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6.4.1 Terms of Reference of the Adoption Panel

Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Membership of the Adoption Panel
  3. Functions of the Adoption Panel
  4. Agency Advisor to the Panel
  5. Meetings of the Adoption Panel and Conduct of Business
  6. Agency Decision Maker
  7. Timescales
  8. Adoption Panel Minutes


1. Introduction

The role of the Adoption Panel is to:

  • Provide an independent perspective, informed by a broad range of expertise, to monitor and quality assure social work recommendations on adoption cases in order to ensure that the adoption agency decision maker receives a recommendation which accurately reflects the facts of the case;
  • To monitor and quality assure adoption agency policies and practice.


2. Membership of the Adoption Panel

Caption: membership of the adoption panel table
   
1. The chair of the Adoption Panel will be a person independent of East Riding of Yorkshire Council;
2.

The Adoption Panel is not required to have a fixed membership, a maximum number of members, tenure of office or have an elected member of the local authority on the panel.

The Adoption Panel will comprise of a Central List of persons considered suitable to be members. This may include (excluding the independent chair):

  • Adoption social workers with at least 3 years’ relevant post qualifying experience in child care social work, including direct experience in adoption work (not necessarily employed by the agency);
  • The Medical Adviser/s;
  • Other persons whom the agency considers suitable including specialists in education, race and culture and child and adolescent mental health services; and
  • Those with personal experience of adoption.

The Panel Chair must be independent of the agency. Agencies can appoint two vice-chairs. There is no requirement for a vice-chair to be independent of the agency although this would be preferable where feasible.

The same people do not have to be appointed for each meeting;

3.

The Chair and independent members of the Adoption Panel will not be at any time whilst acting as a panel member, or have been within the previous 12 months of being appointed to the panel:

  • Employed within the Council's Children, Families and Schools Service, or in the case of the Chair, employed by the Council; or the relative of such a person;
  • A member of the Council, or the relative of a member of the Council;
  • The parent of a child placed for adoption (but not yet adopted), having been approved as suitable to adopt by the agency;
4. The Chair of the Adoption Panel will be appointed by the Head of Children's Social Care, with assistance from the Agency Adviser to the Adoption Panel. Members of the Central List will be appointed by the Chair of the Adoption Panel with assistance from the Agency Adviser;
5.

There is no longer any prescribed period for holding panel membership - members will be able to continue to act as long as they are able to carry out their duties.

In the event of a resignation from the Central List, the agency adviser will take steps to recruit a suitable replacement. In the case of the independent members with a personal experience of adoption, the vacancy will be advertised as widely as possible within East Riding of Yorkshire using local media to encourage applications from all sectors of the community. In the event of multiple applications, selection will be by interview, conducted by the agency adviser and panel chair;

6.

All those on the Central List of Adoption Panel members should have:

  • A satisfactory check with the Disclosure and Barring Service;
  • Undergone satisfactory Identity checks;
  • Provided proof of the right to work in the UK;
  • Provided references;
  • Provided verification of qualifications.

Appointments to serve on the Central List are also subject to:

  • Agreement to maintain confidentiality and security concerning Adoption Panel business and papers;
  • Acceptance of the terms of reference and rules of business of the adoption panel, as outlined in this procedure;
  • Agreement to undertake at least one day of training per annum in respect of the role and responsibilities of the Adoption Panel and Adoption Panel members;
  • Satisfactory performance and conduct as a panel member.

Each member of the Central List should have a copy of East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s whistleblowing policy.

On appointment of a new member of the Central List, the Panel Administrator will set up a file, and arrange for the member to:

  • Sign the membership of the Central List agreement;
  • Receive an induction pack;
  • Attend a meeting of the Adoption Panel as an observer.

All those on the Central List should have the opportunity to observe an Adoption Panel meeting before they sit as a member. They should also attend an annual joint training day with adoption agency staff, have induction training completed within 10 weeks of inclusion on the list and access to appropriate training and skills development. They should be kept abreast of changes to legislation, regulation and guidance.

Members of the Central List must be provided with written information on appointment of their performance objectives, including their participation in induction and other training and safeguarding the confidentiality of records and information submitted to Panel. They should sign their written agreement to achieving these objectives. There must be a process for review of their performance (including of the Panel chair by the Agency Decision Maker) and for performance management of members and where necessary the termination of the appointment.

The Panel Administrator will keep a record of all appointments made to the Central List, including the Panel Chair. A file will be maintained in respect of each member, and will contain the following information:

  • Date of receipt of DBS clearance, and records of identity checks, verification of proof of right to work in UK, qualifications and references;
  • Copy of signed confidentiality statement;
  • Receipt of induction pack including terms of reference of the Adoption Panel;
  • Copy of letter of appointment;
  • Central List membership agreement;
  • Details of any induction provided;
  • Log of any training undertaken;
  • Record of attendance at panel meetings;
  • Performance review document;
7.

An appointment to the Central List can be terminated by:

  • The member by giving one month's notice in writing of his/her resignation;
  • Where it is considered that someone is unsuitable to be on the Central List, they must be given one month’s notice in writing and the reasons for the decision to end their inclusion on the List.
Local authorities can have joint Adoption Panels if required, in order to share expertise and costs for example.


3. Functions of the Adoption Panel

The Adoption Panel will undertake the following business:

  • Recommendations regarding whether a child referred to the panel by the agency should be placed for adoption, in some cases - see below*;
  • Recommendations regarding the suitability of prospective adopters referred to the panel to adopt a child, and the provision of advice regarding the number and characteristics of children they should be approved to adopt. This will include prospective adopters intending to bring a child into the United Kingdom for adoption from abroad who have applied to the agency for an assessment;
  • Make a recommendation on whether a child should be placed for adoption (where the parents consent and there will be no Placement Order application) within two months of the Looked After Review where adoption was identified as the child’s identified Permanence Plan;
  • Consideration of representations from applicants whose approval has not been recommended;
  • Recommendations in respect of approved adopters referred to it by the agency following a review of approval resulting in the agency considering the adopters are no longer suitable to adopt a child;
  • Recommendations regarding proposed placements referred to it by the agency, and whether a child should be placed with (a) particular prospective adopter(s);
  • Receipt of progress reports on individual cases;
  • Receipt of information about adoption placement disruptions;
  • Provide feedback to the adoption agency every six months on the quality of reports and whether there is a fair and consistent approach across the service;
  • Quality assure and provide feedback to the adoption agency with regard to the cases presented to the panel, ensuring consistency of approach, thoroughness and rigour;
  • Consideration of adoption agency policies and procedures referred to the panel by the adoption agency;
  • Provide advice and guidance on any matter referred to it by the Agency Adviser to the Adoption Panel.

*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.


4. Agency Adviser to the Panel

The Adoption Team Manager will act as Agency Adviser to the Adoption Panel, (agency adviser) and will be responsible for:

  • Arranging for the appointment, reappointment, termination and review of appointments of members of the Central List;
  • Arranging the induction and training of members of the Central List;
  • Liaison between the agency and the Adoption Panel, monitoring the performance of members of the Central List and the administration of the Adoption Panel;
  • Giving any such advice as may be requested by the Adoption Panel in relation to any case, or generally;
  • Updating the Panel on the general progress of cases it has considered. This is particularly important where the Panel’s recommendation or advice was not accepted;
  • Maintaining an overview of the quality of the agency’s reports, to both the Panel and to the Agency Decision Maker, and liaising with team managers to quality assure the Child’s Permanence Report, the Prospective Adopter’s Report and the Adoption Placement Report. Where there are concerns about a report to the Panel, the Agency Adviser and the Panel chair should consider whether it is adequate for submission to the Panel. It will be for the Agency Adviser alone to decide whether a report is adequate for submission to the Agency Decision Maker;
  • Whilst the Agency Adviser is not a Panel member and cannot take part in the decision-making process, they should be able to contribute to Panel meetings by raising issues and providing advice, for example about the agency’s procedures and practices;
  • Providing, on request, advice to the Agency Decision Maker when s/he is considering a particular case.


5. Meetings of the Adoption Panel and Conduct of Business

  1. The Adoption Panel will meet a minimum of one day a month and at other times when necessary to avoid delay in considering children for adoption, approval of adopters and matching. In an emergency, when an urgent recommendation needs to be made in respect of a placement prior to the next planned panel, the Agency Adviser will consult with the Panel Chair with a view to arranging an additional meeting. This may be at short notice to avoid delay, for example where the child in question is the subject of care proceedings and the timing of the Panel consideration needs to dovetail with the Court timetable;
  2. The Adoption Panel must be quorate to conduct business. At least 5 members of the Panel must be present for the Panel to be quorate. These panel members must include:
    • The Chair or Vice Chair;
    • At least one of the Adoption Social Workers employed by East Riding of Yorkshire Council;
    • At least one independent panel member (who may be the Panel Chair);
  3. Meetings of the Adoption Panel will also be attended by:
    • The Agency Adviser to the Adoption Panel;
    • A solicitor from legal services for the purpose of providing legal advice to the panel;
  4. Individuals with a bona fide learning need may be permitted, at the discretion of the panel chair, to attend an Adoption Panel meeting as an observer. However, no more than two observers should be present at any particular meeting, and each observer must sign a confidentiality undertaking. Whenever practicable the agreement of those prospective adopters whose cases are under discussion will be sought;
  5. The agenda and related papers will be circulated to panel members at least 5 working days in advance of a meeting of the Adoption Panel. All panel papers must be returned to the panel administrator at the end of the meeting;
  6. All prospective adopters will be given the opportunity to attend, and address the panel meeting at which their application is being considered. Approved adopters will be entitled to attend and address a panel meeting at which the termination of their approval as suitable to adopt is being considered. They may provide, verbally, any information in support of their application, or continuing approval, which they consider appropriate. Panel members may seek clarification from them with regard to any aspect of their application or circumstances relevant to approval as suitable to adopt. Applicants and carers will not remain present whilst Adoption Panel members discuss their recommendation;
  7. A written record of the proceedings of the Adoption Panel, including panel recommendations, reasons for recommendations and any advice given to the adoption agency in respect of individual cases, will be made. Minutes will be taken by the Adoption Panel administrator. The minutes must be agreed by all panel members before being passed to the Agency Decision Maker. A full copy of the minutes will also be sent to the Director of Children, Families and Schools (agency decision-maker) and the Adoption Team Manager (see Section 8, Adoption Panel Minutes);
  8. The Adoption Panel Chair will endeavour to encourage Adoption Panel members to reach consensus recommendations. If after a full discussion, the Panel cannot reach a consensus on its recommendation after the Chair and other members of the Panel have voted, the Panel Chair has a second vote, i.e. the casting vote. The Panel’s minutes should clearly set out the reasons why the Panel Chair had to use the casting vote. All dissent from a recommendation made by the majority will be noted in the minutes with reservations;
  9. Adoption panel members must declare any personal knowledge of any child or prospective applicant, including members of their wider families; or professional involvement, in any case to be considered by a meeting of the adoption panel at the outset of the meeting. The Panel Chair will then decide whether it is appropriate for the panel member to contribute to the discussion or withdraw from the panel whilst the case is being considered.


6. Agency Decision Maker

The Agency Decision Maker considers recommendations from the Adoption Panel and, in those circumstances outlined in Section 3, Functions of the Adoption Panel, also makes decisions about whether a child is suitable to be placed for adoption without reference to the Adoption Panel. The following principles apply to all such decisions.

In reaching his/her decision, the Agency Decision Maker must consider:

  • The welfare checklist in Section 1 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002*;
  • All the information surrounding the case including the reports submitted to the Adoption Panel (where applicable), and that the authors of the reports are appropriately qualified to prepare them;
  • The stability and permanence of the relationship of any couple under consideration;
  • The recommendation and reasons of the Adoption Panel and any Independent Review Panel under the Independent Review Mechanism; and
  • The final minutes of the Adoption Panel including any minutes from adjourned Panel meetings and the Independent Review Panel;
    1. *The child's ascertainable wishes and feelings regarding the decision (considered in the light of the child's age and understanding);
    2. The child's particular needs;
    3. The likely effect on the child (throughout his life) of having ceased to be a member of the original family and become an adopted person;
    4. The child's age, sex, background and any of the child's characteristics which the court or agency considers relevant;
    5. Any harm (within the meaning of the Children Act 1989 (c. 41)) which the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering;
    6. The relationship which the child has with relatives, and with any other person in relation to whom the court or agency considers the relationship to be relevant, including:
      1. The likelihood of any such relationship continuing and the value to the child of its doing so;
      2. The ability and willingness of any of the child's relatives, or of any such person, to provide the child with a secure environment in which the child can develop, and otherwise to meet the child's needs;
      3. The wishes and feelings of any of the child's relatives, or of any such person, regarding the child.

It is good practice for the Agency Decision Maker:

  • To list the material taken into account in reaching the decision;
  • To identify key arguments;
  • To state whether they agree with the process and approach of the relevant Panel(s) and are satisfied as to its fairness and that the Panel(s) has/have properly addressed the arguments;
  • To consider whether any additional information now available to them that was not before the Panel has an impact on its reasons or recommendation;
  • To identify the reasons given for the relevant recommendation that they do or do not wish to adopt; and
  • To state (a) the adopted reasons by cross-reference or otherwise and (b) any further reasons for their decision.


7. Timescales

The adoption agency must decide 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 wished to proceed with the assessment process.

The Adoption Panel should make a recommendation on whether a child is suitable to be placed for adoption (where the parents consent and there will be no Placement Order application) within two months of the Looked After Review where adoption was identified as the child's identified Permanence Plan.

The Adoption Panel should make a recommendation on the proposed placement of a child with particular prospective adopters within six months of the agency decision maker’s decision that a child should be placed for adoption.

Where these timescales are not met, the Adoption Panel should record the reasons.

The agency decision maker should make a decision within seven working days of receipt of the final panel minutes and panel recommendation.

The child’s parents and prospective adopters are informed orally of the decision with two working days and in writing within five working days.


8. Adoption Panel Minutes

The Panel minutes will always record the information in relation to the following:

  1. The reports received;
  2. Who attended and for which part of the discussion;
  3. Medical advice;
  4. Legal advice;
  5. The Panel's discussions (main points) and conclusions;
  6. The Panel's recommendations and reasons, including any reservations expressed by any member;
  7. Any advice given by the Panel.

The Panel minutes will be written in accordance with the format agreed from time to time and kept on every child's or prospective adopter's Adoption Case Record. The Panel Chair is responsible for ensuring the accuracy of the Panel’s recommendations, reasons and, following agreement with Panel members, the minutes. The Chair must also make sure that a person who is not a member of the Panel fulfils the task of writing these documents.

The minutes must accurately reflect the discussion and cover the key issues, rather than be a verbatim record of the meeting. Where Panel members have serious reservations, the Panel Chair must ensure these are recorded in the minutes and are attached to the Panel’s recommendation.

The Panel minutes must be produced promptly and agreed by the Panel members before being approved by the Chair and sent to the Agency Decision Maker, together with the reports considered by the Panel when the recommendation was made, so that the Agency Decision Maker can meet the timescales for making the decision as set out in the relevant procedures – usually the timescale is within 7 working days of receipt.

Arrangements should be made by the Agency Adviser to the Panel for the safekeeping of the minutes and the record. Panel minutes, like other parts of Adoption Case Records, are exempt from the subject access provisions of the Data Protection Act 2018 (i.e. the person to whom they relate does not have a statutory right of access to the information they contain – see Access to Birth Records and Adoption Records Procedure.

End