Placement for Adoption
This chapter should be read in conjunction with the Permanence Planning Guidance.
AMENDMENTThis chapter was updated in January 2019 to amend Section 5, Child's Adoption Medical in line with current Merton procedure and to acknowledge the role and the expectations of the medical practitioner undertaking the assessment (which must be a medical/adviser/paediatrician).
1. Planning for Adoption and Requirements of the Child's Social Worker
|1.1||Every child looked after by Merton must have a Permanence Plan by the date of his or her second Looked After Review. This can be a dual plan, depending on the age and circumstances of the child and family because there are real possibilities of returning home, or of Special Guardianship as a possibility to be progressed alongside the plan for adoption. The permanence planning meeting will confirm the permanence plan and set out the actions required of the child's social worker and of the adoption team. For children already subject to a court order and in proceedings, the court progression officer will attend, to ensure that actions are being progressed within Public Law Outline timescales (see Care and Supervision Proceedings and the Public Law Outline Procedure). If the child is accommodated under Section 20 the meeting will consider if this remains appropriate, and refer to the Head of Service CIN for a legal Planning Meeting where necessary.|
|1.2||Merton has a statutory duty to consider, where it considers appropriate, placing the child with a relative, friend or Connected Person approved as a Merton foster carer. If these are not appropriate options, and where the social worker and their manager consider the child to be suitable for adoption even though they do not yet have parental consent or a Placement Order, they must consider placing the child with a local authority foster carer approved as a prospective adopter. See Fostering for Adoption, Concurrent Planning and Temporary Approval as Foster Carers of Approved Prospective Adopters Procedure.|
|1.3||For an unborn or Relinquished Child, an early permanence planning meeting should be arranged. Where adoption is considered to be the preferred option for a relinquished child, the Adoption Service should begin family finding immediately in order to achieve early placement following the decision of the Agency Decision Maker. See Placing Relinquished Babies and Children for Adoption Procedure.|
|1.4||For sibling groups, an early decision should be taken as to whether it is in the best interests of each child to be placed separately from their sibling(s) or together with their sibling(s), and the impact on each child of that decision. The decision must be based on a careful Together or Apart assessment by the social worker of the individual needs of each child, their attachments, needs, sibling and family history, positive and negative sibling interactions, level of contact with each other, observed behaviours when together or apart, health and emotional needs, developmental needs, and likely effects on each child of keeping the siblings together or separating them. Social workers may consult the CoramBAAF Together or Apart Guide checklists as part of: Sibling Relationship Assessment: the sibling relationships checklists. The Together or Apart Assessment will be required for the Adoption and Permanence Panel or the Agency Decision Maker at the stage of considering the plan for adoption, and will be required by the court.|
Requirements of the child's social worker:
Using all the information obtained in relation to the above, the social worker must prepare the Child's Permanence Report. The Child's Permanence Report (CPR) must be written by the social worker who knows the child best, who must also be a qualified social worker with suitable experience (see Adoption, Fostering and Permanence Panel Procedure). The following areas must be included or addressed in the CPR:
2. The Agency Decision Maker and Obtaining Approval for the Adoption Plan
Agency Decision Maker
There are two routes to obtaining the Agency Approval for a child to be adopted. Both routes require a decision from the Agency Decision Maker (ADM). For a relinquished baby or a child who is being adopted with the consent of the parent(s) and accommodated under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989, the recommendation of the Adoption, Fostering and Permanence Panel (AFPP) is required before the Agency Decision Maker can proceed to make a decision. For a child that is a subject of care proceedings, or for whom there is no parent or guardian, the Agency Decision Maker can make a decision directly, and without prior recommendation from the Panel.
The role of the Agency Decision Maker is, therefore, pivotal to the progression of the adoption of the child. Only the Agency Decision Maker can decide on behalf of Merton that the planned adoption of the child is the right plan for the child. The ADM is guided in this role by the welfare checklist of the Children Act 1989 and guidance from the courts, which requires (see Hofstetter v LB Barnet (2009)) that all known information and all relevant reports are available to the ADM and taken into consideration in coming to a decision, and (see Re B-S (2013)) that any other viable options for the permanent care of the child have been fully considered by the child's social worker, that the analysis in the CPR establishes adoption as the best means of meeting the child's needs, and the analysis takes into account the wishes of the child and family.The Agency Decision Makers for Merton are firstly, the Service Director, and secondarily, the Head of Service for Looked After Children, Permanence and Placements. In most circumstances, the ADM decision will be made by the Service Director.
For Adoption Plans with Consent of the Parent(s)
|2.2||Preparation of the Child Permanence Report should begin as soon as the child becomes Looked After. For a relinquished baby the permanence planning meeting must be held within 3 weeks of the baby's birth and immediately followed at 4 weeks by the first statutory LAC review. Note that if the child is a baby under 6 weeks of age and placed immediately with a prospective adopter, the parent(s) must sign CSF3972. By regulation, the meeting of the Adoption, Fostering and Permanence Panel to match the child with their prospective adopter(s) must take place within 12 weeks of the child's birth and no later than 8 weeks of the first review. See Placing Relinquished Babies and Children for Adoption Procedure. For older children, the CPR is began immediately following the permanence planning meeting and the agency approval for the adoption plan progressed by referral to the Adoption, Fostering and Permanence Panel within 6 weeks of completion.|
To enable the Panel to consider whether the child is suitable to be placed for adoption, the child's social worker must present the following reports:
For Adoption Plans Without the Consent of the Parent(s)
For children subject to a court order, only the ADM can agree that the child be placed for adoption. The local authority cannot apply for a placement order without the decision of the ADM. The ADM decision is required for a dual plan that includes adoption because this necessitates the local authority making application for a placement order. The ADM cannot proceed to make a decision until in possession of the Child's Permanence Report (CPR), Together or Apart Assessment (if required), other local authority reports, medical report, legal advice, and all expert assessments and reports to be used in the care proceedings.
Following on from the permanence planning meeting, the Quality Assurance Manager for Adoption, Fostering and Permanence will arrange for the ADM meeting to be held at a date and time that is within the timescale of the legal proceedings and date of court hearing for the placement order application. On booking the date for the ADM meeting the Quality Assurance Manager for Adoption, Fostering and Permanence will ensure that the CPR, legal advice, medical report and expert assessments are sent to the ADM at least 5 working days in advance of the meeting. There may be exceptional circumstances in which the lateness of expert reports or amendments to the CPR, for example, mean that these deadlines cannot be met, in which case the ADM may consent to receive reports cover to the date of the meeting. The social worker and their manager must alert the Quality Assurance Manager for Adoption, Fostering and Permanence in these circumstances and agreement will be sought from the ADM for the later submission of the report. The ADM has a duty not to make a decision until all the reports have been read and carefully considered, and so it is imperative that social workers ensure that the ADM has sufficient time to consider the information and to seek clarification as necessary.The Quality Assurance Manager for Adoption, Fostering and Permanence will prepare a summary of the information and recommendation for the ADM. The ADM meeting will be attended by the child's social worker and their manager, by the Quality Assurance Manager for Adoption, Fostering and Permanence, and by the Head of Service for Looked After Children, Permanence and Placements, and others as requested. The ADM will endeavour to make a decision on the day of the meeting, or within a timescale in keeping with the timetable of the legal proceedings.
|2.5||Once a decision has been made by the Agency Decision Maker for the child to be placed for adoption (with or without parental consent) the care plan cannot be changed by any other person or meeting. If there is a significant change of circumstances for the child identified in a statutory review (brought forward if necessary to accommodate the timetable of the care proceedings) the Quality Assurance Manager for Adoption, Fostering and Permanence will make referral to the ADM for reconsideration of the decision.|
After the Decision
The parents will be informed orally of the agency's decision within two working days and written confirmation in writing should be sent to them within five working days. These arrangements will be made by the social worker in conjunction with their Team Manager.
The letter setting out the agency decision will be sent by recorded delivery, except where delivery by hand has been agreed as appropriate, in which case the letter will be forwarded to the social worker for delivery by hand.
The social worker will also ensure that the child is informed of the decision in a timely and age-appropriate way.In cases where the case has been presented to the Adoption, Fostering and Permanence Panel and the decision is different from the Panel's recommendation, a copy of the Panel minute should also be sent to the parents.
|2.7||Prior to the decision to seek a Placement Order (and this has agreed by the team manager) the social worker should consult Legal Services in order to prepare the Court application. The child's social worker should inform the child's Independent Reviewing Officer of the Court timetable including when the placement application is filed. NB Local authorities cannot make applications for Placement Orders until it has been decided by the Agency Decision Maker that the child is suitable to be placed for adoption.|
|2.8||Where there is parental consent to the child's adoptive placement and/or advance parental consent to the child's adoption, and the child is more than 6 weeks old, the child's social worker must arrange for a written request to be sent to CAFCASS to appoint an officer to witness the consent.|
|2.9||The social worker should send to the CAFCASS office closest to the parents' hoe 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.|
|2.10||On receipt of the parent's consent witnessed by the CAFCASS officer, the original must be placed on the child's Adoption Case Record (as it will be required for the future adoption application).|
3. Preparation of Child for Adoption
The social worker will ensure that Life Story Work with the child continues with the aim as far as possible that:
As part of the above, the child will be given a Children's Guide to Adoption as this will form a part of the child's Care Plan. Any information given to the child should be confirmed in writing and any discussions with the child should be fully recorded. The child's preferred method of communication should be known and there should be no assumption that a child is unable to communicate. An interpreter should be arranged where necessary to ensure that there is effective communication with the child.
The social worker should specifically ensure that the child's wishes in relation to adoption, religious and cultural upbringing and contact with his or her birth family are ascertained.Where a child's wishes are not acted upon, for example a child's wish to be placed with his or her siblings, this should be explained to the child, with reasons, and should be fully recorded.
|3.2||The foster carers' supervising social worker will support the foster carers in playing their part in the implementation of the plan, including careful recording by the foster carers of any changes in the child's behaviour.|
Once an adoptive placement has been identified and approved, the social worker is responsible for ensuring the child is properly prepared for the first meeting with the prospective adoptive family and is appropriately counselled during the period of introductions - see Section 10, Planning the Placement.As part of the preparation of the child for the adoptive placement, information will be provided to ensure that s/he has a proper understanding about the accommodation and others living at the prospective adoptive home, the contact arrangements with the birth family and how to contact his or her social worker.
|3.4||The social worker will encourage the parents to write a letter for the child, and to provide information to enable the social worker to write a 'Later Life' letter for the child (to give to the adopters) within 10 working days of adoption ceremony, i.e. the ceremony to celebrate the making of the adoption order.|
4. Counselling and Support for Parents
|4.1||Both parents must be offered counselling and support irrespective of whether they have Parental Responsibility unless there are exceptional circumstances, in which case legal advice should be taken and the reasons for not arranging counselling recorded.|
|4.2||It may also be appropriate for members of the extended family to receive counselling or support, where they have played a significant role in the child's life.|
|4.3||The 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; in addition the social worker should provide them with written information on the adoption process covering the areas set out in paragraph 4.8 a) to g), l) and m) below and this should be recorded.|
If either or both of the birth parents refuse to accept or do not receive the written information, this should be recorded, including the reasons, on the child's case file and Adoption Case Record.Where the parents' address is known, the social worker should personally deliver or arrange for delivery by hand of a copy of the information to the address and record this on the Adoption Case Record.
|4.5||The social worker must also seek to ascertain the parent's views on the matters set out in paragraph 4.8, h) and k) below and offer to arrange independent support for both birth parents (including unmarried fathers). The purpose of the support is to ensure that the alternatives to adoption have been explored and the implications of adoption fully discussed. It also offers the parents the opportunity to express their views in relation to the plans for the child, and to be involved in planning for the child's future wherever possible. Where the offer of support is accepted, the social worker should make the necessary arrangements for a referral for independent support to be made.|
|4.6||The support may need to be provided by a specialist worker, for example where the parent has poor mental health or learning disabilities. If so, the social worker should ensure that an appropriate resource is identified.|
|4.7||The specific needs of parents arising from their ethnicity must always be taken into account. An interpreter must be arranged where English is not their preferred language.|
The counselling and support will cover the following areas:
|4.9||The parents should be encouraged to seek legal advice particularly where they are opposed to the adoption plan. Where there is an unmarried father without Parental Responsibility, the social worker should also ascertain if he intends to apply for a Parental Responsibility Order and a Child Arrangements Order.|
|4.10||The parents and their solicitors, if appropriate, must be sent copies of any written consents and/or recording of their views.|
|4.11||Where the parents refuse or decline to accept counselling and/or support, the child's social worker must record the attempts made to persuade the parents and the reasons for their refusal in the child's file and Adoption Case Record.|
|4.12||Where the parents are seeking to have an expected child adopted, the counselling must start before the baby's birth. In addition, the social worker must cover practical tasks such as the arrangements for the birth, the parents' own contact with the child after the birth, the intended length of the mother's hospital stay and their wishes regarding the timing of the placement. After the child's birth, the counselling and support must continue. The social worker should then confirm with the parents that they still wish to pursue adoption for the child.|
|4.13||The social worker should arrange for photographs to be taken of the child and, if they agree, the parents and other significant people and places, for inclusion in the child's Life Story Book.|
5. Child's Adoption Medical
|5.1||As soon as a Parallel Adoption plan becomes part of the child's care planning, which would be by the first LAC Review the social worker should make a referral to the Medical Adviser requesting an adoption medical for the child. The Medical Adviser should be asked to undertake a a full developmental assessment if one has not been completed to date or if it has been completed more than six months ago, The medical must be undertaken by a medical/adviser/paediatrician and they must advise us if any tests or other opinions are required, particularly if this may cause delay. (In some cases, the Medical Adviser may consider that there is already sufficient up-to-date health information on the child and a further medical examination is not required and the report for court can be completed based on information already on file, however if the child has not been seen in the last six months by the LAC Nurse team or the LAC Dr it is advisable that the child is reviewed and the assessment given to the medical advisor).|
|5.2||The 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 Form be completed and returned to the social worker. Where the child was born at home, the Form should be sent to the mother's GP.|
The social worker should write to the Medical Adviser requesting a medical for the child and at the same time inform the Medical Adviser when Forms B and M were requested.The procedure needs to be started without delay so that the adoption medical can be arranged; the adoption medical must take place before the child's plan for adoption is considered at the Panel / Agency Decision Maker, (unless the Medical Adviser has advised it unnecessary - see paragraph 5.1). The Medical Adviser must be in a position to advise the Panel / Agency Decision Maker of the child's health needs.
|5.4||The child's social worker must seek the cooperation of both birth parents to provide written consent to the disclosure of medical information if this has not already been provided, including obtaining their consent to the Medical Adviser approaching their GP if necessary, as well as obtaining their written consent to the obstetric report on the mother and neo-natal report on the child. This is via form C being completed and sent to the Medical Adviser, a copy of which must remain in the child's social care records.|
|5.5||The importance of the disclosure of medical information must be explained to the parents but where the parents refuse to sign consent forms, the social worker must complete as much as possible on the relevant forms, record the attempts made to engage the parents and the reasons for refusal in the child's file and Adoption Case Record, and inform the Medical Adviser of the position. Form C includes the correct wording for informed consent and there are additional advice sections within the guidance. If there are any further concerns please contact the Designated Nurse for LAC who will assist.|
|5.6||The social worker should complete Part A of the CoramBAAF form IHA-C/YP or RHA-C/YP and email them to the Medical Adviser for completion at the medical.|
|5.7||The foster carer should attend the medical with the child and, if appropriate, the child's social worker should also attend.|
|5.8||The information on the child's medical report must be kept up to date if a placement is not immediately forthcoming. This must be done twice yearly for a child aged below 5 and annually for a child of 5 and above. The Medical Adviser may, however, make specific recommendations in relation to particular children.|
6. Post-placement Contact
|6.1||The social worker must undertake a written assessment as to the best interests of the child to support any contact proposals as part of an adoption plan, or reasons why no contact is recommended. This assessment will take account of the views of the child, the parents, the foster carers and any other significant family members, as well as evidence of attachment and the quality of relationships, based on observations of contact and the child's behaviour before, during and after contact.|
|6.2||Where there is a sibling group, each child must be assessed separately and together as a group.|
|6.3||The assessment should determine whether post-placement and post-adoption contact between the child and the parents and/or siblings would be in the child's best interests, and if so, what form it should take. The nature and frequency of contact will be influenced by the need to maintain attachments and/or long-term identity issues.|
Post-placement and post-adoption contact may take the following forms:
|6.5||Any proposed post-placement and post-adoption contact should be in line with any Court Orders.|
|6.6||Where post-placement and post-adoption contact is considered to be in the child's interests, it should be part of the information shared with prospective adoptive parents during the matching process - see Section 7, Identification of Adoptive Parents (including Inter Agency Placements) and also part of the planning of the placement - see Section 10, Planning the Placement.|
7. Identification of Adoptive Parents (including Inter Agency Placements)
The following procedures should be adhered to with all other potential permanence assessments so that there is no delay to family finding. By the second review, this part of the process should be happening to alleviate any chance of delay.
The overall time-scale for matching a child with a prospective adoptive family is:
- The match is to be identified, recommended by the Panel and approved within 4 weeks of the granting of a placement order. The agency's formal approval that the child is suitable to be placed for adoption, except in the following cases;
- Where a parent requests adoption for a child of less than six months of age, the match is to be identified, recommended by the Panel and approved within 4 weeks of the agency's formal approval that the child is suitable to be placed for adoption.
|7.1||Following the identification of the family finder, the timing of the start of the family finding will depend on the legal position agreed between the allocated social worker and the family finder. This should be finalised and agreed prior to the final hearing, as parallel planning will have been started during the first review.|
The social worker and the family finder will address the following issues:
The family finder will consider whether there are any potentially suitable in-house approved families (including families going through the assessment process) by sharing the child's profile with the Adoption Service and reading copies of any available Prospective Adopter's Reports.Where foster carers express an interest in adopting a child placed with them, see paragraph 7.12.
|7.4||Where there are potentially suitable in-house approved families indicating an interest, the family's adoption link worker will visit to clarify whether they wish to be considered. In complex cases, the social worker will accompany the link worker to enable specific issues to be discussed.|
|7.5||Where suitable in-house approved adoptive families are available, the family finder will arrange a Matching Meeting involving the child's social worker, the social worker's supervising manager and the adoption link workers for the potential families. The Team Manager or his/her nominee will chair this meeting.|
The purpose of the meeting is to consider the available in-house approved potential families, and decide which appears the best able to meet the child's needs. The meeting should also consider:
|7.7||The relevant adoption link workers for the family/families concerned will inform the selected family and the unsuccessful families of the decision, together with reasons, on the same day as the meeting. They will also offer follow up discussions as required.|
Ethnicity must not be placed above everything else when identifying potential adopters for children. Merton believes that it is unacceptable for a child to be denied adoptive parents for reasons that the child and prospective adopter do not share the same racial origin, cultural and linguistic background, or religion. The prospective adopter needs to demonstrate that they fully understand that having a child from a different ethnic group can present challenges affecting the child's self-esteem and identity because of visible differences and questions from peers. These are challenges in some circumstances, but they are also opportunities for developing a strong self-confidence and sense of identity through celebrating diversity and difference. For older children who may have developed a racial, cultural, linguistic and religious identity, it will be important for the adopter to help the child to continue to develop these and to celebrate these aspects of their self-identity.It is important not to make assumptions about a child's racial, religious, cultural or linguistic background, and care should be taken not to impose assumptions about these on the child. As they grow and develop throughout childhood these are aspects of the child's identity that they and their adopter will explore.
|7.9||The family finder will provide the selected prospective adopters with full information about the child, including the Child's Permanence Report, the child's profile, a full description of the birth family including any siblings and the reasons for any decision to place the child separately, the child's medical history (including the birth details), the carer's report on the child, the current school reports and the child's PEP. The items provided should be clearly recorded and the prospective adopters should be asked to sign confirmation of receipt of this information.|
|7.10||The family finder should also arrange to meet the prospective adopters, with the child's social worker (and carer if appropriate), to give any further information to them and ensure they have a clear picture of the child and understand fully the implications of the information they have received. In appropriate cases, the prospective adopters should have the opportunity to meet other specialists involved with the child, for example the Medical Adviser.|
|7.11||If there are no suitable in-house prospective or approved adoptive carers who can meet the child's identified essential needs, the adoption worker must explore inter-agency options.|
Where foster carers express an interest in adopting a child this should be the exception they are looking after, and there is an adoption plan for the child, the family finder will talk to them about the implications of adoption and will convene a Matching Meeting involving the child's social worker, his or her line manager and the foster carers' supervising social worker (with his or her line manager where appropriate). The chair of the meeting will be the Team Manager or his/her nominee. If the outcome of the meeting is that the foster carers appear to be able to meet the child's essential needs, the case will be allocated for an assessment of the foster carers as adopters to proceed (see Assessment and Approval of Prospective Adopters Procedure).
If they are approved as adopters, the requirements set out in Section 9, Approval of Matching of Adoptive Parents as to the approval of the matching and in Section 10, The Placement as to the provision of information and notification of the placement must be followed.
If the outcome of the meeting is that the foster carers are not able to meet the child's essential needs, the recruitment of adopters as set out in the preceding and following paragraphs of this chapter will apply. The foster carers' supervising worker will provide support and counselling to the foster carers as appropriate.If the foster carers decide to proceed with an application to adopt the child without the agreement of the agency, the procedure set out in Non-Agency Adoptions will apply.
Inter Agency Placements
The Head of Service, LAC, Permanency and Placements will ensure that consideration is given to all options for placement which will include referrals to the South West London Adoption Consortium and other inter agency placements (for example through publicity in the specialist or wider press) according to the identified needs of the child.Where it is considered that a placement of the child with overseas adopters would be appropriate, see Section 13, Adoptive Placements Abroad.
Where recruitment of adopters from another agency has been authorised, the family finder will undertake the following:
|7.15||Other members of the Adoption Service as well as the social worker should be made aware of the dates of the publicity and a response to callers should be agreed.|
Responses from families not yet approved should be dealt with as follows:
Responses from already approved families should be dealt with within a 4 week timeframe and once approval is granted then they can begin to start contact, as follows:
The procedure outlined in paragraphs 7.4 to 7.8 above will then be followed and the child's social worker and family finder will visit potential families prior to a Matching Meeting being held.
Once a suitable match has been identified, (whether with in-house approved adopters, inter agency or a foster carer approved as an adopter), the child's social worker, prospective adopters' link worker and the family finder should prepare an Adoption Placement Report and a proposed Adoption Support Plan giving details of the family recommended, evaluating how this family may meet the child's needs and setting out the proposed adoption support services to be offered to the child, adoptive family and birth family. This will include including the support to be provided to the prospective adopters to promote the child's educational achievements and participation in leisure activities; to help the child develop positive relationships; and to manage any challenging behaviour which the child may display. The support plan will also include arrangements for contact including how to deal with unauthorised or unmediated contact through online social networking sites. For further information, please see Adoption Support Procedure.The Adoption Placement Report must be written by a qualified social worker with suitable experience and must include the prospective adopter's views on the proposed placement, contact arrangements (including meeting with the birth parents), adoption support and any proposed restrictions on their exercise of Parental Responsibility after the placement.
|7.19||The social worker, family finder, the prospective adopters' link worker and their respective managers should sign both documents.|
|7.20||The family finder should also contact the Panel Administrator to arrange a date for the Adoption, Fostering and Permanence Panel to consider the proposed placement.|
|7.21||The child's social worker will keep the parents and child informed of progress (unless the parent has stated that he or she do not wish to be kept informed).|
|7.22||The family finder should provide a copy of the Adoption Placement Report to the prospective adopters and give 10 working days to them to submit any written comments on its contents, or ask them to sign a disclaimer if they do not require the full 10 working days. A copy of the signed disclaimer should be held on the child's Adoption Case Record.|
8. Temporary Approval as Foster Carers of Approved Prospective Adopters
A person who is approved as a prospective adopter may be given temporary approval as a local authority foster carer for a named Looked After child, where the local authority consider that this is in the child's best interests.
Before giving such approval, the responsible authority must:
- Assess the suitability of that person to care for the child as a foster carer; and
- Consider whether, in all the circumstances and taking into account the services to be provided by the responsible authority, the proposed arrangements will safeguard and promote the child's welfare and meet the child's needs as set out in the Care Plan.
The temporary approval period expires when:
- The placement is terminated by the local authority;
- The approval as a prospective adopter is terminated,
- The prospective adopter is approved as a foster carer;
- The prospective adopter gives 28 days' written notice that they no longer wish to be temporarily approved as a foster parent in relation to the child; or
- The child is placed for adoption with the prospective adopter; following the approval of the Head of Service, LAC, Permanency and Planning to place the child. The child will then be placed under Adoption Agency regulations and the foster care approval is revoked.
Adoption Guidance 2012 expects that children are placed with Adoptive Parents within 639 Days (21 Months) of their first period of continuous care and no more than 7 months from the making of the Placement Order. Merton has a standard that unless there is an exceptional circumstance, that if a match has been identified placement should be before or as soon as possible after the making of a Placement Order.
9. Approval of Matching of Adoptive Parents
The overall time-scale for matching a child with a prospective adoptive family is:
- The match is to be recommended by the Panel within 6 months of the agency's formal approval that the child should be placed for adoption, except in the following cases;
- Where a parent requests adoption for a child of less than six months of age, the match is to be recommended by the Panel within 3 months of the agency's formal approval that the child should be placed for adoption.
Where these timescales are not met, the Adoption Panel should record the reasons.
Presentation to the Joint Panel
The family finder must present the following reports to the Panel:
|9.2||The family finder will send the relevant reports to the Panel Administrator at least 10 working days before the date of the Adoption, Fostering and Permanence Panel.|
|9.3||The Panel Administrator will arrange for the Panel minutes in relation to the recommendations that the child should be placed for adoption and, where in-house approved, that the prospective adopters are suitable to be adopters, to be circulated to Panel members, with the reports. Where there is a proposed inter-agency placement, the family finder will obtain the relevant Panel minutes for circulation.|
|9.4||The social worker, the family finder and the prospective adopters' link worker will attend the Panel during consideration of the matter. Where a Children's Guardian has been appointed, consideration should be given to inviting the Children's Guardian to the Panel during consideration of this item.|
|9.5||The Panel's recommendation as to whether the child should be placed for adoption with the particular prospective adopters will be recorded in writing, together with reasons, in the Panel's minutes. The Panel must also consider and may give advice in relation to the proposed adoption support, the proposed arrangements for contact and any proposed restrictions on the exercise of Parental Responsibility by the prospective adopters and/or the birth parents. A copy of the relevant minute must be placed on the child's and the prospective adopters' Adoption Case Records.|
|9.6||The prospective adopters' link worker will convey the Panel's recommendation orally to the prospective adopters within 24 hours.|
After the Panel has considered the reports and made a written recommendation, the minute and reports considered by the Panel will be sent to the Team Manager in consultation with the Head of Service, LAC, Permanency & Placements who will make a decision based on this information within 7 working days of the Panel meeting.
In urgent cases, for example where the Court timetabling and child's timescales requires it, this timescale should be reduced to 5 working days and very rarely on the same day. The decision must be recorded in writing.
If the Panel has given advice in relation to adoption support, proposed contact and/or the exercise of Parental Responsibility by the prospective adopters and/or the birth parents, the Team Manager may express a view on such advice.Where the Team Manager 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 may be the Head of Service, LAC, Permanency and Placements. This discussion must be recorded and placed on the child's and the prospective adopter's Adoption Case Record.
|9.8||The social worker will convey the decision orally to the parents within 2 working days.|
|9.9||The prospective adopters' link worker will convey the decision orally to the prospective adopters within 2 working days.|
|9.10||The Panel Administrator will prepare written notification of the decision to be signed by the Agency Decision Maker and once signed, sent to the child's social worker for sending by recorded or hand delivery to the parents within 5 working days.|
|9.11||The Panel Administrator will send the written notification, signed by the Chair, to the prospective adopters' link worker for sending to the adopters within 5 working days. Copies of this letter will also be sent to the family finder and the child's social worker.|
10. Planning the Placement
|10.1||Once the matching has been approved and the legal position allows it, the family finder will convene a Placement Planning Meeting to draw up an Adoption Placement Plan, confirming the details of the introductions, placement and post-placement work. The Team Manager or his/her nominee will chair the meeting.|
|10.2||For inter agency placements, a separate meeting will also be required, involving the Head of Service (Adoption) or his/her nominee, to complete CoramBAAF Form H1 which details the contract between the agencies and the adoptive family in relation to the placement.|
The purpose of the first Placement Planning Meeting is to draw up a proposed Adoption Placement Plan. The Adoption Placement Plan should include:
It will also set out the steps required leading up to the child's placement with the prospective adopters, including the first meeting between the child and the prospective adoptive family, the programme of and detailed arrangements for their introductions (dates, times, venues, transport and accommodation), the reimbursement of any expenses of the introductions, any other financial assistance to enable the placement to occur and, where appropriate, a meeting between the parents and the prospective adopters.As part of the preparation of the child for the adoptive placement, information will be provided to ensure that s/he has a proper understanding about the accommodation and others living at the prospective adoptive home, the contact arrangements with the birth family and how to contact his or her social worker.
|10.4||The Adoption Placement Plan will also address when the prospective adopters will be supplied with all relevant written information about the child and who will provide it (for a full list of information to be supplied - see Section 11, The Placement).|
|10.5||The social worker must ascertain the child's views and report these to the meetings.|
|10.6||Those attending Placement Planning Meetings will be the child's social worker, his/her manager as appropriate, the foster carers, the foster carers' supervising social worker, the family finder, representatives of the health trust (where appropriate), the prospective adopters and their link worker, and any other worker engaged in direct work with the child.|
|10.7||The child's initial meeting with the prospective adopters should be on the child's familiar territory (unless the child is older and requests otherwise) and a social worker should be present. The pattern of introductory visits thereafter will depend on the child's age, needs and stage of development but consideration will be given to a gradual introductory programme involving visits increasing in length, progressing to an overnight stay, a weekend stay and in exceptional circumstances with an older child, a longer period prior to the final move. For Children Aged under 5 this should be for a 10 day period.|
The family finder will be responsible for coordinating Placement Planning Meetings. However, all workers involved must be clear about their respective roles and responsibilities in the implementation of the plan, and what should happen in the event of difficulties. Changes to the Adoption Placement Plan can only be made with the agreement of the family finder or the Chair of the meeting and must be notified to the prospective adopters in writing.The social worker is expected to be in regular and frequent contact with the child, foster carer and prospective adopter during the period of the introductions and all involved share information with each other on a regular basis, at the frequency identified at the Placement Planning Meetings. The Adoption Placement Plan will then be reviewed at an agreed date - see paragraph 9.10 below. The Plan will identify the named workers and when they will have contact with the child. The plan should build in at the early stages of the introduction a 24 hour period for reduction.
|10.9||The social worker will advise the parents of the plan whilst maintaining the confidentiality of the placement (unless the parent has stated that he or she does not wish to be kept informed).|
At the mid-point of the introductions, a second Placement Planning Meeting will be held, at which the following areas will be addressed:
|10.11||A further meeting can be called by any of the parties if issues arise.|
|10.12||All Placement Planning Meetings should have the same people invited and take place at a venue accessible to all parties.|
|10.13||Where the child is to be adopted by his or her foster carers, whilst there will be no need for a plan for introductions, the social worker should still convene a Placement Planning Meeting, in order to draw up the Adoption Placement Plan to cover the areas other than introductions as set out above and to specify the date when the placement is to be regarded as an adoptive placement.|
|10.14||A copy of the final Adoption Placement Plan, signed by the child's social worker, should be given to the prospective adopters, their link worker and the child's Independent Reviewing Officer. The prospective adopters must confirm in writing that they wish the placement to proceed and that they agree to the Adoption Placement Plan. A copy must be retained on the child's Adoption Case Record.|
|10.15||Where contact is part of the adoption plan, the proposals must be drawn up in written agreements to be signed by the birth parents and the prospective adoptive parents. The agreements must specify the form and timing of the contact and the arrangements for putting the contact in place. The agreements must also specify that the arrangements may change dependent upon the wishes of the child. The agreement should also include how the prospective adopters should deal with unauthorised or unmediated contact through online social networking sites. All parties must sign and retain copies of the agreement. The parent's copy should not reveal any identifying information about the placement.|
|10.16||If the Adoption Placement Plan is varied or terminated, the child must be informed in a timely and age appropriate way.|
|10.17||Where the Adoption Placement Plan is terminated, the parents must be informed (unless the parent has stated that he or she does not wish to be kept informed).|
|10.18||If the Adoption Placement Plan is terminated, the Team Manager should consider the best way to conduct a disruption meeting - see Disruption of Adoptive Placements Procedure.|
|10.19||In the event of the placement's termination, direct work will be undertaken with the child to make sense of the reasons why the placement broke down and to prepare the child for any future placement.|
|10.20||In this event, the child's social worker and family finder must re-start the process of identifying a suitable prospective adoptive family or amend the plan for the child (depending on the outcome of the Disruption Meeting).|
11. The Placement
|11.1||Once the matching of the child has been approved, the adoption agency has authority to place the child (either through a Placement Order or Parental Consent), the plan of introductions has been successfully completed and the Adoption Placement Plan has been completed and signed by all parties, the placement can go ahead.|
Prior to the placement, the social worker must ensure that all the following information / items have been provided to the prospective adopters:
|11.3||Prior to the placement, notification must be sent by the worker identified in the Adoption Placement Plan to the present and new GP, the local authority (where the adoptive family live outside the borough), the relevant Health Trust and, if the child is at nursery or of school age, the relevant local education authority (with information about the child's education history and whether the child has special needs). These notifications are still required where the prospective adopters were previously the child's foster carers.|
|11.4||Prior to the placement, the Medical Adviser should be requested to send a medical report on the child to the child's new GP and, in appropriate cases, to meet the adopters to discuss medical issues.|
|11.5||Where the child's foster carers are the prospective adopters, the adoption service must confirm in writing to them the date from which the placement becomes an adoptive placement.|
|11.6||The social worker must inform the parents of the date of the placement, unless the parents have stated that they do not wish to be kept informed. No identifying information about the placement should be conveyed to birth parents or relatives.|
|11.7||The social worker should ensure the date of the placement is recorded, so that the records identifies that the child is placed for adoption but does not show the placement address.|
|11.8||The family finder will inform the Panel Administrator of the date of the placement as soon as it is made and inform the relevant finance officer where the Adoption Support Plan includes financial support so that payments can start.|
|11.9||While the child remains Looked After the reviewing process continues and in most circumstances prospective adopters should be encouraged to make their application at 10 weeks after placement and certainly no later than 6 months into the placement.|
12. Children Approved for Adoption for Whom no Placement has been Identified
|12.1||The child will be the subject of regular Adoption Reviews, chaired by an Independent Reviewing Officer - see Adoption Reviews Procedure.|
|12.2||In all cases, where a child has been approved for adoption but not placed within 3 months, the child's social worker must present a further report to the Adoption, Fostering and Permanence Panel identifying the length of the delay, the reasons and the steps being taken to address any difficulties, including consideration of a review of the adoption plan and/or a possible change to long-term fostering/separation of siblings, after 6 months.|
|12.3||The Adoption, Fostering and Permanence Panel may request an earlier progress report on an individual case when first considering the child.|
|12.4||The outcome of any reviews by the Adoption Panel should be notified to the child (if old enough), the birth parents (in appropriate cases) and any other relevant person.|
The child's details should be passed to the South West London Adoption Consortium if no locally identified match is being actively pursued immediately after the decision by the Head of Service, LAC, Permanency and Placements that the child should be placed for adoption, and, in any event, at the latest by 3 months.In exceptional cases there must be consideration by the Head of Service, LAC, Permanency, Placements, when a child has not been placed within 6 months of making a Placement Order. The plan should be return the case back to court and revoke the Placement Order and explore and arrange a Permanent Foster placement.
13. Adoptive Placements Abroad
Where an adoptive placement outside the UK appears to be a viable option, and consultation with the child (if old enough) 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 adopters in which case it will be for the adoption agency to satisfy itself that the prospective adopters are suitable to adopt the child. Otherwise, the child may be referred to the Department for Education for a suitable linking to be identified (see below).
In either circumstance, the case must be referred to the Adoption, Fostering and Permanence Panel in accordance with Section 1 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 Team Manager in consultation with the Head of Service must consider the recommendation and decide whether the child should be placed for adoption overseas. The notification to the child (if old enough) and the 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 Head of Service, LAC, Permanency and Placements to an application for a Placement Order.
Where no Prospective Adopters have been Identified
Where such a decision is made to place the child overseas, the social worker must notify the Department for Education of the following:
- The child's file reference number;
- The child's name;
- The child's date of birth;
- The gender of the child;
- The reasons why the decision has been made that adoption outside the UK may be suitable for the child;
- 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 are removed from the list.
Where the Department for Education receive an application from a foreign country, it will check that the prospective adopters 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 adopters' approval.
Where there are children on the list who appear, on the face of it, to match the prospective adopters, the Department for Education will send the relevant papers on the prospective adopters to the local authority looking after the child.
Upon receipt of the papers, the social worker in conjunction with the Adoption Service will consider whether the prospective adopters would meet the child's needs. Where necessary, additional 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 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 10, Planning the Placement) to plan the prospective adopters' first meeting with the child, introductions and where the placement goes ahead, regular reports should be required from the relevant overseas authority after the placement.
If the prospective adopters 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 the necessary agreement with the overseas authority.
The social worker can then arrange for the placement to go ahead.
The prospective adopters 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 adopters 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 with the adopters for at least 10 weeks prior to the application). In either case, the Court will require a social worker's report.
The prospective adopters will need to arrange for the foreign authority to monitor the placement as required by the Placement Planning Meeting.
Where Prospective Adopters have been identified
It will be for the adoption agency to satisfy itself that the prospective adopters are suitable to adopt the child. The assessment should usually be carried out in the prospective adopters' country and then sent to the adoption agency in the same way as for any other prospective adopter.
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 10, Planning the Placement) to plan the prospective adopters' first meeting with the child, introductions and where the placement goes ahead, regular reports should be required from the relevant overseas authority after the placement.
The prospective adopters 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 with the adopters for at least 10 weeks prior to the application). Where such an application is made, the Court will require a social worker's report.
The social worker will need to arrange for the foreign authority to monitor the placement as required by the Placement Planning Meeting.