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

6.1.9 Foster Carers Adopting

Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Foster Carers as Adopters
  3. Process for Enquiring
  4. Formally Applying to Adopt
  5. Timescales and Adoptions without Local Authority Agreement


1. Introduction

The plan for every Looked After child 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 assessment of the potential of the carers as adoptive parents and that this will be in the best long-term interests of the children.

A guiding principle must be that foster carer applications receive the same standard of assessment, preparation and training, information sharing and support as any other carers.


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 ads foster carers
  • Ability and willingness to take on Parental Responsibility for the child and a financial and emotional commitment for life

Experience has shown that foster carers who have adopted their foster children without a period of preparation and adjustment can have difficulties. Foster carers wishing to adopt will therefore be provided with the same package of preparation, assessment and support that is provided to other adopters.

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. 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.

Each case should be considered individually, bearing in mind the following factors:

  • 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 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 carers’ 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.

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.

Where the proposed match seems likely to meet the needs of the child, applications from foster carers to be recognised as long-term carers for a child should be positively welcomed. The financial implications of such placements, particularly those involving other agency carers, require a clear analysis of risks and benefits along with prior agreement from the relevant budget holder to secure long term funding.

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 may be paid.


3. The Process for Enquiring

There has to be an Looked After Child (LAC.) Review recommendation by an Independent Reviewing Officer that adoption would be in the child’s best interest before any enquiry by the foster carer can start.

If the foster carer wishes to proceed they must write to the Service Manager, Adoption, expressing an interest in adopting the child.

The foster carer’s supervising social worker will arrange a professionals meeting - the Foster Carer Adoption Proposal Meeting. The meeting is chaired by the Service Manager, Adoption and the following people should be involved: the child’s social worker and social workers for other children in the placement, together with their team managers; the foster carers supervising social worker; a worker from the adoption home finding team. The foster carer(s) can also attend, if they wish but may in certain circumstances join only part of the meeting.

Reports to be considered at the meeting must be with the chair, Service Manager, Adoption, a week before the meeting. They are :

  • Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks and information on the placement from the supervising social worker
  • Reason for the adoption enquiry
  • Up to date medical information
  • Last LAC Review on child with the Best Interest Decision
  • Last foster carers review

The meeting will consider:

  • The child’s plan
  • The quality of the child’s attachment with the foster family
  • Any complaints
  • How the placement met the needs of the child including the educational needs
  • Impact of adoption on other children
  • Health and age of foster carer
  • Accommodation and family environment
  • Any finance and resource implications
  • What alternative placements are available and the risks to the child’s well-being of moving
  • Any factors which may preclude adoption

The meeting will consider the potential impact of the proposed adoption on every person involved. The meeting will be minuted by adoption staff. The meeting will make a recommendation/decision as to whether the request to adopt shall be supported by the department or not.


4. Formally Applying to Adopt

If the decision of the meeting is to support the foster carers’ request to adopt their foster child they are then invited to fill in an application to adopt. This process is started by the chair, (Service Manager, Adoption) sending a copy of the minutes to the Recruitment Team Manager and Adoption Team Manager. An adoption recruitment pack is sent to the foster carers.

The foster carers then become child specific adoption applicants and have to fill in and complete all the adoption application forms.

A child specific adoption assessment in the form of a Prospective Adopters Report will be undertaken by an Adoption Social Worker in conjunction with the child’s social worker.

The assessment will comply with all adoption regulations and all statutory checks, medicals and reference will have to be satisfactorily met. If the carers’ enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check was completed more than a year previously, it will need to be renewed. Three personal references will be needed and visited.

As the foster carers have been previously assessed and approved by the department much will be known about them. However, they were assessed for a different caring role and their adoption assessment should consider anew their parenting capacities and skills for meeting the child’s needs throughout their childhood and beyond.

Foster carers as prospective adopters must attend all identified pre-approval training for adopters.

The assessment should be completed and presented to adoption panel 8 months after the application forms have been received.


5. Timescales and Adoption without Local Authority Agreement

Foster carers who wish to adopt the child they are fostering and where the child has lived with them for a year can notify the department of their intention to apply to adopt that child. The foster carers may then apply direct to the court, without receiving the agreement of this department. When notified, the department has a duty to investigate the applications and prepare a report for the court. The previous processes in section 2 - 3 above are then circumvented.

It is unfortunate if these circumstances arise because the department’s own considered decision on the child’s best interest may be negated. The relationship between the foster carer and the department can also become problematic and working together in the interest of the child becomes difficult.

It is therefore in everyone’s interest, the child’s, the foster carers’ and the department’s that timescales for the adoption process should be closely adhered to. The child’s Permanency Plan should be presented to adoption panel within 2 months of the LAC. Review decision. When a foster carer expresses an interest in adopting a child in their care, the Foster Carer Proposal Meeting should be held no later than 4 weeks after the adoption panel’s decision.

End