SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This chapter was introduced into the manual in December 2012.
The main change made by the Regulations -Adoption Agencies (Panel and Consequential Amendments) Regulations 2012 and Revised Statutory Adoption Guidance - is that from 1st September 2012 Adoption Panels will no longer be involved in the agency's process of deciding whether a child should be placed for adoption when the Court will be involved in the decision. Where the child's parents are not prepared to consent, where Care Proceedings are on-going or where the child has no parents, the case must be referred direct to the Agency Decision Maker. There is no provision for referring a case to Panel for advice, in cases where the Court will be involved, referral to Panel for any reason is prohibited and would be a breach both of the Regulations and of Data Protection principles.
From 1st September 2012 the key changes are:
- The Agency Professional Advisor will be responsible for monitoring the quality of the Child Permanence Report (CPR) and deciding whether the report is compliant and complete before it can be submitted directly to the Agency Decision Maker (ADM);
- The CPR must reflect the Children's Guardian's views and relevant expert reports;
- In making the decision the ADM may discuss the case with the Professional Adviser, Medical Adviser and Legal Adviser;
- The Medical Adviser will no longer see the court reports so social workers MUST ensure that any relevant medical information is raised with the medical adviser and reflected in the CPR;
- In making the decision the ADM must consider the welfare checklist in s1 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 and all of the information provided in the CPR and other reports;
- The ADM must:
- List all the material that they have taken into account in reaching their decision;
- Include any discussions that they have with the Professional, Legal or Medical Advisers;
- Identify the key arguments in the case and set out their reasons for making the decision.
- Failure to show that the ADM has read and fully considered all the appropriate information and arguments could lead to challenge by parents' or children's representatives and delay in court proceedings;
- The ADM must make a decision within seven working days of receipt of the reports;
- Where an agency considers that adoption will be the preferred option for a relinquished child it should begin family finding immediately and achieve early placement following the agency decision;
- A child is not placed for adoption until they begin to live with the prospective adopters and that therefore the parents are not barred from making an application to revoke a Placement Order until a child has moved to the prospective adopters' home.
The Adoption Panel will still be required to consider cases and make recommendations where the child's parents will consent to the child being placed for adoption, for those applying to become adopters and for recommendations for children to be matched with adopters. For these cases the panel process remains unchanged.
As a result of the changes above the process for CPR's from the 1st September will be as follows:
N.B. The Adoption Panel Advisor must act as the key gatekeeper and quality assurer to the process. If the paperwork is not compliant, correct, complete or received by the agreed timescale it will NOT be submitted to the Agency Decision Maker.
- Social Worker contacts the Panel Administrator about case;
- Panel Administrator will give a date by which the Professional Advisor MUST receive the correct paperwork electronically;
- The Professional Advisor checks the paperwork as part of their quality assurance function. The Team Manager MUST have signed the CPR to indicate that they have checked the completeness and compliance of the paperwork (see Appendix A: Practice guidance for the completion of Child Permanence Reports);
- The social worker and service manager will be informed of any amendments/additions required, by e mail, and given a date when this MUST be returned to Professional Advisor. The final version is sent to Panel Administrator by the Professional Advisor;
- The Panel Administrator receives the final electronic copies of the paperwork from the Professional Advisor;
- The paperwork is submitted electronically to the ADM, the Medical Advisor and Legal Advisor by the Panel Administrator;
- The Medical and Legal Advisor provides the ADM with written advice which is sent to Panel Administrator electronically;
- The ADM may contact the Professional, Legal and/or Medical Advisor for further clarity or confirmation;
- The ADM makes their decision and informs the Panel Administrator;
- The Panel Administrator informs the social worker and service manager of ADM decision.
Appendix A: Practice guidance for the completion of Child Permanence Reports
- All core information for the child must be completed, accurate and up to date;
- Any descriptive and evaluative reports on child must be identified;
- A recent good quality photograph of the child should be attached;
- In describing the child's physical characteristic and personality remember that this report is the one that goes with the child;
- The child's history since birth should be a synopsis which includes reference to any expert assessment and analysis;
- The health section needs to reflect any medical information that is available and should be a summary of the information taken from any health assessment undertaken of the child;
- Chronology of the decisions and actions should be just that and reflect only significant action/decisions;
- Proposed contact arrangements must be clear, and have a rationale;
- The Children's Guardian's views MUST be clearly recorded;
- Chronology and social history of the birth mother/father should be concise and only contain significant events;
- The assessment of the ability and willingness of family members or relevant persons to permanently care for the child must be clear and include all relevant family members with a clear rationale of their suitability;
- The social worker has to be qualified under the Restriction on the Preparation of Reports Regulations 2005 to prepare the report. The regulations state that: they MUST have "at least three years' post-qualifying experience in child care social work, including direct experience of adoption work; or is supervised by a social worker who is employed by the local authority and has at least three years' post-qualifying experience in child care social work, including direct experience of adoption work." The CPR MUST be signed by someone qualified to do so, this does not necessarily mean that they have written the report;
- Summary of the reason why adoption is the preferred Permanence Plan for the child MUST include the outcome of any expert assessment as part of the social workers analysis- It is not appropriate to lift sections and put in quotation marks;
- It is advisable the Adoption Support Plan be discussed with the Post Adoption Team prior to the submission to the Adoption Panel which considers the match to ensure it is appropriate and realistic.