Non Agency Adoption
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This procedure applies to applications in relation to adoptive placements that have not been arranged by Merton or a registered adoption agency, other than children brought into the United Kingdom for the purposes of adoption.
This will include adoption applications by step-parents, relatives, private foster carers or local authority foster carers who have not sought or obtained the local authority's approval for the placement becoming an adoptive placement.
In relation to such applications, the residence requirements are as follows:
- If the applicant or one of the applicants is the partner of the parent of the child, the child must have lived with the applicants continuously for 6 months prior to the application;
- If the applicants are local authority foster carers, the child must have lived with the applicants continuously for 12 months prior to the application;
- In any other case, the child must have lived with the applicant(s) for three out of the last five years prior to the application or the Court must have granted leave for an earlier application.
For the procedure in relation to children who have been brought into the United Kingdom for the purposes of adoption - see Inter Country Adoption Procedure. Merton commissions its service to Intercountry Adoption Centre.
For the contents of the Court report for adoption applications, see Court Reports in Adoption, Placement and Special Guardianship Order Applications: Guidance.
1. Initial Contact
Where residents of the local authority area request advice by letter, telephone or in person in relation to a non-agency adoption, the matter should be referred to the Adoption Service and a Referral Form should be completed and the enquirer should be offered general information. This may be by telephone or an office interview may be arranged.
The prospective applicants should be offered information and advice on the adoption process and the implications of adoption, including the following:
- Alternatives to adoption;
- The child's need to know that s/he is adopted and have information about the birth family;
- The requirement for the consent of anyone who has Parental Responsibility including the parent is to be obtained;
- The role of CAFCASS;
- The need to notify the local authority of their intention to apply for an Adoption Order.
If it is clear that the applicants do not fulfil the criteria of Domicile / Habitual Residence in the United Kingdom, the duty social worker should advise them to obtain legal advice.
Once it is established that the family concerned wish to pursue adoption, the case should be allocated to a social worker in the Adoption Service. The allocated worker must fulfil the qualifications and experience criteria set out in the Adoptions Regulations 2005.
Where a foster carer is making a non-agency application to adopt a Looked After child, with the support of the local authority, the case will be allocated as soon as possible.
Applicants for adoption, in the case of non-agency placements, must notify the local authority for the area where they live of their intention to apply for an Adoption Order. The notification should be sent at least three months and not more than two years before the date of the adoption application.
Any such notification received should be passed to the Adoption Service. The Adoption Manager will arrange for the notification to be acknowledged and, if not already allocated, allocate the case to a social worker. The allocated worker must fulfil the qualifications and experience criteria set out in Adoptions Regulations 2005.
Upon receipt of the notification, the local authority will have a duty to supervise the welfare of the child if the child is within the definition of Privately Fostered - see Section 5, Local Authority Duty to Supervise Child.
An Adoption Case Record should be opened for the child or each of the children involved.
As soon as practicable after notification is received, the allocated social worker will leave forms for the prospective adopters to complete for Disclosure Barring Service checks for all members of the household aged 18 or over.
3. Medical Information
Except where the application is by a step parent in which case a medical report is not required, the social worker will check that the applicants(s) and the child have received a medical examination before the adoption application is submitted.
If medical examinations are required, the social worker will provide the applicants with the relevant CoramBAAF medical forms for completion. These should be submitted to the Court with the adoption application and the Court will send copies to the local authority when a Court report is requested. Upon receipt, the completed medical forms should be passed by the social worker to the Medical Adviser for comment. These comments should then be included in the Court report (see Section 6, Court Request for Report).
4. Other Checks
On receipt of the notification of intention to apply to adopt, the social worker should arrange a Disabled Barring Service on the applicants and any member of the household aged 18 or over. Forms should be left for the prospective adopters to complete as soon as practicable after notification of an intention to adopt is received.
Consent should also be obtained for checks to be carried out with Merton, Probation and the health trust - and the necessary checks should be made.
5. Local Authority Duty to Supervise Child
On receipt of a notification to Merton in relation to a child who comes within the definition of Privately Fostered, the social worker must supervise the child until an Adoption Order is made in accordance with the Private Fostering Procedure, except that, where the child is already known to the local authority, the requirements under the Private Fostering Regulations as to the initial visit to the placement will not apply.
The aim of the supervision is:
- To ensure the child is well cared for and in receipt of appropriate health and education services;
- To support the prospective adopters and help them focus on the task of integrating the child into their family and of providing the child with full information about his or her background and birth family.
All visits should be recorded, including whether the child was seen and if so, whether the child was seen alone.
The social worker should advise the prospective adopters of the need for them to provide medical reports on themselves and the child to accompany their adoption application (see Section 3, Medical Information). The social worker should also attempt to obtain medical information on the birth parents and a neonatal report on the child if under 5 years old. The social worker should send all available medical information to the Medical Adviser for comment.
The social worker should ask the prospective adopters for the names of two personal referees, whom the social worker should interview.
The child will continue to have the status of a privately fostered child until an Adoption Order is made or until notification is given that the prospective applicants no longer intend to apply to adopt.
Prospective applicants should be asked to clarify their intentions if there is a delay and no adoption application is lodged. If this is not forthcoming, the social worker involved should write to the prospective applicants indicating that unless confirmation is provided of an intention to adopt, it will be assumed that the notification is withdrawn. In any event, after 2 years the notification will lapse.
6. Court Request for Report
Where a Court receives an adoption application in relation to a non-agency adoptive placement, the Court will notify the local authority of the hearing date and request a Report be prepared and submitted to the Court, usually within 6 weeks of the receipt of the notification. The Court timescales should be clarified at an early stage and if more time is required, a written request must be submitted to the Court as soon as the need for an extension is identified.The social worker responsible for the supervision of the child (usually in non agency adoptions, the social worker will be in the Adoption Team), will be responsible for preparing the Report, and for this purpose should gather available information on the child and parents - see sections below.
For the contents of the report, see Court Reports in Adoption, Placement and Special Guardianship Order Applications: Guidance.
Once completed, the social worker should send the Court Report to the Head of Service (Adoption) for approval so that it can be filed with the Court within the required timescale.
7. Parental Consent
The adoptive applicants will have to indicate in their adoption application whether or not there is Parental Consent to the application. If the parents do not consent, it is for the applicants to ask the Court to dispense with the agreement of the parent or parents.
The social worker preparing the report should attempt to interview both birth parents in relation to the adoption application and ascertain their views. If the parents do not live within a reasonable travelling distance, the social worker may request that a social worker from the local authority for the area where the birth parents now live interview them.
The report should address the significance of the role played so far by the birth parents in the child's life and the implications of an Adoption Order for any future parental role.
8. Child's Wishes and Feelings
The social worker should speak to the child to ascertain his or her wishes and feelings in relation to the adoption and report on these to the Court.
The discussion with the child should address any confusion on the part of the child in relation to the implications of an Adoption Order for example where the adoptive applicant is a relative.
9. The Applicants
The report will need to comment on the strength and duration of any new family relationships, particularly in the case of an adoption application by a step parent. Where there is limited evidence of the strength and stability of the relationship, the applicants should be advised to consider deferring the application until there is more evidence of stability.
In addition, alternatives to adoption should be discussed and explored with the applicants, who should be encouraged to consider them.
For example where the main concern is the child's name, the applicants should be advised to seek legal advice on how to achieve this without the need for an adoption order.
10. Alternatives to Adoption
The report should address any alternatives to adoption, which may offer a better framework for the child and the birth parents' future role.
11. Adoption Hearing
The social worker responsible for preparing the report should attend the adoption hearing.
12. After the Court Process
Once the adoption proceedings are complete, the social worker should complete the child's Adoption Case Record and arrange for its safe storage in the Adoption Archives.