Nottingham City Safeguarding Children’s Board Procedures Manual
Nottingham City Safeguarding Children’s Board Procedures Manual Nottingham City Safeguarding Children’s Board Procedures Manual

6.2.17 Adopters Fostering Specific Children

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

The purpose of this procedure is to promote the earliest possible placement of young children with adoptive families. This is only for cases where there are legal proceedings.


Contents

  1. Principles
  2. Process
  3. Foster Panel and Fostering Regulations
  4. Adoption
  5. Unborn Babies Whose Parents Have a History of Births Ending In Adoption

    Appendix 1 - to follow

    Appendix 2 - Adopters Approval as Foster Carers for Specific Child/Ren

    Appendix 3 - to follow


1. Principles

All children need a permanent, secure and loving home where they can bond and attach from as young an age as possible. Delay in permanent placement can be damaging to young children and this Department promotes a positive, permanent outcome for children with the minimum of delay.

Every year there are a small number of babies and young children under 2 years where there is a very high likelihood that they will be ultimately adopted but the full legal processes will take time to complete.

These legal proceedings can take from months to a year and sometimes longer and during this time children cannot be formally placed for adoption.

To enable these children to be placed with adopters as young as possible some adopters may choose to become approved as foster carers. This enables children to be placed with them, initially on a foster basis, at a younger age.

These processes only apply for:

  • Adopters already approved by Adoption Panel;
  • Specific children where an adoption plan has been agreed at Adoption Panel and the legal advice is that there is a very high likelihood of a Placement order, Care Order and Adoption Order being ultimately granted.

In cases where there is a substantial history of consecutive births which have ultimately ended in placements for adoption the procedures in Section 5, Unborn Babies Whose Parents Have a History of Births Ending In Adoption must be followed instead. The legal position of these babies will differ from those described above in that at the time of referral there will be no Interim Care Order (ICO) or Placement Order and the Child's Permanence Report and Adoption Plan will not yet have been agreed by Adoption Panel.


2. Process

A child can be identified as potentially suitable to place under fostering regulations by:

  • Child's social worker;
  • Adoption panel;
  • Adoption homefinders.

During the assessment of potential adopters the possibility of young children being placed under fostering regulations has already been discussed with them and presented with their Prospective Adoption Report (PAR) to adoption panel. They have signed a form expressing their potential interest and attended a briefing specifically for this (See Appendix 1). A small number of approved adopters who are willing to undertake this are therefore already known to the Adoption Homefinders and Adoption Team.

On identifying a potential situation the Fieldworker Team Manager will liaise with the Team Manager Adoption, Assessment & Support, and Team Manager with responsibility for Homefinding. They will discuss the particular legal circumstances and identify any potential approved adopters. The situation will be discussed with the adopters support social worker.

If the link seems to have potential the PAR will be sent to the child's Social Worker by an allocated adoption homefinder.

A potential 'paper' match will be considered by the child's social worker, with input from the adoption homefinder, and, as for any adoption match, all aspects of the adopter's ability to meet the child's needs will be considered.

If the child's social worker wishes to proceed further they contact the adopters support worker and send full information on the child (child's permanence report, health report).

The particular risks that may arise out of fostering placement prior to adoption must be identified at this stage and be made explicit so all parties will be fully aware of them from the start. These can be:

  • The risk that the court may not grant a Care Order or that the child is placed with relatives;
  • As a fostering placement there may be continuing contact with the birth family until the care proceedings are completed;
  • The confidentiality of the placement may be more difficult to maintain.

In all cases legal advice must be sought about the potential suitability and risks of placing this child with adopters but on a fostering basis.

The adopters support social worker contacts their approved adopters and discusses the potential match.

If the adopters wish to take this further, full information on the child is sent to them and a joint meeting arranged with the child's social worker and their support worker, as for any potential adoption match. A further meeting is sometimes appropriate before a decision can be made.

If the child's social workers and adopters wish to proceed then an additional meeting must be set up to fully discuss the additional implications of fostering that specific child. There are many issues that are raised by fostering prior to adoption and they must be looked at so all parties are given the opportunity to make a decision with full information and 'eyes open'. The issues are:

  • Acceptance of potentially losing the child;
  • Contact and the emotional impact on adopters;
  • Any implications for children already in their family;
  • What to share with the wider family and friends;
  • Employment, adoption leave and the financial implications of this. This can be complex as no matching certificate can be given at this point and employers cannot give adoption leave. However fostering allowances will be paid;
  • The potential adopters fully understanding fostering regulations and that they will not have parental responsibility for the child. They must comply with fostering regulations including supervisory visits, reviews;
  • Name of child.
See Appendix 1 for fuller details of what should be discussed.

If all parties wish to proceed an adoption support plan (as for any adoption) must be drawn up to make sure all future support needs for the child and adoptive family have been addressed.


3. Foster Panel and Fostering Regulations

Before the child can be placed the adopters must be approved as child specific foster carers. The case has to be booked into Foster Panel.

The papers to submit to panel are: the adopter's Prospective Adopters Report (PAR), the Adoption Panel Minutes of the Plan for the Child, the approval minutes of the adopters and the form "Adopters Approval as Foster Carers for Specific Children" (See Appendix 2, Adopters Approval as Foster Carers for Specific Child/Ren).

On the Foster Panel's recommendation and Departmental Approval the 'adopters' sign the foster carer agreement.

The support worker for the adopters become the supervisory social worker for the fostering placement and must also comply with fostering regulations eg visits, supervision, children's review and any other matters.

The child can then be placed using the same care and procedures as in arranging any adoption introduction.


4. Adoption

Once a placement Order and Care Order have been obtained the match can then be presented to Adoption Panel. The Adopters Placement Report must give up to date information on the fostering placement and include how the child has settled and how the adopters have responded. An Adoption Support Plan must be completed.

On the recommendation and approval by Adoption Panel the child's social worker must notify CAS in writing of the placement date with post placement information - name by which child known, GP, health and education authority.

The notification of placement under adoption regulations is sent out as soon as the confirmation of the placement date is received.

Thereafter all visits and reviews follow the Adoption Regulations and Procedures.


5. Unborn Babies Whose Parents Have a History of Births Ending In Adoption

There are some parents where there is a substantial history of consecutive births that have ultimately ended in placements for adoption. In these cases, where there has been no change in circumstances, the baby may be placed with adopters who agree to become their foster carers. However, if there are different circumstances then full assessments of the birth families potential to care for a baby must be made prior to considering adoption.

These processes do not apply to babies being relinquished for adoption, ie where consent is being given by the birth parent(s). This Practice Guidance refers to babies where legal proceedings will be initiated.

On learning about a pregnancy a Single Assessment must be completed and the case passed to a fieldwork team for an allocated Social Worker.

The Social Worker must access previous information on both the birth mother and father and make a pre-birth assessment of their capability to care for a child either together or separately.

If the circumstances indicate that the birth parents suitability to care has not changed the Social Worker must convene an Initial Child Protection Case Conference.

If the ICPC and legal advice indicates that an EPO or ICO can be applied for on the birth of the baby an assessment of the wider family's ability to care must be made. This will include both the mother's and father's (including putative father's) relatives.

As much information on the birth parents history, including medical history, must be obtained. The previous siblings Child Permanence Reports can be accessed.

The child's Team Manager will liaise with the Team Manager, Adoption with responsibility for Homefinding, when the potential to place the unborn baby with dual status adopters as foster carers becomes apparent.

The Homefinding Team Manager will convene a Planning Meeting, which must also include a Panel Legal Advisor, (see Appendix 3) to:

  • Identify any outstanding work/assessments that will need to be completed regarding the explorations of any potential birth family placements. Previous birth family assessments & Adoption Panel minutes of any siblings must be examined at this meeting together with evidence that there have been no changes in lifestyle of the birth parents;
  • To look at the unborn child's needs regarding matching considerations;
  • To look at any previous placements where siblings have been placed for adoption and explore contacting their adopters to consider the potential for the baby to be placed with their siblings. Wherever possible, siblings should be placed together, but in each case the suitability of the adopters to enlarge their family further must be assessed. Any prospective adopter has to be reassessed by the adoption team and reapproved by Adoption Panel before a baby can be placed. If this is the preferred option, the process must be started as early as possible by contacting the adoption Team Manager.

When any of the outstanding tasks have been completed an allocated homefinder will identify any potential adopters who previously registered an interest in also being approved as foster carers. The homefinder will send the child's social worker the Prospective Adopters Report. Ideally more than one family will be offered.

The homefinder and child's social worker will meet to consider the potential match(s) and select the preferred match and identify further issues to explore and discuss with the adopters.

The child's social worker then contacts the adopters support social worker to discuss the case and sends as much information as possible to them, including past history and medical information on the birth parents.

The specific risks that may arise out of fostering prior to adoption must be identified at this stage, and be made explicit so all parties will be fully aware of them from the start. These may be:

  • The risk that the court may not grant an ICO and ultimately a placement order or that the court asks for further assessments and the child is placed with relatives;
  • As a fostering placement there may be continuing contact with the birth family until care proceedings are concluded;
  • The confidentiality of the placement may be more difficult to maintain;
  • Financial implications as adoption leave and therefore pay cannot be granted by employers. However, carers will be eligible for fostering payments.

The adopters support Social Worker contacts the adopters and discusses the potential match.

If the adopters wish to take this further as much information on the child's background, maternal and paternal history, reason for care proceedings and medical histories of both parents is sent to them. Ideally, this should be in the format of the Child's Permanence Report.

If the adopters continue to express an interest a joint meeting is arranged with them, their adoption social worker and the child's social worker, as for any potential adoption match. The procedure above (See Section 2, Process) must be followed.

If all parties wish to proceed then the adopters have to be approved as child specific foster carers by Foster Panel. The papers to submit to panel are:

  • The Prospective Adopters Report
  • Any reports on the unborn child's background, reason for previous Care Proceedings and medical information on birth parents.
  • The minutes of the ICPC and any legal advice.

On the Foster Panel's recommendation and Departmental approval of the potential adopters as foster carers, they sign the foster carer agreement. The adopters support worker becomes supervisory social worker for the fostering placement and must comply with fostering regulations.

A Planning Meeting will then be convened and chaired by the child's fieldwork Team Manager to ensure that all parties are aware of the birth plan.

On the birth of the baby an Emergency Placement Order (EPO) or ICO must be applied for immediately. If granted a LAC review must be held to consider whether adoption is in the child's best interest. The baby can only be placed with their foster carers/potential adopters after these two processes have been completed.

The child's Permanence Report should be presented to Adoption Panel within 2 months of the birth. It must include the baby's 6 week adoption medical.

The placement cannot become an adoptive one until the court grants the placement order.

The adoption match can then be presented to Adoption Panel and the procedures under Section 4 now apply.

End