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6.4.2 Presentation of Children’s Cases to the Adoption Panel/Agency Decision Maker

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AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in September 2012 to reflect the changes made by the Adoption Agencies (Panel and Consequential Amendments) Regulations 2012 with effect from 1 September 2012, which provide that cases where the criteria apply for a Placement Order will not be referred to the Adoption Panel for a recommendation, but will be referred directly to the Agency Decision Maker for a decision.


Contents

  1. The Adoption Panel
  2. Prior to Adoption Panel Meetings
  3. Procedure for Presenting Children’s Cases to the Adoption Panel
  4. Referral Directly to Agency Decision Maker
  5. After the Decision


1. The Adoption Panel

Caption: the adoption panel table
   
1.

*Prior to 1 September 2012, the Adoption Agencies Regulations 2005 required that, whenever an adoption agency is considering adoption as the permanence plan for a child, the case must be referred to the Adoption Panel for a recommendation as to whether the child should be placed for adoption.

With effect from 1 September 2012, not all cases must be referred to the Adoption Panel. Cases where the criteria apply for the local authority to apply for a Placement Order, i.e. the child is the subject of a Care Order or the Threshold Criteria for a Care Order are satisfied or where there is no parent or guardian, will not be referred to the Adoption Panel for a recommendation, but will be referred directly to the Agency Decision Maker for a decision. All other cases (i.e. where the parents have given consent and there is no application for a Placement Order) will continue to be referred to the Adoption Panel for a recommendation, which the Agency Decision Maker will take into account when making a decision.

When a Care Plan involving adoption is endorsed at a looked after child's statutory review, there must be no delay in presenting the child's case to the adoption panel/Agency Decision Maker.

The case should be presented within 2 months of the review meeting that endorsed the Care Plan of adoption. As soon as adoption is the Permanence Plan for the child, the child's social worker must arrange a date for the case to be referred to the Adoption Panel (where the parents have given consent and there is no application for a Placement Order)/Agency Decision Maker (in all other cases);

2.

In considering a case of a child, the Adoption Panel/Agency Decision Maker must take account of the following duties imposed on the adoption agency under the Adoption and Children Act 2002:

  • The paramount consideration in decision-making must be the child's welfare throughout his life;
  • Account must be taken of (the welfare checklist):
    • Child's ascertainable wishes and feelings;
    • Child's particular needs;
    • Likely effect on child of having ceased to be a member of his/her family of origin;
    • Child's characteristics - age, gender, etc;
    • Any harm the child has suffered, or is at risk of suffering;
    • Child's relationship with relatives and significant others, - the likelihood of the relationship continuing and the value of it doing so; the ability of the relatives or significant others to meet the needs of the child; and their wishes and feelings regarding the child;
    • The child’s preferred method of communication should be known and there should be no assumption that a child is unable to communicate.

  • Due consideration must be given to the child's religion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background;
  • The whole range of powers available to the agency (i.e. the local authority) in dealing with the child's case.


2. Prior to Adoption Panel Meetings

Caption: prior to adoption panel meetings table
   
1.

See Section 1, The Adoption Panel for circumstances when the case will be referred to the Adoption Panel, and when the case will be referred directly to the Agency Decision Maker.

Before making any recommendation, the adoption panel:

  • Must be sent the Child's Permanence Report, health report; and the information concerning the health of the child's parents, and must take these into account;
  • Must obtain legal advice in relation to the case;
  • May request the adoption agency to obtain any other relevant info it considers necessary to make a recommendation, and therefore it could defer a case until this information has been provided.
The Child's Permanence Report must set out a balanced view of the adoption plan and any alternatives to adoption, and it must include at least a summary, if not the full text, of any specialist reports prepared for court proceedings, whether they support the recommendation for adoption or not;
2.

If the adoption panel recommend that the child should be placed for adoption, it must also consider, and may provide advice to the agency about:

  • Arrangements for contact between the child and any person. This includes an assessment of child’s needs for contact with birth parents and siblings, checking of birth family’s and prospective adopters’ views pre-placement, inclusion of contact arrangements in the adoption support plan and how to deal with unauthorised or unmediated contact through online social networking sites;
  • Whether an application for a Placement Order should be made.


3. Procedure for Presenting Children’s Cases to the Adoption Panel

See Section 1, The Adoption Panel for circumstances when the case will be referred to the Adoption Panel, and when the case will be referred directly to the Agency Decision Maker. Where cases are referred directly to the Agency Decision Maker, Section 3 does not apply and the procedure is set out in Section 4, Referral Directly to Agency Decision Maker.

  1. Child's social worker completes the Child's Permanence Report, and submits this to their supervisor and/ or Team Manager for approval and signature with final endorsement by the Area Manager;
  2. Social Worker forwards:
    • The Child's Permanence Report;
    • Any written feedback on the Child's Permanence Report provided by a parent or guardian of the child;
    • Any written contribution or other material from the child;
    • Photographs of the child, parents and siblings;
    • Child's Personal Education Plan (where relevant);
    • Child's Health Report;
    • Birth Parent's medical information to the Agency Adviser (Adoption Team Manager).
  3. The Agency Adviser will check that all the required documents have been received and are in order, before authorising the Adoption Panel Administrator to arrange for the case to be tabled for consideration by the Adoption Panel;
  4. The case will be tabled for consideration by the Adoption Panel at the next available opportunity. The Panel Administrator will notify the child's social worker by e-mail of the date of the Panel Meeting and time when the case will be considered;
  5. The Social Worker should attend the Adoption Panel to present the child's case. They should be prepared to provide any further information, or answer any queries the adoption panel may have about the case. If the adoption panel consider that insufficient information is available for them to make an informed decision, they may ask the agency to provide any further information they consider necessary to make a decision. They may, therefore, decide to defer making a recommendation on the case whilst the information is obtained;
  6. For cases which are presented to the Adoption Panel, the final minutes must be produced promptly and agreed by the Panel members and then sent to the Agency Decision Maker, together with the reports considered by the Panel, to allow the decision to be made within seven working days of receipt of the panel’s recommendation and final set of panel minutes;
  7. The Agency Decision Maker must record his or her decision in writing, together with reasons;
  8. 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. This discussion must be recorded and placed on the child's Adoption Case Record;
  9. Where the adoption plan is approved, see Consent to Adoption and Applying for a Placement Order Procedure.


4. Referral Directly to Agency Decision Maker

See Section 1, The Adoption Panel for circumstances when the case will be referred to the Adoption Panel, and when the case will be referred directly to the Agency Decision Maker.

Where cases are to be referred directly to the Agency Decision Maker for a decision, a time should be booked with the Agency Decision Maker for the decision to be made and this should be a maximum of 2 months from the date when the adoption plan was ratified at the child's Looked After Review. In order for the decision to be made within this timescale, the Agency Decision Maker should be sent the same reports and information as would be submitted to the Adoption Panel, as set out in Section 3, Procedure for Presenting Children’s Cases to the Adoption Panel.

The child's social worker will send the relevant reports to the Agency Adviser at least 10 working days before the relevant date booked with the Agency Decision Maker.

The Agency Adviser will be responsible for checking the quality of the reports before they are submitted to the Agency Decision Maker.

In making the decision the Agency Decision Maker may discuss the case with the Agency Adviser, Medical Adviser and legal adviser. However, there is no provision for adjourning the decision to allow time for taking advice. NB The Agency Decision Maker is expressly prohibited from referring a case to the Adoption Panel for advice.

The principles of the decision-making should be as set out in Section 6, Agency Decision Maker of the Terms of Reference of the Adoption Panel Procedure.


5. After the Decision

  1. The parents will be informed orally of the agency’s decision within two working days and written confirmation should be sent to them within five working days. These arrangements will be made by the Agency Decision Maker in conjunction with the child’s social worker and Adoption Team Manager.

    The letter setting out the agency decision will be sent by recorded delivery, except where delivery by hand has been agreed as appropriate, in which case the letter will be forwarded to the social worker for delivery by hand.

    The child's social worker will also ensure that the child is informed of the decision in a timely and age-appropriate way.

    In cases where the case has been presented to the Adoption Panel and the decision is different from the Panel's recommendation, a copy of the Panel minutes should also be sent to the parents.
  2. A copy of the written record of the proceedings of the adoption panel relating to the child, including the panel's recommendations, the reasons for the recommendations, and any advice given to the agency by the panel must be retained on the child's adoption file.

End