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14.1.22 Non Agency Adoption

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This procedure applies to applications in relation to adoptive placements that have not been arranged by a Local Authority or registered adoption agency, other than children brought into the UK for the purposes of adoption. This will include adoption applications by step-parents, relatives, private foster carers or Local Authority foster carers who have not sought or obtained the Local Authority's approval for the placement becoming an adoptive placement.

In relation to such applications, the residence requirements are as follows:

  • If the applicant or one of the applicants is the partner of the parent of the child, the child must have lived with the applicants continuously for 6 months prior to the application;
  • If the applicants are Local Authority foster carers, the child must have lived with the applicants continuously for 12 months prior to the application;
  • In any other case, the child must have lived with the applicant(s) for three out of the last five years prior to the application or the Court must have granted leave for an earlier application.

RELEVANT LEGISLATION AND GUIDANCE

Adoption and Children Act 2002

Adoption and Children Act 2002 Guidance (2011), Chapter 8, paragraphs 46 to 81

RELEVANT CHAPTERS

For the procedure in relation to children who have been brought into the UK for the purposes of adoption - see Inter Country Adoption Procedure.

For the contents of the Court report for adoption applications, see Special Guardianship.

AMENDMENT

In May 2014, a table at Section 4, Other Checks was added.


Contents

  1. Initial Contact
  2. Notifications
  3. Medical Information
  4. Other Checks
  5. Local Authority Duty to Supervise a Child
  6. Court Application and Request for Report
  7. Parental Consent
  8. Child's Wishes and Feelings
  9. The Applicants
  10. Adoption Support
  11. Alternatives to Adoption
  12. Adoption Hearing
  13. After the Court Process


1. Initial Contact

Where residents of the Local Authority area request advice by letter, telephone or in person in relation to a non-agency adoption, the matter should be referred to the Adoption Service and a Referral Form should be completed and the enquirer should be offered general information. This may be by telephone or an office interview may be arranged.

The prospective applicants should be offered information and advice on the adoption process and the implications of adoption, including the following:

  1. Alternatives to adoption;
  2. The child's need to know that s/he is adopted and have information about the birth family;
  3. The requirement for the consent of parents with Parental Responsibility to be obtained;
  4. The role of CAFCASS;
  5. The need to notify the Local Authority of their intention to apply for an Adoption Order.

Following this, the applicant/s should be advised to write to the Fostering Team Manager stating:

  • Their full names and address;
  • The child’s full name and date of birth;
  • The length of their relationship, if a couple.

They should state that they are formally notifying the Local Authority of their intention to apply for an Adoption Order and both should sign, where a couple. Although in a step-parent adoption it is no longer necessary for the birth parent to adopt their own child, the birth parent should still sign the letter to indicate their support of their partner’s application. If the applicants have instructed a solicitor, the solicitor may sign the letter on their behalf.

On receipt of the letter, the Fostering Team administrator should open Framework files on the applicant, and the child. The work undertaken must be recorded on the applicant’s file.

The Fostering Team administrator will write to the applicants providing details of the process and sending consent forms for statutory checks to be initiated. The letter also makes it clear that it is important that the child who is the subject of the application is aware that the applicant is not their birth parent. It will not be possible to proceed with an application unless this has been addressed, since the child must be interviewed as part of the process and will be seen by the Judge at a final hearing. The applicants are asked to return the reply slip containing their consent to statutory checks. At this stage DBS checks are requested.

If the applicant is anyone other than a step-parent, both the applicant/s and the child will need a medical, which should be done later in the process so it is no more than 4 weeks old at the point where the application is lodged at court.

If the applicants are not related to the child, three personal references should also be provided.

The administrator should undertake the child health, child protection and Local Authority checks as soon as consent is given.

The Fostering Team Manager will allocate the application to a social worker who will arrange an initial counselling interview within 4 weeks of the reply slip being returned. Where this timescale cannot be met, the applicant/s will be given an explanation and a realistic alternative timescale.

If it is clear that the applicants do not fulfil the criteria of Domicile / Habitual Residence in the UK, the duty social worker should advise them to obtain legal advice.

When it is established that the family concerned wish to pursue adoption, the case should be allocated to a social worker in the Adoption Service. The allocated worker must fulfil the qualifications and experience criteria set out in Section 5 of the Adoption Panel Procedure.

Where a foster carer is making a non-agency application to adopt a Looked After child, with the support of the Local Authority, the case will be allocated as soon as possible.


2. Notifications

Applicants for adoption, in the case of non-agency placements, must notify the Local Authority for the area where they live of their intention to apply for an Adoption Order. The notification should be sent at least three months and not more than two years before the date of the adoption application.

Any such notification received should be passed to the Adoption Service. The Adoption Manager will arrange for the notification to be acknowledged and, if not already allocated, allocate the case to a social worker. The allocated worker must fulfil the qualifications and experience criteria set out in Section 5 of the Adoption Panel Procedure.

Upon receipt of the notification, the Local Authority will have a duty to supervise the welfare of the child if the child is within the definition of Privately Fostered - see Section 5, Local Authority Duty to Supervise Child.

An Adoption Case Record should be opened for the child or each of the children involved.

As soon as practicable after notification is received, the allocated social worker will leave forms for the prospective adopters to complete for Disclosure and Barring Service checks for all members of the household aged 18 or over.


3.  Medical Information

Except where the application is by a step parent in which case a medical report is not required, the social worker will check that the applicants(s) and the child have received a medical examination before the adoption application is submitted.

If medical examinations are required, the social worker will provide the applicants with the relevant CoramBAAF medical forms for completion. These should be submitted to the Court with the adoption application and the Court will send copies to the Local Authority when a Court report is requested. Upon receipt, the completed medical forms should be passed by the social worker to the Medical Adviser for comment. These comments should then be included in the Court report (see Section 6, Court Request for Report).


4. Other Checks

On receipt of the notification of intention to apply to adopt, the social worker should arrange a Disclosure and Barring Service on the applicants and any member of the household aged 18 or over. Forms should be left for the prospective adopters to complete as soon as practicable after notification of an intention to adopt is received.

Consent should also be obtained for checks to be carried out with the Local Authority, Probation and the health trust - and the necessary checks should be made.

  Application by step-parent Application by relatives Application by others (unrelated)
Minimum age 21 years 21 years 21 years
Domicile/habitual residence Must be domiciled in the British Islands

Or

Has been habitually resident for a period of not less than one year, ending with the date of application.

As left if single applicant

If a couple, at least one of the couple must fulfil the domicile requirement

Or

Both must fulfil the habitual residence requirement.

As left if single applicant

If a couple, at least one of the couple must fulfil the domicile requirement

Or

Both must fulfil the habitual residence requirement.

DBS checks Yes Yes Yes
Medical report (child) No Yes Yes
Medical report (applicant(s)) No Yes Yes
3 personal references needed? No No Yes


5. Local Authority Duty to Supervise Child

On receipt of a notification in relation to a child who comes within the definition of Privately Fostered, the social worker must supervise the child until an Adoption Order is made in accordance with the Private Fostering Procedure, except that, where the child is already known to the Local Authority, the requirements under the Private Fostering Regulations as to the initial visit to the placement will not apply.

The aim of the supervision is:

  • To ensure the child is well cared for and in receipt of appropriate health and education services;
  • To support the prospective adopters and help them focus on the task of integrating the child into their family and of providing the child with full information about his or her background and birth family.

All visits should be recorded, including whether the child was seen and if so, whether the child was seen alone.

The social worker should advise the prospective adopters of the need for them to provide medical reports on themselves and the child to accompany their adoption application (see Section 3, Medical Information). The social worker should also attempt to obtain medical information on the birth parents and a neonatal report on the child if under 5 years old. The social worker should send all available medical information to the Medical Adviser for comment.

The social worker should ask the prospective adopters for the names of two personal referees, whom the social worker should interview.

The child will continue to have the status of a privately fostered child until an Adoption Order is made or until notification is given that the prospective applicants no longer intend to apply to adopt.

Prospective applicants should be asked to clarify their intentions if there is a delay and no adoption application is lodged. If this is not forthcoming, the social worker involved should write to the prospective applicants indicating that unless confirmation is provided of an intention to adopt, it will be assumed that the notification is withdrawn. In any event, after 2 years the notification will lapse.


6. Court Application and Request for Report

Applicants should be advised to obtain an application form (Form A58) from the court office. The court should help them fill it in if necessary. If they receive means tested benefits or are on a low income they may be eligible for exemption from court fees. They should be advised to mention this at the same time and ask for the appropriate leaflet and application form. (For further details see the Court Service website for the online leaflet (Court Fees: do you have to pay them?)).

Straightforward and uncomplicated applications may be lodged in the Family Proceedings (Magistrates) Court. However, more complex applications should be lodged in the County Court, and will be transferred there in any case if the Family Proceedings Court deems it necessary. Lodging direct at the County Court is likely to provide a better service; court staff are more used to dealing with adoption and have the experience and expertise to manage the case more effectively.

Where a Court receives an adoption application in relation to a non-agency adoptive placement, the Court will notify the Local Authority of the hearing date and request a Report be prepared and submitted to the Court, usually within 6 weeks of the receipt of the notification. The Court timescales should be clarified at an early stage and if more time is required, a written request must be submitted to the Court as soon as the need for an extension is identified.

The social worker responsible for the supervision of the child will be responsible for preparing the Report, and for this purpose should gather available information on the child and parents - see sections below.

The allocated worker must fulfil the qualifications and experience criteria set out in Section 5 of the Adoption Panel Procedure.

For the contents of the report, see Special Guardianship.

Once completed, the social worker should send the Court Report to the Team Manager for approval so that it can be filed with the Court within the required timescale.


7. Parental Consent

The adoptive applicants will have to indicate in their adoption application whether or not there is Parental Consent to the application. If the parents do not consent, it is for the applicants to ask the Court to dispense with the agreement of the parent or parents.

The social worker preparing the report should attempt to interview both birth parents in relation to the adoption application and ascertain their views. If the parents do not live within a reasonable traveling distance, the social worker may request that a social worker from the Local Authority for the area where the birth parents now live interview them.

The report should address the significance of the role played so far by the birth parents in the child's life and the implications of an Adoption Order for any future parental role.


8. Child's Wishes and Feelings

The social worker should speak to the child to ascertain his or her wishes and feelings in relation to the adoption and report on these to the Court. Where the child is not aware of the adoption application, the social worker should discuss with the adopters the best way to address this so that the child's views can be obtained.

The discussion with the child should address any confusion on the part of the child in relation to the implications of an Adoption Order for example where the adoptive applicant is a relative.


9. The Applicants

The report will need to comment on the strength and duration of any new family relationships, particularly in the case of an adoption application by a step parent. Where there is limited evidence of the strength and stability of the relationship, the applicants should be advised to consider deferring the application until there is more evidence of stability.

In addition, alternatives to adoption should be discussed and explored with the applicants, who should be encouraged to consider them.

For example where the main concern is the child's name, the applicants should be advised to seek legal advice on how to achieve this without the need for an adoption order.


10. Adoption Support

Other than an application by a step parent, the social worker should consider the likely need of the child and adoptive family for adoption support. See Adoption Support Services Procedure.


11. Alternatives to Adoption

The report should address any alternatives to adoption, which may offer a better framework for the child and the birth parents' future role.


12. Adoption Hearing

The social worker responsible for preparing the report should attend the adoption hearing.


13.  After the Court Process

Once the adoption proceedings are complete, the social worker should close the appropriate episode on Framework. Paper documents should be scanned into the Framework file, and any personal items such as photos or letters from a birth parent, for example, should be passed to the adopters to be shared with the child at a later date. If these are not accepted by the adopters or the child, if of sufficient age and understanding, they should be held in a paper file which is sent to Adoption Records Co-ordinator for archiving.

End