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1 Adoption /adoptionandfostering

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3 The London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham, The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster City Council Adoption Services We welcome applicants from all ethnic backgrounds, cultures and religions. This means you can come forward to adopt regardless of your gender or sexuality; whether you are with a partner or not; or whether you are disabled or able bodied. Adoption is a lifelong commitment. For each child needing adoption, the aim of the London Borough Hammersmith & Fulham, The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster City Council s Adoption service is to find the best possible family to meet their needs. Children who need adoption come from a variety of backgrounds. We need adopters who can reflect or positively promote a child s cultural and linguistic background to enable a child to establish a positive view of his or her origins. This booklet will provide you with information to help you decide if adoption is for you. You will also find information about the type of support and advice you can expect from us. We look forward to speaking with you again and should you have any queries please feel free to contact us at any time on: Yours sincerely The Adoption Recruitment & Assessment Team Contents What is adoption? 4 Who are the children who need adoption? 7 The Adoption Process: by 9 Post Adoption Support 15 National Minimum Standards: Adoption 17 Further Information 18 Anti Discriminatory Practice 19 The Adoption Process 19 3

4 What is adoption? Adoption is a way of providing a permanent family for children who cannot be brought up by their own parents. It is achieved through a legal order in which all Parental Responsibility is transferred to the adopters. Adoptive families provide, stability, emotional support and guidance children require to achieve their potential as young people and adults. An adopted child becomes a full member of the new family, in the same way as a birth child, usually taking the family s name. What is the difference between adoption and fostering? Foster carers share parental responsibility for the child with a local authority and the child s parents. Fostering is usually a temporary arrangement of care for a child, whilst permanent plans for the child are made. Usually children move on from foster care and return home to their family or other permanent arrangements. In some cases, for example, where children are part of a sibling group where they need to stay together foster care may be the plan until the child grows up. Other ways of providing permanency for children in care Special Guardianship Special Guardianship offers a further option for children needing permanent care outside their birth family. Special Guardianship is a legal order that can offer greater security without absolute severance from the birth family as in adoption. The order gives parental responsibility to the special guardian, shared with the birth parents, but allows the special guardians to exercise parental responsibility to the exclusion of birth parents on most issues (except adoption, changing the child s surname). It comes to an end when the child reaches 18 years of age. Residence Order Residence Orders specify the arrangements as to where the child should live. Residence Order holders share parental responsibility with the birth parent until the Residence Order comes to an end when the child reaches 18 years. The child retains his/her original surname and the local authority involvement comes to an end. Long Term Foster Care Such placements may be the plan when Adoption, Special Guardianship or a Residence Order is not the right option for a child, but a return home is not possible. This could be because the child is of an age and understanding to make an informed decision and does not want a change in legal status or there may be other reasons which make long term fostering a preferred option. This means that the child remains Looked After by the local authority. Ongoing contact with the child s birth family may continue but the foster parents have the primary day to day responsibility. Long Term foster carers receive an ongoing fee and weekly allowance and work in partnership with social workers and birth parents. We are always interested in hearing from people who would like to consider short or long term fostering. Inter Country Adoption Inter Country Adoption is an arrangement whereby prospective adopters are assessed to adopt a child from a specific country. The application and assessment process is similar, but the child joins the family from overseas. The Inter Country Adoption Centre undertakes assessments of prospective adopters who wish to adopt from abroad on behalf of the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham, The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea and the Westminster City Council. You can find details of the Inter Country Adoption Centre at the back of this booklet. However please do make contact with our service in the first instance to have a discussion about adoption. 4

5 -parent Adoption This is an arrangement whereby children are adopted within their family, generally by one of their birth parent s partners. If you are considering adopting a child from within your family, please contact us and we can signpost you to the department that undertakes these assessments for your local authority. 5

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7 Who are the children who need adoption? There are around 4,000 children across the UK needing adoption every year. These children are from a great variety of cultural and religious backgrounds. Many of these children are of school age and over half of them are in groups of brothers and sisters who need to be placed together. Some of the children have additional needs. A large number of these children will have experienced abuse and/or neglect and experienced at least one move and some uncertainty about their future. The children waiting for adoption on referral to the London Borough Hammersmith & Fulham, The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster City Council Adoption and Fostering Service reflect those waiting nationally. We are very interested in recruiting families who have the commitment and energy to take on the challenges of adopting children with a range of needs and background stories. Who can adopt? You can adopt if: You are single, married, in a civil partnership or are an unmarried couple (same sex or opposite) and at least 21 years old. You or your partner is domiciled in the British Islands and have been habitually resident in the British Islands for at least a year before you could apply to the court for an adoption order. Neither adopter nor adult member of your household has been convicted or cautioned in respect of a violent offence or an offence against a child. We are particularly keen to hear from people who: have the space in their lives and homes and the energy to parent an adopted child are interested in adopting older children or sibling groups can reflect or can actively promote a child s cultural, linguistic or religious background have the capacity to be empathetic about the children s background stories and can work with any contract arrangements in the best interest of the child 7

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9 The Adoption Process: by One Express an Interest Should you wish to apply to adopt the first stage is talk through your interest with a social worker in the Recruitment and Assessment Team. Information will be gathered and advice given at this stage. Two Information Event We will invite you to an information event. This is to offer you an opportunity to: find out more about the adoption process learn more about the children currently waiting for adoptive families meet with adoptive parents and social workers. And/or Three Initial Home Visit You will be visited at home by a member of our team within four weeks of your enquiry. This will give you further opportunity to learn more about the process of becoming an adoptive parent and address any questions you may have about adoption. They will discuss with you in more detail: your motivation your housing, finances and employment including your plans to take adoption leave to care for a child post placement and any child care arrangements any child care experience, knowledge of children waiting for adoption the children you are interested in adopting and your understanding of adopted children s life-long needs your relationships, family and friends support, and the local resources within your community Following this, a decision will be made about whether to proceed with your application. We will be using the eligibility criteria set out on page seven, the information obtained so far and the current needs of the children waiting to help us with that decision. You will also have made a decision about whether you want to adopt and whether adopting with our services is right for you. If all parties wish to proceed, you will be invited to complete an application form to be assessed as a prospective adopter. Four Application We will ask you to complete a detailed application form and give your permission for statutory checks to be made on all members of the household aged 18 and over. We are required to undertake the following checks: Criminal Records Bureau (enhanced criminal record certificates will be sought) Health adoption medical examination to be carried out by your GP NSPCC enquiry Housing Education Authority The Local Authority in which you currently live and have lived in over the last 10 years 9

10 If you have moved to the UK within the last ten years, you will be asked to obtain the equivalent CRB/ police check from the relevant country on all members of the household over 18 years of age. We take the application up prior to the Preparation training and begin undertaking some of the checks if there is sufficient time before the course. References We will need three personal references: two from people who are not related to you and one from a family member. Referees should know you well and it is desirable that they have direct experience with children, either in a personal or professional capacity. A written reference will also be sought from your current/previous employer. We will also need to contact any previous partner/s with whom you have cohabited or if children were born out of the relationship. We are aware of the sensitive nature of this and will plan it in consultation with you. Having checks undertaken can be daunting, but agencies have a statutory duty to carry these out to identify anyone who has committed a serious offence or an offence against a child that would exclude them from adopting. Five Preparation and Training Course All prospective adopters will be required to complete a Preparation and Training Course. The course is an integral part of the assessment process and participants are expected to attend all of the sessions. The course is run over a number of sessions (usually four full days) by the social workers from the London Borough Hammersmith & Fulham, The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster City Council Adoption Service. The aims of the course are to: raise awareness of the key issues which need to be addressed by all prospective adopters, and assist prospective adopters learning and understanding of the impact of the early experiences of children, and the impact this has on their development, behaviour and relationships help you consider thoroughly the implications of adoption and decide whether it is right for you help you think about what you can offer the children needing adoption During the preparation course you will have the opportunity to meet professionals and adopters who will be happy to share their experiences of adoption with you. Six Home Study Assessment You will now be allocated a social worker from the Adoption and Fostering Service. The social worker will aim to work in partnership with you as they meet with you and your family to gather information to complete the Home Study assessment. The assessment will comprise of a series of interviews, the majority of which will take place in your home. You have a crucial role to play at this time. This part of the process is a chance to take a very honest look at what you want out of adoption and what you can offer a child waiting for adoption The areas covered in the interviews will include the following subjects: individual profiles of all members of your household information about your home and local community details of your education and employment: past and present income and expenditure details of past and present relationships 10

11 motivation to adopt including childlessness your experience of being parented and experience with children your support network, including family and friends the backgrounds and experiences of children who need adoption the research you have undertaken to progress your learning about children needing adoption the ways in which you feel you will meet the needs of children who may be from a different racial, cultural or language from yourselves the meaning of adoption for the children and their birth families your willingness to work with a contact arrangement between the birth family and yourselves on a life- long basis If you are part of a couple the social worker will want to see you together and individually. We will look at your strengths and identify any areas for development, further learning and any likely need for adoption support services. The home study can be demanding but we aim to work in an open way to make this a positive experience for you. It can also feel intrusive but we want to be sure that you are fully informed and prepared for the challenges, as well as the rewards that adoption may bring. If any issues or areas of concern do arise these will be discussed with you at the time, and if necessary advice may be sought from the Adoption & Permanence Panel. The Adoption and Fostering Service aim to assess families within the time frame of the Adoption Agency Regulations 2005 (amended 2011) which is currently eight months from signing the application. The assessment is based upon the National Minimum Standards according to the Care Standards Act 2000 (Adoption NMS updated March 2011), and all Adoption Agencies work within these guidelines when assessing prospective adopters. Seven Midway Review Just over half way through the assessment, the manager and the social worker will undertake a Midway Review meeting with you, either in your home or the office. At this meeting any issues which have arisen will be shared and the way forward from these will be discussed. This meeting will be recorded and included in the Prospective Adopters Report. Eight Assessment/ Home Study Report The work undertaken by the applicants and the social worker is reflected in the Prospective Adopters Report (PAR), written by the assessing social worker. This includes the information gathered, checks and personal referees. It will also have an analysis of the information gathered and form a recommendation about your suitability to adopt and the age range and type of child/ren you wish to be approved for. You have 10 working days to comment on the report (or you can be asked to sign a disclaimer stating you do not wish to take 10 days). This report is presented to the Adoption Panel for their consideration. 11

12 Nine Adoption and Permanency Panel Adoption and Permanency Panels contribute to the running and quality assurance of the Fostering and Adoption Service. The Panel s role is to make recommendations as follows; to consider the suitability of prospective adoptive applicants whether a child should be matched for adoption with particular prospective adopters The Panel is chaired by an independent chair person, and is made up of at least 5 members, including the Chair Person. These include at least one experienced social worker, a Medical Advisor and independent members who have personal experience of adoption. Each Panel also has an Agency Advisor and a Legal Advisor and an elected member of the representative council. The panel will have considered your report and will seek to clarify any areas it feels necessary before making its recommendation about your suitability to adopt a child. We encourage you to attend the Panel with your social worker so that you can jointly respond to any questions the Panel may have. The Panel then normally requests you return to the waiting room. Your social worker may be asked to remain at panel to provide additional information required before the panel makes its recommendation. Panel will make its recommendations about your suitability to adopt and may offer advice about the number of children you may be suitable to adopt, their age range, gender and likely needs and backgrounds. You will be immediately informed of this decision by the Chair of the Panel. The Panel s recommendation is then passed to the Agency Decision Maker who will make a decision as to your suitability to adopt a child, and express a view on any Panel advice given, based on the reports presented to Panel and the minutes detailing the Panel s recommendation and advice. The decision to approve you as an adopter will be made within seven working days. The Panel Administrator will arrange for you to receive oral notification of the decision within two working days, and written notice of the decision, signed by the Agency Decision Maker within five working days of the decision. Representations/ Independent review mechanism In the event that the agency decision maker does not make a positive decision about your suitability to adopt, you can challenge this. Representations should be submitted within 28 working days, either directly to the Agency Decision maker or you can request a referral to the Independent Review Mechanism. Ten Matching You With a Child In the London Borough Hammersmith & Fulham, The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster City Council Adoption and Fostering Service, we aim to recruit and assess adopters whom we feel can best meet the needs of children waiting across the 3 local authorities. Once you are approved, children who are waiting for adoption will be discussed with you. In some cases, discussions about possible suitable children may have happened prior to your approval, as this reduces the delay in the matching process for the child/ren waiting for a permanent family. We hope to be able to match you with one of the children waiting in the 3 local authorities. However, if this is not possible we will refer you to the West London Consortium Adoption & Permanence Consortium and the National Adoption Register. We will also help you prepare a profile of yourselves, including a photograph, to circulate to other agencies. We will advise and help you subscribe to specialist publications which feature children who need adoption: Be My Parent, published by British Association of Adoption and Fostering Adoption Today and Children Who Wait, published by AdoptionUK 12

13 When a child has been identified who may be a suitable match for you, your Prospective Adopters Report will be sent to the child s social worker and in return your social worker will be sent a comprehensive report about the child (Child Permanence Report). Your social worker will discuss this in detail with you. There may be other families interested in this child (or children). The child s social worker will create a list of families who they feel will best meet the child s needs. Visits will be arranged to meet the families, and these give both the professionals and the family the opportunity to discuss the child in more detail make a decision about whether this is the right family for this child. Once all the families have been visited, the social workers and their managers will select one family who they consider the most suitable match for the child. The next step in the matching process is for your Prospective Adopters Report, the Child s Permanency Report, a Matching Report and the Adoption Support Plan to be presented to the Adoption Panel. These form the Matching Panel papers which are presented to the child s local authority s Adoption Panel for approval. You will be invited to attend the panel with the relevant professionals. Having read the papers and on hearing the submissions from the attendees at Panel, the Panel members will make a recommendation about your suitability to adopt this child. The Chair of the Panel will advise you of the recommendation, and this will be passed to the Agency Decision Maker who will make a decision based on the documents presented along with the minutes of verbal discussions at the Panel. You will be notified of the decision within seven working days. Eleven Placement of Children Once a match has been approved an Adoption Placement Planning Meeting is held to arrange the best way forward for the child/ren to move to your family. The introductions are a series of meetings between you and the child/ren over a number of days or weeks to help you and the children become familiar with each other. When you are both ready, the child moves from his/her foster family to join your family. Your social worker will continue to offer support and advice to you. The children s social worker will also continue to visit until an Adoption Order is made. Twelve Legal Process of Adoption You can submit an application to leggally adopt a child when a child has lived with you for ten weeks. The supporting social workers will help you decide when it is the right time for you and the child. Many adopters wait until the second Looked After Children s Review has taken place, which takes place within four months of the child being placed. The prospective adopters complete court application forms and the court requests a report from the relevant adoption agencies on the circumstances of the child, birth family and adopters. There is usually a court hearing to set down a timetable for the legal process, during which the report on the placement is submitted. The court makes the Adoption Order and a subsequent hearing, transferring the Parental Rights to the adoptive parents. At a later hearing, called the Proclamation Hearing, the judge will meet the children. If birth parents do not consent to adoption for their child, there are circumstances in which the court will override their wishes. In most cases the question of consent will be considered by the court before the child is placed for adoption. 13

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15 Post Adoption Support The London Borough Hammersmith & Fulham, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster City Council Adoption and Fostering Service offer a Post Adoption Service to adoptive families who have children placed with them from one of the 3 Local Authorities. What support will be available to me? It is recognised that adoption is rarely an easy task and that adopters, adopted children and adopted adults as well as birth relatives may need help, advice and information throughout the adopted child s childhood, and thereafter. Examples of support include financial support for adopters, services to enable groups of adoptive children and adoptive parents to discuss matters in relation to adoption, therapeutic services for children, counselling, advice and information, as well as assistance with contact arrangements. Your Support needs will be considered at the time of your assessment and when a child is matched with you. An adoption support plan is prepared and your support needs should also be considered at subsequent Adoption Reviews. Your assessing social worker will continue to visit regularly to offer support and advice until an adoption order is made. The Local Authority who places a child with you is responsible for assessing your support needs until three years after the adoption order is made. If you require adoption support after three years you will need to contact the local authority where you live and request an assessment of your adoption support needs. In some cases an adoption allowance is paid. This will depend on the child s needs and your individual circumstances. All financial support is received annually. Do Birth parents and other relatives have any contact with the child after adoption? The birth family and adoptive family may exchange letters and sometimes photographs by mutual agreement, via a service called Letterbox contact. For Some children it is important that face to face contact with their birth relatives is maintained. Decisions about contact are always based on what is in the best interest of the child. Throughout the Home study Assessment and when you are considering a particular child, you will need to consider how you can facilitate contact arrangements. The Post order Team will be able to provide you with support and advice and will coordinate contact arrangements as required 15

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17 National Minimum Standards: Adoption The National Minimum Standards for adoption together with the adoption regulations form the basis of the regulatory framework under the Care Standards Act 2000 for the conduct of adoption agencies and adoption support agencies. The values statement below explains the important principles which underpin these Standards, which the Adoption and Fostering Service adheres to. Values Statement children The child s welfare, safety and needs are at the centre of the adoption process. Adopted children should have an enjoyable childhood, and benefit from excellent parenting and education, enjoying a wide range of opportunities to develop their talents and skills leading to a successful adult life. Children are entitled to grow up as part of a loving family that can meet their developmental needs during childhood and beyond. Children s wishes and feelings are important and will be actively sought and fully taken into account at all stages of the adoption process. Delays should be avoided as they can have a severe impact on the health and development of the children waiting to be adopted. A sense of identity is important to a child s wellbeing. To help children develop this, their ethnic origin, cultural background, religion, language and sexuality need to be properly recognised and positively valued and promoted. The particular needs of disabled children and children with complex needs will be fully recognised and taken into account. Where a child cannot be cared for in a suitable manner in their own country, inter-country adoption may be considered as an alternative means of providing a permanent family. Children, birth parents/guardians and families and adoptive parents and families will be valued and respected. A genuine partnership between all those involved in adoption is essential for the NMS to deliver the best outcomes for children; this includes the Government, local government, other statutory agencies, Voluntary Adoption Agencies and Adoption Support Agencies. Values - adopted adults and birth relatives Adoption is an evolving life-long process for all those involved - adopted adults, and birth and adoptive families. The fundamental issues raised by adoption may resurface at different times and stages throughout an individual s life. Adopted people should have access to information and services to enable them to address adoption related matters throughout their life. Agencies have a duty to provide services that considers the welfare of all parties involved and should consider the implications of decisions and actions for everyone involved. Agencies should seek to work in partnership with all parties involved, taking account of their views and wishes in decision-making. Agencies should acknowledge differences in people s circumstances and establish policies that provide non-discriminatory services. Adopted adults have their adoptive identity safeguarded and the right to decide whether to be involved in contact or communication with birth family members. 17

18 Further Information Information Meetings The London Borough Hammersmith & Fulham, The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster City Council Adoption and Fostering Service run regular Information Sessions. If you would like to more information about these or would like to attend you can contact us on or via one of the three local authority s websites: British Association of Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) provides guidance on adoption and fostering practice. They have a wide range of publications for all involved in adoption and fostering. BAAF also provide training on specific issues relating to adoption, seminars and conferences. Tel: Adoption UK is the only national self-help charity run by and for adoptive parents and foster carers, offering support before, during and after adoption. Whether you are considering adoption, going through the process or established as an adoptive family, Adoption UK will support and encourage you. Your assessing social worker will be able to provide you with information about becoming a member of Adoption UK. Tel: Helpline: The Post Adoption Centre offers support to all adoptive parents and families who are in need of advice, counselling and training, including adoptive parents of now adult adopted children. As well as working with adopted children and adoptive parents, PAC also supports birth parents, relatives and adopted adults. Tel: Monday to Friday 10am - 1pm Wednesday & Thursday 5.30pm pm After Adoption offers a range of services to people whose lives have been affected by adoption via a helpline or face to face counseling. Your assessing social worker can provide you with more information about the services provided by After Adoption. Tel: Intercountry Adoption Centre The Intercountry Adoption is a Specialist Centre for people in the UK wishing to adopt from overseas. It a registered charity and voluntary adoption agency. Tel: Monday to Wednesday noon 18

19 Anti Discriminatory Practice The Adoption Process We recognise that there is an imbalance of power within our society which results in specific acts of discrimination against certain individuals and groups. We believe we have a duty and responsibility to counter discrimination. We believe in people s right to respect in relation to their age, disability, ethnicity, gender, health, religious beliefs and sexuality. We aim to provide: Polite, courteous, positive and encouraging responses to all enquiries Relevant information to the public A process that will seek to include rather than exclude potential adopters and take full account of peoples individuality, differences and life experiences A balanced decision about how applicants can best meet the needs of children/young people. If you are dissatisfied with any part of our service please contact: Sally Pillay Head of Service 4th Floor Town Hall Annexe Hammersmith Town Hall Kings Street London W6 9JU Tel: Information gathering Information pack Information session Home Visit Prepare Application Formal application Assessment report Home study Preparation groups Presenting your Application to the panel Assessment Report to Panel Panel may approve/not approve or defer your application Matching Child identified Visit from Social Worker If match considered suitable Matching Report prepared and presented to Panel Placement of Children Planning meeting Introductions Placement of child/children into family Adoption Adoption application lodged Reports prepared Court hearing Adoption order granted 19

20 /adoptionandfostering The London Boroughs of Hammersmith & Fulham Council, The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster City Council. File: Bk.CS Adoption Booklet

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