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7.2 Policy and Principles of Adoption Practice

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

These policies and principles set out in this chapter are based on the values set out in the Adoption National Minimum Standards 2011 which are summarised here (see General Policy Statement)


Contents

  1. Recruiting, Preparing, Assessing, Approving and Supporting Adopters
  2. Placement of Children for Adoption
  3. Services to Birth Families
  4. Work with Adult Adoptees and their Birth Families - Access to Records and Intermediary Services
  5. Internal Agency Considerations


1. Recruiting, Preparing, Assessing, Approving and Supporting Adopters

Policy

People who are interested in becoming adoptive parents will be welcomed without prejudice, responded to promptly and given clear information about recruitment, assessment and approval. They will be treated fairly, openly and with respect throughout the adoption process. Foster Carers who make a formal application to adopt children in their care will be entitled to the same information and preparation as other adopters.

Clear information will be given about children locally and nationally who need families and applicants will have an opportunity to talk to adopters to help them decide whether to proceed further. Written eligibility criteria and details of the assessment and approval process will be provided including the need to undertake checks

Applicants will be assessed in terms of their capacity to look after children in a safe and responsible way that meets their developmental needs

The timescales for each stage will be adhered to wherever possible and applicants will be kept informed of progress throughout.

Children will be matched with approved adopters who can offer them a stable and permanent home and help and support will be provided to achieve a successful and lasting placement.

Before a match is agreed, adopters will be given full written information to help them understand the needs and background of the child and an opportunity to discuss this and the implications for them and their family.

There will be access to a range of multi-agency support services before, during and after adoption. Support services will include practical help, professional advice, financial assistance where needed and information about local and national support groups and services.

Adoptive parents will be involved in discussions as to how they can best maintain any links, including contact, with birth relatives and significant others identified in the adoption plan, how to keep safe any information provided by birth families and to provide this to the adopted child on request, or as they feel appropriate, and adoptive parents whose adopted child has decided to explore their birth heritage will be supported to deal with the impact of this decision.

Where there are difficulties with the placement or the adoption breaks down the agencies involved will cooperate to provide support and information to the adoptive parents and the child without delay.

Prospective adopters and adoptive parents will be informed of their right to make representations and complaints.

Underpinning Principles: Applications to adopt

The following factors will be considered in relation to applicants wishing to adopt a child/children:

A Safe Environment

The physical well being of the child must be considered when placing for adoption. The assessment of the accommodation must take into account the needs of the child and all other members of the family, and there must be confidence that there is sufficient space for all the family. When placing older children for adoption, bedrooms will be shared only with children of the same sex - and for some children single bedrooms will be a requirement.

Pets and domestic animals are often an important part of family life and can prove to be emotionally beneficial for an adoptive child. However, safety and hygiene must always be taken into account. The potential risks, dangers or benefits from any animal or group of animals will be considered in the assessment of adoptive applicants, and if the applicants are approved will also need to be taken into account before making a placement.

The safety of a child placed for adoption is important and any potential risks from any hobbies, activities, or the environment of the applicants must be taken into consideration e.g. garden ponds and the keeping of firearms.

Age of Applicants

The age of adoptive applicants will be considered only in relation to other factors.

When placing babies (0-12months) or very young children, the birth parents' view of the age of the prospective adoptive applicants must be taken into consideration - especially where the child is being placed at the request of the birth parent. It is important that applicants understand that the numbers of babies and very young children requiring adoptive homes is low.

In the case of older children the age of applicants is relevant in relation to their health, fitness, and their likely life expectancy. It may be necessary to consider the benefits for the child balanced against the risks of limitations that may be present due to the applicant's age.

Chronic Medical Conditions

There are a number of chronic medical conditions that may reduce the parenting capacity of an individual, or shorten their life expectancy. Where these become apparent adoption workers and the Adoption and Permanence Panel must seek information and guidance from the agency medical adviser. The applicants must then be informed of the outcome of any such guidance as early as possible in their application.

Weight

The body mass index of adopters is of importance only in relation to any effects it may have upon their life expectancy, their ability to foster healthy eating habits in a child, any possible psychological consequences of weight problems, and their ability to pursue a healthy and active lifestyle. These issues will be addressed as part of the assessment process. The advice of the Adoption Agency medical adviser must be sought at an early stage where applicants appear to have a significant weight problem

Childlessness

In order to make a full commitment to an adoptive child, applicants must have put aside the idea of having their own natural child, and this includes avoiding the possibility of conception even when fertility is reduced.

Childless applicants must have undergone medical investigation for their infertility or have clear and acceptable reasons why they do not want such investigations carried out or why they do not want to have their own birth child (e.g. if there is a risk of inherited illness). Medical treatment for infertility is now very sophisticated and can extend for a considerable period. It is important that any treatment for infertility has ceased at least six months prior to the application. If the treatment for infertility is re-started then the application to adopt will have to be suspended.

Prospective adopters will be expected to attend a workshop that considers parenting and loss prior to attending the Preparation Group for adopters.

Sexuality

Medway has an equal opportunities policy and will assess all applicants with respect and fairness regardless of gender or sexual preference.

Smoking

It has increasingly been recognised that smoking is a public health issue. The responsibility of the Adoption Agency is primarily for the welfare of the children it places for adoption, and consideration of their long-term health and well-being will be a central consideration in their placement. It has been well established that the effects of secondary smoking have serious health risks, in particular for children.

Smoking will therefore be considered a serious risk factor when making placements. Adoption applicants will be advised that they should stop smoking for a period of at least one year before being presented to panel for approval.

The only exception to this is when there is a pre-existing relationship between the prospective adopters and the child to be placed, for example a family member, and if this is the case, it will therefore be necessary to consider the benefits for the child balanced against the risks to the child's health.

Religion

The Adoption Act and Adoption Agency Regulations require that the wishes of birth parents with regard to their children's religious upbringing must be taken into account when considering a placement. If this proves impossible to achieve within Medway Adoption Agency then a family able to meet such wishes will be sought through another adoption agency.

Working Parents

The Adoption Agency has a prime responsibility to the children who are placed for adoption through the agency. Every child placed for adoption will have experienced a minimum of one loss and many will have experienced multiple losses. It is important therefore that the new parents are able to make a significant investment of time and energy, particularly in the initial stages of a placement - which are vital in the development of the new family.

It is important for the child to be able to develop a sense of security and belonging in its new home and the use of different carers is best avoided in the early stages of a placement. Therefore, there is an expectation that at least one parent will not be working when the child is placed.

The minimum acceptable period before the non-working parent returns to employment is six months in the case of a pre-school child. It is expected that those entitled to it will take the maximum available paid adoption leave, and in most cases this will be 39 weeks. Details of entitlement to adoption leave can be found on direct.gov website.

The adoptive parents should primarily be guided by the needs of the child and will be expected to consult with their adoption social worker and the child's social worker before returning to work - if an adoption order has not yet been made.

Existing Birth Children

When people who wish to adopt already have birth children, careful consideration must be given to the needs of all the children involved - and not just the child to be adopted.

In addition to considering the applicants' reasons for wishing to add to their family via adoption, the assessment will consider the applicants' ability to accept and to understand the differing needs of the child placed for adoption. This is especially significant when there is only one birth child, as the applicants will have to cope with the differences between their own secure child who has had their full parental attention, and a child who will have had a very different experience.

The child to be placed should not be close in age to other children of the family. Usually a child will be placed as the youngest child in the family and there will be at least 2 years age difference to the next child in age.

For second time adopters a period of 2 years should customarily elapse from the placement of the first child and the approval of a subsequent application to adopt, with the exception of the special circumstance of a younger sibling being born and in need of placement.

Foster Carers Who Adopt

Many foster carers who have cared for a child for some time elect to adopt that child into their family. They will nonetheless be required to undergo a full prospective adopter assessment.

In order to emphasize the commitment and the change of status of the child within the family, no new foster placements should be made with that family from the time the adoption match has been confirmed at Panel and by the Agency Decision Maker until six months after the adoption order has been made.

Inter-Country Adoption

The same standards will be applied to applicants who apply to adopt from overseas.

The Adoption Agency will provide an initial advice and counselling service to all people considering adoption from overseas. Prospective adopters will be required to sign a contract defining the parameters of the assessment process prior to the home study commencing. Applicants will be encouraged to participate in a preparation group specifically designed for inter country applicants. All prospective adopters will be invited to attend the Adoption and Permanence Panel.

A charge will be payable to cover to cost of the work in order that resources are not diverted from those looked after children requiring adoption.

Step-Parent Adoptions and Other Non-Agency Placements

In cases where step-parents seek to adopt their stepchildren, as with all adoption applications, the focus will be upon the needs of the child to be adopted. The assessment should include the child's understanding, or how they will be helped to understand, their adoptive status, and their sense of who they are - especially in relation to the significant adults in their life. It will also include the quality and importance of the relationships between the child and all the significant adults, and how this is accepted and supported by those adults.

The relationships between the adults in the child's life may be difficult and it will be important to assess how the adults will manage their relationships on behalf of the child and if they can understand and accept the importance of this for the child. It may be necessary to mediate between the adults and assist them in considering all the legal alternatives that could provide security and stability for the child. The Court considering the adoption order will require that all these alternatives have been considered.

Adoption Support

Medway Adoption Agency follows the regulations outlined in the Adoption Support Services Guidance. Where adopters have placed with them a child from another agency, that placing agency is responsible for the post-placement support of the placement until three years after the date of placement.

The Adoption Agency will also provide support and advice with on going contact arrangements.

Medway has an arrangement with the Post Adoption Centre to provide independent counselling and advice to all parties to adoption. They may be contacted directly by telephone, and a local appointment arranged if necessary.

During all the work with prospective adoptive parents, the issue of adoption support must be discussed with care so that applicants fully understand their entitlement to such support, and their right to seek reassessment of such needs if circumstances change over time.

Financial Support to adoption placements

The Adoption Agency is committed to making secure adoptive placements and has the power to provide appropriate financial support where this can be shown to meet the needs of the child. The appropriateness of such support will be considered alongside the appropriateness of the proposed adoption when the child is presented to the Adoption and Permanence Panel in the form of the Adoption Support Plan. Financial support will not be paid automatically and consideration will be given to the consequences or effects of paying a revisable allowance versus an initial lump sum. If it is anticipated that the child may develop additional special needs as they get older then the adoption support plan may be revised, upon the application of the adoptive parents.


2. Placement of Children for Adoption

Policy

The needs and wishes, welfare and safety of the looked after child are at the centre of the adoption process. Every child will have his or her wishes and feelings listened to, recorded and taken into account. Where they are not acted upon, the reasons for not doing so will be explained to the child and properly recorded.

All children will have a named social worker who will be responsible for them throughout the adoption process. Children will be given clear explanations and information about adoption, covering what happens at each stage (including at court, and how long each stage is likely to take in their individual case

Whenever plans for permanence are being considered, they will be made on the basis of the assessed needs of each looked after child, and within timescales which take account of the child's age and needs. Children will be matched with families who can best meet their needs. They will not be left waiting indefinitely for a `perfect family'.

Every effort will be made to recruit sufficient adopters from diverse backgrounds, so that each child can be found an adoptive family within the agreed timescales, which best meets their needs, and in particular:

  • which reflects their ethnic origin, cultural background, religion and language;
  • which allows them to live with brothers and sisters unless this will not meet their individually assessed needs. Where this is the case, a clear explanation will be given to them and recorded

Children will be well prepared before joining a new family. This will include clear appropriate information on their birth family and life before adoption, and information about the adopters and their family. Children are entitled to information provided by their birth families, which will be kept safe both by agencies and adopters. It will be provided to adopted children, or adults, at a time and in a manner that reflects their age and understanding, as well as the nature of the information concerned.

Children whose birth family cannot provide them with a secure, stable and permanent home are entitled to have adoption considered for them.

The child's needs, wishes and feelings, and their welfare and safety are the most important concerns when considering links or contact with birth parents, wider birth family members and other people who are significant to them. Adoption plans will include details of the arrangements for maintaining links (including contact with birth parents, wider birth family members and other people who are significant to the child) and how and when these arrangements will be reviewed.

Children are entitled to support services that meet their assessed needs. These include advice and counselling, health, education, leisure, and cultural services, and practical and financial help when needed. Information from agency records will be made available to the child when they are of an age and level of understanding to comprehend it.

Where there are difficulties arising from an adoption or a proposed adoption, or where an adoption or proposed adoption breaks down, a child will receive support and information without delay.

Children placed for adoption and adopted children will be informed of their right to make representations and complaints and will be helped to do so if this is required.

Underpinning Principles: Race and Culture

Every effort will be made to place a child in a family of the same race and culture as the child. When considering a placement, the agency will take into account the child's racial origins, the child's cultural experiences and needs, the child's views about their racial identity (where appropriate, as well as the view of the birth parents.

However, a child must not be allowed to drift within the care system if a family of the same race as the child cannot be found. A child might therefore be matched with a family of a different race: but in such a case every effort must be made to address the additional needs brought about by that situation.

Siblings

Siblings will be placed together wherever possible as long as it is in the best interests of each. However, this does not preclude making separate placements if to do so is considered the best way to meet the individual needs of each child. Decisions to separate siblings, however, should not be solely based on the availability or not of resources, and it may frequently be necessary to seek families through other agencies outside the Consortium to avoid a damaging wait for each of the children.

Before siblings are separated a thorough assessment of their attachment must be made(1). If siblings are separately placed, even at different times, they should have some knowledge of one other and, wherever it is in their best interests, some level of contact with one another. Families applying to adopt will be expected to accept the importance of the sharing of information and of maintaining contact with siblings.

Some children placed for adoption may have siblings who are already adopted, and adopters may need to accept the child's need for contact - with the possible repercussions for confidentiality.

Contact

Contact between members of the birth family and the child being placed for adoption can take many forms and will always be considered on an individual basis.

Initial contact - There may be contact between the birth family and the adoptive family at the point of placement. This is usually done without the exchange of identifying information but does enable the birth parent or other birth relative to meet the adoptive family and can provide the opportunity for them to give their 'blessing' to the placement. It enables the adopters to have their own live memory to pass on to the child and can assist them in helping the child learn about and understand their pre-adoption history.

On-going Contact - Ongoing contact between members of the birth family and the adopted child can range from an annual written exchange of information to regular telephone or face-to-face direct contact. These arrangements should be able to accommodate changes that may occur for any of the parties involved, but especially the child, whose needs or views may change as they grow older.

Considerations of future contact between the child and any member of the birth family will be part of the planning process for the child. Contact should be seen in the context of all the requirements of the adoption placement; it will not be considered in isolation, nor assume a disproportionate emphasis. It is important for all parties to be clear about the purpose of the contact. Contact arrangements work best when the adults involved have an agreed understanding of the purpose and the benefits for the child.

Plans or arrangements for ongoing contact after adoption will be based on the needs of the child. Contact would usually be agreed where the child enjoys a positive attachment with the person concerned and it has been determined to be beneficial to the child to maintain that attachment, or where the contact is beneficial to the child's understanding of their identity and may allay any fears or fantasies the child may have.

Careful thought must be given to balancing all the effects of contact against the effects of no contact. Children's understanding about contact will be varied, and not having adult verbal skills, they may not be able to explain any anxieties they may have.

Adoption applicants must be given the opportunity to explore their concerns or anxieties about contact and enabled to understand the benefits of contact and how it can be managed. The priority should be to provide a child with security, and the adoptive parents' view about maintaining contact is vital to its success. In circumstances where the adopters who are considered the most suitable to meet the majority of the child's identified needs are unable to accept the proposed contact, it may be more important to secure the placement and achieve a compromise on the level of contact.

Plans for proposed contact will be considered by the adoption panel both at the stage of recommending whether or not the child should be placed for adoption and at the matching stage.

Geography

In many cases it will be necessary to ensure that the child is protected from any chance future contact with the birth family, and they will consequently need to be placed away from their area of origin. This will provide the child with maximum opportunity for security and to settle in their new family.

In order to assist in achieving this aim Medway Adoption Agency belongs to the South East Adoption Consortium and will consider Consortium arrangements prior to using the National Adoption Register and national advertising.

Matching Meetings

Research and experience has demonstrated the importance of a systematic examination of the potential match and consequently, before a proposed match is presented to the Adoption and Permanence Panel, a matching meeting must be held. This meeting will agree the priority of the child's identified needs, consider in detail the strengths and needs of each of the prospective adopter families being considered, and agree if there is a suitable match. The risk factors for the proposed placement will be identified, with a plan to provide the appropriate input to reduce the risks as far as possible. The process will be completed formally even if there is only one adoptive home to be considered.

Introductions

The purpose of the introduction period is to enable the child to begin the process of transferring its attachment from its present carers to its future adoptive parents. The management of an introduction period should be focused on this prime task and not be governed by set time scales or fixed programmes. There is an art to a good introduction period, with the age and understanding of the child being the main focus around which the plan should be oriented.

The introduction period is invariably tiring and stressful for the child, foster carers, and new adoptive family, and rest days need to be a feature of the programme. An important element will also be the ability of all involved to agree adaptations to the programme in response to the progress and responses of the child. The most common failing occurs when the needs of the adults (for example, when the adopters wish to get on with their new family as soon as possible, or when the foster carers wish to get the pain or discomfort of the ending over as soon as possible, come to take precedence over the needs of the child.

The introduction period is the foundation of the new family and patience and support are needed to help everyone involved in the process.

Building a New Family

While Medway retains responsibility and duties towards the child, the focus should be upon the new family. It will be important for the child to have an opportunity to be seen alone in order that they can express their views without risk of constraint. This should not always be done by the social worker separating out the child from the parents on each visit, as this may be divisive and threatening. How this opportunity is to be achieved for the child, must be discussed and planned with the new parents in a way which includes them in the process and removes a level of anxiety that could be transmitted to the child. The future security of the child can best be achieved by working with the new family as a whole and through the new parents rather than always opting for a one to one session with the child.

(1) See Jennifer Lord and Sarah Borthwick, Together or Apart, Assessing brothers and sisters for permanent placement (London: BAAF, n.d.


3. Services to Birth Families

Policy

Birth parents and birth families are entitled to services that recognise the lifelong implications of adoption. They will be treated fairly, openly and with respect throughout the adoption process.

Birth parents and significant birth family members will be helped to make and implement effective plans for their child(ren). Every effort will be made to ensure that birth parents and significant birth family members have a full understanding of the adoption process, the legal implications, and their rights.

Birth parents will have access to a support worker independent of the child's social worker from the time adoption is identified as the plan for the child. Birth parents and birth families (including siblings) will have access to a range of support services both before and after adoption, including information about local and national support groups and services.

Birth parents will have the opportunity to give their account of events, and to see and comment on what is written about them in reports for the adoption panel, and in information passed to the adopters. Birth parents and families will be supported to provide information that the adopted child needs. This will include information about the adopted child's birth and early life, the birth family's views about adoption and contact and up-to-date information about themselves and their situation.

Where it is in the child's best interest for there to be ongoing links, including contact, with birth parents and families (including siblings separated by adoption), birth families will be involved in discussions about how best to achieve this and helped to fulfil agreed plans, e.g. through practical or financial support.

Birth parents and birth families will be informed of their right to make representations and complaints.

Underpinning Principles

Placement within the wider birth family

The Public Law Outline requires social workers to investigate possible family placements at an early stage in the process of considering plans for a child.

The early involvement of the Adoption and Permanence Team in the planning process for the child allows the Relatives and Friends Social Worker to facilitate the consideration of family members as a placement option if children are unable to return to their birth parents.

Support is offered to Relative and Friends Carers by an allocated worker and via bi-monthly support groups, newsletters and annual reviews.

Information for and from Birth Parents

The Adoption Agency Regulations require that birth parents are given all information about the adoption of their child that does not compromise the confidentiality of the placement. It is good practice to be as open as possible with birth parents and other members of the birth family, as this will facilitate the best outcome for the child. Birth families are also a crucial and invaluable source of information for the child and birth family members should be encouraged and assisted in providing this for their child. Birth families will be treated with respect at all times. It is acknowledged that it will not always be easy to share information with birth parents who do not agree with the plan for adoption. Whatever the view of the birth parents this will be a difficult process and all information will be confirmed in writing for them to retain and read at a later time.

Independent Support

All birth parents requesting adoption for their child are offered counselling and practical advice in considering the alternatives to adoption by a member of the Adoption Team. Information on independent support from the Post Adoption Centre and the Natural Parents Support Group is available for birth parents.

Non consenting birth parents and other birth relatives of a child who has been adopted will also be provided with advice and counselling. They will be involved in the planning and decision making as far as is possible. They too are given Information on independent support from the Post Adoption Centre and the Natural Parents Support Group.

Birth parents do not have any right of access to the confidential information about the adoption, but will be advised of the adoption contact register. If the child has been placed for adoption through Medway Adoption Agency it will be able to add information from or about the birth relative who desires contact, to the adopted persons file.

The Adoption Agency will also provide support and advice with on going contact arrangements.

Medway has an arrangement with the Post Adoption Centre to provide independent counselling and advice to all parties to adoption. They may be contacted directly by telephone, and a local appointment arranged if necessary.

Contact

Contact between members of the birth family and the child being placed for adoption can take many forms and will always be considered on an individual basis.

Initial contact - There may be contact between the birth family and the adoptive family at the point of placement. This is usually done without the exchange of identifying information but does enable the birth parent or other birth relative to meet the adoptive family and can provide the opportunity for them to give their 'blessing' to the placement. It enables the adopters to have their own live memory to pass on to the child and can assist them in helping the child learn about and understand their pre-adoption history.

On-going Contact - Ongoing contact between members of the birth family and the adopted child can range from an annual written exchange of information to regular telephone or face-to-face direct contact. These arrangements should be able to accommodate changes that may occur for any of the parties involved, but especially the child, whose needs or views may change as they grow older.

Considerations of future contact between the child and any member of the birth family will be part of the planning process for the child. Contact should be seen in the context of all the requirements of the adoption placement; it will not be considered in isolation, nor assume a disproportionate emphasis. It is important for all parties to be clear about the purpose of the contact. Contact arrangements work best when the adults involved have an agreed understanding of the purpose and the benefits for the child.


4. Work with Adult Adoptees and their Birth Families - Access to Records and Intermediary Services

Policy

Medway will provide services to adopted adults and their birth relatives, which are in accordance with legislation, regulation and guidance in respect of any adoption which took place before 30.12.2005.

Services will be timely and non discriminatory and recognize the needs of those who approach the agency.

For adoptions post 30.12.2005 Medway will provide services to adult adoptees, their adoptive families and birth relatives which recognize the needs of the different parties involved, are timely and are conducted with both respect and openness.

Case Records will be kept securely and for the requisite number of years.

Underpinning Principles

Confidentiality

Adoption information is exempt from the Access to Information Act and any Departmental Policy of open access to records

All records and files pertaining to an adoption are confidential, and they must be kept in a place of special security. Access to any adoption records or files may only be granted to specifically authorised persons and all persons involved in adoption work must sign an undertaking of Confidentiality.

Intermediary Services

Medway does not have a statutory duty to provide Intermediary Services (assistance to an adopted person aged 18 or over whose adoption order was made before 30.12.2005,) to obtain information about her or his adoption and facilitate contact between the adopted person and their relatives. However Medway will ensure that an appropriate intermediary service is provided.

Medway does not have a statutory duty to provide Intermediary Services to birth relatives but will ensure that an appropriate intermediary service is provided.


5. Internal Agency Considerations

Policy

Medway will provide a comprehensive adoption service to meet the needs of children, birth families, adoptive parents and adopted adults It will be planned corporately and provided in collaboration with other relevant agencies. This will include adoption support services.

There will be clear policies and practice guidance for adoption, including for post-adoption services.

Councillors will carry out their responsibilities as corporate parents and receive regular information on the management and outcomes of the service they are responsible for providing.

Senior managers will ensure that adoption is an integral part of the council services for children, and will be involved in the strategic planning, operational management and monitoring of the adoption service.

Careful and thorough checks will be made on prospective adopters, members of their households and panel members.

Medway will arrange enough adoption panels to avoid any delays in considering children for adoption, approval of adopters and matching, and to meet timescales and will ensure that timely decisions are taken on panel recommendations and to meet timescales.

Medway will have effective systems for managing and keeping safe information from all the people affected by adoption.

Agencies will have representations and complaints procedures that comply with regulations and guidance. This will be made available to service users including one appropriate for use by children.

Underpinning Principles

Confidentiality

The agency will maintain levels of confidentiality for all adoption records as laid down in the Adoption Agency Regulations 1983. How this will be achieved is set out in the agency procedures. It will also liaise with other involved agencies on the keeping of adoption information in their records and offer advice if appropriate.

Maintaining confidentiality does not preclude the important sharing of as full information as possible to all parties to an adoption.

The child needs to know all the information about its background to help the understanding of how and why adoption occurred, as well as develop their sense of identity.

The adopters need full information to enable them in the task of parenting the child, and to help the child understand their history.

The birth parents need as much information as possible about the placement, to enable them to feel confident for the future well being of their child.

Working with Other Agencies

Medway Adoption Agency will make every effort to work with other adoption agencies and neighbouring Local Authorities to develop a comprehensive adoption service for the community with the aim of facilitating a better understanding of local need and the provision of a wider resource base.

To this end Medway Adoption Agency is a member of the South East Consortium of Adoption Agencies

When using a family from another agency the responsibility for considering and recommending the match will remain with Medway Adoption and Permanence Panel and the decision with Medway Agency Decision Maker.

Adopters will be referred to the South East Consortium if no suitable match is available with a Medway child after 21 days. Their names will also be placed on the National Adoption Register and become active after a period of 3 months.

Timescales

A consortium or inter-agency placement will be sought when it is considered that a suitable adoptive family cannot be found for a child through the resources of the Medway Adoption Agency. The needs of the child are the priority and any delays in finding a family increase the difficulties for the child and the future placement. Wherever possible children will have an adoptive family identified for them within 6 months of panel recommending that they should be placed for adoption or the conclusion of Care Proceedings or, in the case of relinquished infants, within 3 months of the panel recommendation.

Adoption and Permanence Panel

The Adoption and Permanence Panel will consider partial assessments as well as completed assessments and make a recommendation to the agency as to the suitability of the applicants to adopt. An agency decisions will be made on both the brief and the full assessment reports and a "Qualifying Determination" made allowing the unsuccessful applicant the right to access the Independent Review Mechanism if they so wish.

Panel recommendations in relation to applicants wishing to adopt no longer include specifying the terms of approval. Panel can now give advice on number, age and gender of child/ren to be placed. Prospective adopters can therefore be considered for any number, age or gender of child/ren but panel advice is based on a range of expertise and experience and it ought, therefore, to be given due weight in the matching process.

Any serious changes in circumstances that arise for the adopters after approval and before an adoption order is made will be put before the Adoption and Permanence Panel in order to provide the best opportunity for considered decision making and to provide the Court with the Panel's up to date opinion.

End