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7.19 Placing a Child for Adoption – Medway Practice Guidance for the Child’s Social Worker

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

The following guidance for children's social workers accompanies The Adoption Policy and Procedures Manual and gives a step-by-step approach to placing a child for adoption, from the first consideration of adoption, through to an adoption order being granted and adoption support provided. It addresses both procedural and practice issues and identifies reference material for more detailed information. Examples of the necessary forms are accessible here: Adoption Forms and Template Letters

To be read in conjunction with Medway Adoption Policy and Procedures


Contents

1. Step 1 - Planning for Permanence - The Adoption Plan
  1.1 Consideration of Permanence at 2nd Looked After Child Review
  1.2 Twin Track Planning
  1.3 Relinquished Children
  1.4 Adoption Case Files
  1.5 Placement Orders
  1.6 Information for Birth Parents
2. Step 2 - Preparation for The Adoption and Permanence Panel
  2.1 Introduction
  2.2 Social Worker Authorisation to Undertake Adoption Work
  2.3 Pre Panel Activity
  2.4 Arrange the Adoption Medical (see Guidelines for collation of adoption medical information)
  2.5 Completing the Childs Permanence Report
  2.6 Adoption Contact
  2.7 Completion of Assessment of Need for Adoption Support
  2.8 Submission of Paperwork
  2.9 Updates to Panel
  2.10 National Adoption Register
3. Step 3 - The Adoption and Permanence Panel
  3.1 Introduction
  3.2 Presenting a Case to Panel
  3.3 Panel Recommendation
  3.4 Agency Decision
4. Step 4 - Preparing the Child for Adoption
  4.1 Life Story Work
  4.2 Life Appreciation Meeting
5. Step 5 - Family Finding
  5.1 Introduction and Timescales
  5.2 Child's Profile
  5.3 Permission and Agreements for Advertising
  5.4 Linking and Shortlisting
  5.5 Matching Meeting
  5.6 Information for the Selected Family
  5.7 Adoption Support Plan
  5.8 Foster Carer visit to the Prospective Adopters
6. Step 6 - The Match
  6.1 Introduction
  6.2 Adoption Placement Report
  6.3 Matching Panel
7. Step 7 - Introductions and Placement
  7.1 Introduction
  7.2 Placement Planning Meeting and Adoption Placement Plan
  7.3 Introductions
  7.4 Placement Planning Review Meeting
  7.5 Goodbyes
  7.6 Meeting between Birth Barents and Prospective Adopters
  7.7 Placement with Prospective Adopters
8. Step 8 - Post-Placement
  8.1 Following the Placement
  8.2 Visits to the Adoptive Placement
  8.3 Adoption Reviews
  8.4 Conduct of Reviews
  8.5 After an Adoption Order is made
  8.6 Contact
  8.7 Later Life Letters
  8.8 Decision to lodge an Application to Adopt
  8.9 Disruption
9. Step 9 - Adoption Hearing
  9.1 Preparation for the Adoption Hearing
  9.2 Adoption Hearing
10. Step 10 - After Adoption


1. Step 1 - Planning for Permanence - The Adoption Plan

1.1 Consideration of Permanence at 2nd Looked After Child Review

The Children and Families Team's adoption liaison worker should be notified and invited to the 2nd Looked After Child review or to any planning meeting prior to the review, if permanence is being considered. If the plan for permanence via adoption is confirmed, an adoption worker will be allocated for the child, to provide support and advice to the child's social worker, and to home find for the child at the appropriate time. Initially, adoption/permanence may only be a contingency plan if rehabilitation fails, but the process must run concurrently. A legal planning meeting may be arranged and the adoption link worker should be invited.

The decision that adoption is the plan should be clearly recorded on the Review Form, or minutes of a Planning Meeting.

All children with a plan of adoption should have a copy of the Medway Children's Guide to Adoption. Although the child may not be able to understand the Guide at this stage, their social worker and foster carer need to convey the contents in an age-appropriate way.

Where possible, a Family Group Conference should be arranged to identify possible solutions within the child's own family network. Identification of a suitable family member at an early stage may facilitate a speedier and less traumatic placement for the child. It also gives the Relatives and Friends social workers more time to complete their assessments. The Relatives and Friends social workers should be available for consultation.

The initial agreement that adoption may be the plan for a child, who may at this stage be unborn, will need to be confirmed in the child's Care Plan once the child is born and becomes looked after

1.2 Twin Track Planning

Twin tracking (or contingency planning) is where more than one plan is being pursued at the same time in order to minimise delay once a care order is made. A plan for permanence may be made at the second review but insufficient information may be available at this stage to know how this may be achieved e.g. through rehabilitation home, placement with family member or placement for adoption. Reports and assessments of family members should be completed and the local authority should have arrived at a single plan, before presentation to Panel. This enables the Panel to be fully informed and better able to come to a recommendation regarding the adoption plan. As presentation to Panel should be before the final care proceedings, it is important to begin the adoption processes and paperwork as soon as possible, even though rehabilitation home or placement with a relative might be the outcome. Without twin tracking, there will be unnecessary delay for the child once the court proceedings are completed.

Presentation to Panel should always be before the final court hearing when a placement order is to be sought.

1.3 Relinquished Children

Where parents wish to give consent to their child's adoption and placement (whether the child is relinquished at birth or looked after and the child is more than 6 weeks old).

The child's Social worker must arrange for CAFCASS to appoint an officer to visit the parents and witness their consent. The social worker should provide the CAFCASS office nearest to the birth parents with a certified copy of the child's birth certificate, names and addresses of birth parents, a chronology of the actions and decisions taken by the authority and whether or not the birth parents have received counselling and information on the legal implications of consenting to the adoptive placement and/or adoption.

When witnessed consent is received it should be placed on the child's adoption file

1.4 Adoption Case Files

An adoption file should be opened when the care plan for adoption has been agreed.

The file should be kept in a place of special security. Adoption files should be green and contain all the information from the family file, which relates to the child, and is relevant to the plan for adoption. Where sibling groups are concerned each child must have a separate adoption file containing individualised information.

The child's file should contain:-

  • Alternatives to adoption which have been considered and why adoption is the plan for the child
  • What consultation there has been with relatives, what their views are, and what arrangements have been made for any counselling and support for both birth parents and any other significant relatives. If this is declined then this should be recorded with any reasons given.
  • Present and proposed level of contact. Proposed contact prior to and following placement needs to be discussed with the adoption link worker and senior practitioner for adoption support. It is important to consider the impact of contact arrangements over time and not mislead birth parents by offering unrealistic and unworkable amounts of contact. If contact has been terminated, or will be prior to placement, it is important parents be kept informed of the child's progress, unless that is not considered to be in the child's best interests. If such a decision is made, it should be clearly noted on the file, together with the reason.
  • If a child has siblings the record should contain an analysis of siblings relationships and plans for post contact if siblings are not being placed together
  • A copy of the child's Birth Certificate. If the child is likely to be the subject of a Placement Order, please ensure you obtain three original full birth certificates. The Court keeps one at the time of making the Placement Order, the other is needed when the application to adopt is made and one should be kept in the life storybook.

1.5 Placement Orders

Legal Services should be consulted as to whether a Placement Order application is appropriate. This may be appropriate even where consent appears to have been given if this consent is inconsistently given and/or not sufficiently informed.

The Adoption and Permanence Panel has to make a recommendation for seeking a placement order before an application can be lodged in court. Legal advice should be available to panel on this issue.

1.6 Information for Birth Parents

The written 'Information about Adoption for Parents' should be given to both birth parents (and anyone else with parental responsibility).

It is important that birth parents understand that this is not an agreement to the adoption plan but merely confirmation that they have received the written information. When birth parents are not in agreement with the Local Authority plan, they are often reluctant to discuss any aspect of adoption with their social worker. The Adoption Support Regulations 2005, require birth families to be offered an additional worker, independent of the children and families social worker, to support them through the adoption plan. An adoption social worker could be asked to help explain this document to parents or to provide further counselling if this is requested. However, some birth parents may wish to talk to a counsellor who is entirely independent of the Local Authority and this can be arranged through the Post-Adoption Centre.

In addition to the Information about Adoption for Parents, birth parents should be given the leaflet for birth parents about adoption.

Information about Adoption for Parents Form 003 and Form 004 should be signed by the parents. One signed copy should be kept on file and one given to the birth parents.


2. Step 2 - Preparation for The Adoption and Permanence Panel

2.1 Introduction

Once adoption is part of the care plan for the child, every effort must be made to present the child's Permanence Report (CPR) to the Adoption and Permanence Panel without delay. The National Standards for Adoption require this to happen within two months of the care plan for adoption being agreed. Before a child can be presented to Panel, a Child's Permanence Report will need to be completed on the child, together with an assessment of the child's adoption support needs and a medical report on the child and birth parents. This should all be presented to the panel within 6 weeks of its completion.

Unfortunately, it is likely that paper work for Panel will need to be completed at the same time as preparing reports for the court during care proceedings. This does present a considerable challenge for children and families social workers and it is important to be clear from the outset about what work has to be done and the time required for it to be successfully completed.

Given the importance of the Panel's recommendation to a child's future, it cannot accept paper work that is inaccurate or incomplete and will be obliged to defer the case for more work, notwithstanding the implications for the child in terms of delay and ongoing court proceedings.

2.2 Social Worker Authorisation to Undertake Adoption Work

Social workers undertaking the writing of the Child's Permanence Report must be qualified and have 3 years post qualification experience in childcare social work, including direct experience of adoption work. Without this, the worker must be fully supervised by someone who is suitably qualified and experienced.

All social workers and administrative staff must have special authorisation signed by the Director, to undertake adoption work. This authorisation will only cover the specific case for which it is requested.

Forms 001 and 002- to be sent to the Adoption Team Support Assistant.

2.3 Pre Panel Activity

Book a date for Panel and a pre-Panel discussion with the Adoption Manager, through the Panel Administrator in the Adoption Section.

If you are new to the case or it is very complex, it will be helpful if your team manager accompanies you to Panel. Be realistic about the amount of time you will need to prepare. The Panel usually meets four weekly. The deadline for all paperwork to the Panel Administrator, is 4 weeks prior to Panel, to allow time for checking, photocopying and sending out to Panel members. You will be informed of your deadlines when you book into Panel.

The purpose of the pre-Panel discussion is to identify any gaps in the information and consider any issues that the Panel may raise so that you can be fully prepared.  A well thought out and fully completed Child's Permanence Report, will facilitate its smooth passage through Panel. (See Section 2.5, Completing the CPR)

If direct contact post-adoption is planned, an adoption support worker should also be invited to the pre-panel discussion.

2.4 Arrange the Adoption Medical (see Guidelines for collation of adoption medical information)

Every child presented to Panel for approval for permanence/adoption, requires a medical report, which can take up to eight weeks. It is, therefore, essential that you book an adoption medical as soon as the decision for adoption is made. (The time necessary for medicals to be completed makes it very difficult to meet the two-month national standard but getting the process underway as soon as possible will help).

Birth parents need to sign a Consent Form for health information relating to the birth parent and the child to be obtained and for this information to be shared appropriately. (BAAF consent form).

Complete Form PH (formerly A) with the birth parents, who also need to sign this form. Sometimes when birth parents do not agree to the plan, they are reluctant to sign any documentation. If this occurs, write to Dr Durowoju explaining the situation.

Forms M and B should be sent to the Medical Records Officer at the hospital where the child was born, with the fee form. Forms M and B will be returned with the fee form, showing any costs incurred, this needs to be signed by the Team Manager for payment. For children born in Medway, Forms M and B should be sent to the Consultant Paediatrician, Green Zone, Level 2, Medway Maritime Hospital for completion, not to Sue Rowswell.

The foster carer for the child should be asked to complete the relevant BAAF foster carers report. These forms should always be up-to-date when a child is presented to Panel i.e. for a recommendation as to whether they should be placed for adoption, an update or a match. They are sent out to foster carers by the SSA in the adoption team responsible for the panel administration.

Completed Forms PH, M and B and Foster Carers report, together with a blank Form IHA (Initial Health Assessment) should be sent to the Medical Adviser at Medway Hospital (via Sue Rowswell). In addition, the completed CPR should be attached. If the CPR is not available at this stage, a covering letter with any relevant family history and medical information should be included. It is important to let the Medical Adviser know the Panel date. It should be recognised that several weeks notice may need to be allowed for the medical appointment to be arranged.

Once these Forms have been completed and returned to the child's social worker, they should be forwarded, with completed Child's Permanence Report, to the Panel Administrator before the deadline date.

2.5 Completing the Childs Permanence Report

The child's social worker is responsible for completing this report.

The CPR is an important document because it fulfils three functions in the adoption process:

  • It provides the information needed by the Panel in order to come to a recommendation as to whether adoption is in the child's best interest
  • It provides basic information to the adoption link worker for family finding and to prospective adopters and their worker, in deciding whether a proposed placement is a good match
  • It provides information for the child in the future.

It is, therefore, vitally important that all the relevant information is included and that it is up-to-date and accurate. Information should be presented in a non-judgemental way but give a fair and honest picture of events and people in the child's life. It is important not to gloss over difficult and often painful truths, but they should be portrayed sensitively, as this information will influence any future adopters and the child, in their view of the birth family.

The Panel will want to know:-

  • What led to the child becoming looked after,
  • The actions of the local authority to try to prevent family breakdown,
  • The quality of the child's attachments and relationships to birth family members and what contact is planned with each of them
  • How and why the plan for adoption has been made.

The adoption link worker for the child should be available to give advice and guidance on the completion of all the paper work.

Please refer to guidance notes, they really do help (if the guidance notes are missing from the electronic copy of the CPR, please contact the Adoption Panel Administrator who will provide a copy). Any relevant assessments/reports should be attached. A photograph of the child should be provided.

If there are relevant reports before the court, permission must be sought from the court so that they may be included in the Panel paper work. It is also helpful to get the court's permission to share reports with adopters and to permitting the child to be known by their new surname after placement.

Whenever possible, birth parents should read contribute to and sign the completed CPR. If the birth parents are unhappy with the content, their comments should be noted and presented to Panel. If they refuse to sign, it is important to note on the CPR that they declined.

The CPR must contain:-

  • Detailed information about the background, the child and the plan
  • The Children's Guardian's view
  • The child's understanding of the plan for adoption and any direct work completed or ongoing
  • The child's wishes and feelings (where they are of appropriate age and understanding)
  • The birth family's wishes and feelings
  • An assessment of the child's needs in respect of adoption support
  • Plans for contact pre and post-placement

The CPR must have been written or updated within 6 months of presentation to Panel.

The adoption link worker should have a copy of the CPR for family finding. Where the child is under two, the profile should be updated immediately before Panel.

2.6 Adoption Contact

The child's social worker must undertake a written assessment as to the best interests of the child to support any contact proposals as part of an adoption plan, or reasons why no contact is recommended. This assessment will take account of the views of the child, the parents, the foster carers and any other significant family members, as well as evidence of attachment and the quality of relationships, based on observations of contact and the child's behaviour before, during and after contact.

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

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. The nature and frequency of contact will be influenced by the need to maintain attachments and/or long-term identity issues.

Post-adoption contact may take the following forms:

  1. Adoptive parents providing non-identifying information about the child to the birth family through letter-box contact organised and maintained by the adoption service (one way indirect contact)
  2. Adoptive parents and the birth family sharing non-identifying information about themselves through letter-box contact organised and maintained by the adoption service (two way indirect contact)
  3. Direct face-to-face contact between the child and the birth family, which may be organised and maintained by the adoption service, where such continuing support is appropriate.

Any proposed adoption contact should be in line with any Court Orders.

Where 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 Step 5 - Family Finding.

2.7 Completion of Assessment of Need for Adoption Support

The Adoption Support Regulations require details of the child's needs in respect of adoption support, both practical and financial. (When a Single Integrated Assessment has been completed, this could provide the basis of the assessment of need for adoption support). The assessment should lead to the formulation of an Adoption Support Plan

If the child is likely to require ongoing financial support and meets the criteria, the details will need to be completed and forwarded with the CPR to Panel.  At the stage of determining whether the child should be placed for adoption, an assessment of need may be quite general, or it could be quite specific for a child with special needs.  Adoption Support Forms: Adoption Support - Assessment of Child's Needs and, Adoption Support - Assessment of Birth Relative's Needs. This is the first stage of the formulation of the adoption support plan, which is drawn up in detail at the time of the match.

2.8 Submission of Paperwork

The CPR, Adoption Support Forms and any other relevant reports, should be passed to the Panel Administrator four weeks before Panel date. The adoption link worker should read the CPR and advise on any necessary amendments or additions to be completed before the deadline. The completed paperwork should be returned to the Panel Administrator, Adoption Team, The Elaine Centre, together with medical forms, by the deadline 1 week later.

The Panel Administrators have a huge amount of paper to collate and distribute to Panel members, who in turn have to have enough time to read all the forms. Please note that the late arrival of, or incomplete paper work, creates an enormous amount of extra work and cannot, therefore, be accepted.

It is important to make sure that all forms are photocopied before leaving your office. The child's medical may not have returned from the medical adviser but if the medical is to take place before the Panel, the CPR should still be forwarded. If a medical cannot be arranged before the Panel, the case will not be heard and another date will need to be booked. The Panel Administrator should be kept informed of any delays in paper work as soon as possible.

2.9 Updates to Panel

CPR should be updated to Panel every 6 months or more frequently if circumstances change significantly. The risk of making a poor match for a child is greatly increased if CPR information is out of date.

Medical updates to Panel (IAH - C) should be submitted every 6 months for a child under the age of 2 years and yearly for a child over 2 years. When these updates are requested, they should be accompanied by written confirmation to the medical advisor that adoption/permanence is still the plan for the child.

2.10 National Adoption Register

Once it has been decided following panel that a child should be placed for adoption, their name will be added to the National Adoption Register. The main purpose of the register is to ensure children are linked with adopters through a countrywide database to minimise delays in family finding. However, Medway has a three month period in which any matches within it's own resources or the Adoption South East Consortium, can be explored before the child's details go live. The adoption link worker must complete the form following Panel.

If of sufficient age and understanding the child's agreement to this action should be sought.


3. Step 3 - The Adoption and Permanence Panel

3.1 Introduction

Adoption Panels were set up under the Adoption Agencies Regulations 1983 and the Adoption Agencies and Children (Arrangement for Placement and Review (Miscellaneous Amendments Regulations 1997). These are replaced by the Adoption Agencies Regulations 2005. Since April 2011 revised Adoption Regulations, Guidance and National Minimum Standards have been in place

The decision to place a child for adoption and with whom, presents some of the most important judgements that are ever likely to be taken in respect of a looked after child. An adoption order cannot be revoked, is life-long and legally severs the child's connection to their birth family. The role of the adoption panel is to provide vital expert advice to the agency decision maker and to contribute to the development of policies and procedures in the agency. In order to make its recommendations the Panel will want to know that all the necessary work has been undertaken with the birth family, the child and the prospective adopters, before making their recommendation.

The Panel membership is determined by the regulations and is broad based to reflect the community it serves. It should have an identity separate from the agency, with an important independent element.

The Medway Panel comprises an independent Chair and Vice Chair, four independent members including a councillor, adopter and a foster carer, plus two Children's Services Officers and a Medical Adviser. The quorum is five. A Legal Adviser, a Professional Adviser and minute taker will also be present. (See Policy and Procedures Manual for more detailed information about Panel).

3.2 Presenting a Case to Panel

The social worker for the child will present the case to the Panel. The adoption link worker should also be present. Workers who have not attended before should be accompanied by their supervisor. It is also good practice to observe the Panel before presenting for the first time and this can be arranged through the Panel Administrator.

You will be asked to give a brief summary of the case and this is a good opportunity to give any up-to-date information.

The Panel may ask the worker for clarification of issues in the CPR or request further information if there appear to be gaps. The Panel are also charged with a monitoring function to ensure the National Adoption Standards and the National Minimum Standards are being met. The Panel is likely to query what appear to be unreasonable delays or confused planning. It is usually the case that the clearer and fuller the CPR, the fewer questions the Panel will ask. The Panel will also have a view on contact arrangements and siblings being placed together or apart. Where a CPR is incomplete or contains errors, the Panel may defer making a recommendation until satisfactory paperwork is presented.

When presenting a case to Panel please remember:

  • Panel members have a range of expertise and experience and their knowledge can be invaluable in planning for children with complex family situations and special needs.

3.3 Panel Recommendation

The Adoption Panel will make recommendations on;-

  • Whether a child should be placed for adoption
  • Whether applicants are suitable to adopt a child
  • The suitability of a match between a particular child and particular prospective adopters

The recommendations must be unconditional and cannot be 'in principle'.

The panel may also advise the agency on the following issues

  • Where applicants are recommended as suitable to adopt, the number of children which they may be suitable to adopt, as well as their age range, gender likely needs and background
  • Where it is recommended that a child should be placed for adoption, what the contact arrangements should be and whether a Placement Order should be applied for;
  • Where it is recommended that a child should be placed with particular prospective adopters, the proposed adoption support including adoption allowance, future contact arrangements and whether/how the exercise of Parental Responsibility should be restricted.

The Panel will also make the same range of recommendations for all other permanent placements. The Panel does not make the final decision.

3.4 Agency Decision

The Panel's recommendation is considered by the Agency Decision Maker who, for Medway, is the Assistant Director for Children's Services. The Decision Maker comes to a decision by reading the papers on the cases presented to the panel considering the minutes of the Panel meeting and verbal feedback from the Panel Adviser and a Health and Community Services representative on the Panel.

The decision is made within seven working days of the Panel and you will be told the date that you should contact the Panel Administrator for the outcome.

The Assistant Director must inform the parents in writing of the decision. However, given the sensitivity of the content of this letter, the child's social worker will be consulted regarding the delivery and timing.

The child should also be informed in an age appropriate way.

Where the Agency Decision Maker is minded to disagree with the panel recommendation, he must first discuss the case with a senior manager who is unconnected with the panel and record the discussion. A copy of this should go on the Child's Adoption File. Where the final decision is not in line with the panel recommendation, a copy of the panel minutes should also go on the child's file.


4. Step 4 - Preparing the Child for Adoption

4.1 Life Story Work

The child's social worker should ensure that Life Story Work is undertaken with the child, where the child is of sufficient age and understanding, so that the child has an understanding of the reasons for the adoption plan and what adoption will mean, The child should have an opportunity to express his or her wishes and feelings about the future, and information should be provided 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 this process, the child who is old enough will have been given Medway's Children's Guide to Adoption as soon as adoption is part of the child's Care Plan. Any information given to the child should be confirmed in writing and any discussions with the child should be fully recorded. Where appropriate 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 own wishes in relation to the plan for adoption, proposed religious and cultural upbringing and future 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.

Foster carers can play an important part in the preparation of the child, including careful recording of any changes in the child's behaviour.

Once an adoptive placement has been identified and approved, the child's social worker is responsible for ensuring the child is properly prepared for the first meeting with the prospective adoptive family and is appropriately counselled during the period of introductions

4.2 Life Appreciation Meeting

A life appreciation meeting involves as many as possible of the important people in the child's life. It addresses the child's future placement needs, identifies risk factors for future family placement and provides prospective adopters with a full and clear picture of the child.

This is particularly helpful for an older child, or one who has had a disrupted life. This is a time consuming process but provides invaluable information for matching purposes and helps minimise the risk of disruption in the adoption placement. Additionally, it provides information for the life story work and later life letter. After placement, it gives the prospective adopters an insight into the child's background and behaviours, and helps the adopters understand and accept the child as he/she is. The Single Integrated Assessment and chronology on the child will provide useful basic information for these meetings. The adoption link worker can assist in setting up and chairing these meetings. Every effort should be made to arrange a life appreciation meeting prior to commencing family finding.


5. Step 5 - Family Finding

5.1 Introduction and Timescales

The adoption team are responsible for homefinding for the child and will co-ordinate all exchanges of information. When seeking families for children, the adoption worker will first consider Medway's own resources and Consortium families. (The Adoption South East Consortium comprises East Sussex, Brighton and Hove, Kent, Bexley, Bromley and Medway). The adoption link worker can only achieve a good match through working closely with the child's social worker, the foster carer and meeting with the child. The worker must have a clear understanding of the child's background, personality, behaviour and needs. (The life appreciation meeting will provide some of this information).

There are timescales for matching a child with a prospective adoptive family

The match should be identified, recommended by the Adoption Panel and approved by the Decision Maker within six months of the agency formally determining that the plan for the child is one of adoption.

Where parents relinquish a child for adoption and the child is less than six months old the timescale reduces to three months between formal plan and match with adopters.

5.2 Child's Profile

A profile and photograph of the child should be prepared by the child's social worker in consultation with the foster carer at the time of Panel, or immediately after, to prevent any delay in family finding. The adoption link worker will assist with the preparation of the profile as this will be the basis of future publicity. Some children may be of sufficient age and understanding that they wish to contribute to the profile and receive a copy of any publicity. This profile will include identifying the child's needs in relation to a new family including ethnicity, culture, religion, language, proposed contact with birth family and existing networks, education, health, other special needs, location, and the qualities required in the adoptive family based on the child's assessed placement needs.

A life appreciation day should be set up if one has not already been completed (See end of step 4).

5.3 Permission and Agreements for Advertising

Before the profile of a looked after child can be used for family finding purposes, the child's social worker needs to get permission for advertising from the Service Manager for Looked After Children for children on Care Orders or Placement Orders, and the person with parental responsibility for children who are Accommodated under Section 20.

The child's social worker also needs to get their Manager's written agreement to the expenditure for advertising. A copy of both the permission and the agreement should be placed on both the family finding file and the child's file.

If no link is identified within the Consortium, a request for inter-agency funding should be made to the Adoption Manager. If funding is agreed, the adoption link worker will progress family finding through advertising and contacts with other agencies.

5.4 Linking and Shortlisting

The child's social worker and the adoption link worker will identify the child's needs in respect of an adoptive family. The adoption link worker will request the Prospective Adopters Report where there is a possible link, and short list possible families for consideration by the child's social worker. Where there are only a few possible families the social worker may wish to consider all the possible links and the initial filtering process will not be necessary. From the short list, the social worker and adoption worker will identify two or three couples or individuals they wish to visit.

The Adoption link worker will send a CPR along with information about Medway's adoption support services to the adoption worker for discussion with the prospective adopters.

Medway usually places children for adoption outside its boundaries and most prospective adopters have been approved by other Agencies. A Prospective Adopters Report remains the property of the agency concerned and must be read in the offices of the Medway Council Adoption Team. Prospective Adopters Reports which are no longer required, must be returned to the agencies concerned or shredded with their consent. Social workers should be mindful of adopters being a resource for other children should a match with their child not be appropriate.

It is therefore important to consider prospective adopters without delay. Consortium protocols require social workers to decide whether or not to proceed within 21 days, after which time the couple will be offered to other adoption workers.

The agreement of the Adoption Manager is needed before arranging to visit prospective adopters. The social worker for the child and the adoption link worker should undertake this preliminary visit. Only in exceptional circumstances would foster carers visit at this stage.

The aim of this visit is not to do a "second assessment" but to give information on the child and the family background and to gauge the adopters' ability to meet the needs of the child to be placed. It may be appropriate to take a short video of the child to show the prospective adopters. The key points of discussion should be recorded and a copy signed by the adopters. Many adopters find it difficult to take in all that is said at these meetings, when they are likely to be both anxious and excited. A written record enables them to reflect and follow up with further questions.

The information given at these meetings must be clear, balanced and accurate. It is not helpful to making a good match for the adopters to be given either an unrealistically optimistic or pessimistic view of the child.

Where foster carers express an interest in adopting a child they are looking after, and there is an adoption plan for the child, the adoption social worker will talk to them about the implications of adoption and will convene a Matching Meeting involving the child's social worker, his or her team manager and the foster carers' supervising social worker (with his or her manager where appropriate. If the outcome of the meeting is that the foster carers appear to be able to meet the child's essential needs, the case should be allocated for an assessment of the foster carers as adopters to proceed, which will include their attendance at Preparation Groups (see Assessment and Approval of Agency Adoptive Parents Procedure).

If they are approved as adopters, the requirements set out below as to the approval of the matching and 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.

5.5 Matching Meeting

Once possible families have been identified and visited (no more than three should be considered at a time, a matching meeting should be set up to select the prospective adopters who would best meet the needs of the child.

The meeting will consider and record:-

  • The child's needs and the adopters' ability to meet those needs
  • Areas of potential difficulty for the placement and whether these can be balanced by the strengths of the adopters and the resources available to them
  • The preparation of the child, the present carers and the prospective adopters for the proposed placement including the sharing of information with the prospective adopters
  • The preparation of the birth family and the information to be given
  • Possible future needs and who will be responsible for meeting them.
  • The proposed adoption support plan
  • A recommendation of the preferred match
  • The allocation of preparatory tasks for the introductory work
  • Responsibility for drawing up the Adoption Placement Report and the proposed Adoption Support Plan.
  • Timescales and action points required before Panel.

The Adoption Link Worker will organise the matching meeting and ensure that all the key people involved with the child and the plan for adoption are invited. The meeting is chaired by the Adoption Team Manager or a senior adoption social worker and full minutes are taken.

Those invited will include:-

  • The current carers and their fostering officer
  • The applicants' adoption social worker
  • The child's social worker
  • The adoption link worker

The expectation is that all members of the meeting will use their experience, knowledge and skills to make the best decision for the child. Every effort should be made to take the match to the next available Panel. Inevitably there will be a limited time frame for completion of reports and outstanding action points. Try to plan ahead and keep some time aside for this work.

The adoption link workers for the families concerned will inform the selected family and the unsuccessful families of the decision and reasons on the same day as the meeting if possible. They will also offer follow up discussions as required.

5.6 Information for the Selected Family

The child's social worker should provide the selected adopters with full information on the child including the Child's Permanence Report, the child's profile, a full description of the birth family and any siblings and the reasons for any decision to place the child separately, the child's medical history including birth details, the carers report on the child, the current school report and the child's P.E.P. A record should be made of information shared with the prospective adopters there should be opportunity for the information to be considered and the implications fully discussed. In appropriate cases the prospective adopters should have the opportunity to meet other specialists involved with the child, e.g. the Medical Adviser.

5.7 Adoption Support Plan

An adoption support plan will need to be submitted to Panel with the proposed match. A meeting between the adopters' social worker, the child's social worker, the adoption link worker and the adoption support social worker, should be convened immediately following the matching meeting (or at the earliest opportunity) in order to formulate the adoption support plan. It is helpful to prepare the framework for this plan prior to the meeting so that time can be saved on the day.

The plan should be signed prior to Panel by the adopters and any other participants or agencies mentioned in the plan and it is, therefore, important to get started on the plan as soon as possible.

If ongoing financial support is being requested, the financial form should be given to the adopters' social worker for completion by the adopters and the criteria form should be completed by the child's social worker, one copy of each supplied to the adoption support co-ordinator and one to the Panel at least one week before the matching Panel. The adoption support co-ordinator will obtain the budget holder's written agreement to the amount of financial support to be offered and this paperwork should be included with the support plan.

5.8 Foster Carer visit to the Prospective Adopters

The foster carers should be invited to visit the prospective adopters as soon as possible after the matching meeting, prior to the Adoption and Permanence Panel. The purpose of this meeting is for the foster carers to give the adopters a detailed up-to-date picture of the child and for the adopters to have the opportunity to ask questions and decide whether or not they feel the match is right for them. This meeting will also help to dispel tensions and enable both parties to focus more clearly on the child's needs during the introductions planning meeting.

The adopters' social worker should be present during this meeting and the foster carers should be supported by either the child's social worker, their fostering officer or the adoption link worker for the child.

It is important that any concerns from either the carers or professionals following this visit, should be fed back immediately to the Chair of the matching meeting. It is particularly important to consider the foster carers' views, because they know what the child is like to live with on a day-to-day basis.

If there are serious doubts about the proposed match, a meeting should be convened and this should be chaired by the Chair of the matching meeting and include those professionals and the foster carers who attended that meeting.

A match should not proceed to Panel if the workers are not fully confident that the match is right.


6. Step 6 - The Match

6.1 Introduction

Making the recommendation to Panel about whom a child is going to live with for the rest of their childhood and beyond, is extremely important. The social workers involved in presenting the recommendation must be convinced that this is the right match for the child. They must also be certain of the grounds for the match and be able to present this convincingly in the matching report and in their presentation to Panel. Above all they must have considered how the child will understand and view the match in later childhood and adult life.

6.2 Adoption Placement Report

The social worker for the child has lead responsibility for writing the Adoption Placement Report, in consultation with the adoption link worker. The minutes of the matching meeting should provide the basis for this report. The adopters' social worker will often contribute by completing the section on the adopters and should be supplied with a copy of the Consortium matching report pro forma. The line manager for the child's social worker and Team Manager of the Adoption Team should countersign the report.

If a sibling group is being matched, separate Adoption Placement Reports for each child must be prepared. The reports need to demonstrate how the permanent carers match the needs of each child in a sibling group, as well as the group as a whole.

A signed adoption support plan should be attached to the Adoption Placement Report. The Panel cannot consider the match without a completed support plan.

6.3 Matching Panel

The child's social worker or the adoption link worker should arrange a Panel date through the Adoption Administrator at The Elaine Centre. The social worker and adoption link worker should attend Panel, as well as the adopters' social worker. The prospective adopters will also be invited to attend part of the Panel meeting. The child, if of sufficient age and understanding, will also be invited. However, this must be agreed with the Panel Chair prior to an invitation being issued.

Paper work for Panel must include:-

  • The Adoption Placement report together with the latest CPR and PAR. The CPR should have been updated within 6 months of the Panel and the PAR within 1 year. There should also be a recent report from the foster carer. Any additional updates should be attached, together with photos of the child/ren and the prospective carers and their family.
  • Up-to-date medicals for the prospective carers i.e. within the 6 months prior to Panel
  • Up-to-date medicals for the child i.e. within 6 months of panel date
  • The proposed Adoption support plan, including proposed contact arrangements, therapeutic and financial support, and the paperwork for ongoing financial support.
  • The views of the prospective adopters on the Adoption Placement Report and proposed contact arrangements

The Panel will inform the prospective adopters of their recommendation via their worker on the same day. The adopters will also be told the date of the Agency decision which will be within seven days of the Panel and within two days of the decision being made

Introductions planning meetings and inter-agency agreements, should not be entered into until the Agency decision has been made in favour of the match.

Panel must consider and may give advice in relation to the proposed adoption support, the proposed arrangements for contact and on any proposed restrictions of the exercise of Parental Responsibility by the prospective adopters and/or the birth parents.

Where the Agency decision maker is minded to disagree with the Panel recommendation he must first discuss this proposed match with a senior manager with appropriate experience and who is not a panel member. This discussion should be recorded and the record placed on the child's and the prospective adopter's case record.

Birth parents should also be informed


7. Step 7 - Introductions and Placement

7.1 Introduction

Once the match has been approved and the legal position allows it a placement planning meeting should be convened

Meticulous planning of introductions is crucial to successfully move a child into a new family. Introductions are also a time of heightened emotion for the child, the adopters and the foster carers. Plans must be sensitive to the needs of all involved. However, the overriding consideration is the child and it is important to view all plans from the child's perspective.

For practical reasons, it is often necessary to give prospective adopters and foster carers some idea of a framework for introductions prior to the formal planning meeting. However, it is important to stress that this is only a draft and changes are likely to be made at the introductions planning meeting.

The main aims of the introductions are to;-

  • Transfer all the parenting tasks from the foster carers to the adopters
  • Facilitate the transfer of the child's attachment to their new parents
  • Enable the child to get to know their new family and environment whilst still having
  • The support of their foster carers
  • Enable the adopters to feel confident in their ability to care for the child

7.2 Placement Planning Meeting and Adoption Placement Plan

A placement planning meeting will be convened by the adoption link worker and will be chaired by a senior adoption worker. In order to avoid any misunderstandings or awkwardness during this process, it is important that everyone knows what is expected of them and all participants keep to the agreed plan. Any changes or amendments can only be made with the agreement of the chairperson. If any major changes to the plan are required, a second planning meeting should be convened immediately.

Those invited to the placement planning meeting will be:-

  • Foster carer(s and their fostering officer
  • Adopters and their adoption social worker
  • Child's social worker
  • The adoption link worker

For inter-agency placements, BAAF Forms H1 and H2 will provide the format for the meeting. This ensures that all the necessary information regarding the child, the support for the adopters and the process, is addressed and documented. The adopters will receive a copy of these forms. If the placement is between Agencies, the Assistant Director for Children's Services will be required to sign the completed H1. If the placement is within the Consortium, the Adoption and Permanence Team Manager's signature will be required. The adoption link worker for the child will ensure that this paperwork is completed.

The purpose of the first Placement Planning Meeting is to draw up an Adoption Placement Plan. The Adoption Placement Plan should include whether the placement is to be made under a Placement Order or with Parental consent, the proposed date of the placement, who will be present when the placement takes place, the Adoption Support Plan, whether and how the exercise of Parental Responsibility by the prospective adopters and/or the birth parents is to be restricted (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 when the life story book and any Later Life letters will be passed to the prospective adopters, the date and arrangements for the first review, any post-placement contact between the child and members of his or her birth family and/or the child and the foster carers, and clarification of who will make the necessary notifications of the placement.

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 the bridging process (dates, times, venues, transport and accommodation, the reimbursement of any expenses relating the introduction and bridging, any other financial assistance to enable the placement to occur including where appropriate, a meeting between the birth parents and the prospective adopters.

The day-by-day diary of introductions will be drawn up giving times of arrival and departure and activities that should be covered during the day. Adopters need to know about and experience as many of the following as possible:-

  • Daily routines, including going to bed and getting up, bathing, washing, dressing
  • Food likes /dislikes, meal time routines
  • House rules in the foster home
  • Child's behaviour when bored/excited/angry/sick/happy/anxious and what works best in handling behaviours
  • Any fears and phobias
  • Favourite toys/TV/games/books/hobbies
  • What the child knows about their past history
  • What the child uses for comfort
  • Any specific issues e.g. medical

This may appear to be unnecessarily detailed but even where adopters are experienced parents it is important to remember that they are new to and inexperienced with the child in question.

It is important that the ground rules for the introductions are made explicit. Adopters and foster carers need to know what is expected of them from the outset. This includes both financial support for travel and subsistence and practical advice from the foster carers. For example, the arrangements for giving advice, guidance and feedback to the adopters in relation to their handling of the child, will be most effective if received in an atmosphere of support away from the child, and a debrief at the end of the day could be built in.

A copy of the final Adoption Placement Plan, signed by the child's social worker, should be given to the prospective adopters, their link worker and the child's Independent Reviewing Officer. The prospective adopters must confirm in writing that they wish the placement to proceed and that they agree to the Adoption Placement Plan. A copy must be retained on the child's Adoption Case Record.

Where contact is part of the adoption plan, the proposals must be drawn up in a written agreement to be signed by the birth parents and the prospective adoptive parents. The agreement must specify the form and timing of the contact and the arrangements for putting the contact in place. The agreement must also specify that the arrangements may change dependent upon the wishes of the child. All parties must sign and retain a copy of the agreement.

If the Adoption Placement Plan is varied or terminated, the child must be informed in a timely and age appropriate way.

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.

7.3 Introductions

The length and nature of the introductions depend on the age and needs of the child. When more than one child is involved, their needs may not be compatible throughout the introductions and generally the introductions should be geared to the child who needs the greatest time. For most children, an intensive daily period of visiting is most appropriate as this enables both the child and adopters to become more relaxed in each other's company, helps build the relationship and enables adopters to get a truer picture of the task ahead. The adopters need to feel confident in being able to care for the child through all their moods, not just while they are on their best behaviour.

Most introductions take place over about a fortnight and consist of two phases, with a review meeting built in around half to three quarters of the way through. The review meeting is to check out if all is going according to plan. Adjustments can be made at this stage and a moving in date agreed.

The first phase of introductions takes place in and around the foster carers' home. The social worker for the child should be present to facilitate the meeting and iron out any awkwardness. It is important that the adopters speak to their worker after this first meeting to share their feelings and give feedback on how the meeting went. Early doubts and misgivings do not necessarily mean that the introductions should not progress but if there are difficulties it is better to identify these at an early stage when the disruption to the child can be minimised.

During this first phase of introductions, adopters can first shadow the foster carer in his/her care of the child and gradually take on more of the parenting role as the child feels comfortable with them and the foster carers will gradually withdraw. The non-verbal messages from the foster carer to the child are as important as the verbal. The foster carers, through their actions, are saying to the child that they can trust and feel safe with the adopters. Actively experiencing the child's world, furthers the adopters' understanding of the child and can help put behaviours and memories that emerge post-placement into a meaningful context. At the end of this phase, the child and adopters should feel confident in each other's company.

The second phase allows the introduction of the child to the adopters' home. The first visit should always involve the foster carer accompanying the child and not be too long in duration. The important message the child should receive is that this is a safe place and the foster carer is confident that the adopters will care for the child. On the next day, the foster carer might take the child and then gradually withdraw. Further visits to the adopters' home will be without the foster carer. Overnight stays may also be considered but would be dependent on the child's age and understanding. Small children often find this transition period very difficult and become confused by the dual parenting; an overnight stay can add to the confusion and therefore be unhelpful.

This second phase is a time for the child to build and strengthen their relationship with the adopters in their new home and therefore visits from the adopters' family and friends should be strongly discouraged.

A succession of special treats and outings should be avoided during introductions as the child may develop unrealistic expectations of life with their new family.

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.

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

7.4 Placement Planning Review Meeting

This meeting will occur about half way through the second phase to review the placement plan and the progress of the introductions will be discussed in relation to the child and the adopters and the possibility of an overnight stay may also be considered. If all is going well, the following dates will be set:

  • A placement date
  • The social workers' visiting pattern for after placement
  • The date of the first review
  • A date for the foster carer to visit the child post-placement

It is usual for foster carers to make two visits back to the child after placement to reassure the child that they have not been forgotten, rejected or abandoned. The timing of these visits should be tailored to meet the needs of the child and supportive to the adoptive placement. The first visit usually takes place just before or after the first review, with the second a further 3 months on. Great care must be given to planning these visits and it tends to work better if they are not too long. It is important that the child does not become confused by the visit and think that they are returning to the foster carer. Some adopters and foster carers build a very good rapport during introductions and choose to continue visits beyond this point.

If needed, further Placement Planning Review Meetings may be called

7.5 Goodbyes

It is also important to discuss the child's goodbyes to their foster carers, school and friends, and ensure there is appropriate space in the programme. Achieving a good goodbye will facilitate a good start to the placement. The child needs time to say goodbye to all those who have played a significant role in their life. However, a large party with family and friends may get the child overexcited and the goodbyes may not be said properly.

It is important that the child's former carers are able to give the child the message that they still care about them and will miss them but they are happy that they have a new family of their own. Although carers will be worried for the child's future, as is natural with any life changing event, this is not the time for foster carers to tell the child that they can come back if things don't work out, as the underlying message will be that they are not positive about the placement and this doesn't give the child permission to leave.

7.6 Meeting between Birth Barents and Prospective Adopters

If this is agreed, it can take place at any suitable time after the match has been agreed by the decision maker, although it is most likely to take place after the adopters have met the child but before placement. This is an emotional meeting and difficult for both the birth family and the adopters but usually both parties feel they have benefited. It is important the social workers for both parties are present and prepare their clients well for the meeting. Confidential identifying information should not be requested or disclosed, nor should the adopters be asked to agree to anything that has not been discussed prior to the meeting e.g. annual photos. The meeting can be used to share information such as medical history, family stories about the children when they were at home and photographs. The adopters' social worker and the birth family social worker should be present at the meeting and offer support afterwards.

When preparing the birth family for this meeting, the social worker may consider discussing with them whether they would be prepared for their child to be known by the adopters' name prior to the adoption order being granted. The law states that a child's surname cannot be changed without the consent of the parent or leave of the court, unless by an adoption order being granted. This sometimes presents confidentiality problems or difficulties for school age children wanting a fresh start and not wanting to be seen to be different.

7.7 Placement with Prospective Adopters

Once the matching of the child has been approved, the adoption agency has authority to begin the process of placing the child (either through a Placement Order or parental consent). Once the Adoption Placement Plan has been completed and signed by all parties and the plan of introductions has been successfully completed the placement can go ahead

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

  1. The Adoption Placement Plan including arrangements for support and visits by the child's social worker and their own social worker
  2. Authority to consent to medical and dental treatment
  3. The child's 'Red Book', NHS Card and passport (if applicable)
  4. Any letters, photographs or mementos from the birth family, including a 'Later Life' letter from the birth parent if possible, and the Life Story Book
  5. A written plan of the pre and post adoption contact arrangements with the birth parents and any previous carers
  6. Any other relevant information, including specialist reports (subject to the author's consent)
  7. The Adoption Support Plan with the name of the adoption support social worker
  8. The prospective adopters should sign and date confirmation of receipt.

Prior to the placement, the adoption social worker should notify the present and new GP; the local authority (where the adoptive family live outside Medway); 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.

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.

Where the child's foster carers are the prospective adopters, the adoption social worker must confirm in writing to them the date from which the placement becomes an adoptive placement.

The child's social worker should 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.

The child's social worker should ensure the date of the placement is recorded, so that the records identifies that the child is placed for adoption but does not show the placement address.

The adoption social worker should 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.

Once a placement date has been agreed for the child, it is important to ensure that all the statutory letters are completed without delay. This is the responsibility of the child's social worker. There are standard letters for this purpose at the end of this section. These letters inform the new authority that an adopted child has been placed in their area, facilitates the transfer of medical information between areas and ensures education records are transferred.

Statutory letters completed by social worker forms 063 - 074

To preserve the confidentiality of the placement, the medical records and school records have to be anonymised. This is completed by the health service in the case of medical records. In the case of educational records, the CP information should be removed. This may seem a time consuming task but in the past, adopters have found that some schools have been indiscrete with the management of birth family case conference information, to the embarrassment of both the adopters and the child. Birth family information left on file also opens up the possibility of links being made between the new and old area. The adoption link worker will assist in this task.

Education information anonymised, CP records removed.

The placement proposal letter must also be completed prior to the child moving. The child's social worker is responsible for completing this letter. A pro forma can be found in the Adoption Procedures. It is a good idea to have a draft ready before the introductions review meeting so that the placement date can be inserted and the adopters can sign to indicate they have received it.

Placement proposal letter completed - 076 and 076A

On the day of placement, the child's social worker should be present when the adopters collect the child from the foster carer. This is often an emotional time for the foster carer, adopters and the child and should not be allowed to be too protracted. The fostering social worker may also be present to support the carers after the child has left. The child's social worker will need to ensure that the adopters have received all the information identified at the introductions planning meeting and that they sign two copies of the agreement form (075), to accept the transfer of the child to their care. The adopters should retain a copy and a copy should be placed on the child's file.

Adopters' sign Agreement form - form 075


8. Step 8 - Post-Placement

8.1 Following the Placement

Following placement, the child's social worker should:-

  • Ask parents for their written agreement to the child being known by the adopters' name, if this hasn't already been done. This agreement should only be sought if it is deemed to be beneficial to the child.
  • Inform a father without parental responsibility of the placement, if this is in the child's best interests.
  • Visit the child within the first week of placement. This visit can be made by either the social worker or adoption social worker - as agreed at the introductions planning meeting.
  • Set up further visits as appropriate, within minimum statutory requirements.

8.2 Visits to the Adoptive Placement

The primary focus of the child's social worker's visit, will be to facilitate the child settling into the new family and it may be necessary to undertake some direct work with the child at this point. Frequency of visits should be in line with the needs of the child but the minimum would first visit within the first week of the placement and then weekly until the first review and 4 weekly until the second review, with visits being 6 weekly thereafter. However, social workers should be prepared for some children with more complex needs who may require a more intensive visiting pattern. If the child is placed at a distance, it may be more realistic to ask the adopters' agency to visit on behalf of Medway.

Visits must be made by suitably qualified and experienced workers or social workers/students who are supervised by suitably qualified and experienced workers

In some cases, adopters find that the child's social worker's visits unsettle the child and request that these are reduced. Given the vulnerability for any adoption placement in the early days, it is important that the social worker knows first hand what is going on for the child and that visits are maintained. Requests such as these should be discussed with the adopters' social worker and a strategy devised that meets the monitoring function of the visits, without distressing the child. Often a social worker can help a child work through their anxieties about these visits and help to see them as a stepping-stone to their future with their new family.

The adopters' social worker will also visit the placement. The primary focus of their visits will be to support and advise the adopters and they will not always see the children. They will be helping the adopters adjust to parenting and help them to build a good attachment with the child.

Inevitably there will be common areas for both workers, such as developing strategies for managing difficult behaviour, and it is important that both social workers communicate and work well together.

The early days of placement are crucial, and adequate, timely support to both the adopters and the child, is an important factor in preventing a placement breakdown. Where there are concerns that there is a risk of this a review meeting should be convened immediately by the child's social worker

8.3 Adoption Reviews

Once an adoption agency has Authority to Place for Adoption, there is a requirement to review the child's case under the Adoption Agencies Regulations 2005. (see Adoption Review Procedure). Until the child is placed for adoption, this runs alongside the requirement to hold a Looked After Review in relation to the child - see Looked After Children Reviews Procedure. The arrangements for Adoption reviews should be part of the Adoption Placement Plan and be communicated to the prospective adopters and child, depending on its age.

Adoption reviews, Like Looked After Children Reviews should be chaired by the Independent Reviewing Officer. Reviews take place until an adoption order is made. Birth parents should be informed of the outcome of the review and any decisions made, as far as is reasonably practicable and if it is felt appropriate their views should be sought prior to the review. The review itself is usually held in the adopters' home and need not necessarily follow the LAC form although the record of discussion and decisions will need to be input to RAISE. (A suggested agenda can be found at the end of this section. Statutory medicals also continue. Timescales for Adoption Reviews differ depending on whether or not the child is placed for adoption. An Adoption review is held:

  • No later than 3 months after authority to place the child for adoption has been obtained
  • At least every 6 months thereafter until an adoptive placement is made.

Where the child has been placed for adoption, arrangements must be made so that an Adoption Review is held:

  • Within 4 weeks of the placement
  • Not more than 3 months after the first review unless an application for an adoption order has been made
  • At least every 6 months thereafter until an adoption order has been made or the adoptive placement ends.

Where there are concerns that the placement is at risk of breaking down, an Adoption Review must be convened immediately. Where a child has been placed with parental consent and notice is received that such consent has been withdrawn, a Review must be convened immediately and urgent legal advice should be taken as to whether an application should be made for a Placement Order.

The child's social worker should prepare a report for the Adoption Review, incorporating the views of the child, the prospective adopters and the prospective adopters' link worker (where the child is placed, the birth parents or family members (in appropriate cases and any other relevant person (for example health visitor or teacher, which should be circulated prior to the meeting.

8.4 Conduct of Reviews

The Adoption Review should consider the following areas:

  1. Whether it remains satisfied that the child should be placed for adoption
  2. The child's current needs, welfare and development, and whether any changes need to be made to meet the child's needs or assist his/her development
  3. The existing arrangements for contact and whether they should continue or be altered
  4. Where the child has been placed for adoption, evidence of the child's attachment to the prospective adopters and the arrangements in relation to the exercise of parental responsibility for the child and whether these should continue or be altered
  5. The arrangements for the provision of adoption support services for the adoptive family and whether there should be any re-assessment of the need for those services
  6. In consultation with the appropriate agencies, the arrangements for assessing and meeting the child's health care and educational needs
  7. Any concerns
  8. Outstanding Court proceedings
  9. Where the child is placed for adoption, the timing of the adoption application
  10. The timing of the 'Later in Life Letter' from the social worker being given to the child (prior to the Adoption Order
  11. The responsibility for providing Court reports
  12. The frequency of future reviews and the date for the next Review
  13. Where the child is the subject of a Placement Order and has not been placed for adoption by the time of the first six month Review, the Review must also:
    1. Establish why the child has not been placed for adoption what further steps it should take to arrange for the child to be placed for adoption; and
    2. Consider whether it remains satisfied that the child should be so placed for adoption

The Independent Reviewing Officer must ensure that the views of the child are properly understood by the Review and taken into account.

The Independent Reviewing Officer must also ensure that anyone responsible for implementing a decision taken at the review is identified, and that any failure to review the case or implement decisions made at a Review is brought to the attention of senior managers within the agency.

Any decisions made at the Review should be notified in writing to the child (depending on age and understanding, the prospective adopters (where the child has been placed for adoption and any other person considered relevant by the child's social worker and the Independent Reviewing Officer, such as the birth parents.

The information obtained during an Adoption Review, any decisions made at the Review and the minutes of any meeting arranged to consider any aspect of the Adoption review must be placed on the child's Adoption Case Record

Where a child has been placed for adoption but is not adopted within 12 months, the child's social worker should present a further report to the Adoption Panel identifying the length of the delay, the reasons and the steps being taken to address any difficulties.

Where a decision has been made that a child should be placed for adoption but the child has not been placed within 6 months, the child's social worker should present a further report to the Adoption Panel identifying the length of the delay, the reasons and the steps being taken to address any difficulties. This should include a review of the adoption plan and consideration as to whether the child's needs would be better met by a change of plan to Special Guardianship or long-term fostering or whether separation of siblings might be in their best interest.

8.5 After an Adoption Order is made

Once an Adoption Order is made, the child's social worker should complete the Adoption Case Records and ensure that the necessary work has been undertaken to complete the adoption process. The Adoption Case Records should then be closed and sent to the adoption service for safe storage within 2 months of the Adoption Order being granted.

The computer recording system should also record the Adoption Order.

8.6 Contact

The details of the proposed contact should have been fully discussed prior to the matching Panel and have been incorporated into the support plan. The Adoption Support Team should be involved in all decisions regarding contact as they will be responsible for managing contact after the adoption order is granted. Ill thought-through contact arrangements can add enormous stress to adoption placements and these tensions persist over many years and, in some cases, undermine the placement. It is therefore vital that the plans are sensitive to all the parties and most importantly, reflect the child's interests over the long-term.

When contact is planned, the adoption link worker will construct the letter to the birth parents and adopters, with the help of the adoption support team, who will set up the contact file.

The file should contain:-

  • The agreement signed by all parties
  • Copy of the adoption order
  • Copy of the CPR and PAR and Schedule 2 report
  • The placement proposal letter
  • Copy of the background letter
  • Up to date addresses of all parties
  • Clear record of any contact or issues with the birth family following placement which may affect future contact arrangements
  • Photocopies of all contact to date

The agreement should be carefully drafted using plain English so that it cannot be misinterpreted or misunderstood. It should be placed at the front of the file and should specify the following:-

  • Who the contact is between
  • What form the contact will take (i.e. letterbox, face to face, telephone)
  • If supervised and if so by whom
  • Frequency and whether reciprocal
  • Time of year for exchange
  • Date of any review
  • Date of agreement ending. State if to continue beyond 18th birthday.
  • Agreement must specify that the arrangements may change dependant on the wishes and needs of the child. The agreement should be signed by all parties who should each retain a copy

Contact arrangements should be reviewed at regular intervals to ensure they are still relevant to all parties and working well.

The Adoption Support Team is responsible for maintaining all post-adoption contact arrangements, both direct and indirect. They also offer support to birth parents who find it difficult to maintain letter-box contact with their child and supervise direct contacts as necessary

8.7 Later Life Letters

The social worker for the child is responsible for writing the later life letter. Guidelines for the content of this letter can be found in MED/A/077 (Form 077). This letter should give a truthful but non-judgemental account of the child's background and life. It should give details about the significant people in their lives including who was responsible for taking decisions about their future and why those decisions were taken. This should include all the social workers and foster carers who had a part in moving them into the adoptive placement and how the family was chosen. It is useful to think about the sort of information you would like to know if you were in the child's position. The letter should be pitched at the early teenage years, as this is when children become most curious about their origins and have the intellectual capacity to cope with their history. As the letter is addressed to the child but open for the adopters to read, they can use the information to help the child understand their history at an earlier stage. By the time the child reads the letter there should be no surprises in it. The later life letter for the child should be provided by the second review in the adoptive placement, if not before. As much detail as possible should be included. (An example can be found at the end of this section).

8.8 Decision to lodge an Application to Adopt

The decision as to when adopters will lodge their application with the court, is made at a review. The law states that a child must have lived with the adopter for a minimum of 13 weeks before an adoption order can be made. However, for many children other than infants, this is usually too short a time for the child to be fully settled in the adopters' family and for the adopters to feel ready to proceed. Consideration of the right time to lodge the application may be discussed at the four-month review but it usually takes at least six months in placement before the family are ready to proceed. There should be no pressure on families to move forward before they are ready, because each situation is unique. Often where siblings are placed, there is a longer settling in period. However, if there is still uncertainty after 12 months, the viability of the placement should be considered and an update brought to the Adoption and Permanence Panel.

8.9 Disruption

Occasionally, despite everyone's best efforts, placements do disrupt. These situations are distressing for all the parties including the professionals. Usually everyone feels guilty and questions what they missed/should have done/said etc. It helps no-one if people start blaming each other - a disruption usually occurs as a result of several factors coming together rather than being the fault of any one individual.

The most important thing in the first instance is to ensure the trauma and distress for the child is minimised and that they are absolved of any blame for the breakdown of the placement. The second most important thing is for everyone to learn from the disruption and become better-informed practitioners.

The Medway Policy on Disruption requires that a meeting is held as soon as possible to explore reasons for the disruption. An independent chair, usually the Independent Reviewing Officer, is required to set up the meeting and all those involved in the adoption would be invited. The adopters should be encouraged to attend, although this will be a very difficult time for them, because they hold important information about the placement and they also need to be able to see the disruption in the context of all the circumstances. Many adopters do feel guilty that they couldn't make the placement work and often it helps them to see that there were probably many other factors conspiring to undermine the placement. (Please refer to the Medway Policy on Disruption - see section 8.9, Disruption).

The meeting should consider the child's needs and whether the adoption plan for the child remains appropriate, the existing arrangements for contact and whether they require amendment, the arrangements for meeting the child's health and educational needs and whether any changes are required to assist the child's development. Where the child is subject to a Placement Order, the meeting should also consider the need to seek revocation of the Order.

The child's social worker and the prospective adopters' link worker should attend the Adoption Panel to present a report from the Disruption Meeting. The Adoption Panel should also receive copies of the Panel minutes recommending the adoption plan for the child, the prospective adopters' approval and the matching, to enable learning points to be shared.

The child's social worker should contact the Panel Administrator to book a date for the Adoption Panel to consider the matter and copies of the relevant documents should be sent to the Panel Administrator before the Panel meeting.

Where an Adoption Placement Plan is terminated before the adoptive placement takes place, the adoption link worker for a Medway approved family, or the child's social worker in the case of an inter agency placement, will prepare a report for the Adoption Panel. The report must outline the reasons for the breakdown.

If the plan for the child is changed, either then or at any time, this must be taken back to Panel.

The child must also be kept informed in an age appropriate way of any changes to her/his plan.


9. Step 9 - Adoption Hearing

The Adoption and Children Act 2002 became fully operational in December 2005.

9.1 Preparation for the Adoption Hearing

The adoption social worker helps the adopters to complete their application forms (in triplicate) and advises the adopters on which court they should use.

If a Placement Order has been made, the original of that order will be with Legal Services, who will, on request, forward it to the court.

The responsibility for the Annex A Report lies with the child's social worker, with the adoption social worker writing the sections concerning the adopters. It is important that all the relevant sections are completed. Sometimes sections are missed because the social worker's contribution continues after the adoption worker's section.

If the application is unopposed, the court appoints a Reporting Officer, who checks with the parents that their consent is freely given, and that they fully understand the meaning of adoption.

If parents are opposing the adoption application, the Local Authority will pay the adopters' legal costs. The Guidance Notes must be sent to their solicitor, and the Legal Services informed. Adopters do not usually attend a contested hearing.

A Children's Guardian is appointed in any contested adoption and may be the same one as for the care proceedings.

9.2 Adoption Hearing

The Adoption Hearing is not held in open court and is often held in the Judge's chambers. The hearing is attended by the adopters and the child, the social worker and the adopters' social worker. The Adoption and Children Act 2002 requires birth parents be informed of the date and place of the adoption hearing. Their possible attendance needs to be discussed with the adopters and the legal adviser so that appropriate arrangements are made. Although this is a momentous occasion for the child's adoptive family, the hearing is often a very brief affair and some thought needs to be given to how it is going to be marked. Some Judges and Magistrates allow photographs but permission must be sort in advance and some courts give a card/certificate and flowers. As each court is different, it is usually appropriate for the workers to give the child and family a card.

It is also useful to discuss the plan for after the hearing, with the adopters. They may wish to include the workers in a family celebration or simply say farewells at the court.

The child's social worker should:-

  • Complete the SS7 to change the child's legal status
  • Notify the Adoption Team Administrators of the date of the adoption order. 


10. Step 10 - After Adoption

To follow

End