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8.2 Recruitment, Assessment and Approval of Prospective Adopters

RELEVANT NATIONAL GUIDANCE

For additional guidance see Statutory Adoption Guidance (DfE, July 2014 - draft).

Assessment and Approval of Foster Carers: Amendments to the Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations

BAAF Practice Note 55 Using the Internet in Adoption and Fostering Assessments

RELEVANT LOCAL GUIDANCE

Checklist – Stage One process - Adopters

See also Forms/Signs of Safety Practice Guidance.

NOTE

There is a shortened process for prospective adopters who have already been approved as foster carers/adopters - see Section 5, Fast-Track Procedure for Approved Foster Carers and Previous Adopters Who Wish to Adopt.

AMENDMENT

In April 2017, this chapter was extensively updated and should be read in its entirety.


Contents

1. Timescales
2. Recruitment and Responding to Initial Enquiries
3. Initial Visit
4. Registration of Interest in Adoption
5. Stage One - The Pre-Assessment Process
  5.1 Purpose and Process
  5.2 Pre-Assessment Information
  5.3 Police Checks
  5.4 Health Checks
  5.5 Written References
  5.6 Counselling, Information and Preparation for Adoption
  5.7 Pre-Assessment Decision
6. Stage Two - The Assessment Process
  6.1 Purpose and Process
  6.2 Prospective Adopter Stage Two Assessment Agreement
  6.3 Assessment
  6.4 Fostering for Adoption
7. Fast-Track Procedure for Approved Foster Carers and Previous Adopters Who Wish to Adopt
8. Sharing Information for the Purposes of Assessments of Second Time Adopters or Foster Carers who wish to Adopt
  8.1 Consent to sharing information
9. Prospective Adopter's Report
10. The Panel Recommendation
11. After the Panel Recommendation
12. Post Approval Agreement - Move Up
13. Representations / Independent Review Procedure
14. Prospective Adopter’s Case Record
15. Review of Prospective Adopters' Approval
16. Renewal of Checks and References
17 Criteria for Prospective Adopters


1. Timescales

  • Where a potential applicant requests more detailed information about adoption, this information should be provided within ten working days;
  • Where a potential adopter formally registers an interest in adopting a child, a decision should be reached within five working days from receipt of the registration of interest whether or not to accept this, unless there are exceptional circumstances which mean that longer is needed;
  • The adoption agency must gather Stage One information and make a pre-assessment decision as to whether the prospective adopter may be, or is not, suitable to adopt a child, within a period of eight weeks from the date on which the prospective adopter registered their interest in adopting a child (unless there are good reasons to extend that time period). If the time period is extended, the reasons must be recorded on the prospective adopter’s case record, along with supporting evidence;
  • Where the pre-assessment decision (Stage One) is that the prospective adopter might be suitable to adopt a child, the prospective adopter has six months in which to notify the agency if they wish to proceed to Stage Two - the Assessment Stage;
  • The decision as to whether the prospective adopter is suitable to adopt a child must be made within four months of the date on which the agency received the prospective adopter’s notification that they wish to proceed with the assessment process;
  • Under the fast-track procedure for approved foster carers and previous adopters who wish to adopt, the decision as to whether the prospective adopter is suitable to adopt a child must be made within four months of the date on which the prospective adopter registered their interest in adopting a child.


2. Recruitment and Responding to Initial Enquiries

See also Liberi Guidance – Adoption Recruitment – initial enquiry.

People, who are interested in becoming adoptive parents, and prospective adopters, will be treated fairly, without prejudice, openly and with respect. They will be kept informed, on a regular basis, of how their enquiry/application is progressing, and the reason for any delays.

The individual communication needs of the enquirer/applicant will be taken into account and met.

The Adoption Service aims to recruit and assess prospective adopters who can meet most of the needs of children for whom adoption is the plan.

It is not part of the recruitment strategy of the adoption agency to turn away couples or single people because of their status, age or because they and the child do not share the same racial or cultural background as the children requiring adoptive placements.

Potential applicants may approach the National Gateway for Adoption or the adoption agency for general information about adoption. This can include, for example, information on the legal implications of adoption, eligibility criteria (see Section 16, Criteria for Prospective Adopters), the characteristics of children awaiting adoption and the approval process.

Where a potential applicant decides, after receiving general information, that he or she would like to pursue an adoption further, he or she may approach the adoption agency for more detailed information about adoption.

This information should be provided within ten working days through an information session, a visit, pre-planned telephone call or similar arrangement with the potential adopter. This may need to take place in the evening or at the weekend to fit around the potential adopters’ life style and working patterns. This is the minimum response at this stage; further information sessions may be provided if applicable.

The Kent Adoption Service offers regular information events for people interested in pursuing adoption to attend within the above timescale.

Detailed information should enable potential adopters to consider better whether they want to proceed with the approval process and to reflect on the parenting needs of the children awaiting adoption. Detailed information should also enable them to consider their expectations of adoption, and the consequences for them and their family of caring for an adopted child who may have a range of complex needs.

Where an enquiry is about inter-country adoption, it should be established whether the potential adopter has considered adopting a Child in Care. Information should also be given about the policy on fees and an estimation of the costs the prospective adopter will have to pay to the agency and the Department for Education. Many people believe that they would not be able to adopt a child in this country but would be able to adopt a child from abroad. Where prospective applicants are likely to be considered unsuitable to adopt a Child in Care in England, they should not be advised to apply to adopt a child from overseas.

There is a shortened process for prospective adopters who have already been approved as foster carers/adopters - see Section 5, Fast-Track Procedure for Approved Foster Carers and Previous Adopters Who Wish to Adopt.

The local authority has a duty to provide information on adoption support services to anyone contacting the authority to request information about adopting a child. See Adoption Support Procedure.

Basic information about Fostering for Adoption should be available in the general information made available to prospective adopters and then in more detail if they engage more fully in the preparation and assessment process. This information should outline:

  • What the objectives of Fostering For Adoption are;
  • In what circumstances it might apply;
  • What the process is for becoming a dually approved carer;
  • What the benefits and risks might be.

The timescale for Stage One is that the decision is to be made by the Adoption Team Manager within 2 months of the Registration of Interest being accepted. The manager is responsible for weekly tracking of cases in Stage One.


3. The Initial Visit

Before the Initial Visit

  1. The administration officer will confirm the visit and send them an information sheet reminding them about the documents required for the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check. (See Adopter's Recruitment and Assessment Case Pathway Flowchart - Liberi guidance for social worker input tasks);
  2. The applicants' details will be entered on Liberi;
  3. The social worker (or in some cases Team Manager responsible for case) carrying out the Initial Visit will be the responsible social worker for Stage One with the applicants they visit;
  4. The applicants will be informed of dates of the next available preparation groups at the initial visit to ascertain their availability.

Once the visit has taken place and the manager has agreed the applicant commencing Stage One, the social worker will ensure that prospective adopters will register their interest via a standard ROI form which will include as a minimum:

  • Name and address of the potential adopters;
  • Authority to commence Stage One checks;
  • Confirmation that the potential adopters have not registered with another agency;
  • A reminder that the potential adopters should be contactable in the week following their registration of interest, and a request for times for contact during that period;
  • Questions to ensure the potential adopters meet the eligibility criteria (see Section 16, Criteria for Prospective Adopters).

The social worker conducting the initial visit will ensure that the ROI has been completed properly – it cannot be accepted if anything is missing or incorrectly entered.

At the Initial Visit

  1. The social worker will discuss further learning needs with applicants and agree a Stage One plan which is likely to be preparation group attendance; reading, researching, getting childcare experience, completing self-assessment forms etc. Other issues such as losing weight; stopping smoking; meeting other adopters will also be discussed as appropriate;
  2. For applicants who are ready to proceed, the social worker will check documents for the Disclosure Barring Service check and will initiate the check once the ROI has been accepted.


4. Registration of Interest in Adoption

See Checklist – Stage One process - Adopters.

Once a potential adopter has received information about adoption they will either decide that adoption is not right for them at that point in time or will wish to move to the next stage of the process. Should they wish to move to the next stage, they will need to formally register their interest to enter Stage One of the approval process - The Pre-Assessment Stage (see Section 5, Stage One - The Pre-Assessment Process).

The ROI will be issued to the applicants, once all parties have agreed they are ready to proceed.

A decision should be reached within five working days from receipt of a registration of interest whether or not to accept this, unless there are exceptional circumstances which mean that longer is needed.

  1. The social worker will write up the Initial Visit report within 3 working days and send it to their team manager. The team manager will read and sign the report within 2 working days and send to the social worker who will let successful applicants know that they will be receiving a letter with their Registration of Interest, a copy of their Stage One plan signed by the team manager and via email a Health Assessment form and the Stage One materials. Applicants must have an acknowledgement of their Registration of Interest within 5 working days of signing it;
  2. If applicants are not ready to submit their Registration of Interest they can send it to at a later date. Social workers will need to agree a timeline with applicants;
  3. Decisions following the initial visit:
    • The agency is happy to proceed and applicants wish to proceed. Applicants will be informed in 1 working day, and the social worker will ensure that the administrator invites them to the preparation group;
    • Applicants are still considering whether to apply and when - this will need to be managed and agreed in respect of time frames;
    • The ROI is not to be accepted: see below.

From the point of receipt of the Registration of Interest applicants referred to as ‘prospective adopters’.

  1. For successful applicants, the assessment administrative worker will send out (electronically) an Acceptance of Registration of Interest letter with a copy of the Registration of Interest form (check requirement); the Stage One plan, medical forms and the stage one materials the same day. The first part of the electronic Adult Health Report will be completed inserting the name of the correct medical advisor for the area the applicants live in. The Adult Health Report will be sent to the prospective adopter who will complete Section B and return to the administrative officer who will email the form to and instructions to the GP so that he/she understands the process. The GP will be asked to forward the form to the relevant Medical Advisor;
  2. Where the agency accepts a registration of interest it must set up a prospective adopter's case record in respect of the prospective adopter - see Section 14, Prospective Adopter's Case Record.

Declining an ROI

  1. The manager who decides not to progress an application will write to the applicant setting out the reason for the decision;
  2. If the agency is not prepared to proceed and reasons will be given why verbally and in writing within 1 working day of the manager's decision. Where the agency declines a registration of interest it should provide the prospective adopter with a clear written explanation of the reasons why, and offer them the choice of going directly to another agency or to the National Gateway for Adoption for signposting to another agency;
  3. There may be circumstances where it would not be appropriate for the agency to accept a registration of interest, such as where there is lack of capacity to take on more prospective adopters. In cases like this, the agency should redirect the prospective adopter to the National Gateway for Adoption or another agency which is currently recruiting;
  4. The agency must not refuse to accept registrations of interest on the grounds of, for example, a prospective adopter's ethnicity, age, health, sexual orientation, religious beliefs of because they do not share the same ethnicity, culture or religious beliefs with the children waiting for an adoptive family. Prospective adopters may only be excused if they do not meet the eligibility criteria;
  5. If the registration of interest is not properly completed the applicants will be asked to resubmit it.


5. Stage One - The Pre-Assessment Process

5.1 Purpose and Process

See also Adopter’s Recruitment & Assessment Case Pathway flow chart - Liberi guidance.

Stage One begins when the agency accepts the registration of interest in adoption and should normally take no more than two months to complete. It is during this stage that the prospective adopter will be exploring the extent of their interest in and capacity for adoption, prior to a firmer decision on whether to proceed to Stage Two - The Assessment Process (see Section 4, Stage Two - The Assessment Process). Stage One will focus on initial training and preparation (as well as completion of e learning), and on ascertaining, through prescribed checks and references, whether there is any absolute reason why the prospective adopter should not proceed further. The expectation is that the prospective adopter will be closely involved in the Stage One process and agencies are expected to take into account fully the prospective adopter’s wishes on how they wish to work through Stage One. All prescribed checks and references must be carried out during Stage One in parallel with initial training and preparation as well as completion of stage one materials by the prospective adopter, including e learning prior to stage one preparation days.

The agency will explain in detail the Stage One process and what will be required of the prospective adopter, and will draw up the Prospective Adopter Stage One Plan which will set out the responsibilities and expectations of both the prospective adopter and the agency during Stage One. This Plan must include:

  1. Information about the process, information and preparation counselling, information and preparation for adoption to be provided;
  2. The procedure for carrying out police checks;
  3. Details of any training that the prospective adopter has agreed to undertake;
  4. Information about the role of the prospective adopter in the stage one process;
  5. Any applicable timescales;
  6. Information about the process for making representations (including a complaint); and
  7. Any other information that the agency considers relevant.

Whilst the importance of openness must be stressed to the prospective adopter, it should not be assumed that a failure to disclose information automatically implies that the prospective adopter is unsuitable. It will be necessary to discuss the matter and the reasons for non-disclosure.

Prospective adopters should be encouraged to use any other materials that offer them the opportunity to explore and reach an informed view about aspects of parenting and their parenting capacity and help them to identify their own training needs. A visit, meeting or pre-planned telephone call with the prospective adopter (whatever works best for them and best meets their preferences) should be undertaken to ensure that they have the opportunity to ask for more information or training based on their particular needs.

Preparation Group – Stage One

3 days attendance at a preparation group will be expected in Stage One. The social worker will ensure applicants know they should complete the First4Adoption materials before attending the preparation group. Attendance will be input on Liberi by admin, and the preparation group leader will record the facilitator feedback as a case note.

5.2 Pre-Assessment Information

The following information will be provided at the commencement of Stage One:

Information about the prospective adopter:

  • Name, sex, date and place of birth and address including the local authority area;
  • If the prospective adopter is married or has formed a civil partnership and is applying alone for an assessment of their suitability to adopt, the reasons for this;
  • Details of any previous family court proceedings in which the prospective adopter has been involved;
  • Names and addresses of four referees for a couple and three for a single person, who will give personal references on the prospective adopter, not more than one(two for a couple) of whom may be a relative; there may be a need to take up further references at this stage;
  • Check name and address of the prospective adopter’s registered medical practitioner;
  • If the prospective adopter:
    • Is married, the date and place of the marriage;
    • Has formed a civil partnership, the date and place of registration of that partnership; or
    • Has a partner, details of that relationship.
  • Details of any previous marriage, civil partnership or relationship;
  • Whether the prospective adopter is domiciled or habitually resident in a part of the British Islands and if habitually resident for how long they have been habitually resident;
  • Where the prospective adopter lives in another local authority area, it should be ascertained whether that local authority has any information about the prospective adopter which may be relevant to the assessment of the prospective adopter’s suitability to adopt and, if so, a written report should be obtained from that authority setting out that information;
  • The adoption agency may ask the prospective adopter to provide any further information the agency may reasonably require;
  • Information about the home etc. of the prospective adopter;
  • Details of other members of the prospective adopter’s household (including any children of the prospective adopter whether or not resident in the household).

5.3 Police Checks

See also Liberi – Adopter’s Recruitment and Assessment Case Pathway Flowchart.

Criminal record checks with the Disclosure and Barring Service must be carried out on the prospective adopter and any adult members of their household.

Prior to Stage One, prospective adopters should be given an explanation of the statutory duty on the agency to conduct checks into their background and into the background of any other adult members of their household. It should be made clear that the prospective adopters will not be able to proceed to Stage Two where criminal record checks identify them or an adult member of their household as having been convicted of a specified offence or police caution in respect of a specified offence.

A ‘specified offence’ means:

  • An offence against a child/ any offence involving bodily injury to a child, other than an offence of common assault or battery;
  • An offence relating to indecent images of children under the age of 16;
  • Sexual offences of rape; assault by penetration; causing a person to engage in sexual activity without consent; sexual activity/causing or inciting sexual activity/inducement, threat or deception to procure sexual activity with a person with a mental disorder impeding choice.

Where the prospective adopter’s full history cannot be ascertained by conducting a criminal record check and other background checks (for example, where they have lived abroad for an extended period), a decision should be taken as to whether to carry out any other checks or take up additional references. The agency should ensure it has sufficient information to justify continuing with Stage One but not delay the approval process. If it decides not to proceed, it should provide the prospective adopter with a clear written explanation of the reasons why.

The agency may not consider a prospective adopter suitable to adopt a child if they or any adult member of their household has been convicted of a specified offence committed at 18 or over, or has received a police caution in respect of a specified offence which they admitted at the time the caution was given. In such circumstances the agency must notify the prospective adopter in writing, with reasons, without delay.

Once the applicant received their DBS information a copy is shown to the adoption social worker. It should be noted on the prospective adopter’s case record that the DBS information has been returned to the applicant, and that this information had led the agency to form a particular view, without citing the information itself.

Where the criminal record checks disclose previous convictions or cautions for non-specified offences, the social worker will complete a report that is sent to the Adoption Team Manager or Head of Adoption, who will make a recommendation to the Assistant Director. The report is signed off by the AD and a copy kept on file. The certificate is returned to the applicant. In such circumstances, the agency must exercise its discretion and decide whether to continue with Stage One. If it decides not to proceed, it must notify the prospective adopter in writing, with reasons, without delay.

In circumstances where the application is a joint application, the agency may only inform the prospective adopter who is the convicted or cautioned individual of the specific reason for terminating Stage One. The social worker should explain to that person that the agency will not inform the other person of the specific conviction or caution but will inform them that because of information obtained from the checks the joint application cannot proceed.

Likewise, where the checks reveal information about an adult member of the household that indicates that the agency must terminate Stage One, the agency is restricted from disclosing information about that conviction or caution which prevents the application from proceeding. It may inform that individual and suggest that they inform the other prospective adopter but it may not do so itself. In such a case, the agency should counsel the prospective adopter that its checks indicate that the agency must not continue with Stage One and that its checks indicate that the agency should not proceed with the application.

Local authority checks on both the Liberi and the Adult Records System will be carried out.

5.4 Health Checks

The applicants will also be asked to arrange for an adoption medical examination and report from their G.P. (if this has not been done at an earlier stage), unless the Medical Adviser does not consider such a medical examination is necessary, for example where the applicant is a foster carer and a health report is already available.

The social worker will provide the applicants with the relevant BAAF medical forms for completion by the GP.

The Medical Adviser’s summary should have been written no more than 2 years prior to the Adoption Panel meeting which considers the application and cover the matters specified in Part 2 of Schedule 4 AAR 2005.

The agency’s medical adviser will need to provide a summary of the prospective adopter’s state of health as part of the prospective adopter’s report. The adviser will need to form a view as to the adequacy of the medical reports received and to advise whether additional specialist opinion should be obtained. The prospective adopter’s current GP may not have a full health history of the prospective adopter, particularly if they have received private medical care outside the NHS. Prospective adopters should be helped to understand the importance of making their full health history available to the agency’s medical adviser.

Agencies have a duty to satisfy themselves that prospective adopters have a reasonable expectation of continuing to enjoy good health. The medical adviser should explain and interpret health information from the prospective adopter, their GP, and consultants to facilitate adoption panel discussion. The opinion of the agency’s medical adviser needs to be given sufficient weight by adoption panels and the Agency Decision Maker.

Mild chronic conditions are unlikely to preclude people from adopting provided that the condition does not place the child at risk through an inability of the individual to protect the child from commonplace hazards or limit them in providing children with a range of beneficial experiences and opportunities. The possibility of providing support in appropriate cases to assist in overcoming any possible negative consequences arising from disability or restricted mobility should be borne in mind. More severe health conditions may raise a question about the suitability of the prospective adopter, but each case will have to be considered on its own facts and with appropriate advice.

5.5 Written References

Applicants, who are applying jointly, will be asked to provide the names of 4 personal referees, and single applicants should provide 3 personal referees. Not more than one referee (two for a couple) should be related to the applicant/s. There should be a balance demonstrated regarding knowledge of each applicant. Single applicants must provide 1 family and 2 unrelated referees. Referees should be people who know the applicants well in a personal capacity, and it is desirable that the referees have direct experience of caring for children, either in a personal or professional capacity.

Where there is a joint application, referees should know both applicants, or additional referees will be required.

A written reference may also be obtained from each applicant's last/current employer where they work or have worked with children or vulnerable adults. Further references from previous employers may need to be considered.

Where the prospective applicant has made a previous application to foster or adopt, the relevant agency must be asked to confirm in writing the outcome of the application and provide a written reference.

The allocated adoption social worker will arrange for requests for written references to be sent.

The referees should be asked to comment on the following:

  1. The length of time the referee has known the applicant, in what circumstances, how they met and how regularly they are in contact;
  2. Where there is a joint application, the couple's relationship including its stability and quality, the couple's strengths and ways of coping with stress and how mutually supportive the couple is;
  3. The applicants' general physical and emotional well being;
  4. How the applicants relate to children, with examples, and what experience the applicants have of caring for children;
  5. How the applicants have adjusted to childlessness if this is the case, how they have prepared to become adoptive parents, how much they have shared with the referees and how open they are in talking about the issues surrounding adoption;
  6. If the applicants have children of their own, how the referee thinks a child from a different ethnic background will impact on the other children in the family;
  7. Any reservations the referee has and whether the referee wholeheartedly supports the application;
  8. The face to face interviews with referees will take place in Stage Two unless concerns are raised in the written reference.

5.6 Counselling, Information and Preparation for Adoption

All prospective adopters will need some form of adoption preparation. The agency will need to decide its form and substance, arranging preparation that takes into account the prospective adopter’s circumstances. Preparation should be designed to help prospective adopters make an informed decision about pursuing adoption based on an understanding of the qualities they have to offer a child. The agency should build on these strengths when working with the prospective adopter. Adoption preparation may be provided by the agency itself or with another agency or adoption support agency.

Stage One ends with the Pre-Assessment Decision.

5.7 Pre-Assessment Decision

The adoption agency must gather Stage One information and make a Pre-Assessment Decision as to whether the prospective adopter may be or is not suitable to adopt a child, within a period of eight weeks from the date on which the prospective adopter registered their interest in adopting a child (unless there are good reasons to extend that time period). If the time period is extended, the reasons must be recorded on the prospective adopter’s case record, along with supporting evidence.

  1. The social worker provides their summary for discussion with the manager – including an update on progress of checks, references, medicals and applicant/s homework, their recommendation on whether to invite to Stage Two or not and the reasons why;
  2. The summary should include an indication of whether the applicants are expected to start Stage Two immediately, or, if not, when they are expected to start. Adopters will be informed that they can take a break from the process of up to six months, e.g. for further time to think, gain further experience;
  3. If there are concerns arising from references etc. the social worker may need to meet with applicants to discuss before making a decision about the next stage. This includes positive Disclosure Barring Service checks etc.

The social worker will arrange a visit with the adopters and provide the Notification to proceed to Stage Two Form. The social worker should explain how Stage Two will operate and what will be required of the prospective adopter. The social worker should explain the decision-making process and the role of the Adoption Panel and the Independent Review Mechanism.

The Stage Two agreement, and the Confidentiality Agreement will be signed.

Applicants can be asked if they wish to to delay the Stage One decision, if:

  • There is a delay in getting a GP appointment;
  • The applicant has personal reasons (bereavement etc).

The Stage One agreement should reflect any delay due to:

  • A known medical concern and the Medical Adviser is asked to comment before making the decision;
  • The DBS check is expected to be positive;
  • The references are complicated (e.g. needing translation).

Where the Pre-Assessment Decision is that the prospective adopter is not suitable to adopt a child, the prospective adopter must be provided with a clear written explanation of the reasons why they will not be able to proceed to Stage Two. The pre-assessment decision may be made notwithstanding that not all of the required pre-assessment information has been gathered. Prospective adopters who wish to complain about this decision may make a complaint using the agency’s local complaints procedure. They will also be able to raise general concerns about the process with the National Gateway for Adoption. The Independent Review Mechanism is not available for decisions made during Stage One.

Where the Pre-Assessment Decision is that the prospective adopter might be suitable to adopt a child, the prospective adopter must be advised of the decision and that they have six months in which to notify the agency if they wish to proceed to Stage Two - The Assessment Stage. Prospective Adopters are expected to return the notification as soon as possible with a proposed date for commencement of stage two.

If the prospective adopters provide notification of their wish to proceed outside this six months time limit, they may need to restart Stage One. They should be contacted within five working days of their notification and offered a re-entry interview. The Stage One Plan should take into account activities undertaken previously.

The manager must record the Stage One decision on the Liberi Stage One plan. The allocated admin then will email a letter informing the applicants, and upload the letter to Liberi.


6. Stage Two - The Assessment Process

6.1 Purpose and Process

Where the Pre-Assessment Decision is that the prospective adopter might be suitable to adopt a child, and they have notified the agency that they wish to proceed, the application then proceeds to Stage Two of the process - the assessment process.

Stage Two is about intensive training and assessment. Intensive training should be provided as necessary and, in parallel to an assessment being carried out of the prospective adopter’s suitability to adopt and a report produced of that assessment.

A decision must be reached as to whether the prospective adopter is suitable to adopt a child within four months of the date on which the agency received the prospective adopter’s notification that they wish to proceed with the assessment process (or longer if there are exceptional circumstances). Reasons for any extensions should be recorded on the prospective adopter’s case file.

Stage Two will end with the Agency Decision Maker's decision about the suitability of the prospective adopter to adopt a child.

6.2 Prospective Adopter Stage Two Assessment Agreement

A Stage Two written agreement must be entered into with the prospective adopter (‘the prospective adopter assessment agreement’) which must include the following.

The procedure for assessing the prospective adopter’s suitability to adopt a child; this will include information on contacting employers/ex partners/adult sons/daughters from previous relationships. Where the applicant has worked with vulnerable adults or children then past employers will be contacted:

  • Any applicable timescales;
  • The arrangements for the prospective adopter to receive any additional counselling or preparation for adoption;
  • Details of any training that the prospective adopter has agreed to undertake; and
  • Any other matters which the agency considers relevant.

6.3 Assessment

In conducting the assessment, the social worker should record, analyse and consider the information they ascertain from and about the prospective adopter, including any issues identified during the adoption preparation. The approach should be objective and inquiring, with information evaluated and its accuracy and consistency checked.

The assessment must be carried out by a qualified social worker with suitable experience (see Adoption Panel Procedure, The Chair (or vice-chair if standing in).

The assessment will comprise of a series of interviews, in the applicants' home and Local Authority offices. Applicants should be interviewed at least once both individually and with their partner, and all other members of the household will also be interviewed, including the children.

The areas covered in interviews will follow the subject areas:

  • Individual profiles of all members of the household, including a photograph and physical description, racial origin, cultural and linguistic background, religious persuasion, personality and interest, relationship (if any) to the child;
  • Information about the home, the local community and the neighbourhood;
  • Details of education and employment - past and present;
  • Income and expenditure;
  • Details of past and present relationships;
  • Motivation to adopt/childlessness;
  • Parenting capacity, experience of being parented and experience with children;
  • Support network, including wider family network;
  • Views and feelings about adoption and its significance, attitudes to birth families and approach to openness in adoption and contact:
  • Views about parental responsibility and what it means;
  • Views about a suitable home environment for the child;
  • Views about the importance and value of education;
  • Views and feelings about the importance of a child’s religious and cultural upbringing;
  • Any other information which indicates how the prospective adopter and anybody else living in the household is likely to relate to a child placed for adoption;
  • Willingness to work with the agency;
  • Any other relevant information which might assist the adoption panel or the adoption agency.

As part of the assessment:

  • A family tree and Chronology of key events in the applicant's life from birth must be compiled, showing his or her educational, employment, marital and/or relationship history and addresses for the previous 10 years; any gaps and/or unusual patterns should be explored (provided during stage one);
  • All information provided by the applicant must be independently verified where possible, by checking it against other sources such as referees;
  • Where an applicant has been divorced or separated, factors contributing to the breakdown of the relationship must be verified. This applies equally to significant relationships between couples who are not married;
  • The adequacy and safety of the prospective adoptive home and transport will be assessed.

The assessment will consider the likely need for adoption support services of the prospective adopters and any member of their family - see Adoption Support Procedure. As part of this, the family's finances and the criteria for financial support should also be discussed.

Where the prospective adopters live in another local authority area, the social worker should ascertain the extent of any support services identified as necessary in their local area.

Stage Two Referee visits

Three referees must be visited in Stage Two, one of whom should be a family member. Professional judgement should be exercised regarding a visit, or conversation, with the fourth referee. A written report must be prepared of the interviews held with each of the referees, which should be signed and dated by the referee, in writing.

At the start of the interview, the referee should be informed that the written report of the interview will not be shared with the applicants but that any issues arising during the interview may be discussed with them.

Issues for discussion include the following:

  • The applicant’s personality;
  • The stability of the couple's relationship (if a joint application);
  • The referee's impression of the applicant's general physical and emotional well-being;
  • The referee's opinion on the applicant's ability to relate to children, and the basis of the opinion;
  • The referee's opinion on whether adoption is appropriate for the applicant;
  • Any reservations the referee may have to express about any aspect of the application;
  • Whether the referee wholeheartedly supports the application;
  • What support the referee is able to offer the prospective adopters;
  • Whether the referee has any reason to believe the applicant would harm the children in their care.

References from employers, ex partners and adult sons/daughters will be taken up, if necessary, in Stage Two.

The assessing social worker may also contact the previous partners of the applicants, and seek references from them where it is considered necessary. Where there were any children of the relationship or where children were cared for jointly, the social worker will arrange to interview them face-to-face wherever practicable. Where former partners have not jointly parented or cared for a child with the prospective adopter, they should generally not be approached unless there is a specific reason for doing so. Children of the applicant(s) living away from home may also be contacted, and references sought from them where considered appropriate.

In addition, as part of the assessment, where the applicant has school age children, the relevant school(s) may be contacted, with the permission of the applicant, for information regarding the applicant's ability to promote the child's education.

Where applicable, the agency must ascertain whether the local authority in whose area the prospective adopter has their home has any information about them that may be relevant to the assessment. If so, the agency must obtain from that authority a written report setting out the information. Local authorities asked for this information should comply promptly with these requests and provide this information within 15 working days wherever possible. In requesting information from a local authority, the agency should seek to ascertain whether records held by social services and education departments hold relevant information about the prospective adopter.

There is no reason in principle why information held by one part of the local authority should not be shared with another. Protocols operated by Children’s Services may, however, restrict access to cases where there is concern for the safety of a child. The prospective adopter may have lived for only a short period in the area of their local authority. In such cases, the agency should obtain information from the prospective adopter’s former local authorities

6.4 Fostering for Adoption

Discussion should take place with the prospective adopter about whether they may be interested in fostering a child for whom adoption is thought to be a likely outcome. This can be appropriate in cases where, although the child’s plan is likely to become adoption, there is no legal authority yet for the child to be placed for adoption. (See Fostering for Adoption, Concurrent Planning and Temporary Approval as Foster Carers of Approved Prospective Adopters Procedure).

Prospective adopters who wish to be considered for a Fostering to Adoption Placement will be assessed in Stage Two using the relevant PAR, and should attend the additional day training specifically for the scheme. They will then be either dually approved at Panel or for a specific child, following previous approval as adopters.

The agency should indicate on the Prospective Adopter’s Report if the prospective adopter is interested in Fostering for Adoption. This will allow prospective adopters to be matched with a child requiring a Fostering for Adoption placement.

Fostering for Adoption carers should have access to appropriate supplementary/ specific preparation sessions as well as the usual preparation and training package available to all adopters. Meeting other adopters who have experience of these types of placements is an important part of this preparation. There should be appropriate exploration of the capacity of the foster carers/prospective adopters to manage the emotional and practical tasks of being foster carers until and if placement for adoption is agreed by the court. It is important to ensure that carers are fully informed about the nature of the placement, their role in that placement as foster carers and their understanding of the possibility of the court deciding to pursue an alternative plan to adoption.


7. Fast-Track Procedure for Approved Foster Carers and Previous Adopters Who Wish to Adopt

The two stage requirements are modified for applicants who are approved foster carers or previous adopters.

(This does not apply to Connected Persons or to prospective adopters given temporary approval as foster carers, under the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 (as amended). Clear explanation of the non-agency route to adoption should be given to connected persons).

It should be made clear to foster carers, or those who apply to be approved for specific children, that their assessment will be in respect of their suitability to adopt generally and that, if they are approved, their suitability to adopt a specific child or children will be addressed separately as part of the matching process.

The need for Police checks and references should be assessed in each individual case. This may depend on the time since approval and, in the case of foster carers, the time since a child was placed with them.

Counselling, information and preparation for adoption should take account of the applicants previous experience.

Stage One, the preliminary Pre-Assessment Decision stage is not necessary, and the assessment process progresses straight to preparation of the Prospective Adopter’s Report.

The Assessment is triggered by the receipt of the ROI, Notification by Foster Carer to proceed.  This will be accepted if the plan for the child to be adopted by their foster carer has been agreed by the local authority. A Permanency Planning meeting must be called urgently to consider the issues and options.

Any necessary additional training should be provided, such as where the prospective adopters are seeking to adopt a child with needs which are very different to those of the child they have fostered / adopted.

The decision as to whether the prospective adopter is suitable to adopt a child must be made within four months of the date on which the prospective adopter registered their interest in adopting a child. This includes the time taken to access information from adoption agencies and fostering services which have 15 working days to provide such information.


8. Sharing Information for the Purposes of Assessments of Second Time Adopters or Foster Carers who wish to Adopt

Sharing information about a person that is held in their existing foster carer or adopter records is permitted for the purposes of informing a new assessment of a person’s suitability to foster or adopt. For instance, if previous partners have been interviewed in the past to verify facts, and the current assessing social worker is satisfied with the records in respect of these interviews, it should not be necessary to repeat the interviews if no further information is required. The assessing social worker should, however, satisfy themselves as to the quality and continuing relevance of the information before using it to inform the current assessment.

Information that should be shared, upon request, in order to inform a new assessment of a person’s suitability to foster or adopt includes:

  • The report of the original assessment of the person's suitability to foster or adopt (if it is considered by the body requesting the information to be recent enough to be relevant);
  • A copy of the report of the last review of the individual's continuing suitability to foster or adopt and any other review report considered useful to understanding the person's current suitability to foster or adopt;
  • Details of any concerns about standards of practice and what if anything is being done/has been done to address them;
  • Details of allegations made against the foster carer/adopter or their household members; and;
  • Any other information considered to be relevant to the assessment of the person's suitability to foster/adopt.

8.1 Consent to Sharing Information

Information should only be shared with the informed, explicit consent of all parties referred to in the information, including young people where they have sufficient understanding to consent to the sharing of their information (if they do not have sufficient understanding, the consent of a person with Parental Responsibility would need to be obtained). This means that the person giving consent needs to understand why their information is to be shared, what will be shared, who will see their information, the purpose to which it will be put and the implications of sharing that information.

If consent is refused, the current fostering service or adoption agency should consider whether there is any information in the records that is a cause for concern. Any information about an applicant’s  conduct or suitability to foster/adopt that has caused concern should be shared even if the individual has refused consent. If there are no such concerns, and the individual has refused consent, information should not be shared. This may require documents to be redacted to remove information relating to individuals who have refused consent.

Requests for access to information should be accompanied by the written consent of the applicant to the sharing of their information.


9. Prospective Adopter's Report

See Liberi – Documents User Guide: Adoption.

The information gathered during Stage One (the pre-assessment stage), and Stage Two (the assessment stage), including the checks and personal references, will form the basis of the Prospective Adopter's Report, together with any other relevant information.

The social worker who assesses the prospective adopter should draft the Prospective Adopter’s Report highlighting any issues of concern and submit it to their team manager. Where there are any issues of significant concern or where clarification is needed, the manager may arrange for a second person to visit the prospective adopter to discuss these but must remain mindful of the timeframe for Stage Two. The second person could be a team manager or another adoption social worker. A visit by another person provides a second opinion where necessary before the report to the panel is finalised in cases where clarification is needed but should not be routinely carried out. The author of the report and the countersigning officer should both sign and date the report, state their qualifications and experience, and confirm that they are suitably qualified to prepare the report.

Where information received during the assessment leads the agency to consider that the prospective adopter is unlikely to be considered suitable to adopt a child, a ‘brief Prospective Adopter’s Report’ may be prepared regardless of whether or not all the required assessment information has been obtained. A decision not to complete the full assessment is a serious step to take and advice should first be sought from the social work team leader or line manager. Depending on the nature of the information, advice may also need to be sought from the agency’s medical adviser or legal adviser, or both. The concerns should be explained to the prospective adopter and they should be offered counselling, involving other professionals as appropriate. As a result of the counselling and advice, the prospective adopter may decide to withdraw their application. If they decide not to withdraw their application, the brief prospective adopter’s report should be prepared.

The report will also include a summary by the Medical Adviser of the health report obtained on the applicant(s).

The Report will include the agency’s assessment of the prospective adopter’s suitability to adopt.

Reports should address anti-discriminatory practice issues. It should contain a summary of the assessed strengths and weaknesses of the applicants, together with an opinion of the type of placement likely to be provided successfully. Potential risk factors should be highlighted.

When the Prospective Adopter's Report is finalised, a copy should be sent to the applicants, and they must be notified that the application is to be referred to the Adoption Panel. The applicants should be invited to send any observations in writing within 5 working days, beginning with the date on which the notification was sent. (This timescale may be extended in exceptional circumstances). At the end of the 5 working days (or, where that timescale is extended by the adoption agency, as soon as possible after the prospective adopter’s observations are received) the following must be sent to the Adoption Panel:

  • The Prospective Adopter’s Report and the prospective adopter’s observations thereon;
  • Where the Agency Medical Adviser so advises, the medical report on the prospective adopter;
  • References;
  • Where applicable, relevant information received from the prospective adopter’s home local authority; and
  • Any other relevant information obtained by the agency.

The date of the Adoption Panel meeting will be communicated to the applicants as soon as possible, together with an invitation to attend the Panel during consideration of the report. The applicants should also be advised of their right to attend the meeting of the Adoption Panel, which considers their application. They should be provided with written information about the Panel process, its membership, who will attend and their respective roles. If the applicants know a particular Panel member, the applicants may request that the Panel member stand down. (Panel members are in any event expected to declare an interest in these circumstances - see Adoption Panel Procedure).


10. The Panel Recommendation

The assessing social worker will attend the Panel meeting (and his or her manager where appropriate), together with the applicants if they so wish. The decision to attend rests with the applicants and a wish not to attend will not prejudice consideration of their application.

Applicants who decide they wish to attend should be fully prepared as to the procedure prior to their attendance (see Section 7, Prospective Adopter's Report).

The Panel will consider the Prospective Adopter's Report together with all the supporting documentation (see Section 7, Prospective Adopter's Report) and make a recommendation to the Agency Decision Maker regarding the suitability of the applicant to adopt a child. The Panel may request the agency to obtain any other relevant information which it considers necessary, and may obtain legal advice as it considers necessary in relation to the case.

Where, during the Stage Two Assessment stage, the agency was of the opinion that the prospective adopter is unlikely to be suitable to adopt, and prepared a brief Prospective Adopter’s Report without having obtained all the assessment information, then the Adoption Panel must either request the preparation of a full Prospective Adopter’s Report having obtained all the assessment information, or recommend that the prospective adopter is not suitable to adopt.

The recommendation will be recorded in writing and, where approval is recommended, the record will include any advice given about the number of children the prospective adopter may be suitable to adopt, their age range, sex, likely needs and background.

Reasons for the recommendations and any advice as set out above will also be recorded in the Panel's minutes.

The adoption worker undertaking the assessment will advise the applicant of the Panel recommendation within 24 hours of the Panel meeting. This will be verbally, by telephone or, where appropriate, a home visit.


11. After the Panel Recommendation

The decision as to whether the prospective adopter is suitable to adopt a child must be made within four months of the date on which the agency received the prospective adopter’s notification that they wished to proceed with the assessment process.

The decision may be delayed:

  • Where there are exceptional circumstances which mean that the decision cannot be made within that time; or
  • Upon the request of the prospective adopter.

If the decision is delayed, the reasons must be recorded on the prospective adopter’s case record, along with supporting evidence.

The Agency Decision Maker will make a decision as to the suitability of the applicant, and express a view on any Panel advice given, based on the reports presented to the Adoption Panel and the minutes detailing the Panel's recommendation and advice.

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, before arriving at a final decision. This discussion must be recorded and placed on the child's and the prospective adopter's Adoption Case Record.

The decision must be made within 7 working days of the Adoption Panel meeting and must be recorded, together with reasons.

The Panel Administrator will arrange for the applicants to be sent oral notification of the decision within 2 working days and written notice of the decision, signed by the Agency Decision Maker, within 5 working days of the decision.

Where the decision is to approve the prospective adopter, they should be provided with information which explains the role of the Adoption Register and include the Register’s website address (www.adoptionregister.org.uk).

Approved adopters will also be asked to sign the confidentiality agreement by their adoption social worker.

Where the decision differs from the recommendation of the Adoption Panel, a copy of the Panel recommendation will be sent to the applicant(s) with the written notification of the decision.

All successful applicants will have an adoption social worker (usually the assessing social worker) whose task is to support the adopters through the period of waiting for a placement, identify any further training needs, arrange updated medical examinations as requested by the Medical Adviser, consider any potential matches and discuss any such matches with the approved adopters before a match is presented to the Adoption Panel. The adoption social worker will write a post approval plan jointly with the adopter/s (Adopters Post Approval Agreement).

Approved adopters will be asked to be available for children from the local authority area in need of an adoptive placement, after which they will be informed of and referred to the National Adoption Register and/or to the Regional Consortium/other adoption agencies with children waiting for placements, with their consent.

Prospective adopters' details can be passed to the Adoption Register immediately after their approval, and in any event no later than three months, (if they consent) where a child has not been identified for placement with them. Prospective adopters may choose to refer themselves to the Register, using the Adopter Self-Referral form, available from the Register's website.

They will also be informed of local support groups and be advised of their responsibility to maintain links with the adoption link worker and keep him or her informed of any significant changes in their situation.

Approved prospective adopters should be encouraged to identify children they might be suitable to adopt. This can be through attending Adoption Activity and Exchange Days and viewing publications such as Children Who Wait and Be My Parent.


12. Post Approval Agreement - Move Up

Where a prospective adopter has been approved as suitable to adopt a child, a Post Approval Agreement must be prepared, in consultation with the prospective adopter, which includes an explanation of:

  • Communication;
  • Post approval support for matching;
  • Confidentiality reminder;
  • Role of social worker in explaining matching;
  • Explanation of weekly linking meeting;
  • Family finding activity;
  • Match identification;
  • The Adoption Panel and ADM;
  • Post Placement Support;
  • Learning and Development Plan;
  • Feedback to the agency.


13. Representations / Independent Review Procedure

If a decision is made to refuse an application, the applicant will be advised that if he or she wishes to challenge the decision, representations should be submitted within 40 working days either directly to the agency or they may request a referral to the Independent Review Mechanism. N.B. Applicants can decide which representation procedure to choose - they cannot choose both. The prospective adopter will also be able to raise general concerns about the process with the National Gateway for Adoption.

The Panel Administrator must receive notification of the wish to attend or make written representations to the Adoption Panel within 40 working days of the date of the written notice of the decision.

If no written notification or representations are received within this period, the decision to refuse the application can be confirmed.

If a request to attend or make written representations to the Adoption Panel is made within the period, the matter may be referred to the Panel for further consideration. The Panel Administrator will advise the applicant within 7 days of the date of the Panel meeting when they can attend or their written representations will be considered. The Panel must consider any such case referred to it and make a fresh recommendation.

In these circumstances, applicants who wish to attend the meeting of the Adoption Panel can arrange for a friend or supporter to accompany them.

After considering the representations, the Panel will make further recommendations either confirming or amending their previous views, which the Agency Decision Maker will consider before a final decision is made.

Written notice of the final decision, together with reasons, must be sent to the applicant as soon as possible after the decision and, in any event, within 7 working days of the Panel meeting. A copy of the Adoption Panel’s further recommendation must also be sent, if different from the decision.

Where the decision is still to refuse the application, a copy of the report to the Panel, the Panel's recommendation and the decision, with reasons, must be retained on the applicant's Adoption Case Record.

If the applicant decides to refer the matter to an Independent Review, the relevant Panel reports, any new information obtained since the Panel meeting, a record of the decision made and reasons, a copy of the written notification of the decision and a copy of the Panel minute, if different, will be sent to the Independent Review within 10 working days of their written request.

The procedure for the Independent Review is carried out by BAAF; the applicant and a representative of the adoption agency will be invited to attend the Independent Review.

After considering the representations, the Independent Review may make a recommendation, which the Agency Decision Maker will consider before a final decision is made.

Written notice of the final decision, together with reasons, must be sent to the applicant within 7 working days of the receipt of the Independent Review recommendation.

A copy of the report to the Panel, the Panel's recommendation and the decision to refuse an application must be retained on the applicant's Adoption Case Record.


14. Prospective Adopter’s Case Record

A prospective adopter’s case record must be set up as soon as the registration of interest is accepted. It must contain (see Liberi Guidance – Adopter’s Recruitment and Assessment Case Pathway flowchart):

  • The Prospective Adopter Stage One Plan (see Liberi Guidance for social worker action);
  • The information and reports obtained by the agency;
  • The prospective adopter assessment plan;
  • The prospective adopter’s report and the prospective adopter’s observations on that report;
  • The written record of the proceedings of the adoption panel, its recommendation, the reasons for the recommendation and any advice given by the panel to the agency;
  • The record of the agency’s decision;
  • The recommendation of any independent review panel;
  • Where applicable, the prospective adopter’s review report and the prospective adopter’s observations on that report;
  • The Post Approval plan; and
  • Any other documents or information obtained by the agency which it considers should be included in the case record.

Information which has been obtained from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) should be retained on the Prospective Adopter’s Case Record for a limited time only. This information should be destroyed when the decision has been made as to whether the prospective adopter is suitable to adopt a child. It should be noted on the Prospective Adopter’s Case Record that the DBS information has been destroyed and that this information had led the agency to form a particular view, without citing the information itself.


15. Review of Prospective Adopters' Approval

Prospective adopters' details can be passed to the Adoption Register immediately after their approval and in any event no later than three months, (if they consent) where a child has not been identified for placement with them, using the adopters self-referral form available.

The Adoption Team Manager will review the adopters' approval at least annually by means of a report from the adoption social worker, together with any comments on the report from the prospective adopters. The adopters should be asked if there is any change of circumstances regarding their health, and if so, the adoption medicals should be updated where appropriate.

Where the review identifies the need for a change of approval, the adoption social worker must prepare a Prospective Adopter's Review Report for this purpose. The prospective adopter should be given a copy and given 10 working days to comment before arrangements are made for the report to be presented to the Panel.

The procedure set out in Section 8, The Panel Recommendation and Section 9, After the Panel Recommendation above should then be followed.

If the approval is still considered suitable, the prospective adopters should be notified in writing and a copy of the reports, minutes, decision and notification placed on their Adoption Case Record.

If the prospective adopters are considered no longer suitable, the same procedure should be followed as set out in Section 10, Representations / Independent Review Procedure.


16. Renewal of Checks and References

If significant health issue arises for any prospective adopters awaiting placement or in the post-placement/pre-adoption period, the adopter/s G.P. should be contacted for further information in writing, and a repeat medical undertaken if considered  In other circumstances, where adopters have not been matched, an update medical report should be obtained, two years after the original medical report was completed.

At the point of matching, the adoption social worker must discuss with the adopters whether there are any changes to their health. If so, then the G.P. should be contacted for further information. If the adopter’s medical was completed more than a year previously, then the G.P. should be asked to confirm in writing that there have been no significant changes in health. If issues are identified, then a repeat medical should be undertaken, prior to the match being heard.

DBS checks are only accurate as of their date of issue. Individual Local Authorities determine for themselves the frequency with which checks on prospective and approved adopters need to be updated. DBS checks should be updated at least every two years (Guidance to the Adoption Agencies Regulations 2005, Chapter 3 (84).

Additionally enhanced DBS checks must be taken up on any person living within the household over the age of 18.

With the exception of 16/17 year olds who are in care enhanced DBS check should be taken up on any young person resident in the household.

Kent County Council will update any references if the circumstances of a particular case suggest that this might be advisable. In these circumstances the prospective adopter(s) should be advised of why the Agency considers this necessary and their written permission sought


17. Criteria for Prospective Adopters

An individual or couple cannot apply for an assessment of their suitability to adopt unless they meet, or would meet, the eligibility criteria to apply for an Adoption Order. The criteria are that:

  • The prospective adopter(s) is at least 21 years old;
  • At least one of the couple or the single prospective adopter is domiciled in a part of the British Islands or both of the couple or the single prospective adopter have been habitually resident in a part of the British Islands for a period of not less than one year ending with the date of the application for an adoption order; and
  • Neither prospective adopter(s) nor an adult member of their household has been convicted or cautioned in respect of a specified offence.

17.1 Individual and Joint

Applications will be considered from married couples, civil partners, unmarried couples or single people. In the case of joint applications, there is no minimum requirement on the length of the marriage/civil partnership/relationship, but the Panel will need to be satisfied about the stability of the relationship.

17.2 Religion

Applications will be considered from people of any or no religious persuasion.

17.3 Ethnicity

Applications will be considered from people of any race or culture.

The ability of a potential adopter to meet the needs of a child related to their religion, language and other characteristics associated with their and the potential adopter’s “ethnicity” can be a relevant consideration in determining the appropriate match for a child. In some rare cases, it may be an important consideration. A prospective adopter should be considered able to parent a child with whom they do not share the same ethnicity, provided they can meet the child’s most important identified needs throughout the child’s childhood. The agency must provide them with flexible and creative support. This applies equally whether a child is placed with a black or minority ethnic family, a white family, or a family which includes members of different ethnic origins. Only in very exceptional circumstances should matching a child with prospective adopters be delayed solely on the grounds that the available prospective adopters cannot meet all the child’s needs arising from their racial or cultural background. A prospective adopter can be matched with a child with whom they do not share the same ethnicity, if they can respect, reflect or actively develop a child’s racial identity from the point they are matched and as they develop throughout their childhood. The prospective adopter needs to demonstrate that they fully understand that having a child from a different ethnic group will present a number of challenges, not least that there may be visible differences that can affect a child’s self-esteem and increase their possible feelings of difference. For example, the child may have to deal with questions from their peers about why they are ‘different’ to their family. (See Placement for Adoption, Identification of Adoptive Parents (including Inter Agency Placements)

17.4 Age

The minimum age for adopters is 21 years. There is no specific upper age limit.

Older and more experienced people could take on the care of older children, provided they will have the health and vigour to meet the child’s varied demands in their growing years and to be there for them into adulthood. Age is also not necessarily linked to general health, fitness and emotional well-being. The agency’s medical adviser should investigate and obtain relevant information about a prospective adopter’s health in order to be satisfied that they are able to take on the task of adopting a child and have the expectation of caring for the child through childhood and into adulthood.

17.5 Gender

Applications will be considered from people of either sex.

17.6 Sexual Orientation

Applications will be considered from people of any sexual orientation.

17.7 Income

Applicants may be in work or not. Whatever the applicants' income, they will need to consider the financial implications of increasing their family, (see General Principles in Adoption Order, Special Guardianship and Child Arrangements Order Allowance Procedures) before discussing any aspect of financial support with applicants. Applicants should be informed of the range of adoption support services available.

17.8 Health

Applicants will be required to have a full medical and undergo any further tests/checks that may be required by the Adoption Panel's Medical Adviser. The Medical Adviser will advise on the applicants' ability, from a health point of view, to meet the needs of a child throughout his or her childhood. Where a recent medical is not available (e.g. completed within the last 12 months), then prior to a match being presented to the Adoption Panel, the adopters GP should be contacted, to confirm in writing that there have been no changes in the health circumstances since the last medical (see above ‘Renewal of Checks and references’.

It is unlikely that a very young child or a child vulnerable to chest complaints would be placed in a household where one or both parents are smokers. Given the vulnerability of children being placed for adoption, and possible neglect of health needs in the past, prospective adopters who smoke will be expected to demonstrate commitment to a smoking cessation programme, and an understanding of the impact on children’s health.

17.9 Criminal Convictions

A person who is seeking approval as an adoptive parent will not be considered if (s)he or any adult member of the household has been cautioned for or convicted of an offence against a child which involves violence or bodily injury (other than common assault or battery), cruelty (to a child under 16), indecency, abduction, the supply of Class A drugs or the importation/possession of indecent photographs of a child under 16 or a sexual offence against a child unless the offence was contrary to sections 6,12 or 13 of the Sexual offences Act 1956 and the person concerned was under 20 when the offence was committed.

Other convictions will not necessarily preclude an application, but this will depend on the seriousness of the offence and how long ago it was committed. In cases of doubt or dispute, the matter will be referred to the Adoption Team Manager who may also consult the Panel Adviser and/or the Agency Decision Maker. A report will be completed and provided to the Head of the Adoption Service who will decide whether the assessment can continue based on the information provided.

17.10 Accommodation

Applicants may own their own home or live in rented accommodation. They will have to demonstrate that they have a secure home environment in which to bring up a child.

They will need accommodation appropriate to the number and ages of the children they are seeking to adopt.

17.11 Fertility Tests/Treatment

Childless applicants wishing to adopt will usually be required to have completed any fertility tests and treatment, and to have had a period of time, (probably about 6 months but subject to the circumstances of the case), since completing the tests before an application can be accepted. This is because it is important for applicants to have accepted their infertility and grieved before moving on to start the adoption process.

17.12 Applicants who have a Child or Children

Applications will be accepted from people who already have a child.

17.13 Domicile/Habitual Residence in the British Isles

Applicants do not have to have British Citizenship, but should have their Domicile or Habitual Residence in the British Isles. Where there is a joint application, only one of the applicants need to be domiciled in the British Isles or both should be habitually resident here. In all these cases it is essential to see all relevant documents in order to fully establish nationality and immigration status.

Where there is doubt, potential applicants should be asked to seek independent advice.

17.14 Location

Applications are welcome from those who reside within the Kent County Council area or elsewhere.

Applicants must be prepared to travel for group meetings, introductions etc. and be available for assessment and home visits.

17.15 Support Network

Applicants will need to demonstrate that they have accessible and established support networks of family and friends who will be in a position to provide support with parenting.

17.16 Post Placement/Post Adoption Contact

Prospective adopters will be expected to comply with arrangements for post placement/post adoption contact with the child's birth family, where the agency considers it is in the child's best interests for such contact to take place.

End