Foster Carers who wish to Adopt a Child who they are Currently Fostering
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This chapter discusses the issue of Foster Carers who wish to adopt a child who is in placement with them and recognises that this may be desirable where the child has a clear attachment to the carers and there are potential long term risks for the child with respect to their emotional attachment should they move.
This chapter was reviewed and refreshed in December 2020.
The plan for every child looked after must be to achieve Permanence. For some children, this can best be realised by the foster carers with whom they live becoming the adoptive parents.
However, it is important that any decision about foster carers adopting their foster children is based on sound consideration of the potential of the carers as adoptive parents and that this will be in the best long-term interests of the children.
Knowsley's policy is that only in exceptional circumstances will foster carers be assessed by the agency as adopters for children they foster. This is because it is not good use of resources or particularly appropriate to carry out an adoption assessment where the prospective adopters have a particular child in mind and even if approved as adopters there is no guarantee that they would then be matched with that child.
However, the agency may support the adoption of the child by the carers through private law.
2. Foster Carers as Adopters
A skilled foster carer cannot be assumed to be an appropriate adoptive parent. Some different competencies are required, such as:
- Acceptance that they are providing a permanent home for the child no matter what behaviour the child may present;
- Acknowledgement that support will be offered but in a different way from the support available to foster carers;
- Acceptance that they may have to manage birth family contact without the high level of support they have previously received as foster carers;
- Ability and willingness to take on Parental Responsibility for the child and a financial and emotional commitment for life.
When adoption becomes the plan for a child, foster carers who have formed a close attachment to the fostered child may ask to be considered as adoptive parents. This should always be considered carefully by the regional adoption services (Adoption in Merseyside) and the appropriate planning, matching and timescales for the child be taken into consideration. Research indicates that such placements for permanence can promote the security of a child and encourage the development of a healthy attachment to the foster carers' family.
In such cases, the matter will be referred to the Head of Service for the children looked after and fostering service.
They will meet with the appropriate Team Managers and social workers to consider:
- The assessment of the child's needs and the foster carers' ability to meet those needs via adoption;
- The availability of other adopters for the child, particularly for young children under 3 years without complex needs;
- The length of placement, quality of the attachment and risks to the child's emotional well-being of disrupting the attachment;
- The contact plans for the child;
- Any risk to the child from the birth parents having current placement knowledge of the foster carer;
- The foster carer's intentions regarding continuing as short-term carers for other placements and the likely impact of this on the child needing permanence.
The child's social worker has a role in ensuring that the placement will meet the long-term needs of the child. The foster carers' supervising social worker has a role to ensure the foster carers have considered the impact on themselves and their family of a decision to commit long term to a particular child for whom they will resume Parental Responsibility in its entirety for.
Often the elements that would normally be considered to make a good match may only be partly present, e.g. the carers may be older than ideal. However the positive advantages of maintaining an existing relationship of quality, the perceived durability of this relationship, the benefits of maintaining existing networks of support are all factors that need to be considered and a balance of risks and rewards considered against the uncertainty of seeking to find an elusive "other" placement that may never materialise.
It may also be appropriate for the Head of Service or Fostering Team Manager to meet the foster carers to discuss their interest in adopting the child.
Where the proposed match seems likely to meet the needs of the child, the foster carers will be advised to pursue the adoption through private law and that the costs of this will be underwritten by the agency.
Where the match does not appear to be in the child's best interests the foster carers will be advised that any application will have to be pursued through private law, but that the agency will not support this or underwrite the costs. In such cases thought must then be given as to whether the current placement remains the appropriate for the child.
If foster carers do adopt under any circumstances this will not necessarily preclude them from continuing to foster either immediately or in the future. This matter should be determined through an assessment process and include the views of the adoption manager and child's social worker in respect of the adopted child and their needs for permanence.In all case where the foster carer is considering a long-term commitment to the child the potential of this to be secured through the making of a Special Guardianship Order or Child Arrangements Order, as well as an Adoption Order, must be thoroughly explored. Where a foster carer secures either Order, financial support will be considered as per Knowsley policies and procedures and will be subject to a financial assessment.