SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This procedure applies to applications in relation to adoptive placements that have not been arranged by a local authority or registered adoption agency, other than children brought into the UK for the purposes of adoption. This will include adoption applications by step-parents, relatives, private foster carers or local authority foster carers who have not sought or obtained the local authority's approval for the placement becoming an adoptive placement.
In relation to such applications, the residence requirements are as follows:
- If the applicant or one of the applicants is the partner of the parent of the child, the child must have lived with the applicants continuously for 6 months prior to the application;
- If the applicants are local authority foster carers, the child must have lived with the applicants continuously for 12 months prior to the application;
- In any other case, the child must have lived with the applicant(s) for three out of the last five years prior to the application or the Court must have granted leave for an earlier application.
For the procedure in relation to children who have been brought into the UK for the purposes of adoption.
AMENDMENTThis chapter was reviewed and amended in November 2015. It has been noted that such applicants need two referees.
1. Initial Contact
Where residents of the borough request advice by letter, telephone or in person in relation to a non-agency adoption, the matter should be referred to the Adoption Service where the duty social worker should complete a Referral Record and offer the enquirer general information. This may be by telephone or an office interview may be arranged.
The prospective applicants should be offered information and advice on the adoption process and the implications of adoption, including the following:
- Alternatives to adoption;
- The child's need to know that s/he is adopted and have information about the birth family;
- The requirement for the consent of parents with Parental Responsibility to be obtained;
- The role of the Reporting Officer and Children's Guardian;
- The need to notify the local authority of their intention to apply for an Adoption Order.
If it is clear that the applicants do not fulfil the criteria of Domicile/Habitual Residence in the UK, the duty social worker should advise them to obtain legal advice.
Following receipt of information, if the prospective applicants state they wish to proceed, they will be offered an initial visit by an adoption social worker experienced in non-agency adoptions to discuss their prospective application in more detail.
When it is established that the family concerned wish to pursue adoption, the case should be allocated to a social worker in the Adoption Service. The allocated worker must fulfil the qualifications and experience criteria.
Where a foster carer is making a non-agency application to adopt a Looked After child, with the support of the local authority, the case will be allocated as soon as possible.
Applicants for adoption, in the case of non-agency placements, must notify the local authority for the area where they live of their intention to apply for an Adoption Order. The notification should be sent at least three months and not more than two years before the date of the adoption application.
Any such notification received should be passed to the Adoption Team Manager who will arrange for the notification to be acknowledged and, if not already allocated, allocate the case to an adoption social worker. The allocated worker must fulfil the qualifications and experience criteria.
Upon receipt of the notification, the local authority will have a duty to supervise the welfare of the child, see Section 5, Local Authority Duty to Supervise Child. (This replaces the previous status of 'the protected child').
An Adoption Case Record should be opened for the child or each of the children involved.
As soon as practicable after notification is received, the allocated adoption social worker will leave forms for the prospective adopters to complete for Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks for all members of the household aged 18 or over.
3. Medical Information
Except where the application is by a step parent in which case a medical report is not required, the adoption social worker will check that the applicants(s) and the child have received a medical examination before the adoption application is submitted.
If medical examinations are required, the adoption social worker will provide the applicants with the relevant CoramBAAF medical forms for completion. These should be submitted to the Court with the adoption application and the Court will send copies to the local authority when a Court report is requested. Upon receipt, the completed medical forms should be passed by the adoption social worker to the Medical Adviser for comment. These comments should then be included in the Court report (see Section 6, Court Request for Report).
4. Other Checks
On receipt of the notification of intention to apply to adopt, the adoption social worker should arrange a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check on the applicants and any member of the household aged 18 or over. Forms should be left for the prospective adopters to complete as soon as practicable after notification of an intention to adopt is received.
Consent should also be obtained for checks to be carried out with the local authority, Probation and the health trust - and the necessary checks should be made.
The prospective adopters should also be asked for the names of two personal referees.
5. Local Authority Duty to Supervise Child
On receipt of a notification in relation to a child, the adoption social worker must supervise the child until an Adoption Order is made.
The aim of the supervision is:
- To ensure the child is well cared for and in receipt of appropriate health and education services;
- To support the prospective adopters and help them focus on the task of integrating the child into their family and of providing the child with full information about his or her background and birth family.
All visits should be recorded, including whether the child was seen and if so, whether the child was seen alone.
The duty to supervise will continue until an Adoption Order is made or until notification is given that the prospective applicants no longer intend to apply to adopt.
Prospective applicants should be asked to clarify their intentions if there is a delay and no adoption application is lodged. If this is not forthcoming, the adoption social worker involved should write to the prospective applicants indicating that unless confirmation is provided of an intention to adopt, it will be assumed that the notification is withdrawn. In any event, after 2 years the notification will lapse.
6. Court Request for Report
Where a Court receives an adoption application in relation to a non-agency adoptive placement, the Court will notify the local authority of the hearing date and request a Report be prepared and submitted to the Court, usually within 6 weeks of the receipt of the notification. The Court timescales should be clarified at an early stage and if more time is required, a written request must be submitted to the Court as soon as the need for an extension is identified.
The adoption social worker responsible for the supervision of the child will be responsible for preparing the Report, and for this purpose should gather available information on the child and parents - see sections below.
The allocated worker must fulfil the qualifications and experience criteria.
Once completed, the adoption social worker should send the Court Report to the Adoption Team Manager for approval and the social worker will forward it to the Court within the required timescale.
See chapter on Court Reports in Adoption/Special Guardianship Guidance for the contents required for the Court Report.
7. Parental Consent
The adoptive applicants will have to indicate in their adoption application whether or not there is Parental Consent to Adoptive Placement. If the parents do not consent, it is for the applicants to ask the Court to dispense with the agreement of the parent or parents.
The adoption social worker preparing the report should attempt to interview both birth parents in relation to the adoption application and ascertain their views. If the parents do not live within a reasonable travelling distance, the social worker may request that a social worker from the local authority for the area where the birth parents now live interview them.
The report should address the significance of the role played so far by the birth parents in the child's life and the implications of an Adoption Order for any future parental role.
8. Child's Wishes and Feelings
The social worker should speak to the child to ascertain his or her wishes and feelings in relation to the adoption and report on these to the Court. Where the child is not aware of the adoption application, the social worker should discuss with the adopters the best way to address this so that the child's views can be obtained.
The discussion with the child should address any confusion on the part of the child in relation to the implications of an Adoption Order for example where the adoptive applicant is a relative.
9. The Applicants
The report will need to comment on the strength and duration of any new family relationships, particularly in the case of an adoption application by a step parent. Where there is limited evidence of the strength and stability of the relationship, the applicants should be advised to consider deferring the application until there is more evidence of stability.
In addition, alternatives to adoption should be discussed and explored with the applicants, who should be encouraged to consider them.
For example where the main concern is the child's name, the applicants should be advised to seek legal advice on how to achieve this without the need for an adoption order.
10. Adoption Support
Other than an application by a step parent, the adoption social worker should consider the likely need of the child and adoptive family for adoption support. See Adoption Support Services Procedure.
11. Alternatives to Adoption
The report should address any alternatives to adoption, which may offer a better framework for the child and the birth parents' future role.
12. Adoption Hearing
The adoption social worker responsible for preparing the report should attend the adoption hearing.
13. After the Court Process
Once the adoption proceedings are complete, the social worker should complete the child's Adoption Case Record.