested and to help them to make a contribution to the planning process for the child's future.

The counselling and support may cover the following areas:

  1. Explaining the key stages of the adoption process and likely time-scales;

  2. Explaining, where appropriate, the procedure for seeking a Placement Order;

  3. Explaining the birth parents' legal rights, including to apply for a Contact Order, the right of the unmarried father to seek a Parental Responsibility Order or a Child Arrangements Order in relation to the child;

  4. Explaining the role of the Adoption and Permanency Panel/Agency Decision Maker;

  5. Explaining the role of CAFCASS - the Reporting Officer in witnessing consent or the Children's Guardian;

  6. Explaining the way that the Adoption Contact Register and Intermediary Services work and how an adopted adult may seek information about the birth family in the future;

  7. Explaining how prospective adoptive parents are assessed and selected for a child;

  8. Ascertaining the birth parents' views on the adoption plan, including the selection of the adoptive family, any specific ethnic, cultural or religious needs of the child, and any plan to separate a sibling group. Their views on these issues should be recorded and shared with the child's social worker in order that they can be included within the Child Permanence Report;

  9. Acknowledging grief and loss;

  10. Where the birth parents consent to the adoptive placement, explaining the process for witnessing their consent, their right to state that they do not wish to be informed of an adoption application, and that they have the right to withdraw their consent at any time up to the making of an Adoption Order, but the restriction of their rights to do so after an adoption application is made;

  11. Ascertaining whether the birth parents wish to meet the child's prospective adopter/s and if so advising them on how they might prepare for this;
  12. Ascertaining the birth parents' views on post-adoption contact;
  13. Providing information to the birth parents on national and local support groups, and other possible sources of help;

  14. Explaining how the birth parents may be able to provide information which may be of benefit to the child, to be passed on to the child's adopter/s; for example, about the child's birth and early life.

4.14

The birth 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 child's social worker should also ascertain if he intends to apply for Parental Responsibility and/or a Child Arrangements Order.

4.15

The birth parents and their solicitors, if appropriate, must be provided with a copy of any recording of their views that is to be presented to the Adoption Panel or Agency Decision Maker.

4.16

Where the parents are seeking to relinquish an expected child, the allocated social worker will normally provide the support and counselling prior to birth. Early referral to Adopt Thames Valley will enable an adoption social worker to be identified to undertake a joint meeting with the allocated social worker and the expected child's birth parents, in order to provide specific advice to the parents about the adoption process. Discussion should include: 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 the birth parents' wishes regarding the timing of the placement, the options for the child to be placed in foster care or with prospective adopters on a fostering for adoption basis, the issue of consent and the role of CAFCASS. The birth parents' wishes regarding future contact with their expected child should be discussed as should the likely involvement of their wider family members. The birth parents should be advised of the Birth Relative Support Service and their role, and asked if they wish to have this support.

4.17

In cases where a birth parent is considering placing a child for adoption, but where Care Proceedings are likely to be initiated if the child is not placed voluntarily, a referral must be made to the Birth Relative Support Service for independent support, subject to the birth parent's agreement.

4.18

The child's social worker should arrange for photographs to be taken of the child and, if they agree, photographs of the birth parents and other significant people and places, for inclusion in the child's future Life Book.

5. Child's Adoption Medical

The Child's Permanency Medical must be kept up to date, which may require follow up appointments with the Agency Medical Adviser. See Paragraph 5.10.

5.1

It is important that where adoption becomes the Care Plan for a child delay is avoided, therefore where adoption is likely to become part of the child's Care Plan, the child's social worker arranges for an adoption medical to be completed by with the Medical Adviser. The Medical Adviser will advise if an alternative medical practitioner should conduct the medical and whether any tests or further opinions are required.

5.2

The child's social worker must seek the cooperation of both birth parents, to provide written consent to the disclosure of their own medical information, by completing CoramBAAF Form A, including obtaining their consent to the Medical Adviser approaching their GP if necessary, as well as obtaining their written consent to the obstetric report (CoramBAAF Form M) on the mother and the neo-natal report (CoramBAAF Form B) on the child. A separate Form A should be completed in relation to each parent. The completed Form A's must be sent to the Medical Adviser as soon as they are available

5.3

The importance of the disclosure of medical information must be explained to the birth parents but where the parents refuse to sign consent forms, the social worker must complete as much as possible on the relevant forms, and record the attempts made to engage the parents and the reasons for refusal on the child's adoption file. The Medical Adviser must be informed of the position.

5.4

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 hospital social work team (if one exists at the hospital where the child was born), or the Hospital Administrator, with a request that the forms be completed and returned to the Medical Adviser. Where the child was born at home, the form should be sent to the mother's GP.

5.5

The procedure set out in Paragraphs 5.1 to 5.4 needs to be started without delay so that the adoption medical can be arranged in a timely manner. Individual Medical Advisers require different notice and social workers should make themselves aware of the needs of the relevant Medical Adviser; the medical must take place before the child's plan for adoption is considered by the Adoption Panel and/or by the Agency Decision Maker. Where the child is a new born baby, the baby must be 6 weeks old before the adoption medical takes place. Only in very exceptional cases can the Adoption Panel or ADM process take place before the permanency medical report is available, although a fostering for adoption placement can be progressed in advance subject to the agreement of the Agency Decision Maker. The relevant Panel Adviser should be consulted in all cases.

5.6

Prior to the medical, the child's social worker should send the Medical Adviser the relevant BAAF Form for completion after the medical (CoramBAAF Form C for children of 5 and under and CoramBAAF Form D for children aged 6 to 10), with the Annex to the Form completed by the child's carer.

5.7

The child's social worker must also arrange for the Medical Adviser to receive prior to the medical the health visitor/school nurse records on the child and an up-to-date health visitor/school nurse report, a GP's report if appropriate, for example where the child is currently receiving treatment, and any available psychological/psychiatric reports on the child (subject to obtaining the Courts permission if the report has been filed in Court proceedings).

5.8

In cases which are not presented to the Panel for consideration of whether the child is suitable to be placed for adoption (see Paragraph 2.1) and where expert reports have been filed with the Court that are relevant to the child's health, consideration should be given to whether to seek a specific direction from the Court allowing the report to be disclosed to the Medical Adviser for comment.

5.9

The child's social worker and the foster carer should attend the medical with the child. 

5.10

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 at no more than 6 month intervals for children aged under 2 years, and otherwise at least annually. The Medical Adviser may make specific recommendations for follow up in relation to a particular child, and where this is the case it is important that these recommendations are followed through.

6. Post-adoption Contact

Under the Adoption and Children Act 2002, there is no presumption of contact. The plans for contact must be reviewed when adoption becomes the plan for the child, when a Placement Order is made, and again when an Adoption Order is made.

6.1

The child's social worker must undertake a written assessment as to the best interests of the child regarding future contact with his/her significant relatives after any future Adoption Order is granted. This will either support the contact proposed as part of the adoption plan, or identify the reasons why no contact is recommended. This assessment will take account of the views of the child, the prospective adoptive parents, the birth parents, any other adult who holds parental responsibility for the child, any other significant birth family members and the foster carers, as well as evidencing the child's attachments and the quality of relationships, based on observations of contact and the child's behaviours before, during and after contact. The prime consideration must be the child's welfare throughout his or her life. It is essential that the child's social worker discusses the proposed contact arrangements with the child's allocated Family Finder and the adoption manager and/or Agency Adviser, and receives their advice, before submitting the Care Plan to the Court and before completing the Child's Permanence Report.

The plans for post adoption contact and the decision making process around this must be carefully recorded on the child's adoption file.

6.2

Where there is a sibling group, each child's contact needs must be assessed separately and together as a group.

6.3

The assessment should determine whether 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.

6.4

Post-adoption contact may take the following forms:

  1. The adoptive parent/s providing non-identifying information about the child to the birth relative/s through letter box contact organised and maintained by the Adoption Support Service (one way indirect contact);
  2. The adoptive parent/s and the birth relative/s sharing non-identifying information about themselves through letter box contact organised and maintained by the Adoption Support Service (two way indirect contact);
  3. Direct letter box and/or telephone contact between the adoptive parent/s and the birth relative/s;
  4. Direct face-to-face contact between the child and the birth relative/s, which may be organised and maintained by the Adoption Support Service, where such continuing support is appropriate;
  5. Normally photographs are included in letter box arrangements. If this is considered to pose a potential risk to the stability of the placement, then this risk needs to be carefully considered. The majority of birth parents would not wish the child's adoptive placement to be put at risk, even if they have opposed the making of the Placement or Adoption Order. If there is concern that the child's photograph would be posted on social networking sites, then the reasons for this not being appropriate must be explained to the birth relative concerned, and an assessment made as to whether he or she is able and willing to refrain from doing this;
  6. Very occasionally it may be appropriate to offer office viewing of photographs. This would be an unusual arrangement and must be discussed with the Adoption Support Service Manager prior to any arrangements being made. A risk assessment form is available from the Adoption Support Team, to assist in making this decision.

6.5

Any proposed post-adoption contact should be in line with any Court Order/s. Any proposed post adoption contact should consider the likely impact on the security and stability of the child's future adoptive placement, and the likely impact of the contact plans on successful family finding.

6.6

post-adoption contact is considered to be in the child's interests, the proposed details should be part of the information shared with the prospective adoptive parents during the matching process - see Section 7, Identification of Adoptive Parents and also part of the planning of the placement - see Section 9, 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, under section 51 A of the Act, 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.

Both orders for contact and orders prohibiting contact are relatively rare at the Adoption Order stage, and where some form of continuing contact is proposed, whether direct or direct, it is more likely that this will be a matter for agreement between the person concerned and the child's adopter/s. The Court may however make a note on the Court file about the agreement reached.

An order for contact requires the adopter/s to allow the child to visit, stay with or otherwise have contact with, the person/s 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 the 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 adopter/s or the child may apply without the leave of the Court for an order, under section 51 A of the Act, granting or prohibiting contact with a named person, however 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 he/she 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 child's adopter/s.

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, the adopter/s or the person named in the order.

7. Identification of Adoptive Parents (including Inter-agency Placements)

See also Fostering for Adoption, Concurrent Planning and Temporary Approval of Approved Prospective Adopters as Foster Carers Procedure.

The adoption agency has a duty to identify prospective adopters for any child who is the subject of an adoption plan as soon as is reasonably practicable. In order that family finding can begin as soon as adoption is under consideration, the child's social worker must make a formal referral to Adopt Thames Valley as soon as placement for adoption becomes the Care Plan or parallel plan for the child.

Family Finding work can commence before the Agency Decision Maker decides that the child should be placed for adoption or a Placement Order is made. Where there is very clear evidence for adoption, and where suitable adopters are available within the Regional Adoption Agency, or the Court has given permission for family finding to be pursued externally before the granting of a Placement Order, an adoptive family can be identified in principle before the Placement Order is made. Any restrictions put in place by the Court around family finding must be strictly adhered to.

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 specific child concerned throughout childhood.

Consideration must be given as to whether there are suitable potential adopters available under the Fostering for Adoption, Concurrent Planning and Temporary Approval as Approved Prospective Adopters as Foster Carers Procedure.

The overall time-scale for matching a child with a prospective adoptive family is:

  • Wherever possible, the match should be identified, recommended by the Adoption Panel and approved by the Agency Decision Maker within 121 days of the Agency receiving authority to place, 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 by the Agency Decision Maker within 3 months (91 days) of the agency's formal approval that the child should be placed for adoption.

7.1

When the child is formally referred to the Regional Adoption Agency for family finding, a family finder will be identified to start the family finding process.

7.2

The family finder or an appropriate manager will arrange a meeting to plan the family finding for the child and agree timescales and responsibilities. The meeting must involve the allocated family finder and the child's social worker, and may include the child's foster carer and any other relevant people. A checklist is available for this meeting, which can be used as an agenda.

The meeting will consider the child's priority placement requirements and agree a proposed timetable around family finding which dovetails with the Court timetable. It will clearly identify the responsibilities of the different professionals involved in seeking to achieve placement for the child within expected timescales. The child's social worker should add any information from the meeting to the child's Adoption Case Record.

Where foster carers express an interest in adopting a child placed with them, see Paragraph 7.11.

7.3

With effect from July 2014, by virtue of the Children and Families Act 2014, adoption agencies do not have a specific legal requirement to “give due consideration to a child's religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background when matching a child and prospective adopters”.

In accordance with this principle, whilst it is still good practice to consider the child's ethnicity as part of the matching considerations, ethnicity must not be placed above everything else when identifying potential adopters for children and it is unacceptable for a child to be denied the benefits of adoption solely on the grounds that the child and the potential prospective adopter/s do not share the same racial or cultural background.

Prospective adopters can be matched with child/ren with whom they do not share the same ethnicity, if they appear to have the ability to respect, reflect or actively develop the child/ren's racial identity from the point that they are matched and as the child/ren develop throughout childhood

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 adopter/s who, while not necessarily sharing any of these, are willing and able to help the child to continue to develop these important elements of his/her identity.

7.4

The family finder will then pursue a number of actions:

  1. Referral to the Adoption Register for England and Wales, if appropriate, and with the consent of the Court;
  2. Drawing up detailed 'Matching Criteria' detailing the child's identified Placement Needs;
  3. Consideration of the prospective adopters approved within the Regional Agency, or currently under assessment, whose placement criteria, geographical location and family structure suggest that they may be suitable to provide placement for the child;
  4. Where potentially suitable in-house adopters are available, the family finder will invite the child's social worker to read the relevant Prospective Adopter Reports in advance of the Final Hearing.
The short-listing process will,  in consultation with the relevant managers, identify the prospective adoptive family or families who appear to be likely to best meet the child's identified placement needs.

7.5

The relevant adoption workers for the families selected will inform them and arrange to meet with them to discuss the child/ren as soon as possible, sharing the content of the child's CPR and adoption medical (if available). Where Court proceedings are ongoing it may not be possible to share identifying information (including the child's name and full date of birth or photographs) and restrictions around this must be adhered to. Written details should only be provided to the prospective adopter/s at this stage if the Court process allows this and not if a number of families are still under consideration for the child.

Following confirmation by the adoptive families concerned as to whether they wish to be considered an arrangement may be made for the child's social worker and family finder to meet with one or more of the families under consideration in advance of a formal a formal decision will be made regarding which (if any) adoptive family should be progressed to Panel as a potential 'match' for the child/ren.

Following any agreed meetings taking place the formal matching process will include the child/ren's social worker and family finder and will involve either a formal Matching Meeting or consultation with the responsible Adoption Manager.

7.6

Where there are no potentially suitable in-house approved families available or where none are selected, the Adoption Team must develop a further strategy for family finding to prevent further delay, for example the seeking of an inter-agency placement (see Paragraph 7.12).

7.7

Where a potentially suitable in-house approved adoptive family is identified, the family finder will arrange to visit with the child's social worker, the adopter/s' adoption worker and the child's carer if appropriate. This should happen regardless of whether a previous meeting has taken place as the purpose of meeting the prospective adopter/s at this stage will be different and the prospective adopter/s will have different questions for the child's social worker and family finder once they know that they are the 'Family of Choice'. The meeting should include:

  • Provision of full information about the child (accepting any restriction imposed by the Court process);
  • Discussion of the likely timescales around placement and the matching and placement process;
  • Discussion of the Adoption Support Plan;
  • Discussion of the Panel process, including the role of the potential adopter/s in contributing to the completion of the Adoption Placement Report.

7.8

The family finder should arrange for the selected prospective adopter/s to be provided 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 and, if appropriate any up-to-date school/nursery reports and the child's PEP. The information provided should be clearly recorded and the prospective adopter/s should be asked to sign confirmation of receipt of this information.

7.9

At the meeting with the prospective adopter/s, the child's social worker and family finder should provide any further information to them to ensure that they have a clear picture of the child and understand fully the implications of the information that has been shared.

The prospective adopter/s should have the opportunity to talk with any specialists involved with the child, and must have the opportunity to talk to and ideally meet with the appropriate Agency Medical Adviser and the child's foster carer/s in advance of the proposed 'match' being considered by the Adoption Panel.

7.10

Where foster carer/s express an interest in adopting a child who they are looking after (usually this would have been for a considerable period of time), and there is an Adoption Plan for the child, they will be asked to put this request into writing to the appropriate Team Manager in the Regional Adoption Agency. The family finder will then meet with them to discuss the implications of adoption and the adoption preparation, assessment and approval process. A meeting will then be convened to consider the carers' likely ability to meet the child's longer term care and 'parenting' needs through-out childhood. This meeting will involve the child's social worker, his or her Team Manager and the foster carers' link social worker (with his or her manager where appropriate). This meeting will usually be chaired by the Adoption Team Manager. If the decision of the meeting is that the foster carers appear to be able to meet the child's likely longer term care and 'parenting' needs, the Adoption Team Manager will identify a social worker to complete the necessary preparation and assessment of the carers as prospective adopters. The prospective adoptive parents will also be invited to attend relevant training (see Assessment and Approvals of Prospective Adopters Procedure).

It is incumbent on every Local Authority to always seek to identify the most appropriate adoptive family for any child requiring adoption, taking into consideration the child's full range of care and parenting needs. Depending on the child's age, attachments, presenting needs and any risks posed by his/her birth family members knowing the address or geographical location of the foster carers, a decision should be made at this early stage regarding whether, if assessed and approved as being suitable to adopt, the child's carers will be considered along-side other approved and waiting adopters or whether they should be the sole family considered for the child.

If the outcome of the meeting is that the foster carers are not deemed to be able to meet the child's likely future care and 'parenting' needs, the recruitment of adopters as set out in the preceding and following paragraphs of this chapter will apply. The foster carers' link worker will provide support and counselling to the foster carers as appropriate.

7.11

Inter Agency Placements

Where the Adoption Team Manager considers that recruitment of adopters from another agency may be required, consideration will be given to how best to generate interest in the child from potential adopters being assessed or already approved by external agencies. This may include:

  • Referral to Link Maker or other on-line search engines;
  • Featuring the child in a national adoption journal;
  • Direct referral to other adoption agencies;
  • Featuring the child in the specialist or wider press.
It should be borne in mind that the most suitable family may be one that has been approved by another agency. When there is no in house match and a potential inter-agency match has not already been identified every child should be referred to the Adoption Register within 3 months of the Placing Authority receiving authority to place the child for adoption.

7.12

Where it is considered that a placement of the child with overseas adopters would be appropriate, see Section 13, Adoptive Placements Abroad.

7.13

Where recruitment of adopters from another agency has been authorised by the Team Manager, the family finder will undertake the following:

  • Check that appropriate consents to publicity have been obtained (including from the birth parents and/or the Court);

  • Arrange for professional photographs to be taken of the child for publicity purposes;

  • Arrange for a DVD to be made where appropriate;

  • Agree with the child's social worker which avenues are to be pursued for publicity purposes, and in consultation with the child's social worker draw up suitable profiles.

7.14

All members of the Adoption Team should be made aware of the dates when and platforms where a child's profile is to be featured and a response to callers should be agreed.

7.15

Once a suitable match has been identified, (whether with in-house approved adopters, interagency or a foster carer approved as an adopter), the child's social worker, the prospective adopter/s' link worker and the family finder should prepare an Adoption Placement Report 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, the adoptive family and the birth family members. This will include the support to be provided to the prospective adopter/s 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 the proposed arrangements for contact. For further information, please see Adoption Support Procedure. The Adoption Placement Report must be written by a qualified social worker with suitable experience and must include the prospective adopter/s' views on the proposed placement, contact arrangements, adoption support and meeting with the birth parents.

Where the child is identified as having complex needs a separate Adoption Support Plan may also be prepared.

7.16

The family finder should make a referral to the Adoption Panel Administrator to arrange a date for the Panel to consider the proposed placement.

7.17

Once the Adoption Placement Report and Support Plan has been completed and signed by the child's social worker, family finder, the prospective adopter/s' link worker and their respective managers, a copy of the Report should be sent to the prospective adopter/s. The prospective adopter/s should be given 10 working days to submit comments on its contents.

7.18

The child's social worker must keep the child's birth parents and (subject to his/her age and understanding) the child informed of progress (unless the parent has stated that he or she does not wish to be kept informed).

8. Formal Approval of Proposed Match with Prospective Adoptive Parents

The proposed match is presented to the Adoption Panel.

The overall time-scale for matching a child with a prospective adoptive family is:

  • The match is to be recommended by the Adoption and Permanency Panel within 121 days of the agency's formal approval that the child should be placed for adoption, except in the following cases:
    • Where a birth 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 (91 days) of the agency's formal approval that the child should be placed for adoption.

Where timescales for matching are not met, the Adoption Panel should record the reasons.

8.1

Presentation to the Adoption Panel:

The child's social worker must present the following reports:

  1. A report detailing the family finding process;
  2. The Panel minute recommending that the child should be placed for adoption and/or the Agency Decision that the child should be placed for adoption;
  3. The Child's Permanence Report and other reports submitted when the recommendation in b) above was made;
  4. Updating reports, including updated legal advice if the legal situation has changed. An addendum to the Child's Permanence Report (CPR) will be required if the report is more than 3 months out of date for a child aged under 2 years, or more than 6 months out of date for a child aged 2 to 7 years or more than 12 months out of date for a child aged over 7 (even for older children it is good practice for an addendum to be completed if the original CPR is more than 6 months out of date);
  5. The child's Permanency Medical Report and an update if appropriate. (A medical report must have been completed within the previous 6 months for a child aged under 2 years and within the previous 12 months for a child aged over 2 years);
  6. The Prospective Adopters' Report;
  7. The Panel minute recommending the prospective adopter/s as being suitable to adopt;
  8. The Agency Decision Maker's decision relating to the prospective adopter/s' approval to adopt;
  9. Updating reports as necessary, relating to the identified prospective adopter/s; for example an update medical report if the previous report to Panel is more than 2 years old, and/or updated Disclosure and Barring Service checks if the previous checks are more than 2 years old;
  10. Annual Review/s relating to the prospective adopter/s if they were approved to adopt 12 months or more prior to the proposed match being presented to the Adoption Panel;  
  11. The Adoption Placement Report (which must include the views of the prospective adopter/s);
  12. A separate Adoption Support Plan (where appropriate);
  13. Details of the proposed contact arrangements.

8.2

These Reports should be sent to the appropriate Adoption Panel Administrator at least 14 days in advance of the proposed Adoption Panel meeting and copies uploaded onto the Child's Adoption Record.

8.3

The child's social worker and the prospective adopter/s' link worker (or their managers) must attend the Adoption Panel when the proposed match is to be considered. Generally the family finder should also attend. The prospective adopter/s will be invited to the Panel Meeting but are not required to attend.

8.4

The 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 may also give advice in relation to the provision of adoption support, the arrangements for contact and the exercise by the prospective adopters of Parental Responsibility, and whether and how this should be restricted. A copy of the relevant minute must be placed on the child's and the prospective adopters' Adoption Case Files.

8.5

The prospective adopter/s' link worker should convey the Panel's recommendation orally to the prospective adopter/s within 24 hours if they have not attended the Panel meeting.

8.6

After the Adoption Panel;

After the Panel has considered the various reports and made a written recommendation, this will be sent to the Agency Decision Maker (Adoption) who holds responsibility for the child. He/she then has 7 working days from receipt of the Panel minute to make a decision based on the reports presented to the Panel and the minute. The decision and his/her reasons for it will be recorded in writing and added to the Panel minutes and then uploaded onto the child's Adoption Record. If the Panel has given advice in relation to adoption support, proposed contact and/or the exercise of Parental Responsibility by the prospective adopter/s, the Agency Decision Maker may express a view on such advice.

8.7

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 the appropriate experience, who should not be a Panel member. This discussion must be recorded and placed on the child's and the prospective adopter/s' Case Record.

8.8

The child's social worker should convey the decision orally to the birth parents within 2 working days, and then confirm the decision via a formal letter.

8.9

The prospective adopter/s' adoption worker should convey the decision orally to the prospective adopter/s within 2 working days (Good Practice is that they should be informed as soon as the decision is received).

8.10

Written notification of the decision will be signed by the Agency Decision Maker (Adoption) and sent to the Panel Administrator for sending to the adopter/s within 5 working days. Copies of this letter will also be sent to family finder and child's social worker.

9. Planning the Placement

9.1

Once the proposed match for the child has been approved, and the legal position allows it (i.e. parental consent to the placement has been given or a Placement Order has been made), the family finder must convene an Adoption Placement Planning Meeting (sample agenda available) to draw up the Adoption Placement Plan, confirming the details of the proposed introductions, the placement and any post-placement work anticipated.

9.2

Those attending the Adoption Placement Planning Meeting should include the child's social worker and family finder, the foster carer/s, the foster carer/s' link social worker, the prospective adopter/s and their adoption worker, and any worker engaged in direct work with the child. Placement Planning meetings are chaired by a Senior Practitioner (possibly the child's Family Finder or the prospective adopter/s' Link Worker) or the Adoption Manager or Assistant Team Manager. Where possible Placement Planning Meetings for inter- agency placements will be chaired by the Adoption Team Manager or Assistant Team Manager.

9.3

For inter-agency placements (outside of the Regional Adoption Agency) the Adoption Team Manager or Assistant Team Manager will consult with the prospective adopter/s' agency to complete CoramBAAF Form H1 which details the contract between the agencies and the adoptive family in relation to the placement.

9.4

The purpose of the Adoption Placement Planning Meeting is to draw up a proposed Adoption Placement Plan. The Adoption Placement Plan should include the following:

  •  Whether the placement is under a Placement Order or with parental consent;
  • The arrangements for preparing the child and the prospective adopter/s for the placement (see below);
  •  The proposed date of the placement;
  •  Who will be present when the placement takes place;
  •  The Adoption Support Plan, (including the support to be provided to the prospective adopter/s 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);
  •  Whether and if so to what extent, the exercise of Parental Responsibility by the prospective adopter/s is to be restricted (including the delegation of decision making to the prospective adopter/s about the child's health needs and under what circumstances consent to medical treatment needs to be obtained and also for example in relation to the change of the child's name);
  •  The arrangements for the supervision of the placement (including contact details during office hours and out of hours);
  •  The date on which the Life Book and Later Life Letter will be passed to the prospective adopter/s (usually within 10 working days of the Adoption Ceremony, i.e. the ceremony to celebrate the making of the Adoption Order);
  •  The date and arrangements for the first placement review;
  •  Any post-placement contact between the child and members of his or her birth family and/or the child and his or her foster carer/s; and;
  •  Clarification of who will make the necessary notifications of the placement (see Section 9, The Placement).
(For full details of all area to be covered in the Adoption Placement Plan, see the sample agenda).

9.5

The Adoption Placement Planning Meeting will also set out the steps required to successfully achieve the child's placement with the prospective adopter/s. This will include consideration of:

  • 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 incurred by the prospective adopter/s during the introductions;
  • Any other financial assistance that may be provided to enable the placement to occur;

     and, where appropriate;

  • The arrangements for any proposed meeting(s) between the birth parents/relatives and the prospective adopter/s.

As part of the preparation of the child for the adoptive placement, information will be provided to ensure that s/he has an age appropriate understanding about the accommodation and others living at the prospective adoptive home, the proposed contact arrangements with the birth family and how to contact his or her social worker.

See also Guidelines for Adopters re face-to-face meetings with birth relatives and Guidelines for Social Workers re face-to-face meetings between adopters and birth relatives.

9.6

The child's social worker must ascertain the child's views and report these at relevant meetings.

9.7

The child's first meeting with the prospective adopter/s should be on the child's familiar territory (unless the child is older and requests otherwise) and a social worker must be present. 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 and possible overnight stays for older children.

9.8

Changes to the Adoption Placement Plan can only be made with the agreement of the family finder, the Chair of the meeting, or the Team Manager with responsibility for the child.

9.9

The child's social worker is expected to be in regular and frequent contact with the child, his or her foster carer/s and the prospective adopter/s during the period of the introductions and all the involved parties should share information with each other on a regular basis, at the frequency identified at the Adoption Placement Planning Meeting. The Adoption Placement Plan will then be reviewed at an agreed date - see Paragraph 9.12. The Plan will identify all of the involved workers and when they will have contact with the child, carers and/or prospective adopter/s.

9.10

During the period of introductions at least one and often two reviews of the introductions will be held. The review/s may be held by phone or Skype or involve a face-to-face meeting. If the proposed Placement Plan is likely to change a face-to-face meeting must be held. Regardless of how the review meeting is staged the following areas will be addressed:

  1. The progress of the introductions - has the necessary action identified at the previous meeting been taken, and the plan been followed? - if not, why not?

  2. The views of each participant as to the above;

  3. Identification of the positives;
  4. Identification of any difficulties;
  5. The development of the next stage of the plan, including any further review of introductions (if required);

  6. The finalisation of the arrangements for the placement.

9.11

A further unscheduled review meeting can be called by any of the parties if issues of concern arise.

9.12

All Adoption Placement Planning Meetings and reviews should have the same people invited and if they involve a face-to-face meeting should take place at a venue accessible to all parties.

9.13

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 Family Finder should still convene a Placement Planning Meeting, in order to confirm the arrangements around the placement (covering the areas as set out above) including the date when the placement is to convert to an adoptive placement.

9.14

A copy of the final Adoption Placement Plan, should be given to the prospective adopters, their adoption worker and the child's Independent Reviewing Officer.

The prospective adopter/s must confirm in writing that they wish the placement to proceed and that they agree to the Adoption Placement Plan. The child should not be placed in the full-time care of his or her prospective adopter/s, or in the case of a child being adopted by his or her foster carers the placement should not be confirmed as an adoptive placement, until this written confirmation has been received. A copy must be retained on the child's Adoption Case Record.

9.15

Where contact is part of the adoption plan, a written copy of the arrangement should be signed by the birth relative/s and the prospective adoptive parent/s. The form must specify the nature and timing of the contact and the arrangements for putting the contact in place. In the case of a Letterbox Arrangement it should explicitly include whether photographs are to be included (there should be a presumption that photographs will be included unless there is evidence that this is likely to place the welfare of the child or his or her adoptive family at risk). It must also specify that the arrangements may change over time dependent upon the developing needs of the child. The arrangements should include a commitment by the birth relative/s not to engage in any unauthorised or unmediated sharing of information gained from the contact e.g. through online social networking sites. All parties should be given a copy of the agreement for their own reference and the signed copies will become part of the child's Adoption Case Record. See also Section 6, Post-adoption Contact.

9.16

If the Adoption Placement Plan is changed or does not proceed to placement, the child must be informed in an age appropriate way.

9.17

If there is a decision not to proceed to placement the child's birth parents must be informed (unless the parent/s have stated that he/she/they do not wish to be kept informed).

9.18

Where there is a decision not to proceed to placement the Adoption Team Manager and the Team Manager with responsibility for the child should jointly consider the best way to formally review what happened and what new information has emerged. The minutes of this Meeting should be included in the child's Case Record and the prospective adopter/s' Case Record.

9.19

In the event of the introductory period not progressing to placement, where the child's age and understanding make this appropriate direct work will be undertaken with the child to assist him or her to make sense of the reasons as to why the placement did not go ahead and to prepare the child for any future introductions to an alternative family.

9.20

In this event, the child's social worker and family finder must re-start the process of identifying a suitable prospective adoptive family or review the plan by reconvening a Looked After Review for the child.

10. The Placement

10.1 Once a proposed 'match' has been approved, the Adoption Placement Plan drawn up and signed by all parties and the plan of introductions successfully completed the placement can be effected. A social worker must be present when the placement takes place; this will usually be the social worker who the child knows best unless for reasons specific to the individual case the Adoption Placement Plan identifies an alternative worker who should be present.
10.2

Prior to the placement being effected, the child's social worker must ensure that all the following information/items have been provided to the prospective adopter/s:

  1. Authority to consent to medical and dental treatment;
  2. The child's 'Red Book' (or if not available a complete vaccination record);
  3. Any letters, photographs or mementos from the birth family, that are not to be included in the child's Life Book;
  4. The child's passport (if applicable);
  5. A written plan detailing the contact arrangements proposed both pre and post adoption with the birth parent/s, other significant birth relatives of the child and any previous carers;
  6. The Adoption Support Plan;
  7. The Adoption Placement Plan including arrangements for support and visits by the child's social worker and the adopter/s' own social worker;
  8. Any other relevant information, including specialist reports (subject to the authors and, if applicable, the Courts consent).
The prospective adopters should be asked to sign agreement to the Adoption Placement Plan.
10.3 Prior to the placement being effected, the child's social worker must notify the new GP, the local authority (where the prospective adoptive family live outside the placing authority), 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). Standard letters are available for this purpose. These notifications are still required where the prospective adopter/s were previously the child's foster carer/s.
10.4 Prior to the placement, the child's social worker should send the Agency medical report on the child to the child's new GP.
10.5 Where the child's foster carers are the prospective adopters, the family finder must confirm in writing to them the date from which the placement will becomes an adoptive placement.
10.6 The child's social worker must inform the parents of the date of the placement unless the birth parent/s have stated that they did not wish to be kept informed. No identifying information about the placement should be conveyed to birth parents or relatives. The child's case file must be restricted to preserve the confidentiality of the adoption placement.
10.7 The child's social worker must ensure the date of the placement is recorded on the client record, so that the record identifies that the child is placed for adoption but does not show the placement address.
10.8 The child's social worker must inform the relevant Finance Officer where the Adoption Support Plan includes financial support so that payments can be actioned.

11. Children Approved for Adoption for Whom no Placement has been Identified

11.1

The child will be the subject of regular reviews, chaired by an Independent Reviewing Officer - see Adoption Reviews Procedure.

  • Once a Placement Order is granted or a child's birth parents have given their consent to the local authority to identify prospective adopters for their child, the local authority should review the Adoption Plan within 3 months and then no less than 6 monthly until such time as an adoptive placement is identified or the Care Plan for the child changes.

11.2

Where a child has been approved for adoption but the child is then not placed within 9 months of the Placement Order being granted, the child's social worker must present a further report to the Agency Decision Maker 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 separation of siblings and/or a possible change to long-term fostering.

11.3

The Agency Decision Maker may request an earlier progress report on an individual case when first considering the child.

11.4

The outcome of any reviews as set out in paragraphs 11.1 and 11.2 above should be notified to the child (if he or she has an appropriate level of understanding), the birth parent/s (in appropriate cases) the Team Manager with responsibility for the child, the Fostering Team Manager, the Adopt Thames Valley Team Manager and any other relevant persons.

11.5

The child's details should be passed to the Adoption Register for England and Wales at the latest by 3 months after the decision by the Agency Decision Maker that the child should be placed for adoption, if no locally identified match is being actively pursued.

12. Adoptive Placements Abroad

Where an adoptive placement outside the UK appears to be a viable option, and consultation with the child (if he or she has an appropriate level of understanding) supports this, the proposal must be considered at a child's Looked After Review before becoming part of the child's Care Plan.

The child may be considered for an adoptive placement with known prospective adopter/s in which case it will be for the adoption agency to satisfy itself that the prospective adopter/s are suitable to adopt the child. Otherwise, the child may be referred to the Department for Education for a suitable link to be identified, (see header below).

In either circumstance, the case must be referred to the Agency Decision Maker in accordance with Section 2.14, Obtaining Agency Approval to Adoption Plan of this procedure, seeking a formal recommendation that adoption outside the UK is in the best interests of the child. The Child's Permanence Report must include an assessment of the possibility of placing the child for adoption in the British Isles and consideration of whether adoption of the child by a person in a particular country would be in the best interests of the child.

The Agency Decision Maker (Adoption) must consider the recommendation and decide whether the child should be placed for adoption overseas. The notification to the child (if he or she has an appropriate level of understanding)) and the birth parents must include an explanation of the placement possibilities in the British Isles and abroad.

Where a decision is made to pursue the option of placement overseas, the child's social worker should consult with Legal Services about the legal process, and seek the approval of the Designated Manager to an application for a Placement Order.

Where no Prospective Adopters have been Identified

Where a decision is made to place the child overseas, the child's social worker must notify the Department for Education of the following:

  1. The child's file reference number;
  2. The child's name;
  3. The child's date of birth;
  4. The gender of the child;
  5. The reasons why the decision has been made that adoption outside the UK may be suitable for the child;
  6. The date of any Placement Order.

The Department for Education maintains a list of children waiting for inter country adoption.

If a decision is made after the child's name is placed on the list that an overseas adoptive placement is no longer appropriate, the child's social worker must inform the Department for Education so that the child's details can be removed from the list.

Where the Department for Education receives an application from a foreign country, it will check that the prospective adopter/s have been assessed as eligible and suitable, and that they meet the age requirement of the UK law, and if so, consider whether there are children of the age and gender to match the prospective adopter/s' approval.

Where there are children on the list who appear, on the face of it, to match the prospective adopter/s, the Department for Education will send the relevant papers on the prospective adopter/s to the local authority looking after the child.

Upon receipt of the papers, the child's social worker in conjunction with the Adoption Service will consider whether the prospective adopters would meet the child's needs. Where necessary, Upon receipt of the papers, the child's social worker, in conjunction with the Adoption Service, will consider whether the prospective adopter/s are likely to be able to meet the child's needs. Where necessary, additional information should be requested from the overseas authority via the Department for Education. information should be requested from the overseas authority via the Department for Education.

Where it is decided that the prospective adopters are not suitable, the Department for Education should be notified and the papers returned.

Where it is decided that the prospective adopters are suitable, the Department for Education should be notified and the proposed match referred to the Adoption Panel for consideration in accordance with the usual procedure. Included in the papers to be presented to the Panel must be the report on the prospective adopters by the foreign authority.

The child's social worker must notify the Department for Education of the decision made. Where the decision is to proceed with the placement, the child's social worker must send the Child's Permanence Report, together with any Placement Order and a recent photograph of the child, to the Department for Education for onward transmission to the overseas authority and the prospective adopters.

Where the prospective adopters decide to go ahead with the placement, they will be required to travel to meet the child.

The matching procedures will then apply as for any other potential placement.

Placement Planning Meetings should be convened in accordance with the usual procedure (see Section 9, Planning the Placement) to plan the prospective adopter/s' first meeting with the child and the introductions. Where the placement goes ahead, regular reports should be required from the relevant overseas authority after the placement is effected.

If the prospective adopter/s still wish to go ahead and the Placement Planning Meeting confirms that the placement meets the child's needs, the child's social worker must inform the Department for Education, who will contact the overseas authority to confirm that they are content for the placement to go ahead and that the child will be permitted to enter and reside permanently. In these circumstances, the Department for Education will enter into the necessary agreement with the overseas authority.

The child's social worker can then arrange for the placement to proceed.

The prospective adopter/s will need to seek independent legal advice about the need to apply for a Convention Adoption Order in the UK (which will require the child to be with the adopter/s for at least 6 months prior to the application) or a Section 84 Order from the High Court granting them Parental Responsibility to take the child outside the UK for the purposes of adoption (which will require the child to be living with his or her prospective adopter/s for at least 10 weeks prior to the application). In either case, the Court will require a social worker's report - see Applications for Special Guardianship Orders Procedure for a detailed list of the contents.

The prospective adopter/s will need to arrange for the foreign authority to monitor the placement as determined by the Placement Planning Meeting.

Where Prospective Adopters have been Identified

It will be for the adoption agency to satisfy itself that the prospective adopter/s are suitable to adopt the child. The assessment should usually be carried out in the prospective adopter/s' home country and then sent to the adoption agency in the same way as for any other prospective adopter/s.

The matching procedures will then apply as for any other potential placement.

Placement Planning Meetings should be convened in accordance with the usual placement procedures (see Section 9, Planning the Placement) to plan the prospective adopter/s' first meeting with the child and the introductions. Where the placement goes ahead, regular reports should be required from the relevant overseas authority after the placement.

The prospective adopter/s will need to seek independent legal advice about the need to apply for a Section 84 Order from the High Court granting them parental responsibility to take the child outside the UK for the purposes of adoption (which will require the child to be living with his or her prospective adopter/s for at least 10 weeks prior to the application). Where such an application is made, the Court will require a social worker's report - see Applications for Special Guardianship Orders Procedure for a detailed list of the contents.

The child's social worker will need to arrange for the foreign authority to monitor the placement as determined by the Placement Planning Meeting.