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14.1.2 Adoption Panel

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter details the arrangements for establishing and maintaining an Adoption Panel, which provides an independent scrutiny of the proposals presented by the agency. It also describes the roles, responsibilities and functions of the panel and its advisers.

RELEVANT LEGISLATION AND GUIDANCE

Adoption and Children Act 2002

Adoption Agencies Regulations 2005 (as amended in 2011), Regulations 3 to 9, 18, 19, 26, 27, 32 and 33

Adoption and Children Act 2002 Guidance (2011), Chapters 1 to 4.

Adoption National Minimum Standards 2011, Standard 17

Adoption Agencies (Panel and Consequential Amendments) Regulations 2012

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in January 2016. Information was added in Section 2, Adoption Panel Membership, with regards to the Central List must be maintained by an appointed senior social worker with at least 5 years’ relevant post-qualification experience and relevant management experience.


Contents

  1. Adoption Panel Purpose and Function
  2. Adoption Panel Membership
  3. Adoption Panel Meetings
  4. Agency Decision Maker
  5. Adoption Panel Minutes
  6. Reports to Adoption Panel
  7. Advisers
  8. Independent Review Mechanism
  9. Complaints

    Appendix A: Adoption Panel: Values

    Appendix A2: Acceptance of Appointment, Agreement and Confidentiality Undertaking for Nottinghamshire Central List Panel Members (Adoption/Fostering)

    Appendix A3: Annual Appraisal Form

    Appendix B: Adoption Welfare Checklist

    Appendix C: Confidentiality Undertaking - Observers

    Appendix D: Protocol for Dealing with Incomplete Information

    Appendix E: Formats for Reports to Adoption Panel

    Appendix F: Job Description and Person Specification (Independent Panel Chair)


1. Adoption Panel Purpose and Function

The Adoption Panel contributes to the running and quality assurance of the Local Authority's adoption service and receives annual reports on the service and its performance.

In doing so it has an overriding responsibility to promote good practice, consistency of approach and fairness in all aspects of the adoption service, in accordance with its procedures and values.

The Adoption and Children Act 2002 Section 1(2) establishes that "the paramount consideration of the court or adoption agency must be the child's welfare, throughout his life".

In considering their recommendations panels shall have regard to the duties of the agency:

  • To safeguard and promote the welfare of the child throughout his/her childhood;
  • So far as its practicable, to ascertain the wishes and feelings of the child and to give them due consideration, having regard to his/her age and understanding;
  • In placing a child to have regard to the wishes of his/her parents and guardians as to his/her religious upbringing.

In all its considerations relating to the child, panel will have regard to the welfare checklist

Panels will carry out the functions and duties as set out in the Adoption Agencies Regulations 2005 and will meet the requirements of statutory Adoption Guidance, and the National Minimum Standards for Adoption

Applicants will be encouraged to attend panel when their application is heard on the basis of a full assessment or a brief "report", or if it is proposed by the agency that approval should be withdrawn. Although not a requirement, prospective adopters will also be invited to attend the matching panel as this is considered good practice.

1.1 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.

Adoption Panels 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 Permanence Plan.

Adoption Panels 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 the child is suitable to be placed for adoption.

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

1.2 Panel recommendations and advice

Whether a child should be placed for adoption - in some cases - see below*

As 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.

Note that in cases which are referred directly to the Agency Decision Maker for a decision, he/she is expressly prohibited from referring a case to the Adoption Panel for advice.

Panel will make a recommendation on:

  • Whether the child should be placed for adoption, and should also consider and may offer advice on;
  • Whether the contact arrangements that are proposed are likely to meet the child's identity needs and whether they are compatible with the placement for adoption.

Panel will also confirm that birth parents have been given the opportunity to see and comment on the contents of the report, and that they have been offered independent support.

Whether a prospective adopter is suitable to adopt a child

Panel will make a recommendation on:

  • Whether the prospective adopter is suitable to adopt a child;

    and should also consider and may offer advice on:
  • The number of children, age range, gender, likely needs and background that may be appropriate. (This advice may inform subsequent matching of the prospective adopter with a child but the agency is not restricted by such advice).

Whether a child should be placed for adoption with a specific prospective adoptive parent

Panel will make a recommendation on:

  • Whether the child should be placed for adoption with the specific prospective adoptive parent/s proposed;

    and must also consider and may offer advice on:
  • The proposals for adoption support for the adoptive family;
  • Whether the contact arrangements that are proposed are likely to meet the child's identity needs and whether they are compatible with the placement for adoption;
  • The adequacy of the Adoption Support Plan;
  • Whether the Parental Responsibility of any parent or guardian or the prospective adopter should be restricted, and if so the extent of any restriction.

Panel will also confirm that birth parents have been given the opportunity to see and comment on the contents of the information about them that has been or will be shared with the prospective adoptive parents.

Where a panel considers it has insufficient information, the making of a recommendation will be deferred until that information can be presented to panel

1.3 Reviewing and reporting activities

Panel to Agency

The panels will:

  • Raise through the chair or agency adviser any cases causing particular concern;
  • Monitor and feedback to the agency (via the agency adviser or Panel Manager) the quality of the work presented to the panels to enable a process of continuous improvement;
  • Draw to the attention of the agency through the agency adviser areas of policy, procedure and practice requiring review.

Agency to Panel

The agency will:

  • Provide information to all panels about Nottinghamshire children whose adoptive placement has disrupted and Nottinghamshire adopters whose placement has disrupted. Panels will also review disruption reports to identify learning points;
  • Provide information about adopters who have been reviewed by the agency and whose continued approval has been agreed;
  • Provide a six-monthly report of the agency's activity in adoption work for panel's consideration;
  • Inform panel of the outcome of any complaints where appropriate.


2. Adoption Panel Membership

There is no fixed Panel membership or maximum number of members or maximum tenure of office.

The agency will maintain a Central List of persons considered to be suitable as panel members. This List must be maintained by an appointed senior social worker with at least 5 years’ relevant post-qualification experience and relevant management experience. Members will be appointed to a specific Panel, but may be asked to attend other Panels if issues of quoracy arise, for example.

The same people do not have to be appointed to every Panel meeting.

The Central List should include (in addition to 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; child and adolescent mental health services; and those with personal experience of adoption.

The Chair (Independent Person) must be independent of the adoption agency, and is appointed by the Service Manager (Adoption). Independent chairs should meet the requirements of the person specification as in Appendix F: Job Description and Person Specification (Independent Panel Chair).

  • The chair's role is crucial in ensuring that the panel's work is carried out efficiently and sensitively, and the agency must, therefore, select with great care the best person for this important appointment. His/her personal qualities and his/her experience of adoption needs to be such that he/she commands the respect of the other panel members and can chair the panel's meetings effectively;
  • The chair should have experience of adoption and be able to chair a meeting effectively. The personal qualities necessary to fulfil the role are set out in detail in the person specification (see Appendix F: Job Description and Person Specification (Independent Panel Chair)). The chair should ensure panels fulfil their role in accordance with the agency's expectations set out in detail in the job description see Appendix F: Job Description and Person Specification (Independent Panel Chair)) and in the Protocol for Panel Members;
  • The chair will share joint responsibility with the Adoption Panel Manager for the annual performance review of panel members;
  • The performance of the panel chair will be reviewed annually by the agency decision maker, taking into account any comments received from panel members and those attending panel (i.e. social workers and adoptive applicants).

The Panel must also have one, and can have two, Vice Chairs (who are not necessarily independent members), who are also appointed by the Service Manager (Adoption). The Vice Chairs of the three Panels are expected to operate across the Panels if the need arises. Nominations will be sought from JCC SMG for experienced child care managers to be appointed as Vice-Chairs. As their role will be to chair panels in the absence of the independent chair, Vice Chairs should also meet the requirements of the person specification as set out in Appendix F: Job Description and Person Specification (Independent Panel Chair).

The Agency Decision Maker on adoption matters must not be included on the Central List.

The agency should decide how many people should sit at each Adoption Panel meeting, provided that there is a quorum of 5 or 6 if a joint panel, one of whom must be the Chair or Vice Chair, one of the adoption social worker representatives and at least one independent member.

2.1 Appointments to the Central List

Those on the Central List are appointed by the Service Manager (Adoption) and will able to continue their membership as long as they are able to carry out their duties.

All those on the Central List should undergo a recruitment process that includes interviews, identity checks, verification of qualifications and right to work in the UK, taking up of two references and DBS (Enhanced Disclosure) checks, which are recorded. Written references will be sought and telephone enquiries made to verify the reference.

New appointees will be asked to give signed agreement to checks being undertaken as above and cannot take up their appointment until the outcome of the checks are known. They are excluded from Panel membership if they have any offences against children or of violence. They are required to notify the Panel Manager immediately if they receive such a conviction or caution while on the Central List.

A confidential file shall be set up by the Adoption Panel Manager in respect of every Panel member to record:

  • The application and any notes relating to the decision to appoint the panel member;
  • Qualifications;
  • Status and enhanced disclosure DBS checks, enquiries and references that have been obtained and their outcomes;
  • Experience of working in a child care setting;
  • Training undertaken;
  • Complaints made against the panel member;
  • Notes of any appraisals or decisions to terminate the appointment of the panel member.

Potential vice chairs, social workers and independent panel members will be interviewed by the Adoption Panel Manager and a Panel chair. They should explain the responsibilities of the role and ensure that:

  • The individual has the capacity to operate in that role;
  • The potential panel member is aware of the policies of the Nottinghamshire Adoption Agency and can support them;
  • The potential panel member is willing to sign their agreement to the Protocol for Panel Members.

Where it is mutually agreed to pursue membership, the Adoption Panel Manager will recommend the appointment to the Service Manager (Adoption) and this will then be endorsed by the Head of the Adoption Agency.

They should have the opportunity to observe an Adoption Panel meeting before they sit as a member (see Appendix C: Confidentiality Undertaking - Observers) and to have induction training completed within 10 weeks of inclusion on the list. Members will also have access to appropriate training and skills development and are kept abreast of changes to legislation, regulation and guidance. Panel members will be expected to attend two training days each year, one a joint training day with adoption agency staff, and the other a day for members of all three Panels to meet together.

They should also have access to the agency's whistle-blowing policy.

Written information about the expectations arising from their appointment should be given to new appointees to the Central List (in relation to their performance objectives, participation in induction and other training, safeguarding the confidentiality of information provided to the Panel and their general conduct - see Section 2.2, Confidentiality and Section 2.3, General Conduct) and they should be asked to sign a written agreement confirming their acceptance of these before taking up their appointment.

2.2 Confidentiality

All written and verbal information given to Panel members in the course of their duties is strictly confidential. As indicated above, those included on the Central List are required to sign a written agreement, before their appointment, to confirm that all information they receive will remain confidential.

Panel members are expected to keep all written information in a secure place and return all Panel documents to the agency immediately after each Panel meeting. Panel members unable to attend a meeting will be asked to return their papers to the Panel Co-ordinator.

Panel members must not copy, in part or in whole, any documents that relate to a case.

Discussions about cases must only take place within the Panel meeting.

If a Panel member has some knowledge of a case, whether in a personal or professional capacity, they should declare an interest and inform the Chair of the Panel at the earliest opportunity, so that an alternative member can be invited if required to ensure that the Panel is quorate (see Section 2.4, Conflicts of Interest).

Failure to comply with the above paragraphs may result in the member's inclusion on the Central List being terminated.

2.3 General Conduct

All those on the Central List should be committed to anti-discriminatory practice and should be prepared to consider each case on its own merits.

Panel members receive and are expected to abide by the Protocol for Panel Members and the Panel Values (see Appendix A: Adoption Panel: Values) and Code of Conduct documents.

Panel members should have read the Panel papers carefully, prior to the Panel meeting, and come prepared to contribute to the Panel discussion.

The Panel Manager will monitor the performance of those on the Central List on an on-going basis.

The Panel Manager, in consultation with the Chair, will review their performance on a formal basis at least annually.

If there are concerns about the conduct or behaviour of a person on the Central List, this should be conveyed to the Panel Manager and Chair who will raise these concerns with the person in private.

If such concerns cannot be resolved informally, the Panel Manager, in consultation with the Chair, will write to the person concerned setting out the concerns and what action it is proposed to take. See Section 2.6, Termination of Appointment to the Central List for action that may be taken if the concerns continue.

The Chair's performance will be reviewed annually by the Agency Decision Maker, taking into account the views of those who attend Panel meetings, namely, persons on the Central List, social workers and prospective adopters.

2.4 Conflicts of Interest

Panel members should consider any conflicts of interest in relation to Panel agenda items. A potential conflict arises if an interest may be seen to adversely affect a Panel member's capacity to act without prejudice or preference in a matter.

It is anticipated that in many circumstances there may be professional knowledge of a case which should be notified to the Chair but which will not affect a member's capacity to participate in the Panel. In other circumstances there may be a personal interest or connection which would require the Panel member to refrain from participation. It may be less clear in some cases when advice should be sought.

In the case of a potential conflict of interest where advice is required, Panel members should consult the Chair, Panel Manager or Legal Adviser, giving as much advance notice as possible particularly having regard to the implications for the quorum.

2.5 Resignations from the Central List

All those on the Central List are expected to give a minimum of one month's written notice of their wish to resign, except where personal emergencies e.g. accidents, illness, make this impossible. Resignation letters should be addressed to the Service Manager (Adoption), with a copy to the Chair of the Panel.

Initial verbal resignations may be given, but should always be followed by a written resignation. Those on the Central List are asked, as a matter of courtesy, to inform the Chair of the Panel of their intention to resign, before making any public announcement.

Those on the Central List wishing to withdraw a submitted written resignation must do so before the one month notice period expires by writing to the Service Manager (Adoption), who reserves the right not to accept a withdrawal of notice and to allow the original letter of resignation to stand.

2.6 Termination of Appointment to the Central List

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 reasons for the decision to end their appointment.

Where there are concerns about the behaviour of a person on the Central List either inside or outside the meetings, and the difficulties have not been resolved by discussion and correspondence between the Chair, Panel Manager and the person concerned, the matter will be raised by the Panel Manager with the Service Manager (Adoption), who will decide whether to propose the end of the appointment and if so, will advise the person concerned in writing giving clear reasons for the proposal.

The person concerned will be given the opportunity to make observations on the matter before a final decision is made by the Service Manager (Adoption).


3. Adoption Panel Meetings

The Panel Co-ordinator will prepare and circulate an annual list of Adoption Panel dates and deadlines in advance of the designated start of the Panel's year.

The Panel Co-ordinator, in consultation with the Panel Adviser, will prepare the agenda for each meeting and draw members from the Central List. The agenda and Panel papers for each meeting should be sent to Panel members at least ten working days before the meeting.

social workers presenting reports to the Panel must send their report and any supporting documentation required (as specified in the relevant procedures elsewhere in the Manual; see Placement for Adoption Procedure and Assessment and Approval of Prospective Adopters Procedure) to the Panel Co-ordinator three weeks before the date of the Panel meeting.

The Panel Adviser, who must be a senior practitioner or manager in the adoption service with at least 5 years' relevant post-qualification and management experience, attends all Panel meetings to advise the Panel but is not a member of the Panel. His or her role is to ensure all the necessary reports are available for the Panel, to advise the Panel on social work and procedural matters and to report to social workers and their managers on issues arising from Panel meetings.

The Panel's legal adviser provides advice to all Panel meetings either in writing or by attending in person, but is not a Panel member.

The agenda will include at the beginning an opportunity for any Panel member to declare an interest in any item on the agenda (see Section 2.4, Conflicts of Interest). If an interest is declared, the Chair must then decide whether the Panel member should withdraw during consideration of the item.

3.1 Cases requiring urgent consideration by panel

Nottinghamshire has three panels, each of which meets monthly. Cases which need to be brought to panel urgently will be prioritised on the next panel's agenda, avoiding the need to convene an emergency panel

3.2 Observers

See Appendix C: Confidentiality Undertaking - Observers

The agency recognises the benefits of observing panel for prospective panel members, social workers who are new to the agency or unfamiliar with adoption and members of partner agencies. The usual expectation is that no more than one observer shall attend at any one time

Attendance to observe will be agreed by the Adoption Panel Manager in conjunction with the panel chair on the basis of the observer having a relevant interest

Observers will be invited to read the panel papers once these are available, but will only be able to do so at specified premises.

All observers must sign the Confidentiality undertaking when visiting to view the papers

3.3 Children's Guardians

It is possible that the Children's Guardian who has been appointed by the Court may wish to attend Adoption Panel at the plan and/or match stage. Social workers must notify the Adoption Panel Administrator in these circumstances who will send a formal letter of invitation and confidentiality undertaking to the Guardian.

3.4 Panel recommendations

The panel will normally reach its recommendation to the agency by consensus. However, this may not always be possible. In this case, the chair should ensure that there are attempts to address views which are in apparent tension to see whether consensus can be achieved. In the event that panel members' recommendations are equally divided, the panel chair will have the casting vote.

Panel members act as individuals and have individual responsibility for the recommendations they make. They should feel able to depart from the majority view as long as this is supported by sound reasoning. Abstentions cannot be accepted

The panel is required to keep a written record of any of the recommendations which are made and the reasons for these.


4. Agency Decision Maker

The Agency Decision Maker considers recommendations from the Adoption Panel and, in those circumstances outlined in Section 1, Adoption Panel Purpose and Function, 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 (see Section 6, Reports to Adoption Panel);
  • 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:

  1. To list the material taken into account in reaching the decision;
  2. To identify key arguments;
  3. 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;
  4. To consider whether any additional information now available to them that was not before the Panel has an impact on its reasons or recommendation;
  5. To identify the reasons given for the relevant recommendation that they do or do not wish to accept; and
  6. To state (a) the reasons by cross-reference or otherwise and (b) any further reasons for their decision.


5. Adoption Panel Minutes

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

  1. The reports received. (The Panel's requirements as to reports are specified in the relevant procedures elsewhere in the Manual; see Placement for Adoption Procedure and Assessment and Approval of Prospective Adopters Procedure);
  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. If 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.

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.


6. Reports to Adoption Panel

See also Appendix E: Formats for Reports to Adoption Panel.

Reports to the Adoption Panel in relation to matters upon which the Panel are asked to make recommendations must be prepared by qualified social workers with at least 3 years' post-qualification experience. This must include direct experience of adoption work either in assessing prospective adoptive parents or implementing an adoption plan for a Looked After child. Where the author of the report does not have the requisite qualifications and experience, he or she must have either a qualification in social work or be a social worker in training, and must be supervised by a qualified social worker with 3 years' relevant experience.

Where the person preparing the report is an independent or agency social worker, they must always be suitably qualified and experienced and be supervised by a member of staff with the suitable qualifications and experience.

The same qualifications and experience are required for social workers undertaking visits of children placed for adoption (see Monitoring and Supervision of Adoptive Placements Procedure) and authors of Court Reports in adoption cases.


7. Advisers

7.1 Medical Advisers

The Health Service will nominate a suitability qualified adviser and will prepare an induction programme, to which the Adoption Panel Manager will contribute. Medical advisers who are to become panel members will be required to:

  • Complete an information form which will provide details required under the Regulations;
  • Provide the names and addresses of two referees. Written references will be sought and telephone enquiries made to verify the reference. This will be recorded on the panel member's file;
  • Declare any convictions or cautions or criminal offences and authorise an "enhanced disclosure" DBS check if a valid one is not already in existence;
  • Where this does exist, the original must be seen by the Adoption Panel Manager and a copy taken for the panel member's personnel file;
  • Be in agreement with the policies of the Nottinghamshire Adoption Agency;
  • Sign the Protocol for Panel Members including a confidentiality undertaking;
  • Have their nomination accepted by the Service Manager (Adoption) based on the Health Service's recommendation. The appointment will be endorsed by the Head of the Adoption Agency.

The roles and responsibilities of the Medical Adviser are as follows:

  • The Medical Adviser must be a registered medical practitioner who has general medical experience within the community;
  • The Medical Adviser will offer advice with regard to policy in relation to medical aspects of adoption;
  • The Medical Adviser will evaluate the health information available to the panel/Agency Decision Maker about children, their birth parents and adoptive applicants and advise about its implications in relation to adoption;
  • The Medical Adviser will advise the agency staff on arrangements for access to and disclosure of medical information which is required or permitted. They will seek further medical information if they consider it necessary and give a full report in writing to the panel;
  • The Medical Adviser will collate, provide and evaluate information the agency provides to a prospective new family about the child's health before placement. The medical adviser may choose to give this information personally to the new family;
  • The Medical Adviser will collate, provide and evaluate the report on the child's health to be sent to the prospective new family's GP before placement and the notification to the Health Authority;
  • The Medical Adviser will advise the agency on the extent to which the child's health should be monitored during the placement;
  • The Medical Adviser will produce a written summary of each child's health background, current health status and future health and developmental prognosis in preparation for the adoption plan being presented to panel/Agency Decision Maker;
  • The Medical Adviser will make this summary and any updated information available to prospective adopters before a proposed match is brought to a panel;
  • In addition to the specialist role in advising the agency, its panels, staff and prospective carers on medical aspects of adoption, the Medical Adviser should also act as a full panel member as set out in the Protocol for Panel Members (Appendix A2: Acceptance of Appointment, Agreement and Confidentiality Undertaking for Nottinghamshire Central List Panel Members (Adoption/Fostering));
  • The Medical Adviser will where necessary coordinate tertiary care and provide post placement advice;
  • Medical Advisers will meet on a regular basis with representatives of the Adoption Management Group to ensure good liaison is maintained.

7.2 Adoption Panel Manager

See also Section 7.3, Agency Adviser. In Nottinghamshire, some of the responsibilities of the Agency Adviser as set out in the Adoption Guidance, are undertaken by the Adoption Panel Manager.

The Adoption Panel Manager shall be a social worker who has at least five years' relevant post-qualifying experience, and relevant management experience.

The duties of the Panel Manager are:

  • To assist the agency with the appointment (including re-appointment), termination and review of appointment of members of the adoption panels;
  • To be responsible for the induction and training of members of the adoption panels;
  • To share joint responsibility with the panel chair for the annual performance review of panel members;
  • To be responsible for the day-to-day management of the panel system, in conjunction with the Adoption Panel Co-ordinator;
  • To discuss all issues pertinent to adoption panels with the Service Manager (Adoption);
  • To be responsible for liaison between the agency and the adoption panels, monitoring the performance of members of the adoption panels, and the administration of the adoption panels;
  • To advise the Head of the Adoption Agency and the agency decision makers on practice, procedure, panel membership and policy issues;
  • To brief the panels on policy, practice and procedural issues and identify training needs;
  • To ensure that the panels are consulted about relevant developments in adoption practice within the agency. This may be achieved through the quarterly Panel Review meeting which involves panel chairs and vice chairs, or by circulating all panel members;
  • To provide a six monthly report of the agency's activity in adoption work to the panels and to the Service Manager (Adoption). The report will detail information regarding panel business, account of activities, training and information on key issues of interest and concern;
  • To act as one of the agency advisers to panels, providing such advice as the panels may request in relation to any case or generally;
  • To meet regularly with colleague managers acting as agency advisers to discuss issues relevant to and arising from adoption panels;
  • To deal with complaints arising from the business of the panels, in consultation with the Service Manager (Adoption) where necessary.

7.3 Agency Adviser

See also Section 7.2, Adoption Panel Manager. In Nottinghamshire, some of the responsibilities of the Agency Adviser as set out in the Adoption Guidance, are undertaken by the Adoption Panel Manager.

The agency adviser shall be a social worker who has at least five years' relevant post-qualifying experience, and relevant management experience. This role will be undertaken by the adoption manager interagency and ASSa, (and the Adoption Panel Manager).

The duties of the agency adviser are:

  • To attend all panels;
  • To give such advice to the panel or ADM as may be requested in relation to any case or generally;
  • To ensure that the panels carry out the duties as set out in these procedures;
  • To Quality Assure all CPR's which go direct to Agency Decision Maker;
  • To assist the panels in carrying out their duty to monitor the quality of work from the agency;
  • To input the panel's recommendation onto Framework for each case within 24 hours of the panel meeting, and alert the agency decision maker;
  • To receive the draft panel minutes and check for accuracy.

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.

The Agency Adviser should maintain an overview of the quality of the agency’s reports, to both the Panel and to the Agency Decision Maker, and liaise 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.

The Agency Adviser should also update 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.

7.4 Adoption Panel Coordinator

The Adoption Panel Co-ordinator provides administrative support to the Panel Manager and works in conjunction with the Panel Manager to ensure the smooth running of all aspects of panels. The duties include:

Meetings of the Adoption Panel

  • Set panel dates and booking venue;
  • Circulate dates to panel chairs and members, advisers, agency decision makers and other interested parties;
  • Receive and respond to requests for panel dates;
  • Maintain an online panel booking and quoracy system;
  • Receive and collate reports for panel, arranging for them to be copied and sent to panel members in advance of panel;
  • Set the panel agenda;
  • Receive apologies from panel members and monitor implications for quoracy;
  • Alert the Panel Manager to any difficulties or problems arising from any of the above;
  • Ensure that a minute taker is available for each panel meeting and that minutes are produced promptly.

Panel Membership

  • Set up and maintain personal files on panel members;
  • Distribute BAAF mailing;
  • Maintain and update Panel Members Handbook;
  • Collate recruitment and induction material;
  • Co-ordinate DBS checks;
  • Send out appointment letters;
  • Monitor attendance at panel;
  • Maintain contact details of Central List members;
  • Maintain information sheet re Central List members.

Panel Training

  • Work with the Panel Manager to set dates for panel training twice per year;
  • Circulate dates to panel chairs and members, advisers, Agency Decision Makers and other interested parties;
  • Arrange venues and refreshments;
  • Send out invitations and programmes etc;
  • Copy hand-outs;
  • Monitor attendance;
  • Distribute and collate evaluation forms;
  • Provide admin support at the training events themselves;
  • Post Panel notifications;
  • Ensure that these are completed in accordance with the Regulations.

The Adoption Panel Co-ordinator also attends the quarterly Panel Review meeting.

7.5 Minute Taker

  • Attend panel meetings to minute the discussion and recommendations (this task is shared with a colleague in recognition of the frequency of panels and the need to produce draft minutes to a tight deadline);
  • Make draft minutes available to the agency decision maker and panel chair within 7 working days of panel;
  • Produce final minutes.

7.6 Legal Adviser

  • Each panel is required to have a legal adviser who will not be a full member of the panel;
  • The legal adviser must provide prior advice in person or in writing to the panel regarding any item placed before the panel under the Adoption Agency Regulations 2005;
  • Legal advisers should be practicing solicitors, with relevant experience in child and family law;
  • The legal adviser will receive reports of all cases presented to the panel;
  • The legal adviser will provide advice in writing to the panel, and to the ADM.


8. Independent Review Mechanism

Prospective adopters can refer themselves to the IRM if the agency decision maker:

  • Is minded to decide that an assessment should not continue on the basis of a brief prospective adopters' report;
  • Is minded not to approve a prospective adopter on the basis of a full prospective adopters' report;
  • Is minded to withdraw the approval of an adopter.

The agency will provide full details of the IRM to the applicant or adopter in the above circumstances

On receiving a notification from the IRM that prospective or approved adopters have applied for a review, the agency will supply the information identified in the Adoption Agencies Regulations 2005 (Regulation 28) to the IRM within ten working days

Two agency representatives will attend the IRM panel. These will be the assessing social worker and such other person as the Service Manager (Adoption) sees fit (e.g. adoption Team Manager, agency decision maker, panel chair).


9. Complaints

Complaints received in relation to the process of an application to adopt, or relating to any other adoption-related service provided by Nottinghamshire County Council will be dealt with through the Department's Complaints Procedure.

The adoption panel will be informed of the outcome where appropriate.


Appendix A: Adoption Panel: Values

  • Adoption is primarily a service for children not adults;
  • Children are entitled to grow up as part of a loving family who can meet their needs during childhood and beyond;
  • It is best for children where possible to be brought up by their own birth family;
  • The child's welfare, safety and needs will be at the centre of the adoption process;
  • The child's wishes and feelings will be actively sought and fully taken into account at all stages;
  • The views of birth parents/relatives and adopters will also be considered by panel;
  • Delays in adoption can have a severe impact on the health and development of children and should be avoided wherever possible. Cases therefore should only be deferred by panel if there is insufficient evidence to make a recommendation;
  • Children's ethnic origin, cultural background, religion and language will be fully recognised and positively valued and promoted when decisions are made;
  • The particular needs of Disabled Children will be fully recognised and taken into account when decisions are made;
  • The role of adoptive parents in offering a permanent family to a child who cannot live with their birth family will be valued and respected;
  • Adoption has lifelong implications for all involved and requires lifelong commitment from many different organisations, professions and individuals who have to work together to meet the needs of those affected by adoption.


Appendix A2: Acceptance of Appointment, Agreement and Confidentiality Undertaking for Nottinghamshire Central List Panel Members (Adoption/Fostering)

This can be found in forms on-line


Appendix A3: Annual Appraisal Form

This can be found in forms on-line


Appendix B: Adoption Welfare Checklist

The court or adoption agency must have regard to the following matters (among others) -

  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.


Appendix C: Confidentiality Undertaking - Observers

This can be found in forms on-line


Appendix D: Protocol for Dealing with Incomplete Information

  1. Panel members will need to form a collective view as to whether they feel able to make a recommendation on the basis of the written information available;
  2. If not, panel should identify the areas of missing information and the minute taker should be asked to detail these accurately for future reference;
  3. The panel chair should inform the social worker/Team Manager that the panel has identified significant gaps in the information provided and that questions will focus on these (and other) areas. It should also be made clear that panel reserves the right to defer the case, should they feel that the verbal information provided is not adequate for them to be able to make a recommendation;
  4. The panel addresses its questions to the social worker/Team Manager and will then decide whether or not it feels confident in making a recommendation;
  5. Where the additional verbal information has satisfied panel in this respect, the panel chair will:
    1. Ask for, and confirm panel's recommendation, giving clear reasons;
    2. Direct that the additional information should be incorporated into the report so that it becomes fit for the purpose for which it was written;
    3. Direct that this is completed by the time of the next meeting of the same adoption panel, with a copy of the new report being sent to the Panel Co-ordinator at least two weeks before that date.
  1. If the panel is not satisfied with the additional verbal information, the panel chair will:
    1. Confirm panel is unable to make a recommendation;
    2. Direct that the information required by panel and recorded by the minute taker should be sought and incorporated into the report;
    3. Direct that the case should return to the next meeting of the same panel, which will mean the new report must be sent to the Panel Co-ordinator at least two weeks before that date.
  1. Immediately after panel the agency adviser will:
    • Inform the Panel Manager of the outcome;
    • Request a space be made available on the next panel agenda of the same panel;
    • Contact the appropriate Children's Service Manager and Locality Manager to inform them of the panel chair's directions;
    • Ask the minute taker to forward a list of the areas needing further information to the social worker and Team Manager, with copies to the Children's Service Manager and Locality Manager.
  1. The Panel Co-ordinator will:
    • Confirm a panel booking with the social worker and Team Manager;
    • Confirm the date by which the new report is required.

When the report is received:

Either send the new report to the panel chair for confirmation that the additional information has now been incorporated as requested (see 5)

or circulate the new report to all panel members for full consideration at the next panel (see 6).

  1. Any delay in receiving the new report will mean a delay in progressing the child's adoption plan, hence the tight timescales. Should reports not be available for the date given, the Panel Manager will notify the Children's Service Manager and Locality Manager accordingly.


Appendix E: Formats for Reports to Adoption Panel

Appendix E1: Prospective adopters' brief report

Guidance for the report to Adoption Panel

  • Brief history of application (initial enquiry, initial visit/s, date application form completed, subsequent stages);
  • Issues of concern identified;
  • Steps taken to address these with the applicant/s;
  • Views of the applicant/s;
  • When and how applicant/s were informed that their application would not be pursued;
  • Recommendation - clear reasons for decision not to pursue application;
  • Report must be signed and dated by social worker and Team Manager.

Appendix E2: Withdrawal of prospective adopters' approval

Guidance for the report to Adoption Panel

The following outline should be used in all cases. The report will be circulated to Panel members with the original Form F and Panel Minutes/Agency decision.

  • Name of approved adopters;
  • Address;
  • Date of approval;
  • Age range, number and "type" of child;
  • Summary of events since approval.

(N.B. where withdrawal of approval is as a result of the disruption of a placement and the minutes of the Disruption Meeting have already been presented to Panel, it is only necessary to state the basics)

  • What has led to the request to withdraw approval?
  • What discussion has there been with the adopter/s or attempts to engage with them if they have not been seen?
  • What is the adopter's attitude to the proposed withdrawal of approval?
  • What support will be offered to the adopter/s if de-approved?
  • Recommendation - clear reasons for why withdrawal of approval is being sought;
  • Report must be signed and dated by social worker and Team Manager.


Appendix F: Job Description and Person Specification (Independent Panel Chair)

Independent Adoption Panel Chair
Responsible to:

The Head of the Adoption Agency and on a day to day basis to the Service Manager (Adoption)

Job description and person specification for Independent Panel Chair (Adoption and Fostering Panels)

Job description:

  • To satisfy the requirements as outlined in Nottinghamshire’s central list agreement;
  • To ensure that the panel operates within the relevant law, regulation and guidance;
  • To ensure that the panel operates within the policies of the Nottinghamshire Children and Young People Services (CYPS);
  • To prepare for each panel meeting by reading all panel papers carefully and critically;
  • To chair meetings of the panel and to ensure that all those attending panel are treated with respect and courtesy;
  • To respect at all times the confidential nature of the Department’s work;
  • To address diversity issues and to promote anti-discriminatory practice at all times;
  • To facilitate panel members to consider the information presented to them before making their recommendation, reaching a consensus wherever possible;
  • To manage the process of identifying the questions which panel will explore with social workers and/or applicants and agreeing who will ask those questions;
  • To meet with applicants prior to them joining the panel, to explain the process;
  • To ensure that the panel is clear about the reasons for its recommendations and that these are recorded in the minutes;
  • Where there is a split or contentious panel recommendation, to facilitate each panel member in turn to explain the reason for her/his views and to ensure that these are formally recorded in the minutes;
  • To enable those attending panel to contribute effectively (e.g. enabling social workers to present  their case in a constructive manner);
  • To ensure that the minutes of the panel are accurate and are signed and returned to the agency in a timely manner;
  • To attend meetings of the Independent Review Mechanism if required;
  • To facilitate the panels in their role of monitoring the quality of work presented to the panel;
  • To feedback any concerns about the management of cases through the appropriate departmental channels;
  • To attend the regular business meetings to review the management and the business of the panel;
  • To attend two panel training days each year and to contribute if appropriate;
  • To keep abreast of current practice issues in adoption, fostering and other permanent placements and seek to promote best practice within the panel and the agency;
  • To assist the agency to identify training needs within the panels and the agency;
  • To take part in the interviewing of prospective panel members and advise the agency on appointments to the panels;
  • To assist in the induction of new panel members;
  • Together with the agency adviser, to undertake the annual review of the performance of panel members;
  • To bring to the attention of the panel manager, situations in which panel members are not meeting the requirements of the central list agreement for panel members.

Person specification:

The following specification will form the basis of the annual appraisal of panel chairs:

 
Essential
Desirable
Experience
  • Experience either professionally or personally or both of the placement of children in adoptive/foster families;
  • Extensive experience of chairing child care meetings e.g. panels, child protection conferences.
  • Experience of adoption practice;
  • Management of policy implementation or organisational change.
Knowledge
  • Sound understanding of the adoption and fostering process and relevant legislation, guidance, regulations and standards;
  • Knowledge of importance of partnership working in adoption and fostering practice;
  • Understanding, knowledge and experience relating to children and young people and their needs throughout their development
  • Understanding of the role of adoption and fostering in safeguarding children.
  • Knowledge of couple relationships and relationships within wider networks.
  • Knowledge of attachment theories;
  • Understanding of research findings re outcomes for children looked after.
Competencies
  • Authority and expertise to chair panels;
  • Ability to assist panels in the effective use of time;
  • Ability to analyse and explain complex information;
  • Ability to identify and summarise key issues clearly and succinctly;
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills;
  • Ability to enable all participants to contribute effectively;
  • Ability to monitor the performance of  panel members;
  • Ability to ask questions that are relevant, sensitive, diplomatic and appropriate;
  • Ability to manage the expression of strongly held but possibly conflicting views by panel members, and to help the panel reach a recommendation which takes account of all of these views;
  • Ability to scrutinise, monitor and challenge practice
  • A commitment to safeguarding and the need to offer a safe re-parenting experience;
  • A commitment to promoting children’s welfare;
  • A commitment to children retaining contact with members of their birth family if this is in their best interests;
  • A commitment to keeping children within their own family or community where this is possible;
  • A commitment to fostering and adoption as a way of meeting a child’s need;
  • A  commitment to achieving timely permanency for children where this is in their best interest;
  • Recognition of the lifelong impact of fostering and adoption on all parties;
  • An awareness of the richness of different kind of families and their potential for meeting children’s needs;
  • An appreciation of the impact of loss and separation on both adults and children;
  • An understanding and knowledge of families and how they are affected by change.
 
Other requirements
  • Must not be a current employee of the authority;
  • Clear commitment to equalities issues;
  • Commitment to continuing personal and professional developments to maintain and update knowledge and skills;
  • Satisfactory DBS disclosure.
  • Social work degree or equivalent;
  • Post qualification training in Child care;
  • PQ training in adoption, family placement or child protection;
  • To work in accordance with the HCPC Code of Conduct for Social Care Workers.

End