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8.1 Plan for Adoption

AMENDMENT

This chapter was reviewed and updated throughout in November 2014. It should be read in full.


Contents

1. Planning for Permanence
2. Obtaining Agency Approval to Adoption Plan
  2.1 Child Permanence Report
  2.2 Child’s Adoption Medical
  2.3 Referral Directly to the Agency Decision Maker
  2.4 Presentation to the Adoption Panel
  2.5 After the Agency Decision
3. Preparation of Child for Adoption
4. Counselling and Support for Parents
  4.1 Fathers Without Parental Responsibility
  4.2 Parents who wish to Relinquish their Baby
  4.3 Withdrawal of Consent
5. Post-Placement Contact


1. Planning for Permanence

Every Child in Care must have a Permanence Plan by the date of his or her second Children and Young People in Care Review.

In relation to a Relinquished Child, an early planning meeting should be arranged to which the Adoption Service Manager must be invited. Where adoption is considered to be the preferred option for a relinquished child, family finding should begin immediately in order to achieve early placement following the decision.

Family finding should begin as soon as adoption is under consideration and before the Agency Decision Maker decides that the child should be placed for adoption (or a Placement Order is made).

In the case of siblings, an early decision should be taken as to whether it is in the best interests of each child to be placed together or separately, and the impact on each child of that decision. The decision should be based on a balanced assessment of the individual needs of each child in the group, and the likely or possible consequences of each option on each child. Factors that may need to be considered will include: the nature of the sibling group (do the siblings know each other/ how are they related); whether the children have formed an attachment; the health needs of each child; and each child’s view (noting that a child’s views and perceptions will change over time). The completed assessment and reason for the decision following from this regarding placing together or apart must be placed on the child’s care file and adoption file.

With effect from July 2014, there is a duty (under s. 22C of the Children Act 1989 (amended by the Children and Families Act 2014)) imposed upon local authorities that where:

  • They are considering adoption for a child (this can be at an early stage, and can be before a decision has been made by the Agency Decision Maker that the child should be place for adoption); or
  • They are satisfied that the child ought to be placed for adoption, but do not yet have authority to place the child for adoption (either by way of parental consent or by way of Placement Order).

    Then the local authority MUST consider placing the child with:
    • (Firstly) a relative, friend or Connected Person who is also a local authority foster carer; or
    • Where they decide that a placement with such a person is not the most appropriate placement for the child, they must consider placing the child with an adopter who is willing to be approved as a foster carer for this particular child or with a foster carer who has been approved as a prospective adopter (a ‘dually approved carer’).

See Early Permanence Placements / Fostering for Adoption.


2. Obtaining Agency Approval to Adoption Plan

Cases where the criteria apply for the local authority to apply for a Placement Order, i.e. the child is the subject of a Care Order or the Threshold Criteria for a Care Order are satisfied or where there is no parent or guardian, should be referred directly to the Agency Decision Maker for a decision.

All other cases (i.e. where the parents have given consent and there is no application for a Placement Order) should be referred to the Adoption Panel for a recommendation, which the Agency Decision Maker will subsequently take into account when making a decision.

As soon as adoption is the Permanence Plan for the child, the child's social worker must:

  • Contact the adoption service administrator in West Offices to arrange a date for the case to be referred to the Adoption Panel (where the parents have given consent and there is no application for a Placement Order) or directly to the Agency Decision Maker (in all other cases). The administrator will provide all the paperwork to be completed.

    This date must be a maximum of 2 months from the date when the adoption plan was ratified at the child's Children and Young People in Care Review. Where this timescale is not met, the reason should be recorded;
  • Immediately contact the medical adviser so that they can determine whether all the necessary information is available for a child or whether further work is needed to complete their adoption medical report. If the Parental Health forms or Forms B and M (requesting an obstetric report on the mother and neo-natal report on the child) were not obtained for the Initial Health Assessment, these must be sought immediately to avoid any delay for the child as the Agency Decision Maker cannot make their decision without this information;
  • Continue to provide counselling for the child - see Section 3, Preparation of Child for Adoption.

The child's social worker must open an Adoption Case Record for the child once adoption has been identified as the permanence plan for the child at his or her Children and Young People in Care Review or, where a child has been relinquished for adoption, as soon as the parent's request for adoption has been made. Where the plan relates to a group of siblings, there must be a separate Adoption Case Record for each child. Please note that the Adoption case file must be held separately from the child’s case record and no identifying information about family finding/ adopters/ an adoptive placement must be held on the child’s case record.

If not already obtained, the child's social worker should obtain 2 certified copies of the child's full birth certificate. These will be required for future Court applications and for the prospective adopters.

The child's social worker should give both birth parents written information on adoption and information about independent support available from PAC-UK ( formerly After Adoption Yorkshire (AAY))and ask them to sign confirmation of receipt, a copy of which should be kept on the child's Adoption Case Record and a further copy should be handed to the parents.

If either or both of the birth parents refuse to accept or do not receive the information, this should be recorded, with reasons, on the child's case record and Adoption Case Record. Where the parents' address is known, the child's social worker should personally deliver or arrange for delivery by hand of a copy of the information to the address and record this on the Adoption Case Record. See also Section 4, Counselling and Support of Parents.

If not already obtained for the Initial Health Assessment, the child's social worker must seek the birth parents' consent to the disclosure of information on their medical history to facilitate the Adoption Medical for the child - for detailed procedures, see Section 2.2, Child's Adoption Medical.

The child's social worker must discuss with the parents their views on the adoption plan, and arrange the necessary counselling and support for both of the birth parents and any other significant relatives - see Section 4, Counselling and Support for Parents. If either or both of the parents decline or refuse counselling and/or support, then this should be recorded, including the reasons, in the child's electronic record and Adoption Case Record.

Where one or both of the birth parents cannot be found, the child's social worker must make extensive enquiries as to their whereabouts. The social worker should write to the parent's last known address and contact the Benefits Agency and other agencies as appropriate. Legal advice should be sought as to any additional steps that should be taken.

The child's social worker must contact the child's health visitor or school health for current information in relation to the child's health and development.

The child's social worker must contact the child's school for current information in relation to the child's educational needs.

The child's social worker must ask the child's carer to complete a report on the child. (This will be required for the Child's Permanence Report - see See Section 2.1, Child Permanence Report).

The child's social worker must ensure that the adoption plan addresses the issue of post-placement and post-adoption contact. This will include a possible meeting between the parents and the adopters, and whether there may be on-going direct contact or indirect contact via a post-box system - see Section 5, Post-placement Contact.

If the child has siblings, the plan must analyse the relationship between each child in the sibling group and, if the decision is to place siblings separately, address the issue of post-placement and post-adoption contact between them.

The child's social worker must also carry out an assessment of the likely needs for adoption support services in relation to the child (including the likely need for financial support), the birth parents and any other person with a significant relationship to the child. For the detailed procedures, see Adoption Support Procedure.

Using all the information obtained in relation to the above, the child's social worker must prepare the Child's Permanence Report. The Child's Permanence Report must be written by a qualified social worker with suitable experience (see Adoption Panel Procedure).

2.1 Child Permanence Report

The allocated worker completing this report must fulfil the qualifications and experience criteria set out in the Restriction on the Preparation of Adoption Reports Regulations 2005 - that they have at least 3 years post qualification child care experience including adoption, or are supervised by someone in the agency meeting this requirement.

The following areas must be included or addressed in the Report:

  • Profile of the child, based on a report from the child's current carer as well as other information about the child's personality, nationality, racial origin, religious persuasion, legal status and relationship with his/her birth family;
  • The child's wishes in relation to the adoption plan and his or her preferred method of communication;
  • A chronology of the child's life since birth;
  • The preparation work, undertaken and planned, with the child and the views of the child in relation to the adoption plan and future contact with his or her birth family;
  • The views of the Children's Guardian (where possible);
  • The views of the birth family and significant others in relation to the adoption plan and contact and their opportunity to receive and comment on the report before the report is presented to Adoption Panel / Agency Decision Maker;
  • A report of the child's educational history and current needs, including the Personal Education Plan (PEP);
  • Any other relevant specialist reports on the child;
  • An assessment of the child's emotional and behavioural development;
  • An assessment of the child's needs for post-placement and post-adoption contact, including with siblings, and the child's and birth relatives' needs for adoption support services;
  • An analysis of the options for the child's future care and the alternatives to adoption considered. This must be a balanced view and where experts' assessments are available, their contents and recommendations - even if not supportive of the adoption plan - should be included;
  • Where the child has siblings, whether the decision is to place siblings separately or together and the rationale for the decision.

A copy of the Report or the relevant sections of the Report should be provided to the parents and the child where appropriate. When shared, the parents should be asked to sign the Report to confirm they have seen it and have had the opportunity to provide any written comments they wish to make.

2.2 Child's Adoption Medical

As soon as the adoption plan becomes part of the child's Care Plan, the child's social worker should write to the Medical Adviser regarding an adoption medical for the child. The Medical Adviser should be asked for advice on whether a full developmental medical is required and if so, who should conduct the medical and whether any tests or opinions are required. (In some cases, the Medical Adviser may consider that there is already sufficient up-to-date health information on the child and a further medical examination is not required.) The child’s social worker should ensure that a copy of the current Review Health Assessment (RHA), where applicable) is went to the Medical Adviser.

The child's social worker should send the Forms B and M (requesting an obstetric report on the mother and neo-natal report on the child) to the hospital social work team (if one exists at the hospital where the child was born) or the Hospital Administrator with a request that the Form be completed and returned to the social worker. Where the child was born at home, the Form should be sent to the mother's GP.

The procedure needs to be started without delay so that the adoption medical can be arranged; the adoption medical must take place before the child's plan for adoption is considered at the Adoption Panel and/or by the Agency Decision Maker, (unless the Medical Adviser has advised it unnecessary - see Paragraph 1 of this section). In considering whether the child is suitable to be placed for adoption (See Section 2, Obtaining Agency Approval to Adoption Plan), the Medical Adviser must be in a position to advise the Agency Decision Maker and Panel of the child's health needs.

The child's social worker must seek the cooperation of both birth parents to provide written consent to the disclosure of medical information if this has not already been provided, including obtaining their consent to the Medical Adviser approaching their GP if necessary, as well as obtaining their written consent to the obstetric report on the mother and neo-natal report on the child.

The importance of the disclosure of medical information must be explained to the parents but where the parents refuse to sign consent forms, the social worker must complete as much as possible on the relevant forms, record the attempts made to engage the parents and the reasons for refusal in the child's file and Adoption Case Record, and inform the Medical Adviser of the position.

In cases which go directly to the Agency Decision Maker (See Section 2, Obtaining Agency Approval to Adoption Plan) and expert reports have been filed with the court that are relevant to the child’s health, consideration should be given to whether to seek a specific direction from the court allowing the report to be disclosed to the Medical Adviser for comment.

The child's birth parents should be encouraged to attend the medical for the child along with the foster carer accompanying the child and the child's social worker should also attend.

The information on the child's medical report must be kept up to date if a placement is not immediately forthcoming. This must be done twice yearly for a child aged below 2 and annually for a child of 2 and above. The Medical Adviser may, however, make specific recommendations in relation to particular child.

2.3 Referral Directly to Agency Decision Maker

See Section 2, Obtaining Agency Approval to Adoption Plan for circumstances when the case will be referred to the Adoption Panel, and when the case will be referred directly to the Agency Decision Maker.

Where cases are to be referred directly to the Agency Decision Maker for a decision, the social worker should contact the adoption panel/adoption service administrator (in West Offices) to book a time to meet with the Agency Decision Maker for the decision to be made. The Agency Decision Maker has designated times each week available in their diary for such meetings. The meeting should be a maximum of 2 months from the date when the adoption plan was ratified at the child's Children and Young People in Care Review.

The Agency Decision Maker should be sent the same reports and information as would be submitted to the Adoption Panel, as set out in Section 2.4, Presentation to the Adoption Panel. The child's social worker will send the relevant reports to the Agency Adviser at least 10 working days before the relevant date booked with the Agency Decision Maker.

The social worker’s service manager will be responsible for checking the quality of the reports before they are submitted to the Agency Decision Maker, in consultation with the Agency Adviser.

In making the decision the Agency Decision Maker may discuss the case with the Agency Adviser, Medical Adviser and legal adviser. However, there is no provision for adjourning the decision to allow time for taking advice. NB The Agency Decision Maker is expressly prohibited from referring a case to the Adoption Panel for advice. 

The principles of the decision-making should be as set out in Adoption Panel, Agency Decision Maker.

2.4 Presentation to the Adoption Panel

See Section 2, Obtaining Agency Approval to Adoption Plan for circumstances when the case will be referred to the Adoption Panel, and when the case will be referred directly to the Agency Decision Maker. Where cases are referred directly to the Agency Decision Maker, Section 2.4 does not apply and the procedure is set out in 2.3, Referral Directly to Agency Decision Maker.

This must take place within 6 weeks of the completion of the Child's Permanence Report.

To enable the Adoption Panel to consider whether the child is suitable to be placed for adoption, the child's social worker must present the following reports:

  • The Child's Permanence Report (including the Medical Adviser's comments) signed by the child's social worker, the manager and the parent (if willing), and a photograph of the child, together with the parents' written comments (if any);
  • The child's health report and the health information obtained in relation to the parents (where the Medical Adviser so advises);
  • Where experts' assessments are available (including where they have been filed in Court proceedings), their contents and recommendations - even if not supportive of the adoption plan - should be presented to the Panel/Agency Decision Maker. The full reports should be presented. A written summary of such reports should only be provided if all parties to the court proceedings agree in writing that the summary is fair and accurate.

The child's social worker should send the relevant reports to the Panel Administrator at least 10 working days before the relevant date of the Adoption Panel.

The child's social worker, together with his or her manager if appropriate, will attend the Panel meeting during consideration of the matter. Where a Children's Guardian has been appointed, consideration should be given to inviting the Children's Guardian to the Panel during consideration of this item.

The Panel will consider the written reports and any additional information presented verbally. The Panel will make a recommendation to the Agency Decision Maker. Where the Panel recommends that the child should be placed for adoption, it must consider and may give advice as to future contact arrangements for the child and whether an application for a Placement Order should be made.

The recommendation and advice will be recorded in writing, together with reasons, in the Panel's minutes. A copy of the relevant minute must be held on the child's Adoption Case Record.

For cases which are presented to the Adoption Panel, the final minutes must be produced promptly and agreed by the Panel members and then sent to the Agency Decision Maker, together with the reports considered by the Panel, to allow the decision to be made within seven working days of receipt of the panel’s recommendation and final set of panel minutes.

The decision and reasons will be recorded in writing. Where the Agency Decision Maker is minded to disagree with the Panel recommendation, he/she must first discuss the case with another senior officer with relevant experience, who must not be a Panel member. This discussion must be recorded and placed on the child's Adoption Case Record.

2.5 After the Agency Decision

The parents should be informed orally of the agency’s decision by the social worker within two working days and written confirmation should be sent to them within five working days. The letter setting out the agency decision should be sent by recorded delivery, except where delivery by hand has been agreed as appropriate, in which case the social worker will deliver by hand. The child's social worker will also ensure that the child is informed of the decision in a timely and age-appropriate way.

In situations where the case has been presented to the Adoption Panel and the decision is different from the Panel's recommendation, a copy of the Panel minute should also be sent to the parents.

Where the Panel have recommended that a Placement Order be sought in relation to the child, and the Agency Decision Maker has agreed this, the child's social worker should consult Legal Services in order to prepare the Court application. The child's social worker should inform the child's Independent Reviewing Officer of the Court timetable including when the placement order application is filed.

Where there is parental consent to the child's adoptive placement and/or advance parental consent to the child's adoption, and the child is more than 6 weeks old, the child's social worker must send a written request to CAFCASS to appoint an officer to witness the consent. Where there is parental consent to the child's placement and the child is less than 6 weeks old, the social worker should ask the parents to sign a written agreement in the prescribed form to facilitate an early placement.

The social worker should send to the CAFCASS office closest to the parents' address, a certified copy of the child's birth certificate, the name and address of the parent, a chronology of the actions and decisions made by the local authority and confirmation that the parents have received counselling and written information on the legal implications of giving consent to the placement/adoption.

On receipt of the parent's consent witnessed by the CAFCASS officer, the original must be placed on the child's Adoption Case Record (as it will be required for the future adoption application).


3. Preparation of Child for Adoption

The child's social worker will ensure that Life Story Work with the child continues with the aim as far as possible that:

  • The child has an understanding of the reasons for the adoption plan and what adoption will mean;
  • The child has an opportunity to express his or her wishes and feelings about the future; and
  • The child has information on his or her birth family, which is kept safe and provided to the adopters and the child at the appropriate time.

As part of the above, the child's social worker will give the child a copy of the Children's Guide to Adoption as soon as adoption is part of the child's Care Plan. Any information given to the child should be confirmed in writing and any discussions with the child should be fully recorded. The child's preferred method of communication should be known and there should be no assumption that a child is unable to communicate. An interpreter should be arranged where necessary to ensure that there is effective communication with the child.

The social worker should specifically ensure that the child's wishes in relation to adoption, religious and cultural upbringing and contact with his or her birth family are ascertained.

Where a child's wishes are not acted upon, for example a child's wish to be placed with his or her siblings, this should be explained to the child, with reasons, and should be fully recorded.

The foster carer's supervising social worker will support the foster carers in the implementation of the plan, including careful recording by the foster carers of any changes in the child's behaviour.

Once an adoptive placement has been identified and approved, the child's social worker is responsible for ensuring the child is properly prepared for the first meeting with the prospective adoptive family and is appropriately counselled during the period of introductions.

As part of the preparation of the child for the adoptive placement, information will be provided to ensure that s/he has a proper understanding about the accommodation and others living at the prospective adoptive home, the contact arrangements with the birth family and how to contact his or her social worker.

The child's social worker will encourage the parents to write a 'Later Life' letter for the child, and to provide information to enable the social worker to write a 'Later Life' letter for the child (to give to the adopters) within 10 working days of adoption ceremony, i.e. the ceremony to celebrate the making of the adoption order.


4. Counselling and Support for Parents

Both parents must be offered counselling and support irrespective of whether they have Parental Responsibility unless there are exceptional circumstances, in which case legal advice should be taken and the reasons for not arranging counselling recorded.

It may also be appropriate for members of the extended family to receive counselling or support, where they have played a significant role in the child's life.

The child's social worker must explain to both parents (including a parent without Parental Responsibility) the reasons for the adoption plan and the key stages of the adoption process, including the likely time-scales and possible contact arrangements; in addition the social worker should provide them with written information on the adoption process covering the areas set out in the counselling support list below (see Section a) to g), l) and m)) and this should be recorded.

If either or both of the birth parents refuse to accept or do not receive the written information, this should be recorded, including the reasons, on the child's case file and Adoption Case Record.

Where the parents' address is known, the child's social worker should personally deliver or arrange for delivery by hand of a copy of the information to the address and record this on the Adoption Case Record.

The child's social worker must also seek to ascertain the parent's views on the matters set out in the counselling support list, (see Section h) and k)) below and offer to arrange independent support for both birth parents (including unmarried fathers). The purpose of the support is to ensure that the alternatives to adoption have been explored and the implications of adoption fully discussed. It also offers the parents the opportunity to express their views in relation to the plans for the child, and to be involved in planning for the child's future wherever possible. Where the offer of support is accepted, the social worker should make the necessary arrangements for a referral to PAC-UK (formerly After Adoption Yorkshire) for independent support to be made.

The support may need to be provided by a specialist worker, for example where the parent has poor mental health or learning disabilities. If so, the social worker should ensure that an appropriate resource is identified.

The specific needs of parents arising from their ethnicity must always be taken into account. An interpreter must be arranged where English is not their preferred language.

The counselling and support will cover the following areas:

  1. Explaining the key stages of the adoption process and likely time-scales;
  2. Explaining, where appropriate, the procedure for seeking a Placement Order;
  3. Explaining the parents' legal rights, including the right of the unmarried father to seek a Parental Responsibility Order or a Child Arrangements Order in relation to the child;
  4. Explaining the role of the Adoption Panel/Agency Decision Maker;
  5. Explaining the role of CAFCASS in witnessing consent or acting as the Children's Guardian;
  6. Explaining the way the Adoption Contact Register works and how an adopted adult may seek information about the birth family in the future or register a wish not to be contacted;
  7. Explaining how prospective adoptive parents are assessed;
  8. Ascertaining the parents' views on the adoption plan, including the selection of the adoptive family, any specific ethnic, cultural or religious needs of the child, and any plan to separate a sibling group. Their views on these issues should be recorded;
  9. Dealing with grief and loss;
  10. Where there is parental consent to the adoption, explaining the process for giving their written consent to an adoptive placement or advance consent to the adoption (including the role of CAFCASS), their right to state that they do not wish to be informed of an adoption application, and that they have the right to withdraw their consent to an adoptive placement at any time up to the making of an adoption application, but the restriction of their rights to do so after an adoption application has been made;
  11. Ascertaining the parents' views on post-placement and post-adoption contact including whether they would wish to meet the adoptive family and if so, how they might prepare for this;
  12. Providing information to the parents on national and local support groups, and other possible sources of help;
  13. Explaining how the parents may be able to provide information to be passed to adopters, for example, on the child's birth and early life, which may be of benefit to the child.

The parents should be encouraged to seek legal advice particularly where they are opposed to the adoption plan. Where there is an unmarried father without Parental Responsibility, the social worker should also ascertain if he intends to apply for a Parental Responsibility Order and a Child Arrangements Order.

The parents and their solicitors, if appropriate, must be sent copies of any written consents and/or recording of their views.

Where the parents refuse or decline to accept counselling and/or support, the child's social worker must record the attempts made to persuade the parents and the reasons for their refusal in the child's file and Adoption Case Record.

Where the parents are seeking to have an expected child adopted, the counselling must start before the baby's birth. In addition, the child's social worker must cover practical tasks such as the arrangements for the birth, the parents' own contact with the child after the birth, the intended length of the mother's hospital stay and their wishes regarding the timing of the placement. After the child's birth, the counselling and support must continue. The social worker should then confirm with the parents that they still wish to pursue adoption for the child.

The social worker should arrange for photographs to be taken of the child and, if they agree, the parents and other significant people and places, for inclusion in the child's Life Story Book.

4.1 Fathers without Parental Responsibility

If a father is married to the mother of his child he will share Parental Responsibility for the child. If an unmarried father is registered as the father on the child's birth certificate, he will automatically share parental responsibility. (ACA 2002, as of 1st December 2003).

Where the father of the child does not have parental responsibility and the father's identity is known to the agency, the agency is also required to provide him with a counselling service and ascertain his wishes and feelings about the above. The agency must take "all reasonable steps" to trace and counsel the birth father.

The agency is also required to ascertain as far as possible whether a father without parental responsibility:

  • Intends to apply for parental responsibility for the child (under S.4 CA 1989);
  • Or intends to apply for:

Whether an unmarried father or one not registered on the child’s birth certificate, enjoys rights bestowed by Article 8 (under the Human Rights Act 1998) - right to respect for family life - will depend on the facts of the case, but the facts may be hard to establish and open to dispute. Therefore the social worker should always obtain legal advice in such cases.

4.2 Parents who wish to Relinquish their Child for Adoption

If the mother has not yet given birth to the child, the allocated social worker should provide the mother with pre-birth counselling, which should include explaining the options for the child's future care:

  • Staying with the parent or parents, with close support where possible e.g. a mother and baby foster placement;
  • Short term foster care, with the aim of returning the child with support;
  • Long term placement within the child's wider family;
  • Placement for adoption.

So far as reasonably practicable, the mother should be given an explanation of the procedures for placement for adoption and the legal implications of adoption. This must include that her consent to her child's adoption will not be effective until 6 weeks after the child's birth. As with Counselling and Support for Parents above the agency should ascertain her wishes and feelings.

The social worker should also provide pre-birth counselling and ascertain the wishes and feelings of the expected child's father. Where the father's identity is known to the agency the social worker (under AAR 14) should also counsel him and any other person the agency considers relevant to the child and ascertain their wishes and feelings. Social workers should establish through discussion with the parent whether any family member would be in a position to offer to care for the child and whether they would have the parent's support to do this. In the case of any conflict of interest the social worker must seek legal advice.

Discussions with relinquishing parents should include whether the parent wants to see and hold their baby after birth, and/or have contact after relinquishing care. Relinquishing parents should have as much contact with their baby as they wish and as is practicable before making their final decision about the child being placed for adoption. If the parent is prepared to be consulted about the choice of adopters, non-identifying information should be shared with the parent to allow them to be involved in the matching process.

The agency should consider the care options for the child at a Care Planning Meeting. Where the agency considers that adoption is the preferred option it should:

  • Commence the child's permanence report and the health report;
  • Arrange for the agency medical advisor, adoption panel and adoption service to be ready to consider the case as soon as possible after the child is born. In some cases it may be feasible with enough preparation for the adoption panel to be ready to consider the case within a day or so of the birth.

When the child is born, the social worker should counsel the mother, and if applicable, the father to ascertain whether they still wish to relinquish care of the child and would support a plan for adoption. If they do, the agency should complete the Child Permanence Report, health report and any other reports. These should be submitted to the adoption panel, for it to consider whether the child should be placed for adoption,and where this is the case, whether the child should be matched with particular prospective adopters.

Where a child is less than six weeks old at the time the agency makes its decision it should not seek to obtain formal consent to placement for adoption: S.52(3) of the Act makes it clear that any consent given by the mother is ineffective if given when the child is aged under six weeks.

In such a case, unless an application has been made for a care order and has not been determined by the court, the agency should seek to ascertain whether the parent or guardian is prepared to agree to the baby being placed for adoption. If the parent or guardian is prepared to make such an agreement, they should be asked to sign an agreement form. The agency should place the signed agreement form on the child's adoption case record.

The allocated social worker should provide additional counselling for the parent where it is seeking to obtain their signed agreement to the placement for adoption of their child if aged under six weeks of age. It should be made clear orally and in writing that the parent retains full parental responsibility until:

  • They give their consent under S. 19 or S 20 of the Adoption and Children Act, after the child reaches the age of six weeks;
  • Or a Placement Order is made;
  • Or an Adoption Order is made.

There is a BAAF information booklet for birth parents which includes information on S. 19 and S.20 consent and this information should be provided to the parent as part of the counselling process. It can be obtained from the adoption agency administrator at West Offices.

After the child is six weeks old, the agency will need to arrange for the parent to give their formal consent to the child being placed for adoption. The agency should therefore try to maintain contact with the child's parent to ascertain whether they would be prepared to consent to:

  • Placement of the child for adoption under S. 19 of the Act;
  • Or placement of the child for adoption under S.19 of the Act, as above, and to the making of a future adoption order under S.20 of the Act.

S.19 of the Act provides for parents to be able to give their consent to the child being placed for adoption through an adoption agency. The parents or guardian may consent to the child being placed with specific prospective adopters identified in the consent or with prospective adopters chosen later by the agency. Consent to placement for adoption may be combined (at the same time or subsequently) with advance consent to the making of a future adoption order (under S.20 of the Act).

The parents or guardian may decide at this point or subsequently that they do not wish to be notified of the final adoption order hearing. Consent to placement or the making of a future adoption order is ineffective after an application for an adoption order is made (S.52 (4) of the Act).

Specific prospective adopters do not have to be identified by name to the child's parents, so that where appropriate their anonymity can be safeguarded. For example, they could be identified as adopters 'A', and by reference to the adoption service reference number, and their family and home could be described in general terms to give the parents an impression of the family with whom their child may be placed.

Where the parents wish to consent to placement, the signing of the consent to placement from (which is a prescribed form) must be witnessed by a CAFCASS officer (under S.20 of the Act) to ensure that it is properly given, and that the parents fully understand its implications.

The agency is required to request that CAFCASS appoint an officer to witness the parent or guardian's consent. The social worker must send with their request the information specified in Schedule 2 (AAR)).

For consent to be effective, the appointed CAFCASS officer will need to be satisfied that the parent or guardian fully understands the consequences of giving consent and that they do so unconditionally. The CAFCASS officer will then need to witness the formal signing by the parent or guardian of the consent to placement form. The CAFCASS officer will also sign the form and notify the agency, sending on the signed consent form with the written notification. The CAFCASS officer will keep a copy of the original signed consent form. The agency must keep the original signed consent form and any notifications on the adoption case record held within the adoption service. A parent or guardian who has given consent may subsequently give consent to the making of a future adoption order (under S.20 of the Act) by signing the appropriate consent form. This again must be witnessed by a CAFCASS officer.

Where the CAFCASS officer is not satisfied that a parent wishes to give their full consent, or has doubts that they fully understand its implications, or considers that they are not competent to give consent, they should notify the agency. In these circumstances consent (under S.19) cannot be given.

Where consent is given under S.19 the adoption service is authorised to place the child for adoption. With authority to place the child for adoption (but where the child is not yet placed), parental responsibility is shared between the agency and parents to the extent decided by the agency (under S.25 of the Act).

When there is an application for an adoption order to the court, it should be accompanied by the original signed and witnessed consent form. The agency will need to ensure that prospective adopters are aware of this requirement. A copy of the consent form will not be acceptable for the court and the agency should ensure it safeguards the original form and should arrange for it to be sent by hand or recorded delivery.

The adoption service may place a child who is less than six weeks old and has been relinquished for adoption without consent under S.19 of the Act, or a Placement Order, but the agency must have the parent's written agreement. In the latter case, the agency may place the child (but is not authorised to place the child for adoption within the meaning of the Act and the agency should seek formal written consent (under S.19 of the Act) from the parents when the child reaches six weeks of age.

4.3 Withdrawal of Consent

The Act allows the child's parents withdraw their consent to the child's placement for adoption at any time up to the point where the prospective adopters apply for an adoption order.

If the parents decide to withdraw their consent (by prescribed form or by notice to the Local Authority), the placement is classed as unauthorised and the child must be returned to the parent within specific timescales unless the local authority considers the child’s welfare and safety would be compromised by this. In such cases, legal advice should be sought as to whether the local authority would need to apply for a Placement Order. An application for a Placement Order would prevent the child's removal until such time as the court had decided whether to make the Placement order. Where parents have given consent to their child being placed for adoption and have not withdrawn it before the prospective adopters apply for the adoption order (the child must be placed for at least 10 weeks before an adoption order can be applied for), they may only oppose the final adoption order with the leave of the Court, and the Court may only grant leave if it is satisfied there has been a change of circumstances since the parents gave their consent to placement.


5. Post-Placement Contact

The child's social worker must undertake a written assessment as to the best interests of the child to regarding any contact proposals as part of an adoption plan, or reasons why no contact is recommended. This assessment will take account of the views of the child, the parents, the foster carers and any other significant family members, as well as evidence of attachment and the quality of relationships, based on observations of contact and the child's behaviour before, during and after contact.

Where there is a sibling group, each child must be assessed separately and together as a group.

The assessment should determine whether post-placement and post-adoption contact between the child and the parents and/or siblings would be in the child's best interests, and if so, what form it should take. The nature and frequency of contact will be influenced by the need to maintain attachments and/or long-term identity issues.

Post-placement and post-adoption contact may take the following forms:

  1. Adoptive parents and the birth family sharing non-identifying information about themselves through post-box contact organised and maintained by the adoption service (two way indirect contact);
  2. Direct face-to-face contact between the child and the birth family, which may be organised and maintained by the adoption service, where such continuing support is appropriate.

The social worker should complete post box agreement forms with parents and the child (if of sufficient age) and any other relevant family members. These forms and attendant guidance can be obtained from the adoption service administrator.

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

Where post-placement and post-adoption contact is considered to be in the child's interests, it should be part of the information shared with prospective adoptive parents during the matching process and also part of the planning of the placement.

When making an Adoption Order, or at any time afterwards, the court may (upon application or on its own initiative) make an order for contact with, or an order prohibiting contact with, the person(s) named in the order. Such orders have effect until the child’s 18th birthday, unless revoked sooner.

An order for contact requires the adopter to allow the child to visit, stay with or otherwise have contact with, the person named in the order.

The following people may be named in an order:

  • Any person who (but for the child’s adoption) would be related to the child by blood (including half-blood), marriage or civil partnership;
  • Any former guardian of the child;
  • Any person who had Parental Responsibility for the child immediately before the making of the Adoption Order;
  • Any person with whom the child has lived for a period of at least one year (this period need not be continuous, but must be within the last 5 years);
  • Any person who had a previous order for contact under Children Act 1989, which order ceased to have effect upon the agency being authorised to place the child for adoption;
  • Any person who had a Child Arrangements Order (previously Residence Order) immediately before the agency was authorised to place the child for adoption;
  • Any person who had care of the child under the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court immediately before the agency was authorised to place the child for adoption.

The adopters or the child may apply without the leave of the court, whilst any other person, including the child’s birth parents and other birth relatives, e.g. grandparents or siblings, would need the court’s leave to apply.

In deciding whether to grant leave to apply, the court must consider:

  • Any risk there might be of the proposed application disrupting the child’s life to such an extent that s/he would be harmed by it (within the meaning of the 1989 Act);
  • The applicant’s connection with the child; and
  • Any representations made to the court by the child and/or the adopter/prospective adopter.

Orders may contain directions about how they are to take effect, or may be made subject to such conditions as the court thinks appropriate.

The court will issue a timetable and directions with the aim of resolving the application without delay.

Applications prohibiting contact are unlikely to be necessary in the majority of cases and are only likely to be appropriate to stop unwanted, unsolicited and potentially harmful contact with the child, or to prevent such contact happening.

The circumstances in which a birth parent, relative or other person are most likely to seek the court’s leave to apply for an order for contact after adoption are where an agreement for some form of continuing contact had been made, but was not adhered to.

Application can be made to the court to vary or revoke such orders, by the child, adopter or person named in the order.

End