SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This chapter deals with the placement of a child with carers who are i.e. approved as prospective adopters and as temporary local authority foster carers, by way of agreement from ADM under regulation 25A of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010.
In November 2020, this guidance was reviewed and updated as required to reflect the roles of the local authority and Adoption East Midlands (the regional adoption agency) in Early Permanence Placements.
Derby City Council uses a Strengths Based Approach for all work with children and families.
- Examples of Situations Where Placements with Foster to Adopt Carers may be Appropriate
- Fostering for Adoption
- Temporary Approval as Foster Carers of Approved Prospective Adopters
The advantage of this type of placement is that the child will be placed with approved adopters who are temporarily approved as foster carers, and who subject to a Placement Order being made, or parental consent, are expected to go on to become the child's adoptive family. The child therefore benefits from an early placement with their eventual permanent carers. Delay in finding a permanent family for young children who have already experienced neglect early on in their lives may have a profoundly damaging effect on their development. This type of placement has potential to reduce this delay and the damage caused significantly and, as a result:
- The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 were amended (in 2013) to allow approved prospective adopters to be given temporary approval as foster carers for a named child.
These placements are foster placements. The placement will only become and adoptive placement if:
- The Agency Decision Maker (ADM) has decided that the child should be placed for adoption; and
- Either a Placement Order has been made; or
- Parental consent to the child's adoption is given. The placement will only become an adoptive placement after the case has been taken to Matching Panel.
It is possible that such a placement may not lead to adoption, for example because the child's plan changes where rehabilitation with the birth family is successful, because suitable family or friends come forward or because the court does not agree to make a Placement Order. This may mean that the child returns home or is moved to another permanence arrangement. But, for the vast majority of children in such placements, progression towards adoption will be the anticipated outcome.
Local authorities will need to ensure that people who are willing to care for a child in this way are fully aware that the placement may not lead to adoption, and that they have been given appropriate information and training so that they understand their role and legal responsibilities as foster carers and ongoing support once the placement has been made.
2. Examples of Situations Where Placements with Foster to Adopt Carers may be Appropriate
- Where parents have had one or more child/ren previously placed for adoption or other forms of permanent placement and the evidence strongly suggests that their circumstances have not changed and they pose the same risks as they did to the previous child/ren;
- The local authority does not have a proactive plan to rehabilitate the child as the circumstances of the parents are such to pose a serious on-going risk;
- Where this is the first child, the circumstances of the parents and the risks to the child are such that there is no proactive plan to return the child to the birth parents or to other family members;
- Where all viabilities of other family members and friends have been explored and there are no other viable family options;
- Where parents have indicated that they may want their child adopted, but have not formally consented.
The local authority should not consider such a placement where the child is Accommodated under section 20 Children Act 1989 and there is a reasonable likelihood that the child will be able to return to his or her birth parents or to family or friends.
3. Fostering for Adoption
3.1 Considering Adoption for a Child
Examples of when a local authority may be considering adoption include:
- Where the local authority has decided at the permanence planning stage that adoption should be the plan for the child. The local authority must be able to demonstrate to the ADM and the court why the child cannot return home, why the child has not been placed with family or friends, why no other permanence plan is appropriate for the child and why adoption is the right plan for the child;
- In cases where the birth parents have indicated that they are likely to consent to the child being placed for adoption, but have not yet consented;
- A Fostering for Adoption placement can also be made after the ADM has made the decision that the child should be placed for adoption, but does not yet have authority to place the child for adoption.
Examples of where a local authority will not be considering adoption include:
- The child is likely to return home;
- They are aware that there are family or friends who can care for the child;
- A permanence placement other than adoption is more appropriate for the child.
If there is a change of circumstances in the prospective adoptive family or the child's birth family at any point during the planning of a Fostering for Adoption placement or once the child is in such a placement, a planning meeting should be held at the earliest opportunity. The planning meeting should include the Fostering for Adoption carers and all professionals involved so that the carers can make an informed choice about their position. Similarly, this allows the local authority to consider their position in light of the change in circumstances.
Where a decision is made to place a child in a Fostering for Adoption placement, the adoption agency must:
- Notify the prospective adopter in writing;
- Explain the decision to the child in an appropriate manner, having regard to the child's age and understanding;
- Explain to the birth parents (which includes fathers without Parental Responsibility) / guardian the legal implications.
Where the child is voluntarily Accommodated under section 20 of the Children Act, the notification should remind the birth parents of their right to remove the child from the local authority's care and should provide advice on access to legal advice and appropriate advisory bodies. At this point, the Local Authority may wish to consider commencing care proceedings.
The parents should be informed that the local authority cannot pre-judge the outcome of Care Proceedings and only the court can authorise placement for adoption if the parents do not consent to their child being placed for adoption.
5. Temporary Approval as Foster Carers of Approved Prospective Adopters
Approved prospective adopters can be given temporary approval as foster carers under 25A of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010. This temporary foster carer approval process can be carried out at the same time as the adopter approval process.
This temporary approval can be given for a named Looked After child, where the local authority consider that this is in the child's best interests.
It can also be used to avoid a further move of foster placement, prior to the match being approved at adoption panel, but after the Placement order has been made. This is referred to as an Early Permanence placement rather than a foster for adoption placement. For this to happen, Reg 25A paperwork is completed and authorisation given by ADM.
Before giving such approval, the responsible authority must:
- Assess the suitability of that person to care for the child as a foster carer; and
- Consider whether, in all the circumstances and taking into account the services to be provided by the responsible authority, the proposed arrangements will safeguard and promote the child's welfare and meet the child's needs as set out in the Care Plan.
The temporary approval period expires when:
- The placement is terminated by the local authority;
- The approval as a prospective adopter is terminated;
- The prospective adopter gives 28 days' written notice that they no longer wish to be temporarily approved as a foster parent in relation to the child; or
- The child is placed for adoption with the prospective adopter in accordance with the Adoption and Children Act 2002, after the match is agreed at adoption panel.