Adoption Handbook Policy, Procedures and Practice Guidance

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1 Adoption West Sussex County Council Children s Services Adoption Handbook Policy, Procedures and Practice Guidance Version: 10 Effective from: Oct 2006 Revised: Mar 2015 Next review date: Mar 17

2 Document Details Prepared by: West Sussex County Council Children s Services Project: Adoption Services Handbook Version: FINAL Status: FINAL Date: January 2014 Revised: March 2015 Author: Service Manager Adoption and Fostering Owner: Annie Maciver, Director of Children s Social Care

3 Foreword This handbook brings together policies, procedures and guidance notes for staff working in adoption and adoption support, together with the forms and standard letters. This handbook has been reviewed following a period of legislative and regulatory change. The Handbook will be reviewed again in 2 years and any updates in the interim will be added to the master copy held on the County Council s database and staff notified of this change or addition. Should any advice be required on the interpretation of or variation to these procedures or guidance, advice should be sought from the Adoption Team Manager, the Placement Support Team Manager or the Service Manager for the Adoption Service Abbreviations: SW Child s Social Worker SSWP Senior Social Work Practitioner TM Team Manager SM Service Manager SW [A] Adoption Social Worker SW [AS] Adoption Social Worker Adoption Support Service TM [A] Adoption Team Manager TM [PS] Placement Support Team Manager SM [A] Service Manager Adoption and Fostering FPSW Family Placement Social Worker IRO Independent Reviewing Officer Agency West Sussex County Council Adoption Agency Duty Access point/help desk/duty social worker Consortium South Coast Consortium comprising Portsmouth, Isle of Wight, Southampton, Poole and West Sussex RGO Registrar General s Office Ch Act 1989 The Children Act 1989 ACA 2002 The Adoption and Children Act 2002 IRM (Independent Review Mechanism)The Independent Review of Determinations (adoption) Regulations 2005 AAR 2005 Adoption Agencies Regulations 2005 ASSR 2005 AAIRR2011 Adoption Support Services Regulations 2005 The Adoption Agencies and Independent Review of Determinations (Amendment) Regulations 2011 AAR 2012 The Adoption Agencies (Panel and Consequential Amendments) Regulations 2012 AAR 2013 The Adoption Agencies (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2013 CAFCASS Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service ARR 2005 Restriction on the Preparation of Adoption Reports Regulations 2005 NMS National Minimum Standards 2011 TAC Team around the child Feedback: We welcome feedback about our policies and procedures so if you have any comments about these procedures please contact the Service Manager Adoption and Fostering. Revised March

4 Contents Page 1. Values Children Adults Planning, permanence and adoption 7 2. Procedures Procedure for children Adoption at request of parents relinquished babies Adoption of children subject to care proceedings and looked after by the 14 local authority Fostering for Adoption Matching and proposing a placement Securing an inter-agency placement Action after agency decision, arrangements for placement and 25 introductions Duties and responsibilities once the child is placed Adoption Court Proceedings Children awaiting a placement Disruptions Adoption support services Management of adoption records and information Procedure for prospective adoptive parents Pre Stage One - Screening Registration of Interest Stage One Plan Stage One Checks and References Stage One - Preparation Course Declining or Continuing the Assessment beyond Stage One Stage Two Assessment and Report Stage Two Adoption Panel and Agency Decision Fast Track Approval Timescales for prospective adopters Post approval Unsuccessful applications Inter-country adoption Financial support in adoption Step-parent adoptions 59 Practice notes to accompany procedures 60 Pn1 Counselling prior to baby s birth 61 Pn2 Guidelines for social workers and midwifery services: Guidelines for when 64 a baby who may be adopted Pn3 Check list for a later life letter 67 Pn4 Step parent and relative adoption 70 Pn5 Annex A [adoption] & B [placement] reports 82 Pn6 Contents of adoption files 97 Pn7 Checklist for extension of parental responsibility 100 Pn8 Sibling attachment and checklist 102 Pn9 Contact in adoption some principles 113 Pn10 Matters to be covered in screening visits 116 Pn11 Adoption contact register 117 Pn12 Adoption support service practice guidelines 118 Pn13 Life Story Books 120 Pn14 Concurrent planning 123 Revised March

5 Contents Page Pn15 Conduct of disruption meetings 124 Appendices A1 Adoption panel procedures 126 A2 Financial support in adoption 134 A3 Children and Young People s financial assessment guidance notes 146 A4 Consideration of the need for legal representation for prospective adopters 148 for children looked after by the Local Authority. A5 Pro-forma letters and documents 150 Web Links: West Sussex County Council Adoption services statement of purpose 2010 British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) Department of Education (DfE) - use search engine to find the following documents: Every Child Matters Adoption Adoption and Children Act 2002 Statutory Adoption Guidance July 2013 Adoption Agency Regulations 2005 National Minimum Standards 2011 Practice Guidance on assessing the support needs of adoptive families 2008 Preparing and assessing prospective adopters 2006 British and Irish Legal Information Institute (BAILII) (the law including case law) South Coast Adoption Consortium Post Adoption Centre (PAC) pac.org.uk Parents and Children Together (PACT) NORCAP (Services for birth relatives) Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED) (Inspection of Local Authority Children s Services) Revised March

6 1. Values 1.1 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 their 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 well-being. To help children develop this, their ethnic origin, cultural background, religion, language and sexuality need to be properly recognised and positively valued and promoted. A holistic view of the child s needs will be taken with no one element taking precedence, in order to prevent delay for the child. The particular needs of disabled children and children with complex needs will be fully recognised and taken into account when decisions are made. 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. Children have the right to full information about their backgrounds and adoptive parents share this right; the child s background details should be shared in a sensitive and age appropriate way as the child grows up. Post adoption contact with birth relatives should take place if it is of benefit to the child and in their best interests. Contact plans will always be led by the needs of the child. A genuine partnership between all those involved in adoption is essential for the National Minimum Standards to deliver the best outcomes for children; this includes the Government, local government, other statutory agencies, Voluntary Adoption Agencies and Adoption Support Agencies. 1.2 Adults Adoption is an evolving life-long process for all those involved adopted adults, and birth and adoptive relatives. The fundamental issues raised by adoption may reverberate and resurface at different times and stages throughout an individual s life. Revised March

7 Adopted people should have access to information and services to enable them to address adoption related matters throughout their lives. Birth parents have a right to independent counselling once adoption has been agreed as the plan for the child. West Sussex County Council Adoption Service can offer support and advice to birth relatives wishing to have contact with relatives adopted out of their birth family. West Sussex County Council Adoption Service has a duty to provide services that consider the welfare of all parties involved and will consider the implications of decisions and actions for everyone involved. Adoption is a service to provide parents for children. The Adoption Service will provide a professional and sympathetic service to those who wish to parent children through adoption mindful that the focus will always be on the needs of children. West Sussex County Council Adoption Service will assess all adopters in accordance with its own equal opportunities policy so as to avoid disadvantaging any applicant on the grounds of race, culture, gender, disability, religion and sexual orientation. It is expected that Assessments will be conducted with openness and honesty on both sides. West Sussex County Council Adoption Service will seek to work in partnership with all parties involved, taking account of their views and wishes in decisionmaking. West Sussex County Council Adoption Service will acknowledge differences in people s circumstances and has established policies that provide nondiscriminatory services. Adopted adults have their adoptive identity safeguarded and the right to decide whether to be involved in contact or communications with birth family members. 1.3 Planning, permanence and adoption West Sussex County Council believes that all children have the right to experience family life, and that wherever it is consistent with their health and welfare, this should be with their own families. In some cases, children may not be cared for by their birth parents because it is not consistent with their safety and welfare. Where this is the case, either on a temporary or on a permanent basis, West Sussex County Council will first look to place children with members of the extended family (relatives or friends) wherever this is assessed as being consistent with their welfare. (visit: and use search engine Family and friends care policy 2012 and Special Guardianship ) Where a child does need to be looked after by the Local Authority the social worker will work with the child looked after and their family as well as their alternative carers, with the aim of making it possible for the child to be returned Revised March

8 home or to (other) family members, providing this is consistent with their safety and well being. In order to ensure the best interests of the child are met in a timely way, proper enquiries, and assessments will be made at the earliest possible opportunity. Planning for the child will include parallel or dual plans in order to avoid delay should it become clear that the child will not return to their family. Plans for permanence must be addressed and clarified at the Looked After Child (LAC) 4 month review. When it is clear that the parents are not able to provide the child with the safety and security they have a right to expect, and other family members or friends are equally unable to provide safe care for the child, adoption must be considered. Permanency planning must include consideration of Fostering for Adoption and concurrency placements where applicable, in order to avoid delay and disruption for the child. Adoption will be explored for all looked after children including older children, sibling groups and children with disabilities. West Sussex County Council promotes adoption as a positive permanence option for children as it believes that adoption offers children safety and security and the best opportunity to achieve well educationally, to be healthy and to have happy fulfilled lives. Revised March

9 2. Procedures 2.1 Procedure for Children table of actions and guidance Action Guidance Adoption at the request of parent(s) Relinquished babies Placement for adoption of babies under six weeks of age There are two ways in which relinquished babies come to the attention of Children s Specialist Services. A mother may contact the service during her pregnancy and request that the baby be placed for adoption at birth which allows for planning at the earliest stage and offers a real possibility of placement direct from hospital with prospective adopters. Placement of babies from hospital allows the adults to carry any risk and gives the baby a chance to bond with the people who are highly likely to become his adoptive parents. In other cases, the Referral and Assessment service may receive a call from a hospital to say that a baby has been born and the mother is requesting adoption. In both cases the mother has the right to expect that her baby will be placed with adopters without delay. In some cases it may be appropriate to use fostering for adoption arrangements (see relevant section Fostering for Adoption) In many cases it will be appropriate to proceed to place the baby under Adoption Agency Regulations which allows for placement with informal consent of the birth parent/s using the template at the end of ch2 of the statutory guidance on adoption July In other cases the baby may need to be placed with foster carers from hospital until formal consent can be witnessed by CAFCASS once the baby is 6 weeks old. Once the referral of a baby is received administrative staff check to see if known, prepare case file, and record on Frameworki. The referral should be allocated urgently to an appropriately skilled SW. The SW must immediately give the mother and baby s details to the Adoption Team and the SM Adoption and Fostering and make initial plans for placement options. The SW must begin the CPR and contact the panel adviser and the adoption panel administrator and if necessary request an emergency panel be convened in order that the plan for adoption and the match considered as soon as possible after Note: The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review and Fostering Services (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2013 makes early placement with potential adopters more readily achievable as Regulation 25A allows for an approved adopter to be temporarily approved as a foster carer for a named child with minimal administrative difficulty. Initial approval can be given for up to 16 weeks. This can be extended by a further 8 weeks if necessary. Fostering for Adoption is less likely to be used with babies relinquished at birth and more likely to be used where the baby is going to be accommodated under s20 or where the Court is involved. See Practice Notes 1 Counselling Prior to a Baby's Birth Note: There are specific restrictions on who may prepare and supervise the preparation of adoption reports ARR 3-4; Stat Guidance Ch 2 Revised March

10 Action Guidance the consent is witnessed at six weeks. The TM(A) must consider all waiting approved adopters looking particularly at those who have expressed interest in adopting a baby during their assessment. Where there are no adopters available in West Sussex, the Consortium must be contacted. A SW(A) must be allocated and should visit the mother and baby with the SW within two working days of the referral. SW(A) must offer adoption counselling and explain the implications and process of adoption. SW(A) must give the mother written information on adoption and she should be advised of the independent adoption counselling service provided by PAC, however it should not be assumed that this will be required. The advice, guidance and counsel offered by SW(A) may be sufficient. All possible options for the baby s permanent care must be explored by the SW including; Placement with family members Short term foster care to allow mother time to resolve any practical difficulties and gather support for parenthood Foster care for mother and baby to assist mother to get over any fears and anxieties she may have about becoming a parent and Placement for adoption The SW must ask mother about the father of the baby however she is not obliged to provide details of the birth father or of her extended family. Where the mother is clear that she does not wish her family to know about the baby, (as in a concealed pregnancy) there is no duty on the local authority to attempt to trace them or to inform them and in certain circumstances it may be dangerous to do so. Where the LA is aware of the identity of a birth father without Parental Responsibility, there is a duty to consider whether to seek his views. If the mother does not wish him to know about the baby, her reasons for this wish must be very carefully considered. In any such case, legal advice must be sought immediately. In the very rare case where there is a father with Parental Responsibility, his formal consent to the placement for adoption must be obtained. SW should ensure registration of birth by mother and/or father. Where a parent does not or cannot register the baby s birth the following people may register the birth: someone who was present at the birth someone who is responsible for the child and/or Note: Counselling here means offering advice and guidance and should be undertaken by an experienced adoption social worker able to explain the process and be sensitive to the parent[s] level of understanding, ethnic origins and religious beliefs. Where English is not be the parent/s first language, the SW(A) should ensure that an appropriate interpreter or facilitator is made available to the parent/s. Note: if at any point SW has concerns about legal processes or timescale contact should be made with Legal Services. See Practice Notes 2: Guidelines for when a baby is to be placed from hospital Note: Case law (Re E,(A Child)[2007]EWCA Civ 1206)has confirmed that: The law will not usually be used to force a birth mother to reveal the identity of the birth father without PR. There is no mandatory and absolute requirement in adoption law that other relatives should be informed of the child s birth and the proposed adoption. Parent may wish to keep a copy for him/herself. Note: SW should seek legal advice if the parent[s] does not register the birth in the required timescale. Revised March

11 Action a member of the administrative staff at the hospital where the child was born SW should obtain and retain 2 copies of long birth certificate for the child s file until needed for court proceedings. An immediate referral to CAFCASS must be made. Where a parent with Parental Responsibility wishes to consent to placement for adoption, that consent must be witnessed by a CAFCASS officer however, a mother cannot give full and final consent to the placement of her baby for adoption until the baby is 6 weeks old. Where it becomes clear that a birth mother wishes to relinquish her baby from hospital to the potential adopters and is willing and able to give informal consent the SW and the TM must put the plan to the ADM immediately. If the ADM agrees, the SW must ask the mother to sign a form giving informal or provisional consent to placement for adoption before the baby reaches 6 weeks. It is essential that this form is signed in all relinquishment cases. The form gives the agency the authority to place the baby. See stat Guidance 2013 ch2 and ch5 s5.1 and AAR 2005 part 6 s35 The SW must ask the mother to give consent to health assessment and disclosure of information from mother and baby health records. Once consent is given, an adoption medical must be arranged as quickly as possible bearing in mind an adoption panel date. Direct communication with the medical adviser may be required. SW should make arrangements for the baby s adoption medical if this has not been done already. Send following to Agency Medical Adviser: Birth parent consent form BAAF combined Form M & B Copy of previous medical reports [if any] Blank copy of BAAF Form IHA-C Together with accompanying letter. SW should contact the PA to the Agency Medical Adviser by telephone to ensure that the baby is given a priority appointment. It may, on rare occasions, be necessary for the SM(A) to speak directly to the medical adviser to ensure the medical is completed in a timely way. Guidance Information on who can register a birth is available on the GOV.UK website Note: The format for the informal consent is accessed at the end of chapter two of the Statutory Adoption Guidance July Note: See AAR 2005 part 6 s 35 Note: Regulation 17 of the Adoption Agencies (Panel and Consequential Amendments) Regulations 2012 removes the panel s role in recommending adoption as the best plan for the child where the Court is involved in scrutiny and care proceedings. However the Adoption panel continues to consider adoption plans for children where there is parental consent to adoption. Note: The Adoption Panel cannot consider the case unless the adoption medical has been undertaken. Contact The SW must encourage mother to give as much information about herself, her social and emotional history and health, educational attainments, employment, family and personal relationships, as quickly as possible without being insensitive to mother s predicament and feelings. Similarly the SW must try to ascertain any available information about the birth father Revised March

12 Action Guidance that mother is able to give. Birth mother should be offered the opportunity to meet the prospective adopters if a direct placement is to be made and that is the wish of both mother and the prospective adopters. SW must give mother BAAF leaflet If your child is being adopted. SW should discuss with birth mother reasons for choosing a particular name if they have done, and giving the baby any items of clothing or special gifts. Ensure photos of the parent[s] and the baby are taken in the early days to pass on to the adopters to ensure a complete record for the child. Also keep the child s plastic hospital wristband. Some parent[s] may wish to consider a preparing a treasure box to help the child know more about his/her birth family. Note: In some cases very speedy action may be needed to achieve this. Another useful keepsake is a copy of a national newspaper of the date of the child s birth. Practice Notes 13: Life Story Books SW must inform ward staff of specific arrangements for placement and should consider whether a pre-birth planning meeting with other professionals would be appropriate. This may be particularly relevant where a baby is being placed with informal consent straight from hospital. SW should inform head of community nursing service of birth mother s wishes and ensure HV and Midwife are informed. SW should notify CAFCASS office nearest to parent[s] home address of the need for a CAFCASS officer to witness parent[s] consent to adoption, as soon as possible. (once the baby is six weeks old) Note: Parent[s] cannot formally consent to adoption before the child is 6 weeks old, but early notice is required. The following documents and information will need to be sent to CAFCASS by the SW: i) A certified copy of the child's birth certificate. ii) Name and address of the child's parent or guardian. iii) A chronology of the actions and decisions taken by the adoption agency with respect to the child. iv) Confirmation by the adoption agency that it has counselled, and explained to the parent or guardian the legal implications of both consent to placement under s19 of the ACA 2002 and, as the case may be, to the making of a future adoption order under s20 of the ACA and provided the parent or guardian with written information about this together with a copy of the written information provided to him. v) Such information about the parent or guardian or other information as the adoption agency considers the officer of the service may need to know. Once adopters have been identified by the SW(A) and the SW Note: In order to effect a Revised March

13 Action the SW s should meet with the SM adoption and fostering and the TM s of the children s team and the adoption team. If all parties agree the adopters are likely to be suitable and the ADM is in agreement with the plan for early placement for adoption and is satisfied that the process followed has been robust, the adopters should be approached as a matter of urgency. Guidance placement from hospital all concerned will need to work outside normal time frames. The objective is no delay in placement. If the adopters are willing to proceed and understand the potential risks, they must be given a provisional adoption placement plan and support plan. Notifications must be given in accordance with AAR 35.6(a), (b) and (c) and a copy of the informal consent must be placed on the child s case record. The birth parent must be consulted throughout in terms of the information they wish to pass on to the adopters and whether they wish to meet with the adopters. The baby should be placed with the adopters and the SW and SW(A) should visit and support the adopters in the usual way with the SW carrying out visits to the child in accordance with the LAC procedures. In the event that there are no adopters available or willing to take the baby before formal consent is given by the birth mother at or after 6 weeks, the baby must be placed with foster carers and adopters sought to be ready to accept the baby as soon as the formal consent is given. The first visit is undertaken within 7 days. Visits thereafter will be weekly until the first review. Thereafter visits will be at such frequency, as the Agency decides but not less than 6 weeks. Should informal parental consent is withdrawn the SW should assess the situation, obtain legal advice and consider the options of returning the child to parent[s], within seven days or taking other action in consultation with legal services and the TM and SM. At 6 weeks: SW will have previously sent all the required information to CAFCASS and arranged for an officer from CAFCASS to see mother to witness her consent on the prescribed form, at a point not before the baby is 6 weeks old. Revised March

14 Action Mother may give agreement to: the placement of the child for adoption; or the placement of the child for adoption and the making of a future adoption order Guidance Note: Consent once baby is 6 weeks old is covered by: S19 ACA 2002 S20 ACA 2002 The latter enables the parent[s] to give advance consent to the making of an adoption order in the future even if no specific arrangements are being proposed at this point. The parent may decide they do not wish to be notified of the final adoption hearing. Birth parents retain parental responsibility until an adoption order is made. Prior to the baby being 6 weeks of age the SW must have booked the adoption panel, if necessary, an emergency panel to consider the adoption plan for the baby and the if possible the match at the same panel. The SW and SW(A) must have sent all relevant documentation for the baby and the adopters to the panel adviser and the panel clerk. The reports included are: Summary of the medical information for the baby, completed CPR Minutes from the approval panel for the adopters The PAR Any subsidiary reports and/or information subsequent to their approval The adoption placement report (APR) and The adoption support plan, giving details of assessed needs of child for adoption support services and assessed needs of birth relatives for contact. The panel administrator must send out the panel papers immediately on receipt. The adoption panel can recommend the child s plan for adoption and the match at the same panel. Once the ADM has agreed, the baby can be placed, if baby has not already been placed under an informal consent and agreed by the ADM Adoption of children subject to care proceedings and looked after by the local authority Before 2 nd review the SW and TM should have determined the direction of the case and parallel planning should already be in evidence. Parallel planning is essential to prevent delay and drift Revised March

15 Action Where permanence through adoption is seen as the most suitable option, SW must arrange a minuted meeting with TM and SM, chaired by the SM. The link SW(A) for the Adoption Service or the TM [A] should be invited to this meeting. This meeting will formalise and record the Agency s proposal for permanence through adoption. This plan for the child will go forward to the child s 2 nd review where the child s need for permanence will be formally addressed. Guidance Note: SW s and IRO s should be aware of the possibilities of Fostering for Adoption (FFA) and this should be considered if applicable. (see relevant section on Fostering for Adoption) The adoption panel adviser must be informed of all children for whom adoption is the plan in order to track progress and assist in minimising any delays. SW must already have [or should now obtain] parent[s] agreement to the agency obtaining health information, using BAAF Consent Form. Explain to parent[s] the central role health information plays in anticipating and providing for the child s present and future health needs. [AAR 16] This should have been obtained as part of the early care period/entry, but if it has not already been obtained, obtain it immediately. This is required for both mother and father. The Report on Health of Birth Parent, BAAF PH, should have been completed at the point of admission to care. If it has not been completed, assist [both] parent[s] to complete the form. SW should send a copy of BAAF Consent Form and BAAF Form M&B to the birth hospital of the child in order to obtain medical information. The forms should be accompanied by standard letter to the hospital at which the child was born requesting the completion of Form M&B. In the event that the birth parent refuses consent, SW should record this and advise the Agency Medical Adviser. Once adoption is formally accepted in a LAC review as the plan, a Child Permanence Report (CPR) must be presented to the Agency Decision Maker (ADM) before the final care plan can be heard in Court. The ADM makes a decision as to whether adoption is in the child s best interests and whether a Placement Order application should be made. The SW should be mindful that the Court is working to complete Care Proceedings within 26 weeks. As part of the statutory review the SW should ascertain and record the views of the following people about the options, including adoption, for achieving permanence: The child, where s/he is of sufficient age and understanding; This should be addressed to the Midwifery Manager. SW may encounter some challenges obtaining this information in the required timescales and if delay is encountered SW should contact the PA to the Agency Medical Adviser [ ] for advice. Letter to Hospital Note: Regulation 17 of the Adoption Agencies (Panel and Consequential Amendments) Regulations 2012 removes the adoption panel role in recommending adoption as the best plan for the child (unless the parent gives consent to adoption) The ADM continues to have responsibility for the decision that adoption is the best plan for the child. AAR Revised March

16 Action The child s parent[s]; Anyone else with parental responsibility for the child; Any other relevant person, such as a relative, carer or CAFCASS Guardian where care proceedings have been initiated. Where the review confirms that adoption is the preferred option for permanence, a C&YP Adoption Plan should be commenced and the information on the Care Plan should be transferred by the SW. The Life Story book must begin after this review and be added to progressively. Sibling assessments [to determine attachment] should be undertaken in all situations where siblings are involved. Sibling checklists should be undertaken by SW and views of foster carers sought. SW should arrange with the Agency Medical Adviser to have an adoption medical completed on the child. Send following to Agency Medical Adviser: Form PH on each parent Consent Form for each parent BAAF Form M&B Copy of previous medical reports [if any] Blank copy of BAAF Form IHA-C or IHA-YP, depending on the age of the child. These may be accompanied by covering letter opposite giving details of the request. SW should include in the Child Permanence Report the Medical Adviser s summary of the state of the child s health, his health history and any need for health care which may arise in the future. If it is not feasible to operate within the 12 week timescale SW must advise the PA to the Medical Adviser [ ] and clarify how best to progress the request as a priority. Guidance These plans will run alongside each other. The SW should seek advice as early as possible from the adoption team on developing and working with Life Story Books. The foster carer can also be involved in the development of the Life Story Book but the SW remains responsible and accountable for it. Practice notes 13: Life Story Books Sibling assessments should be undertaken by a suitably qualified and experienced professional. As a minimum a Sibling Attachment Checklist should be completed: Practice Notes 8: Sibling attachment and checklist Please consult the guidance and where appropriate to refer to the CAMHS LAAC Team for further assistance and guidance. AAR 15 AAR 17[b] The amount of time needed to collect the information for the medical must not be underestimated. Hence the importance of immediately taking action to make the arrangements. Request for Adoption Medical In order to reduce delay in situations where SW has not received back from the birth hospital Form M&B, SW should Revised March

17 Action Guidance not wait for the Form M&B and should send above documents to Agency Medical Adviser with a note to explain the position. SW must liaise with the panel adviser regarding progress and likely completion of the CPR. The panel adviser may be asked for advice and guidance in completing the report. Early contact with SW [A] and the panel adviser is required. The SW must request an ADM date for consideration of the CPR and a decision on the adoption plan SW should, as far as is reasonably practicable, in view of the child s age and understanding, provide or arrange a counselling service for the child. This will assist the child to understand in an age appropriate way the procedures for and the legal implications of adoption. The SW must provide the child with written information about adoption. AAR 13 BAAF Adoption, what it is and what it means Progress of Life Story work should be reviewed. SW must, in accordance with a child s age, ascertain and record the child s wishes and feelings regarding: The possibility of placement for adoption with a new family and his/her adoption; His/her religious and cultural upbringing; Contact with his/her parent[s], guardian or any other relative or person the Agency considers relevant. SW is required to provide/arrange a counselling service to the parent[s] or guardian, as far as is reasonably practicable, providing information about: The procedure for placement for adoption and adoption itself; The legal implications of giving consent for adoption under S19 or S20 of the 2002 Act. Where counselling is refused the SW should write to the parent[s] solicitor or independent support worker to ensure they are aware of the situation. SW must ascertain and record the wishes and feelings of the parent or guardian of the child or CAFCASS guardian and any other person the Agency considers relevant, regarding: The child; The placement of the child for adoption and his/her adoption, including any wishes and feelings about the child s religious and cultural upbringing; Contact with the child AAR 13 AAR 14 Counselling should be sensitive to parent[s] understanding, ethnic origins and religious beliefs. English may not be their first language, so the Agency should ensure that counselling is either provided by or assisted by a person who can communicate effectively with the parent[s]. AAR 14 This information must be included in the child s CPR SW must give parent[s] BAAF leaflet If your child is being adopted. Record critical personal details using mother on Birth Mother Details and on a separate Birth Father Details pro-forma. Birth Mother Details Birth Father Details Revised March

18 Action Guidance Obtain written acknowledgement that the nature and permanent effect of adoption has been explained on the same pro-forma. If the parents[s] do not wish to cooperate in this way this fact should be recorded on the case file. SW to complete Child Permanence Report. This must include the Summary Report [page 9] from the Medical Adviser s Initial Health Assessment [IHA-C or YP] AAR 17 gives details of what must be covered in the CPR. SW must ask the foster carer/child s carer to complete a profile of the child covering behavioural and emotional well-being. Where the child is of an age to express their view and/or contribute to the process they should be encouraged to do so. Once the CPR is complete the SW must pass it to their manager to sign off. When the manager is satisfied the SW must forward all relevant papers to adoption panel clerk and panel adviser which must include: the Child Permanence Report (CPR) details of the medical information provided in Summary Report of BAAF Form IHA-C report on the Adoption Welfare Checklist and other Section 1 issues; C&YP Adoption Plan, giving details of assessed needs of child for adoption support services and assessed needs of birth relatives for contact and support PEP/Education Plan [if of school age]; Report from foster carer; Sibling attachment assessment, where appropriate; Expert reports including all psychiatric and psychological assessments and parenting assessments in full, unless a summary agreed by all parties can be provided; Photo of the child; Genogram; Chronology The panel clerk will send the papers to the ADM for consideration one week before the decision is required. Foster Carer's Report Sibling Attachment Checklist It is important that all parenting assessment reports are included in the panel papers (See Re: B (expert medical reports) [2008] EWCA Civ 835) Note: A Placement Order made by the court authorises the local authority to place a child for adoption with any prospective adopters who may be chosen by the authority. [ACA 2002 s21]. Once the Placement Order is made only the local authority may remove the child. Birth parent/s may seek leave to apply for revocation of the Placement order see Note in section 5 The ADM must make a decision in respect of the adoption plan for the child and if they agree, they must recommend an application for a Placement Order. The ADM must complete a decision sheet indicating the reasons for their decision, the advice given (medical and legal) and any recommendations or advice. SW must notify the birth parent[s] in writing, if their whereabouts are known, of the Agency decision regarding their child. AAR 19[3] Pro forma letters (minimum requirements) in respect to parents consenting or not Revised March

19 Action This should be done orally within 24 hours, whenever possible and in writing within 7 working days of the panel s recommendation. If it has been agreed that a placement order should be applied for, SW must prepare documentation for Legal Services to lodge with the court. Where a foster carer wishes to be considered to adopt their foster child this should be considered at the relevant review in the context of whether this would be in the child s best interests and would best meet the plan for permanence. If this is to proceed, an adoption assessment must be undertaken by a member of the Adoption Team and presented to the Adoption Panel, in the usual way [see relevant sections below and in particular Fast Track Approvals]. In the event that the review is unable to support this proposal [e.g. it may not be considered to be in the foster family s or the child s best interest] this view must be explained to the foster carer and they should have the opportunity to answer any concerns orally or in writing to the Service Manager Adoption. Guidance consenting: Notification of birth parent Annex B Report Refer to Adoption and Children Act 2002 Training Practitioner Workbook P40. Also see the Every Child Matters Adoption website through Web Links Factors affecting this route to adoption will include contact issues, potential delay in finding alternative adopters, length of placement, wishes and feelings of the child, quality of attachment as well as the suitability of the foster carers as adoptive parents. Note that local authority foster carers have a right to apply to adopt after a child has been in placement for 12 months Fostering for Adoption Fostering for Adoption has been introduced to try and ensure that babies and very young children for whom adoption is a very likely outcome, can be placed at the earliest opportunity. Fostering for Adoption (FfA) must be considered on a case by case basis but generally, in situations where: Parent/s have had one or more children placed for adoption previously and the evidence indicates that there are no changes in the parent/s circumstances such that the risks posed to a further child remain the same as before. The circumstances and risks posed by the parent/s to a first born child are such that there is no plan to return the child to their birth parents or other family members or Where parents want the child adopted but consent to placement has not met the 6 week requirement following the birth of the child. (s52(3) A and CA 2002) (See Relinquished babies) Where a child is identified by the TAC (including the IRO), as benefitting from an FfA placement, the SW and TM should seek approval from the SM(A) in consultation with the TM(A) to proceed. TM(A) will discuss with the adoption team and identify suitable prospective adopters who have indicated during assessment See also Practice Note 14: Concurrent planning Note: Coram and BAAF have published practice guidance on the application of Fostering for Adoption which is available through each agency s website together with First4Adoption. Note: The Care Planning Placement and Case Review and Fostering Services (Miscellaneous Amendments)Regulations 2013 makes provision for a person approved as a prospective adopter to be temporarily approved as a foster carer for a named child without undergoing the full assessment and approval process set out in Fostering Service (England)Regulations 2011 Revised March

20 Action that they are willing to be dual approved in these circumstances, and who the assessing SW(A) felt would have the potential to operate as a foster carer and understand and manage the role and the risks including ongoing (during Proceedings) contact with parents and birth family members. Guidance Note: The ADM will still be required to make the decision regarding the suitability of adoption as a plan for the child in the usual way. Once adopters have been identified the SW s should meet with the SM adoption and fostering and the TM s of the children s team and the adoption team. If all parties agree the adopters are likely to be suitable they should be approached as a matter of urgency. If the adopters are willing to proceed with FfA their PAR, minutes from their approval panel, any subsidiary reports and/or information subsequent to their approval should be passed to the ADM, together with the reasons why they should be temporarily approved as Foster Carers under Regulation 25A of the Care Planning Placement and Case Review and Fostering Services (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2013 The reasons must include an analysis of how and why they might meet the child s needs as foster carers and how they are able to manage any proposed contact and any change of permanence plan. Where proceedings are likely to exceed sixteen weeks from the ADM approval of the prospective adopters as foster carers, the SW and SW(A) must present the prospective adopters to the fostering panel for approval under Fostering Services Regulations The prospective adopter, acting as foster carer should be supervised by the SW(A) jointly with an allocated SW from the family placement team in consultation with the relevant family placement TM. Note: The Care Planning Placement and Case Review Regulations 2010 allow the assessment period to extend beyond 16 weeks for a further 8 weeks in exceptional circumstances. It would be expected that the Proceedings were complete in that time frame and the child should move to being placed for adoption if the SW team and prospective adopters are still all in agreement that this is the best placement and plan for the child. Once a Placement Order has been granted or the formal post 6 week consent given and witnessed the match must be presented to panel in the usual way. The panel adviser should keep the panel informed of these arrangements and ensure panel has a full understanding of their role. Fostering for Adoption is different from concurrent planning in that FfA allows an early placement of a child where there is no realistic possibility of a rehabilitation plan although there may be some meaningful contact. The concurrency model has always worked with adopters where a rehabilitation plan to birth parents was in place.(concurrently) Matching and proposing a placement SW must prepare a profile and photos of the child to be used in the search for a family. Revised March

21 Action The tracking system for LAC will identify children going through proceedings and should enable the TM(A) to have a good understanding of the likely demand for adopters. The SM(A) and the TM(A) must meet regularly with professional colleagues in the Consortium to consider available families and numbers and characteristics of children likely to need adopters. Where possible, adopters should be identified as early as possible and Fostering for Adoption considered on a case by case basis. The SW must work closely with the SW(A) in identifying the most appropriate potential family. SW should inform the Adoption Team within 10 days which potential adopters have been identified as the most suitable match. The reasons why the family has been selected will need to be recorded and will be required information for later reports to the Adoption Panel. The formal decision of the Agency to select specific prospective adopter[s] for presentation to the Adoption Panel should be made at a meeting chaired by SM and attended by TM and SW, SW(A) and foster carer. Where a family is identified as a suitable match, the SW [A] will visit to discuss the child. If the family may be able to meet the needs of the child the SW and SW [A] will make a joint visit to discuss the child with the family, leaving a copy of the Child Permanence Report with them. Adopters may also need the child s PEP or a report from the nursery or foster carer. The SW needs to be sure adopters fully understand the implications of the child s history and be clear with the SW(A) about the areas where support services will be required. Photos and video may be used to assist in the process. Following this, preliminary discussions with the foster carers and the prospective adopters may take place. The issue of how parental responsibility will be shared will need to be considered and discussed with the prospective adopters. This will need to be included in the Adoption Placement Report. Guidance Where possible, a choice of 3 potential matches will be given. Profiles of adopters may be discussed with birth parent[s] and foster carers but identifying information must be kept confidential. The written reports are not to be shared. Note: that ethnicity must not be placed above everything else when identifying potential adopters for children. Note: Adoption exchange days can be held to offer adopters an opportunity to find out about children in a different environment with their foster carers and social workers able to talk about them first hand. Adopters have the chance to consider and connect with children they may not otherwise have thought of. There must be clear evidence that the match proposed is the best one possible for the child as well as being consistent with the needs, aspirations and capacity of the adoptive family. A formal record should be made detailing the reasons for the decision that may be shared with the Adoption Panel. In exceptional circumstances it may be appropriate for prospective adopters to see the child and this should only be done with the agreement of the TM [A]. Proposals for sharing of parental responsibility should be recorded on the checklist and included in the information to panel. Practice Notes 7: Checklist for extension of Parental Responsibility Revised March

22 Action The SW should ascertain and record the views of the proposed family on: The proposed placement; The proposed contact arrangements; Whether a counselling or adoption support service is required; Whether they are willing to meet with the birth parent[s], if this is appropriate; The exercise of parental responsibility. Guidance AAR 31 If the match appears suitable SW should liaise with the Adoption Panel clerk for a date to present to the Panel. Relevant papers will need to be with the panel adviser and the panel clerk two weeks before the panel date. Once the panel adviser is satisfied that all the relevant material is available and of sufficient quality she will advise the panel clerk to send the papers to panel members. This must be one week before the panel date. SW should arrange for the prospective adopters to meet with the foster carers before the Adoption Panel. In cases where there may be some medical uncertainties or problems, the prospective adopters should meet with the Agency Medical Adviser prior to the Adoption Panel. SW and the SW(A) should prepare an Adoption Placement Report, to include: The Agency s reasons for proposing the match including a brief summary of how family finding was done, other families considered, which should be anonymous; The views of the prospective adopters about the proposed placement and contact issues; The proposals for Adoption Support Services to the prospective adoptive family and the child including any standard therapeutic input and any identified need for more extensive therapy together with the detail of how this will be accessed; The views of prospective adopters on the adoption support plan The contact arrangements and the prospective adopters views on them A copy of the Adoption Placement Report should be sent to the prospective adopters inviting their comment within 10 working days. The prospective adopters should not meet the child prior to the Adoption Panel. AAR 31[2][d] The placement support team have a range of different services to offer adopters including therapeutic techniques and training courses aimed at enhancing attachment and minimising potential difficulties. AAR 31.3 Where the adopters comments have been received too late to include them in panel packs, they should be available for panel members to read on the day of panel. Revised March

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