SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

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1 SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL The Policies of the

2 The Policies of the Page 2 of 44, Suffolk Adoption and Permanence Support Service forms part of Suffolk County Council s Directorate for Children and Young People and takes the lead on issues relating to adoption. This paper sets out the principles the Agency applies when providing adoption services. It is intended for service users (children, birth relatives, prospective adopters, adopters and Special Guardians), Suffolk Children and Young People's Service staff, councillors and any other interested parties. This paper does not describe our services. The services we provide, who provides them and how to access them is set out in detail the Suffolk Adoption Guide (Statement of Purpose). We also have a range of information leaflets. All this information can be accessed on our website at We can, if you prefer, provide you with written copies of this information. We can make these available in languages other than English if requested and / or a medium suitable for people with visual or hearing impairments. Please contact the Professional Adviser (Permanence) to request this. Contact details: Children and Young People's Service Suffolk County Council Endeavour House Russell Rd Ipswich IP1 2BX Phone:

3 The Policies of the Page 3 of 44 CONTENTS Section Subject LEGAL FRAMEWORK GENERAL PRINCIPLES 1 Making children s welfare paramount 2 Principles of providing adoption services 3 Working in partnership 4 Keeping to standards 5 Training and supporting staff 6 Maintaining Permanence Panels 7 Managing disruptions 8 Comparable standards for all permanence plans. 9 Implementing and reviewing policy and practice 10 Changing policies 11 Complaints WORKING WITH CHILDREN 12 Keeping children safe 13 Physical chastisement of children unacceptable 14 Prioritising key matching issues for children 15 Avoiding delay for children 16 Principles of permanence planning for children 17 Children must receive the support they need 18 Children must have the information they need 19 Children s views must be taken seriously. 20 Preparing children for placement 21 Family Finding for children 22 Matching to reflect heritage 23 Placing siblings 24 Contact after placement O:\Children and Families\Adoption & Fostering\Head of Service\Policies of the \ Final Policies of the.doc

4 The Policies of the Page 4 of Where children will be placed 26 Considering proposed name changes 27 Helping children understand the implications of the Adoption Register 28 If an adopted child dies WORKING WITH BIRTH PARENTS AND RELATIVES 29 Consulting birth parents and relatives 30 Birth family involvement WORKING WITH ADOPTIVE APPLICANTS AND ADOPTERS 31 Minimum criteria for being assessed as an adopter 32 Recruiting diverse adopters to meet children s needs 33 Preparation Stage One 34 Assessment Stage 2 35 Fast track assessments 36 Prospective Adopter Reports to Panel 37 Avoiding conflicts of interest in assessing and approving applicants known professionally to the Agency 38 Delays in meeting Adoption Guidance timescales. 39 After Adopters are approved 40 Expectations of approved Adopters who have a child placed with them SUPPORTING PEOPLE AFFECTED BY ADOPTION SPECIAL GUARDIANSHIP AND CHILD ARRANGEMENT ORDERS 41 Adoption support principles 42 Range of adoption support services provided 43 The Adoption Passport 44 Assessment for adoption support 45 Support provided to all those affected by Special guardianship Orders and Child Arrangement Orders 46 Provision of financial support 47 Services for adopted adults PERMANENCE PANELS 48 Permanence panel principles 49 Permanence panel membership O:\Children and Families\Adoption & Fostering\Head of Service\Policies of the \ Final Policies of the.doc

5 The Policies of the Page 5 of 44 FOSTERING TO ADOPT AND CONCURRENT PLANNING 50 General principles 51 Which children are to be considered for each option of early placement NON AGENCY ADOPTIONS 52 Providing an Inter-Country Adoption Service 53 Step Parent Adoptions 54 Non-Agency adoptions (excluding Inter - County and Step-Parent adoptions) 55 Charging prospective adopters for the service Appendix 1: Adoption and Children Act 2002 Welfare checklist Appendix 2: Glossary O:\Children and Families\Adoption & Fostering\Head of Service\Policies of the \ Final Policies of the.doc

6 The Policies of the Page 6 of 44 LEGAL FRAMEWORK Adoption and Children Act 2002 Care Standards Act 2000 The Local Authority Adoption Service (England) Regulations 2003 Adoption National Minimum Standards 2014 Statutory Guidance on Adoption 2014 Children Act 2004 Adoption Agencies Regulations 2005 The Adoption Support Agencies (England) and Adoption Agencies (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2005 Adoption (Inter-country Aspects) Act 1999 The Adoption Agencies (Panel & Consequential Amendments) Regulations 2012 The Adoption Agencies & Independent Review of Determinations (Amendment) Regulations 2011 The Adoption Agencies (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2013 Special Guardianship Regulations 2005 The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review 2010 and its subsequent amendments Related Regulations, Local Authority Circulars and statutory Practice Guidance GENERAL PRINCIPLES 1 Making children s welfare paramount When coming to any decision relating to the adoption of a child the Agency s paramount consideration will be the welfare of the child throughout his or her life. The Agency will apply the welfare checklist contained in Section 1 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 to all such decisions (See Appendix 1). 2 Principles of providing adoption services 2.1 will provide a comprehensive range of adoption services to meet the needs of children, birth families, adopters, adult adoptees and the courts. The service will include Agency, inter-country and non-agency adoption and adoption support services. 2.2 The Agency is committed to applying similar values and quality standards across all types of adoption: adoption for children looked after by Suffolk O:\Children and Families\Adoption & Fostering\Head of Service\Policies of the \ Final Policies of the.doc

7 The Policies of the Page 7 of 44 County Council, non-agency adoption and inter-country adoption and for permanence support. 2.3 The Agency will strive to comply with First4Adoption Customer care standards First4Adoption Customer care standards 2.4 When changing policies and providing, commissioning and reviewing services, the Agency shall take into account the views of service users. 2.5 The Agency will publish and at least annually update a Statement of Purpose, the Suffolk Adoption Guide, see further information and useful links then Statement of Purpose to set out for staff, users and other interested people the range of services provided and how they are delivered. 2.6 The Agency will produce an annual report of its activity and make this available to the public. 3 Working in partnership and commissioning 3.1 In the planning and delivery of adoption services, the Agency will actively work in collaboration across professional disciplines within the Children and Young People s Service, and with other relevant agencies including Health, voluntary agencies, the courts, relevant national agencies and central government. 3.2 The Agency will work to harmonise adoption procedures and practices with other adoption agencies especially those in East Anglia 3.3 The Head of Adoption and other senior managers will keep under review whether parts of the service might be provided more effectively through service level agreements with other agencies rather than directly by Agency staff. 3.4 The Head of Adoption will ensure that any such agreements are regularly monitored to ensure that the services provided meet the requirements set out in these policies and that service users are enabled to make comments about the quality of the service (including complaints) not just to the service providers but also to this Agency. 4 Keeping to standards 4.1 The Agency will aim in all its activities to promote positive outcomes for children and young people. 4.2 The Agency will provide services for children, adopters and birth families that conform to the National Minimum Standards for Adoption, link for NMS Adoption 2014 the Department for Education Adoption Guidance and other relevant guidance on permanence planning. 4.3 The Agency will track the progress of each individual child looked after for whom a plan for permanence away from their birth family is necessary from the four month statutory review until the child is adopted or secured in some other form of permanent care. 4.4 The Agency will maintain management information systems to allow its permanency planning processes and performance at all stages to be monitored and compared with the requirements of the Adoption Guidance. O:\Children and Families\Adoption & Fostering\Head of Service\Policies of the \ Final Policies of the.doc

8 The Policies of the Page 8 of The Agency will inform the Council s councillors as corporate parents of the management and outcomes of the service every six months. 4.6 The Agency will ensure that all decisions on adoption matters are based upon accurate and objective information that is sensitively written, accurate, complete and kept safely. The Agency will keep all adoption records securely in accordance with legislative requirements and the Adoption Guidance. 4.7 The Agency will ensure that its services and policies are kept under review to ensure that they meet the requirements of equalities legislation and best practice. 5 Training and supporting staff The Agency is committed to equipping and supporting its staff to develop the skills, experience and knowledge to work with children, birth parents and adopters to produce good placement outcomes for children. Similarly, the Agency will arrange training in adoption and permanence matters for councillors, panel members and managers that are related to their roles and responsibilities. 6 Maintaining Permanence Panels 6.1 will maintain and operate its Permanence Panels in accordance with the Adoption Agency Regulations 2005 and the Fostering Services Regulations 2002 enabling the Panels to be competent to make recommendations on adoption and permanent fostering placements. 6.2 The Agency will maintain a Permanence Panel or Panels at sufficient frequency to avoid planning delay for children and adopters. 7 Managing disruptions 7.1 Because placement disruptions can be such destructive experiences for children and adopters, we will strive to reduce the risk of disruption by careful assessment, matching and good post placement support. Where there is the potential for disruption or disruption occurs, we will provide speedy and sensitive support to children and adopters. 7.2 Birth parents will be informed when a disruption has taken place up to the point at which an adoption order is made and where the Agency knows of a disruption taking place after a child is adopted where that is in the child s best interests. 7.3 Whenever a child s placement disrupts before they are adopted, a disruption meeting will be held to consider the circumstances and note learning points for future placements. 7.4 The main learning points will be disseminated to all relevant practitioners and managers. O:\Children and Families\Adoption & Fostering\Head of Service\Policies of the \ Final Policies of the.doc

9 The Policies of the Page 9 of 44 8 Comparable standards for all permanence plans will strive to ensure that looked after children requiring a permanent alternative family, but for whom adoption is not the appropriate route, will receive a comparable quality of service by way of: Permanence planning; Attention to their health, education and other needs; Agency decision making; Resourcing and monitoring by management and councillors in their role as corporate parents 9 Implementing and reviewing policy and practice The Head of Adoption will strive to ensure that these Policies, the associated Suffolk Adoption Guide (Statement of Purpose), procedures and development plans aimed to give effect to them, are complied with, regularly audited, reviewed and progressed in the light of legislative, practice and research developments and the comments of service users. 10 Changing policies Proposed changes in the Policies must be endorsed by the Director for Children and Young People s Services. 11 Complaints Children, birth parents, adopters, adult adoptees and those affected by Special Guardianship Orders and Child Arrangement Orders will be informed of their right to make complaints or representations if they feel that the service they receive has not conformed to the standards set out in law, government guidance or in this policy and associated procedures. Those wishing to complain will be informed about the complaints procedure and given the opportunity to make their complaints to the complaints manager. The Agency will record and regularly monitor complaints and compliments received in order to improve the service. O:\Children and Families\Adoption & Fostering\Head of Service\Policies of the \ Final Policies of the.doc

10 The Policies of the Page 10 of 44 WORKING WITH CHILDREN 12 Keeping children safe 12.1 Where there is concern about the care received by a child placed for adoption or adopted, the Agency will follow the relevant child protection procedures of the Suffolk Safeguarding Board. The Agency will supplement Safeguarding Board procedures with guidance aimed to help staff deal with specific safeguarding issues in an adoption context is committed to ensuring that any safeguarding concerns including concerns related to child sexual exploitation, are thoroughly investigated and appropriate procedures followed Where children are placed for adoption any safeguarding concern, incident or accident, serious illness, a child who is missing, death or serious injury of children or complaints, or incidents likely to impact on the child s welfare are recorded and appropriately investigated in accordance with statutory and safeguarding guidance. It also ensures that outcomes are analysed and relevant parties notified As well as the procedures published by the Suffolk Safeguarding Board the adoption service has Guidance for Safeguarding Children Placed for Adoption 12.5 The Agency also publish a leaflet for adopters explaining how we deal with child protection concerns and allegations entitled Dealing with an allegation - Information for prospective adopters All professional staff, panel members and others involved in the service will have an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service clearance and references will be obtained and verified Social work staff will hold current registration with the Health and Care Professionals Council and are expected to adhere to the standards of proficiency and the code of ethics. 13 Physical chastisement of children is unacceptable 13.1 does not sanction any form of physical chastisement of children looked after by carers, whether foster carers or adopters. This is already a requirement of The Fostering Services Regulations 2002 regarding fostering placements endorses this position in relation to children placed for adoption believing that: physical chastisement is essentially inhumane; is less effective than other forms of discipline; and may be particularly inappropriate for children looked after, many of whom have had frightening and traumatic experiences including inappropriate physical chastisement before becoming looked after The Agency will not, therefore, accept applicants who intend or are likely to use physical chastisement as part of their means of discipline for a child placed with them for adoption. O:\Children and Families\Adoption & Fostering\Head of Service\Policies of the \ Final Policies of the.doc

11 The Policies of the Page 11 of Prioritising key matching issues for children We will aim to meet children s needs in placement by careful attention to understanding the needs of the child and identifying the key matching issues. However, children will not be left waiting indefinitely for a perfect family. 15 Avoiding delay for children 15.1 The Agency will ensure that all children looked after are enabled to be a permanent member of a family to which they are securely attached and which meets their developmental needs The Agency recognises that delay is generally damaging to children, especially babies and young children who need to develop secure attachments from their earliest months. From the moment the child becomes looked after, the Agency s policy is to pursue a positive permanent outcome for the child without delay. The Agency is therefore committed to maintaining monitoring systems, practice and procedures to combat delay and drift at every stage of the child s period of being looked after Where because of the child s identified needs (for example, requiring more individual work before being ready to be placed for adoption) it is not appropriate to meet any one of the timescales laid down in the Adoption Guidance, the reasons for this decision must be recorded at the child s review and made known to the Permanence Panel. 16 Principles of permanence planning for children Permanence - Framework 16.1 The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations, Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (2010) refer to permanence as follows: Permanence is the framework of emotional permanence (attachment), physical permanence (stability) and legal permanence (the carer has parental responsibility for the child) which gives a child a sense of security, continuity, commitment and identity. The objective of planning for permanence is therefore to ensure that children have a secure, stable and loving family to support them through childhood and beyond. Permanence provides an underpinning framework for all social work with children and families from family support through to adoption. One of the key functions of the care plan is to ensure that each child has a plan for permanence by the time of the second LAC review, as set out in the statutory guidance to the 2002 Act. Achieving permanence for a child will be a key consideration from the day the child becomes looked after 16.2 Where a parent can be assisted to look after the child, this will be the favoured option. Where there is any doubt at all about the feasibility of this plan, steps will be taken in parallel within the first month of the child becoming looked after and as part of the Statutory Assessment to identify and assess other members of the wider family and to develop adoption (or O:\Children and Families\Adoption & Fostering\Head of Service\Policies of the \ Final Policies of the.doc

12 The Policies of the Page 12 of 44 other means to secure the child s future) as an alternative permanency strategy for the child The Agency will use the child s first statutory review (within one month of becoming looked after) to ensure that this process is being actively pursued and that the parent has been fully informed of the progress of the assessment and the Agency s intentions A written permanence plan will be presented no later than at the child s four month statutory review. The plan for each child looked after shall be based upon fully completed Statutory Assessment. If it is clear that the child can no longer live with his family and the authority has sufficient evidence to suggest that further attempts at rehabilitation are unlikely to succeed, and no wider family member is able to look after him or her, adoption will be actively considered as the next alternative However, acknowledges that adoption is not the appropriate route to a permanent family life for all children looked after who cannot return to their birth families. In particular, older children with strong links to their birth families may not want or need the formality of adoption. Among other options, the making of Child Arrangement Orders or Special Guardianship Orders and permanent fostering are viable ways of providing a family for some children as long as permanency planning is undertaken The permanence plan endorsed at the four month review must: Be well evidenced Be based upon the child or young person s recorded needs; fully take into account the wishes and feelings of parents, children and young people Fully explore the possibility of restoration to the care of a parent and where that is not possible, kinship alternatives; identify an appropriate route or routes to achieving permanency Whether the plan is for adoption or some other option this plan must set out clearly in writing in a way everybody affected can understand: The objectives of the plan and key tasks; the timescales for achieving the plan; Those responsible for implementing the plan and the respective roles of others; The criteria that will be used to evaluate the success of the plan 16.8 All staff acting as independent reviewing officers for children who have been looked after for four months or longer must satisfy themselves that achieving a permanent placement for the child has either been achieved, is imminent, or that a viable permanence plan meeting the above requirements is in place. If this is not the case, and the social worker or practice manager does not produce a satisfactory plan within two weeks of the review, then the reviewing officer must write without delay to the responsible locality manager drawing the lack of a viable permanence plan to their attention. The locality service manager must then take action to redress the situation. O:\Children and Families\Adoption & Fostering\Head of Service\Policies of the \ Final Policies of the.doc

13 The Policies of the Page 13 of acknowledges that it will not always be possible or desirable to have excluded all but one route to permanence by the child s four-month review. However, the Agency is committed to rigorous target setting, casework activity and monitoring to ensure that permanency is achieved for each child as soon as is appropriate for that child Where the plan (or a parallel plan) is for permanent placement with an unrelated family including adoption and permanent fostering a separate permanency planning meeting will be called to develop the alternative in detail within two weeks. 17 Children must receive the support they need 17.1 The Agency will ensure that: a. Children receive continuing high quality social work support during the whole placement process; that the agency will help children to understand who is responsible for supporting them, and what they can do if they are unhappy with support or services they are receiving at any time. b. Children receive 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. 18 Children must have the information they need The Agency will ensure that: 18.1 Children receive proper preparation for placement and support after placement. This will include clear appropriate information on their birth family and life before adoption and information about the adopters and their family Children always receive a copy of the Agency s Children s Guide to Adoption 18.3 Strenuous efforts are made to gather and preserve material and information provided by members of their birth family and others to contribute to the child s sense of heritage and identity in their future lives. The Agency and adopters must ensure that this information will be provided to adopted children at a time and in a manner that reflects their age and understanding, as well as the nature of the information concerned; 18.4 Information from agency records will be made available for the child when they are of an age and level of understanding to comprehend it Reasons for actions are carefully recorded in children s records for their benefit in later life 19 Children s views must be taken seriously The Agency will ensure that: 19.1 Children are carefully listened to, children s views about their situation, in particular, who they live with in future and who they continue to have contact with are recorded and actively taken into account at each stage; O:\Children and Families\Adoption & Fostering\Head of Service\Policies of the \ Final Policies of the.doc

14 The Policies of the Page 14 of Reasons are given when children s views are not acted upon; 19.3 Children of sufficient age and understanding who wish to present their own views in person are invited to attend panel meetings considering adoption or permanent fostering plans 20 Preparing children for Placement 20.1 The Agency will place high priority on preparing children for placement. Children s Workers will assist the child s Social Worker to prepare children for their new family. The child will be helped to understand their family history and explore their wishes and feelings through use of toys, play and life story work External providers of therapeutic services provide advice and regular consultation sessions to social workers, prospective adopters and foster carers on a case by case basis to help prepare and support children and their families. 21 Family Finding for Children 21.1 Every effort will be made to match children as soon as possible with adopters or permanent foster carers Foster to Adopt or Concurrency will be considered for all babies or children for whom it could be appropriate 21.3 Regular meetings are held to track the progress of all children awaiting placements 21.4 The Agency will prepare profiles and DVDs of all children awaiting placements who may be hard to place All children awaiting placements who are hard to place will have an allocated family finding Social Worker who prepares a profile of the child which is circulated to the Consortium, the National Adoption Register and Adoption magazines The Agency will hold Activity Days jointly with Consortium members which are attended by children seeking placements with their foster carers and prospective adopters and approved adopters awaiting a match 21.7 The Agency will take part in Consortium Profiling Events and will participate in National Exchange Days to aid family finding 22 Matching to reflect heritage Matches of children with prospective adopters will be made on the basis of a child s holistic needs, including age, siblings, special needs as well as ethnicity race and religion. A placement will not be delayed in order to find an exact ethnic/religious match if a family is available who can meet the child s other needs. However, transracial adopters will need to demonstrate how they can promote a child s positive sense of identity. O:\Children and Families\Adoption & Fostering\Head of Service\Policies of the \ Final Policies of the.doc

15 The Policies of the Page 15 of Placing siblings 23.1 It is the Agency s policy that siblings should be placed together wherever possible and consistent with their welfare 23.2 The Agency will assess the needs of individual children within a sibling group to determine whether they are to be placed together or separately, and if to be separated, how each child s needs will be met in terms of attachments within the sibling group/ings. See County policy Sibling Placement Policy and Guidance 23.3 Research has highlighted 4 key factors which help in assessing sibling relationships: The degree of conflict The degree of warmth or affection between sibling The amount of rivalry The extent that one sibling nurtures or dominates the other Having assessed the relationships of individual siblings with one another, it is also important to analyse how the whole group functions. This work may be complex with large family groups. The assessment will be reflected in the care plan for each child; these plans should be coordinated to reflect the impact of decisions relating to each child on all within the group. 24 Contact after placement 24.1 Any plans for post adoption contact with the children s birth parents, siblings or relatives will be made after an assessment of the child s needs and welfare Whether the permanence plan is for adoption or permanent fostering, it must include details of the arrangements for maintaining links (including direct/indirect contact) with birth parents, wider birth family members, siblings and other people who are significant to the child including how and when these arrangements will be reviewed The child s needs, wishes and feelings, and their welfare and safety will be the most important concerns when considering such links or contacts 25 Where children will be placed The Agency will seek to place children within Suffolk whenever possible to safeguard the child s sense of identity, maximise post placement support and facilitate ongoing contact. However, where there is little likelihood of recruiting suitable adopters in Suffolk or the child s needs so indicate, the Agency will actively seek placement possibilities initially within neighbouring counties and subsequently nationwide. In doing so, the Agency will co-operate fully with the Adoption Register for England and Wales and refer children awaiting placement to the Register as required in the relevant Government circulars and guidance O:\Children and Families\Adoption & Fostering\Head of Service\Policies of the \ Final Policies of the.doc

16 The Policies of the Page 16 of Considering proposed name changes 26.1 Because names are so important to each person s identity a proposal to change the forename(s) or surname of any child looked after must be a matter for careful consideration by the Agency. No prospective adoptive carer or foster carer may unilaterally decide to change the forename(s) or surname of a child looked after who is placed with them Only in exceptional circumstances will support a proposal to change the forename(s) or surname of a child placed for adoption. Examples of such circumstances include where it is likely that a child s security in their adoptive or permanent foster family will be put at risk, or where their name would expose the child to ridicule or social rejection and, if the child is of sufficient age and understanding, the child wishes to change their name will always support a change of surname of the child at the point at which an adoption order is made. In some circumstances, for example, to protect the child from the disruption of their placement, which could be caused by their being identified in their previous name, may support the proposal for their name to be changed on placement or after placement but before adoption Unless a court has given permission, Suffolk Children and Young People s Service will require the written permission of each parent with parental responsibility or guardian to any proposed change of surname Where it is proposed that a child s forename or surname should be changed before the child is adopted, the recommendation of the Permanence panel should be sought and the decision agreed by the Agency decision maker. 27 Helping children understand the implications of the Adoption Register Where a decision has been made that a child should be placed for adoption, that child s consent to having information about them put on the Adoption Register should be obtained if they are of sufficient age and understanding. The Agency will ensure that in making such a decision to consent, the child is fully informed of the possible consequences of deciding either way. 28 If an adopted child dies 28.1 If the Agency is notified of the death of an adopted child who was placed by the Agency or whose adoptive parents were assessed and approved by the Agency (or recommended to the DfE in the case of inter-country adopters), birth parents will be advised of the child s death, if they indicated their wish to be informed of this in their Letter box agreement If concerns exist about the circumstances of the child s death, the Suffolk Safeguarding Children Board will consider whether or not there is a need to commission a serious case review about the situation with a view to reflecting upon the actions of all agencies involved, consider lessons learnt and recommend improvements which could be made in the future. O:\Children and Families\Adoption & Fostering\Head of Service\Policies of the \ Final Policies of the.doc

17 The Policies of the Page 17 of If such a report is prepared, it will be shared with the Head of Service and the Permanence Panels who should be invited to comment and be presented to councillors with any proposals for change by the Head of the Agency. Learning points from the report should be disseminated widely within the Agency and partner agencies. WORKING WITH BIRTH PARENTS AND RELATIVES 29 Consulting birth parents and relatives 29.1 will consider the wishes and views of birth families and will explore all alternatives to adoption with them provided that this is consistent with the duty to safeguard and promote the child s welfare Parents will be informed verbally and in writing before their child becomes looked after (or as soon as possible thereafter) that Suffolk Children and Young People s Service is committed to active permanency planning for children and will pursue the policies described in this document in relation to their child s future. The first focus for permanency planning will be to secure the child within his or her own family provided this is consistent with safeguarding and promoting the child s welfare Birth parents must be informed and consulted at the earliest stage when the Agency has decided to pursue parallel plans for restoration or alternative permanence including adoption. They should be informed that the plans are being made to meet the child s needs and prevent unnecessary delay. The parents views, wishes and feelings will be recorded and fully considered. The primacy of the restoration plan should be stressed Other than in exceptional circumstances, and having first taken legal advice, children s social workers should make all reasonable attempts to identify and consult absent birth parents even where they do not have parental responsibility Birth parents will have the opportunity to give their account of events, comment on what is written about them in reports and give their views Appreciating that the key issues for many birth parents of children placed for adoption are understanding the process of adoption, addressing grief and loss and maintaining links with their child, the Agency affirms the importance of independent support for birth parents The Agency will offer independent support to every birth parent from the time at which adoption is proposed as a plan for their child. 30 Birth family involvement 30.1 Whenever consistent with the interests of the child, the Agency will seek to maximise the involvement of birth parents and other family members in planning for adoption and to promote an inclusive approach to placement in O:\Children and Families\Adoption & Fostering\Head of Service\Policies of the \ Final Policies of the.doc

18 The Policies of the Page 18 of 44 which birth parents continue to be seen as a resource to their children. This will include: 30.2 Involving birth family members in the choice of or discussions about, the adoptive family placement Encouraging birth family members to provide information that the adopted child will need. This will include information and material about the adopted child s birth and early life, family history, the birth family s views about adoption and contact and up to date information about themselves and their situation Taking into account the parent s wishes with regard to placement with respect to the child s religion, ethnicity, culture, education, interests, position in the family, placement with siblings, characteristics of adopters, etc, providing this is in the child s best interest and will not lead to undue delay in finding a placement Sharing non-identifying information about the adoptive family to allow the birth family members to develop a sense of the family s lifestyle and interests Encouraging an exchange of information between birth family members and prospective carers prior to placement Where it is in the child s best interests, encouraging adopters and birth parents and other relatives to meet on a one off basis, irrespective of whether there may be a plan for contact after the placement Affirming that for many children continued contact with birth family members after placement whether direct or indirect, face-to-face, written or by telephone or other means plays an important part in enhancing the child s sense of identity and the success of their adoptive placement. Where there is to be continuing contact of any kind, the involved birth family members should be consulted about any contact plans drawn up, invited to sign their agreement to them and assisted, where necessary, to fulfil agreed plans. The underlying principle for any contact however should be that all arrangements should only be in place if they are in the child s best interests 30.9 This may include actively assisting parties to the agreement to communicate in the ways in which they are best able and meets their preferences. For those not comfortable with written communication, it might include communication in other media (for example use of or DVD etc) The Agency s acknowledgement that the child has two sets of relatives Keeping birth parents fully informed up to the point of adoption about significant developments affecting their children by providing non-identifying information unless they record their wish not to be or a clear Agency decision has been made that it would be unsafe to do so Recording a clear decision about how, following adoption, the birth parent should be kept informed if they wish and if agreed by the adopters and the adopted child and in so far as this is not contrary to the child s best interests Arranging the noting of updating information from one or more parties to an adoption placement on agency files. Considering brokering agreements prior O:\Children and Families\Adoption & Fostering\Head of Service\Policies of the \ Final Policies of the.doc

19 The Policies of the Page 19 of 44 to the adoption to pass on significant information (for example, relating to death or serious illness) when it is received or to be shared later if requested Parents will be given written details of available support services once a plan for adoption is made. O:\Children and Families\Adoption & Fostering\Head of Service\Policies of the \ Final Policies of the.doc

20 The Policies of the Page 20 of 44 WORKING WITH ADOPTIVE APPLICANTS AND ADOPTERS 31 Minimum criteria for being assessed as an adopter is committed to considering each application to be assessed as an adopter on its merits. In deciding whether or not to proceed with the assessment of applicants the following criteria will be applied In accordance with the Adoption and Children Act 2002, applicants must usually be at least 21 years of age Applicants must actively co-operate with a full process of assessment set out below Applicants must undergo a detailed home study completed with a social worker appointed by the Agency All applicants accepted for assessment must be prepared to attend a preparation course Each applicant must provide full information and permissions for comprehensive checks and references to be carried out (including checks regarding any other people resident in the household who is over 16) to ascertain that any child placed with them is likely to be safe and the applicant is likely to be able to meet children s needs The Agency will not accept applications from people who have been cautioned for, or convicted of a specified offence as set out in Regulation 23(2) of the Adoption Agency Regulations 2005 after the age of 18 years. This also applies to members of the applicant s household Each applicant must be in sufficiently good health to be able to engage in the assessment process and parent a child during the years of their childhood and through to adult life Applicants must be prepared to provide evidence of a recent medical examination, which will be organised during the assessment. This will include access to the applicant s previous medical records. Applicants are responsible for the cost of the medical examination In the context of each applicant s general health, smoking, alcohol consumption and weight problems will be taken into consideration Applicants should not be currently affected by any serious physical or mental condition that will obviously compromise the applicant s ability to parent or engage with the assessment process. Medical advice maybe sought. If the Agency considers it necessary to commission an additional report relating to an applicant s health, the applicant will be required to meet this expense Because of the significant risks to children from passive smoking we will not place a child under the age of 5 with anyone who smokes Applicants must be able to work within the policies of the Suffolk Adoption Agency, which reflect the philosophy expressed in the Government s Adoption Guidance All applicants will be expected to comply with the s Health and Safety policy and guidance to ensure that children placed for O:\Children and Families\Adoption & Fostering\Head of Service\Policies of the \ Final Policies of the.doc

21 The Policies of the Page 21 of 44 adoption and adopted are safe and protected from harm. Social workers assessing adoptive applicants will base a health and safety assessment in relation to the home and vehicles used to transport children on this document and the relevant checklists If applicants are in a partnership (whether heterosexual or same sex; married, civil partners or living together) both applicants must be assessed together. Any applicant couple must be able to show that they have an enduring family relationship. This means that they have been living together as committed partners for a period of time (a minimum of 3 years) sufficient to demonstrate that their commitment is likely to endure The Agency will ordinarily only assess Suffolk residents as adoptive applicants but there may be circumstances in which others will be considered The Agency will not assess applicants who intend or are likely to use physical chastisement as part of their means of discipline for a child placed with them for adoption Each applicant must have arrived at a stage in their lives when it will be possible for them to focus fully upon the adoption process and children s needs in adoption. Where enquirers have had recently experienced highly significant life events (such as unsuccessful fertility investigation and treatment or a miscarriage or a child who died within the recent past) In the case of unsuccessful fertility treatment there is an expectation that at least 6 months will have elapsed since the end of the last treatment. Agency staff may propose that the enquirer postpones any application for a period of time appropriate for the circumstances. 32 Recruiting diverse adopters to meet children s needs 32.1 The Agency will actively seek to attract adoptive applicants from all sections of community: married people; couples living together; single people; same sex partnerships; transgender people; disabled people; people of all races, cultures and religious groups, in order to meet the diverse needs of Suffolk children Suffolk has commissioned an independent provider to help develop the Recruitment Strategy The Recruitment Strategy will set out the agency s approach to recruitment, including trend analysis and forecasts for the coming year of the likely need for adoptive and foster families A Recruitment Strategy Group will meet regularly to monitor and revise the recruitment strategy and the approval target where necessary. A more detailed annual review will be undertaken at the beginning of each financial year to ensure that the recruitment of adopters is focused on the needs of children being referred for adoption The Adoption Service will ensure that recruitment of prospective adopters is based on the needs of children being referred to the service. Adoption O:\Children and Families\Adoption & Fostering\Head of Service\Policies of the \ Final Policies of the.doc

22 The Policies of the Page 22 of 44 information will be available on the Adoption and Fostering Service s dedicated recruitment website The Adoption website has links to other adoption organisations. The Adoption Service information leaflets also include details of other useful adoption organisations All enquiries will be handled helpfully and promptly- whether by telephone, letter, or in line with time scales All enquirers will be given information on the National Adoption Gateway, First 4 Adoption, to provide them with choice of options and information on factors which will help them to decide if they are eligible to adopt The Adoption Service has a dedicated free phone for recruitment, which will be widely publicised throughout Suffolk. Initial enquirers will be given information on the website over the telephone and sent an information booklet within five working days and are booked in for a telephone call with an adoption social worker within 10 working days of their enquiry The information booklet includes information on eligibility criteria, preparation, assessment and approval procedures, children who need adoptive families, matching and introductions, adoption support and the agency s expectations of prospective adopters When actively recruiting, the Adoption Service holds regular information meetings to which all suitable enquirers are invited. These meetings are intended to provide information about the assessment process, qualities looked for in adopters, why children need to be adopted and information about Suffolk children currently needing adoptive homes. These meetings also provide an opportunity to talk to experienced adoption workers and adoptive parents Attendees have an interview with an adoption social worker and if both sides are happy to proceed they will be provided with a Registration of Interest form which they can complete and return Once this is received the Agency will respond within 5 working days. The acceptance of this initiates the start of Stage One. 33 Preparation - Stage One There is a requirement that stage 1 should take no more than 60 days to complete 33.1 Prospective adopters will be allocated an adoption worker who will guide them through the process and agree a Stage One Plan (Agreement) which sets out the responsibilities of both the agency and the prospective adopter. A home visit may be undertaken if necessary. This part of the process is adopter-led and enables background checks to be undertaken before starting on the in-depth assessment process in Stage Two. O:\Children and Families\Adoption & Fostering\Head of Service\Policies of the \ Final Policies of the.doc

23 The Policies of the Page 23 of Prospective adopters will be given a workbook to undertake in Stage One which encourages them to answer questions about themselves and their expectations in wanting to adopt a child or children The workbook and the notes taken about the prospective adopters during Stage One will be shared with the Adoption Social Worker responsible for Stage Two. This information that has been gathered is central to the assessment undertaken in Stage Two and enables the social worker to have an understanding of the prospective adopters going into the assessment process 33.4 It is a requirement that first time prospective adoptive parents attend a preparation course to help them understand the difference between parenting an adopted child and parenting a birth child. The preparation course is to help prospective adopters become adoptive parents and start to give them the skills and knowledge that will prepare them for the task The Agency will write to the applicant to notify them of whether or not they have successfully completed Stage One and the applicant is then required to complete their Wish To Proceed to Stage Two in writing to the Agency If at any stage the Agency or the prospective adopters consider that the application should not proceed, a full discussion will be held to explore the circumstances leading to this conclusion. Wherever possible the reasons for not proceeding will be shared with the prospective adopters although in exceptional circumstances it may not be possible to disclose third party information. All decisions will be confirmed in writing. 34 Assessment Stage 2 There is a requirement that stage 2 should take no more than 120 days to complete. There could be a gap of up to 6 months between stage 1 and stage 2, either at the request of the prospective adopters or advice of the Agency The Stage Two Plan (Agreement) is agreed by the prospective adopters and the social worker as they enter stage two 34.2 Prospective Adopters will be visited within their own home to complete the assessment covering all areas on the BAAF Prospective Adopters Report. They are seen together, and separately, if there is more than one applicant. Work with the prospective adopters own children is undertaken if appropriate and any other members of the household are interviewed. Significant relatives and referees are also seen at this stage. Prospective adopters are invited to make their own written as well as verbal contributions to their assessment and are given the opportunity to read and comment on the completed Prospective Adopters Report (PAR) During the assessment process other issues are explored in depth with applicants, including the County Council s non-smacking policy, and the need for adopters to embrace Britain as a multi-racial society and value diversity O:\Children and Families\Adoption & Fostering\Head of Service\Policies of the \ Final Policies of the.doc

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