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7.20 Working with Children – Medway Practice Guidance for Adoption Social Workers

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

The procedures and practice guidance for adoption social workers cover the key aspects of the practice of Medway Adoption Agency. They are based on the Adoption and Children Act and associated Guidance and accepted notions of good practice in adoption. They reflect a focus on a commitment to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children who should be or are placed for adoption but also seek to encompass the interests of other parties involved in the adoption process.

To be read in conjunction with Medway Adoption Policy and Procedures.


Contents

  Introduction
1. Step 1 - Planning for Permanence
  1.1 Looked After Children
  1.2 Relinquished Children
  1.3 Support for Birth Parents
  1.4 Child's Adoption Case File
  1.5 Child's Permanence Report
  1.6 Adoption Contact
  1.7 Adoption Support
  1.8 Submission to Panel
  1.9 National Adoption Register
  1.10 Updates to Panel
  1.11 Preparing the Child for Adoption
  1.12 Life Appreciation Meeting
2. Step 2 - Family Finding
  2.1 Timescales
  2.2 Child's Profile
  2.3 Permissions and Agreements for Advertising
  2.4 Linking and Shortlisting
  2.5 Matching Meeting
  2.6 Information for the Selected Family
  2.7 Adoption Support Plan
  2.8 Foster Carer Visit to the Adopters
3. Step 3 - Matching
  3.1 Introduction
  3.2 Adoption Placement Report - the matching report
  3.3 Matching Panel
4. Step 4 - Introductions and Placement
  4.1 Introduction
  4.2 Placement Planning Meeting and Adoption Placement Plan
  4.3 The Introductions
  4.4 Placement Planning Review Meeting
  4.5 Meeting Between Birth Parents and Adopters
  4.6 Placement with Adopters
5. Step 5 - Post Placement
  5.1 Visits to Adoptive Placement
  5.2 Adoption Reviews
  5.3 Reports for Adoption Reviews
  5.4 Conduct of Adoption Reviews
  5.5 After an Adoption Order is made
  5.6 Contact
  5.7 Later Life Letter
  5.8 Decision to Lodge Adoption Application
  5.9 Disruption
6. Step 6 - The Adoption Hearing
  6.1 Preparation for the Hearing
  6.2 The Adoption Hearing


Introduction

All people who use the adoption services will be treated with respect and honesty. In turn it is expected that they will reciprocate with equal respect and honesty, and will not withhold, or deny, or fail to express their own feelings, emotions or differing views.


1. Step 1 - Planning for Permanence

1.1 Looked After Children

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 social worker should be invited.

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.

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.

Whenever possible, presentation to Panel should always be before the final court hearing

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 is inconsistent consent and 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.

1.2 Relinquished Children

Birth parents and Guardians may request adoption for their infant. All alternatives to adoption need to be fully explored and all possible supports outlined so that as informed a decision as possible can be made. Information about adoption, the processes, timescales and legal implications should be made available and any queries answered.

Where birth parent(s) wish they may give agreement to the plan for adoption for their child but this is informal only until consent is formally witnessed by CAFCASS after the infant is more than 6 weeks old. Consent can be given to placement for adoption with adopters selected by the agency or can be to placement with specific adopters. Should the birth parent change his or her mind and withdraw consent before the prospective adopter applies to the Court for an adoption order a review should be held immediately and consideration given to application for a placement order

An adoption case file should be opened.

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.

1.3 Support 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 forms 003 and 004 should be signed by the parents. One signed copy should be kept on file and one given to the birth parents.

1.4 Child's Adoption Case File

Once the plan for adoption has been agreed an adoption case file must be set up. Siblings must have separate and individualised adoption case files

The child's social worker needs to ensure that the case file contains all necessary documentation including

  • Why adoption is the plan and what alternatives have been considered
  • What consultation there has been with birth relatives and what counselling and support has been given
  • Present and proposed levels of contact. Proposed contact post placement and adoption need to be discussed by the adoption social worker the senior practitioner, adoption support and the child's social worker. The needs of the child and not the needs or wishes of the birth parent should be the primary consideration. Siblings not being placed with the child whether place for adoption elsewhere, fostered of placed with birth family members will all have contact needs. Assessing these via sibling attachment assessments and resolving conflicting needs is a complex piece of work. It needs to begin at this stage and be regularly revisited at key stages in the process.

1.5 Child's Permanence Report

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

The CPR is an important document because it fulfils 3 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 social 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 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. Where the child is under two, the profile should be updated immediately before Panel.

The adoption social worker should have a copy of the CPR for family finding.

1.6 Adoption Contact

The child's social worker must undertake a written assessment as to what is in the best interests of the child to support any contact proposals as part of an adoption plan, or give 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 include 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 also 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 aid long-term identity development.

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

Any planned adoption contact should be part of the information shared with prospective adoptive parents during the matching process and also be part of the planning of the placement.

1.7 Adoption Support

The Adoption Support Regulations require details of the child's needs in respect of post-adoption support, both practical and financial. This should be contained in Part 2 of the CPR. When a Single Integrated Assessment has been completed, this could provide the basis of the assessment of need for adoption support and inform the Adoption Support Plan

If the child is likely to require ongoing financial support and meets the criteria, Form AS/001, ( form 001) 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.

1.8 Submission to Panel

The CPR, Adoption Support Forms and any other relevant reports, should be passed to the Panel Administrator three weeks before Panel date. The adoption social 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, Strood, together with medical forms, by the deadline 1 week later.

The CPR should be presented by the child's social worker to Panel along with medical information from the family history will have been collated and from the adoption medical. The adoption social worker for the child should also be present.

1.9 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 form must be completed following Panel, by the adoption social worker.

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

1.10 Updates to Panel

The CPR should be updated by the child's social worker every six months or more frequently if circumstances change significantly. The risk of making a poor match is greatly increased if CPR information is out of date.

1.11 Preparing the Child for Adoption

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

1.12 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 social 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.


2. Step 2 - Family Finding

2.1 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 social 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.

2.2 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 social worker will assist with the preparation of the profile as this will be the basis of future publicity. Some children may be of the 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, 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 If the child is not to be placed locally there should be a written risk assessment to support this conclusion.

2.3 Permissions 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 social worker will progress family finding through advertising and contacts with other agencies.

2.4 Linking and Shortlisting

The child's social worker and the adoption social worker will identify the child's needs in respect of an adoptive family. The adoption social 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 social 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 working days, after which time the couple or individual 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 social 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). The chair of the meeting will be the Adoption Service Manager or deputy. 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, which will include their attendance at Preparation Groups

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.

2.5 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 social 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 social 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 social 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.

2.6 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.

2.7 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 social 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 holders written agreement to the amount of financial support to be offered and this paperwork should be included with the support plan.

2.8 Foster Carer Visit to the 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 the child's social worker, their fostering officer or the adoption social 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.


3. Step 3 - Matching

3.1 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.

3.2 Adoption Placement Report - the matching report

The social worker for the child has lead responsibility for writing the Adoption Placement report, in consultation with the adoption social 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 included. 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.

3.3 Matching Panel

The child's social worker or the adoption social worker should arrange a Panel date through the Adoption Administrator at The Elaine Centre, Strood. The social worker and adoption social 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 six 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 six months prior to Panel
  • Up-to-date medicals for the child i.e. within six 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 working 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.


4. Step 4 - Introductions and Placement

4.1 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

4.2 Placement Planning Meeting and Adoption Placement Plan

A placement planning meeting will be convened by the adoption social 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 carers and their fostering officer
  • Adopters and their adoption social worker
  • Child's social worker
  • The adoption social 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 social worker for the child will ensure that this paperwork is completed.

The purpose of the first Placement Planning Meeting is to draw up a proposed 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 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.

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.

4.3 The 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 will 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 at about 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 move date agreed.

During introductions, usually the first phase, the adopters may have a one-off meeting with the birth parents (see below) and if a child is of nursery or school age, the adopters will have an opportunity to speak to their teacher. In the second phase of introductions, a visit may be arranged for the adopters and child to visit their new school

The first phase of introductions takes place in and around the foster carers' home. The first meeting is kept short, no more than 1 1/2 hours and the social worker for the child is present to facilitate the meeting. Naturally, the adopters, child and foster carers are anxious about this first meeting and the social worker's presence can 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 will 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 covers the introduction of the child to the adopters' home. The first visit should always involve the foster carer accompanying the child and again 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 second day, the foster carer will take the child and 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 can often add to the confusion and is therefore 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 similar pattern to phase one should be followed so that at first the child is primarily in the home and garden and is gradually taken further afield.

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

4.4 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 three 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

4.5 Meeting Between Birth Parents and 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.

4.6 Placement with Adopters

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. A social worker must be present when the placement takes place.

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

The prospective adopters should be asked to sign confirmation of receipt

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.

Prior to the placement, the child's social worker must 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. 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 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.

The adoption social worker 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.

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 indiscreet 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 social worker will assist in this task.

Education information anonymised, CP records removed.

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).


5. Step 5 - Post Placement

5.1 Visits to Adoptive Placement

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 four weekly until the second review, with visits being six 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

5.2 Adoption Reviews

Once an adoption agency has authority to place a child for adoption, the requirement to review the child's case under Adoption Agencies Regulations 2005 supersedes the requirement to hold a Looked After Review. The arrangements for Adoption reviews should be part of the adoption placement plan and communicated to the prospective adopters and child, depending on its age.

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 is available). 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 three months after authority to place the child for adoption has been obtained
  • At least every six 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 four weeks of the placement
  • Not more than three months after the first review unless an application for an adoption order has been made
  • At least every six 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 placement has been made 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.

Unless there are exceptional circumstances, for example child protection concerns and/or significant risk, no decision to move a child from a placement shall take place without a formal review having taken place. In such circumstances, legal advice should be sought as soon as possible and prior to any action being taken.

For all cases the child's social worker must inform the Independent Reviewing Officer of any failure to make arrangements agreed at a review or any significant changes in the child's circumstances at a review, so that a decision can be made as to the need to convene a further Review.

5.3 Reports for Adoption Reviews

The child's social worker will 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.

5.4 Conduct of Adoption Reviews

The Adoption Review will consider the following areas:

  1. Whether it remains satisfied that the child should be placed for adoption
  2. The child's 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 they 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 and consider 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 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 not adopted within 12 months, the child's social worker must 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 to place a child for adoption but the child has not been placed within six months, the child's social worker must 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, including consideration of a review of the adoption plan and/or a possible change to long-term fostering/separation of siblings.

5.5 After an Adoption Order is made

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

The computer recording system should also record the Adoption Order.

5.6 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 social 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 Adoption Support file should contain:-

  • The agreement signed by all parties
  • Copy of the adoption order
  • Copy of the CPR and PAR and Annex A 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

5.7 Later Life Letter

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 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.

5.8 Decision to Lodge Adoption Application

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.

5.9 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 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.

The meeting will 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 15 working days before the Panel meeting.

Where an Adoption Placement Plan is terminated before the adoptive placement takes place, the adoption social 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.

In all such cases, the Adoption Panel may consider whether the plan for the child should be reviewed and/or whether the prospective adopters' approval should be reconsidered, and these issues may need to be further investigated and reports be presented to a subsequent meeting.

The disruption meeting minutes, together with the Chair's report, must be presented to the Adoption and Permanence Panel.

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.


6. Step 6 - The Adoption Hearing

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

6.1 Preparation for the 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.

6.2 The 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. 

End