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14.1.3 Prospective Adopters Attending Panel

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter details the process taken when prospective adopters attend adoption Panel. It also includes what to expect at Panel and seeks feedback on prospective adopters experience of attending Panel and for those who choose not too.

RELEVANT LEGISLATION AND GUIDANCE

Adoption Agencies Regulations 2005, Regulation 26 (4)

Adoption and Children Act 2002 Guidance- Chapters 3 (57 to 59)

Adoption National Minimum Standards 2011, Standard 17(5)

RELATED CHAPTERS

This chapter should be read in conjunction with:

Adoption Panel Procedure

Assessment and Approval of Prospective Adopters Procedure

Placement for Adoption Procedure

AMENDMENT

This chapter was significantly updated in January 2016, including the addition of a new Section 12, Information for those Attending Panel.


Contents

  1. Introduction                                                                                       
  2. Principles                                                                                          
  3. Preparation of Prospective Adopters                                             
  4. Panel Process - Consideration of Full Report                                 
  5. Panel Process - Consideration of Brief Report                              
  6. Panel Process - Consideration of Matching                                 
  7. Withdrawal of Approval                                                                  
  8. Panel Process - Consideration of Withdrawal of Approval         
  9. Deferring Hearing the Case                                                 
  10. Making Representations                                                                
  11. Service User Feedback
  12. Information for those Attending Panel


1. Introduction

Regulation 26 (4) of the Adoption Agencies Regulations 2005 states that “before making any recommendation, the adoption Panel must invite the prospective adopters to attend a meeting of the Panel”.

National Minimum Standard for Adoption 17.5 states:

 “Prospective adopters are given the opportunity to attend the adoption Panel and be heard at all adoption Panel meetings which discuss their brief or full prospective adopter’s report prepared on their suitability to adopt a child, or termination of their approval, as applicable”.


2. Principles

2.1 Nottinghamshire is committed to working in partnership with prospective adopters at all stages of the adoption process in an open and transparent way.
2.2

Prospective adopters will be offered the opportunity to attend Panel when:

  • A brief Prospective Adopter’s Report is to be presented;
  • A full Prospective Adopter’s Report is to be presented;
  • A match with a specific child or children is being considered;
  • The agency is recommending withdrawal of their approval.  
2.3 All prospective adopters will be encouraged to attend Panel, but are under no obligation to do so. If they choose not to attend for whatever reason when their application or a match is being considered, no negative inference will be drawn, and this will never be considered as a reason for recommending they are unsuitable to adopt or have a specific child placed with them.
2.4 Where the prospective adopters are a couple and only one partner attends, no negative inference will be drawn from the non-attendance of the other partner.
2.5

Prospective adopters must be made aware that Panel’s key role is:

“to provide an independent scrutiny of the proposals presented and to determine whether all the issues have been appropriately clarified, and whether the proposal is sound”.

Workers should explain that Panel’s consideration of cases is rigorous and not merely a “rubber stamping” exercise.

2.6 Prospective adopters attending Panel will be treated with respect and courtesy.
2.7 No other member of the prospective adopter’s family will attend Panel, unless acting as a friend.
2.8 A friend, interpreter or helper may attend, although in most cases there should be no need for prospective adopters to bring a “supporter” to Panel with them (see Paragraphs 3.2 and 3.3).
2.9 In relation to an application to adopt, the assessment contained in the Prospective Adopter’s Report (Form PAR) continues to be the primary source of information on which Panel members form a view and make a recommendation.
2.10 The attendance of prospective adopters is to provide an opportunity for both the Panel and the prospective adopters to discuss and clarify the reasons why they wish to adopt, or have a specific child placed with them, and any other matters that either party considers relevant. It must NOT be used as a chance for further assessment.
2.11 Panel members should always seek to balance the way in which prospective adopters present themselves with the evidence contained in the social worker’s assessment. Otherwise a brief appearance by the prospective adopters may have a disproportionate impact on Panel’s recommendation, especially at the application stage.
2.12 The attendance of prospective adopters at a Panel where a recommendation for withdrawal of approval against their wishes is to be considered is to provide them with the opportunity to be heard.


3. Preparation of Prospective Adopters

3.1 Prospective adopters should be informed of the opportunity to attend Panel at both the application and matching stages as part of the initial information sharing. They should also be made aware that in the event that it proved necessary to consider withdrawing their approval against their wishes, they would be able to attend Panel to be heard. The social worker should promote attending Panel as a positive opportunity for prospective adopters to be involved and contribute in these important parts of the process.
3.2 In most cases there will be no need for prospective adopters to bring a “supporter” to Panel with them. However if they do wish to bring a friend, the social worker must make it clear to them (and their friend) that the role is to provide moral support only. The friend will not be able to speak on the prospective adopters’ behalf or act as an advocate. The social worker must inform the Adoption Panel Manager as soon as possible if the prospective adopters wish to bring a friend with them.
3.3 If prospective adopters have a physical, sensory or learning impairment, or English is not their first language, they may bring an interpreter or helper in addition to a friend. The social worker must inform the Adoption Panel Manager as soon as possible if the prospective adopters wish to bring an interpreter or helper with them.
3.4 When prospective adopters are sent the full or brief Prospective Adopter’s Report for the period of representation (10 working days), this should be accompanied by the appropriate information leaflet (Appendix A for full reports, Appendix B for brief reports) and a reply slip which enables them to confirm with the Panel Co-ordinator whether or not they wish to attend Panel in person.
3.5 When prospective adopters are sent the Adoption Placement Report for the period of representation (10 working days) prior to the matching Panel, this should be accompanied by the appropriate information leaflet and a reply slip which enables them to confirm with the Panel Co-ordinator whether or not they wish to attend Panel in person.
3.6 When prospective adopters are sent the Withdrawal of Approval Report for the period of representation (10 working days) prior to the Panel, this should be accompanied by the appropriate information leaflet and a reply slip which enables them to confirm with the Panel Co-ordinator whether or not they wish to attend Panel in person.
3.7 Prospective adopters will receive from the Panel Co-ordinator a letter of invitation confirming the time of the Panel and the appropriate booklet giving details of Panel members.
3.8 The social worker must prepare the prospective adopters for attending Panel. If there are any issues or concerns arising from this discussion, they should first be discussed with the social worker’s line manager, and then if necessary with the Adoption Panel Manager.
3.9 Expenses will not generally be paid to prospective adopters attending Panel. An exception may be made if the applicants have been assessed with a known child in mind and the applicants live over 50 miles away from the Panel venue.
3.10 Expenses cannot be paid to a friend, interpreter or helper who attends Panel with the prospective adopters.


4. Panel Process - Consideration of Full Report (Approval of Prospective Adopters)

4.1 Panel members list the strengths of the application and identify the areas where they require further information, formulating the questions they wish to ask.
4.2 The medical adviser is asked to comment on the medical report and any implications for the application.
4.3 Legal advice will not have been sought unless there are specific reasons pertinent to the application. In this case the information should be contained within the Prospective Adopters Report. The agency adviser may wish to clarify this for the benefit of Panel members.
4.4 The Chair goes to meet the prospective adopters who will be in the waiting area with their social worker and the Team Manager. The Chair outlines the process to be followed and the areas on which questions will be asked. The Chair then returns to the Panel room with the prospective adopters, social worker and Team Manager. Any friend, interpreter etc who is accompanying the prospective adopters will also be invited to join Panel at this stage. (There may be rare occasions when the Chair initially only invites the social work professionals to attend due to the need to discuss matters that remain confidential and in situations where there are such complications the Chair and agency adviser will have discussed the best way to proceed).
4.5 Panel members introduce themselves to the prospective adopters and explain their role on Panel.
4.6 The Chair asks the social worker if there is any additional or more recent information which should be brought to Panel’s attention.
4.7 The Chair lists the strengths that Panel members have identified in the application, S/he should explain that questions will be addressed to the social worker, but that the prospective adopters should feel free to respond themselves if they wish to do so, or add to the social worker’s remarks. The Chair then invites Panel members to ask questions on the areas previously identified.
4.8 Once all questions have been asked, the prospective adopters are offered the opportunity to add any further information, or ask questions of their own.
4.9 The Chair will then consult with Panel members to determine if they are ready to make a recommendation. A positive response implies that they have no need of further information and are likely to be making a positive recommendation. In this case the prospective adopters will remain in Panel. A negative response implies that they may be considering making a negative recommendation or require further time to discuss issues significant to the recommendation they will be making. In this case the prospective adopters will be asked to leave and their social worker will need to accompany them to an appropriate waiting room.
4.10 Where the prospective adopters remain in Panel the Chair will now ask each Panel member to make their recommendation. The Chair will then summarise the recommendation and any advice that might be given. There will be a reminder that the recommendation still awaits the agency decision yet to be made.
4.11 Where the prospective adopters have been asked to leave, Panel members will now have the opportunity for further discussion. They may seek assistance from the social work professionals in these discussions. Following these discussions Panel members will then need to determine what their recommendation will be or whether or not they will need to defer making a recommendation.
4.12 If there is the possibility of Panel members needing to defer making a recommendation then this needs to be voted on first and where there is a majority vote for deferring making a decision this also needs to be accompanied with the reasons for this and the outstanding work and information that would need to be presented to Panel at a later date in order for a recommendation then to be able to be made. In this situation the Chair and agency adviser would then go to the room where the prospective adopters are waiting and inform them of this outcome. Social work professionals would also be present for support.
4.13 If the Panel recommendation is that the prospective adopters are suitable to adopt, the Chair will ask the prospective adopters to re-join Panel and Panel members will then give their recommendations as if the prospective adopters had stayed in throughout. The Chair will then summarise the recommendations and any advice that might be given. There will be a reminder that the recommendation still awaits the agency decision yet to be made.
4.14 If Panel’s recommendation is that the prospective adopters are not suitable to adopt, the Chair and agency adviser will meet the prospective adopters in the waiting room to inform them and to give the reasons. The Chair should remind them that if the agency decision maker agrees with the recommendation, they will have an opportunity to make representations to the agency or the Independent Review Mechanism (IRM) before a final decision is made. (See Section 10, Making Representations).
4.15 If the Panel’s recommendation is that the prospective adopters are suitable to adopt but this was only a majority recommendation then the Chair and agency adviser will need to consider the nature of the reasons for this and whether or not it is appropriate to invite the prospective adopters back into the room to hear this directly or if the recommendation and reasons on both sides should be presented to them in the waiting room.


5. Panel Process - Consideration of Brief Report

(When the agency is minded not to continue with an application).

5.1 Panel members identify the areas where they require further information, formulating the questions they wish to ask.
5.2 The medical adviser is asked to comment on any medical issues and their implications for the application.
5.3 Legal advice will not have been sought unless there are specific reasons pertinent to the application. In this case the information should be contained within the report. The agency adviser may wish to clarify this for the benefit of Panel members.
5.4

The Chair goes to meet the prospective adopters who will be in the waiting area with their social worker and the Team Manager. The Chair outlines the process to be followed and the areas on which questions will be asked.

The Chair then returns to the Panel room with the prospective adopters, social worker and Team Manager. Any friend, interpreter etc who is accompanying the prospective adopters will also be invited to join Panel at this stage. (There may be rare occasions when the Chair initially only invites the social work professionals to attend due to the need to discuss matters that remain confidential and in situations where there are such complications the Chair and agency adviser will have discussed the best way to proceed. If this seems necessary consideration will need to be given to how this exclusion of the prospective adopters may seem to them especially if the agency and the prospective adopters are not in agreement which would be likely to be the case. The prospective adopters should not be left to see this as the social work professionals and Panel colluding).
5.5 The process should be the same as for a full report except that the Panel will not be recommending approval but instead recommending that a full assessment is completed. There will be no need to defer as this would be the same as above. Panel members may recommend that the prospective adopters are not suitable to adopt. These possible outcomes will be managed in the same way as for a full assessment.


6. Panel Process - Consideration of Matching

Please note: it is essential that workers for the child and prospective adopters work positively together to explore and pursue a match. Whilst recognising that professional opinion can vary (e.g. about the type or frequency of contact), it is essential that any such differences are resolved before attending Panel. Prospective adopters should be clear about the basis on which the proposed match is to be considered by Panel and unresolved issues raised at Panel may undermine their confidence in the process.

6.1 Panel members list the strengths of the proposed match and identify the areas where they require further information, formulating the questions they wish to ask.
6.2 The medical adviser is asked to comment on the medical reports and any implications for the match.
6.3 Legal advice will be sought for all matches at Panel. This will be presented as written advice and shared with Panel members at the beginning.
6.4

The Chair goes to meet the prospective adopters who will be in the waiting area with the social workers and the Team Managers. The Chair outlines the process to be followed and the areas on which questions will be asked.

The Chair then returns to the Panel room with the prospective adopters, social workers and Team Managers. Any friend, interpreter etc who is accompanying the prospective adopters will also be invited to join Panel at this stage.

(N.B. it is possible that the Children’s Guardian for the child for whom the placement is being proposed may ask to attend this Panel).
6.5 Panel members introduce themselves to the prospective adopters and explain their role on Panel.
6.6 The Chair asks both the child’s social worker and the prospective adopters’ social worker if there is any additional or more recent information which should be brought to Panel’s attention.
6.7 The Chair lists the strengths that Panel members have identified in the match. S/he should explain that questions will be addressed to the social workers but that, where appropriate, the prospective adopters should feel free to respond themselves if they wish to do so, or add to the social worker’s remarks. The Chair then invites Panel members to ask questions on the areas previously identified.
6.8 Once all questions have been asked, the prospective adopters are offered the opportunity to add any further information, or ask questions of their own.
6.9 The Chair will then consult with Panel members to determine if they are ready to make a recommendation. A positive response implies that they have no need of further information and are likely to be making a positive recommendation. In this case the prospective adopters will remain in Panel. A negative response implies that they may be considering making a negative recommendation or require further time to discuss issues significant to the recommendation they will be making. In this case the prospective adopters will be asked to leave and their social worker will need to accompany them to an appropriate waiting room.
6.10 Where the prospective adopters remain in Panel the Chair will now ask each Panel member to make their recommendation. The Chair will then summarise the recommendation and any advice that might be given. There will be a reminder that the recommendation still awaits the agency decision yet to be made.
6.11 Where the prospective adopters have been asked to leave, Panel members will now have the opportunity for further discussion. They may seek assistance from the social work professionals in these discussions. Following these discussions Panel members will then need to determine what their recommendation will be or whether or not they will need to defer making a recommendation.
6.12 If there is the possibility of Panel members needing to defer making a recommendation then this needs to be voted on first and where there is a majority vote for deferring making a decision this also needs to be accompanied with the reasons for this and the outstanding work and information that would need to be presented to Panel at a later date in order for a recommendation then to be able to be made. In this situation the Chair and agency adviser would then go to the room where the prospective adopters are waiting and inform them of this outcome. Social work professionals would also be present for support.
6.13 If the Panel recommendation is that the child should be placed with the prospective adopters, the Chair will ask the prospective adopters to re-join Panel and Panel members will then give their recommendations as if the prospective adopters had stayed in through out. The Chair will then summarise the recommendations and any advice that might be given. There will be a reminder that the recommendation still awaits the agency decision yet to be made.
6.14 If Panel’s recommendation is that the child should not be placed with the prospective adopters, the Chair and agency adviser will meet the prospective adopters in the waiting room to inform them and to give the reasons. They will be informed that the agency decision still needs to be made. If the agency decision is not to agree the match there is no process for appeal.
6.15 If the Panel’s recommendation is that the child should be placed with the prospective adopters but this was only a majority recommendation then the Chair and agency adviser will need to consider the nature of the reasons for this and whether or not it is appropriate to invite the prospective adopters back into the room to hear this directly or if the recommendation and reasons on both sides should be presented to them in the waiting room.


7. Withdrawal of Approval

7.1 Until a child is placed for adoption with the prospective adopters, the agency is responsible for undertaking reviews of approval whenever considered necessary, but otherwise not more than one year after approval and afterwards at intervals of not more than one year.
7.2 If the agency’s conclusion as a result of such a review is that the prospective adopters are no longer suitable to adopt a child and this is not accepted by the prospective adopters, it must complete a Prospective Adopter’s Review Report for Panel, including the reasons.
7.3 When prospective adopters are sent this report for the period of representation (10 working days), this should be accompanied by the appropriate information leaflet and a reply slip which enables them to confirm with the Panel Co-ordinator whether or not they wish to attend Panel in person.


8. Panel Process - Consideration of Withdrawal of Approval

8.1 Panel members identify the areas where they require further information, formulating the questions they wish to ask.
8.2 The medical adviser is asked to comment on any medical issues and their implications for the prospective adopters’ continued approval.
8.3 It is unlikely that legal advice will have been sought. If it has then this information should be contained within the report. The agency adviser may wish to clarify this for the benefit of Panel members.
8.4

The Chair goes to meet the prospective adopters who will be in the waiting area with their social worker and the Team Manager who completed their approval review. The Chair outlines the process to be followed and the areas on which questions will be asked.

The Chair then returns to the Panel room with the prospective adopters, social worker and Team Manager. Any friend, interpreter etc who is accompanying the prospective adopters will also be invited to join Panel at this stage. (There may be rare occasions when the Chair initially only invites the social work professionals to attend due to the need to discuss matters that remain confidential and in situations where there are such complications the Chair and agency adviser will have discussed the best way to proceed. If this seems necessary consideration will need to be given to how this exclusion of the prospective adopters may seem to them especially if the agency and the prospective adopters are not in agreement which would be likely to be the case. The prospective adopters should not be left to see this as the social work professionals and Panel colluding).
8.5 Panel members introduce themselves to the prospective adopters and explain their role on Panel.
8.6 The Chair asks the social worker to give a brief overview of the history of the prospective adopters’ experience and involvement with the agency since being approved.
8.7 The Chair should explain that questions will be addressed to the social worker, but that the prospective adopters should feel free to respond themselves if they wish to do so, or add to the social worker’s remarks. The Chair then invites Panel members to ask questions on the areas previously identified.
8.8 Once all questions have been asked, the prospective adopters are offered the opportunity to add any further information, or ask questions of their own.
8.9 It is likely that considering the circumstance and the likely disagreement between social work professionals and the prospective adopters that the Chair will ask the prospective adopters and the social work professionals to leave. This will give Panel members the opportunity to have further discussions, consider their recommendations and for the Chair and agency adviser to discuss whether to progress with the prospective adopters and social work professionals back in the meeting or to proceed without them and tell them the recommendation in the waiting room.
8.10 If there is the possibility of Panel members needing to defer making a recommendation then this needs to be voted on first and where there is a majority vote for deferring making a decision this also needs to be accompanied with the reasons for this and the outstanding work and information that would need to be presented to Panel at a later date in order for a recommendation then to be able to be made. However consideration needs to be given to the consequence of delaying making this recommendation and that a deferral in such circumstances is rarely helpful.
8.11 Either with the prospective adopters and social work professionals present or not each Panel member will need to make a recommendation and give reasons as to whether or not the adopters are suitable to continue.
8.12 The final recommendation is made and reasons given and this will have been done either directly to the adopters in the meeting room or the Chair and agency adviser will have to go and inform the prospective adopters in the waiting room. They will need to be reminded that the agency decision has yet to be made.
8.13 If the recommendation is that the prospective adopters are not suitable to continue the Chair should remind them that if the agency decision maker agrees with the recommendation, they will have an opportunity to make representations to the agency or the Independent Review Mechanism (IRM) before a final decision is made. (See Section 10, Making Representations).


9. Deferring Hearing the Case

9.1 If Panel considers that it is unable to hear a case for whatever reason it is not considered helpful to any of the parties to invite the prospective adopters into Panel. Prospective adopters do have a right to be heard when their case is being considered. However, a deferment means that the case is not being heard on that occasion.
9.2 It is important that Panel expresses and records its reasons for deferment clearly. The Chair and Agency Adviser should join the prospective adopters and their workers in the waiting room to inform them of the reasons for the deferment. It may be appropriate for the medical adviser to accompany the Chair and the Agency Adviser. Such decisions will be made at the discretion of the Chair according to the circumstances of the deferment.
9.3 Where the reasons include concerns arising from information received from third parties (e.g. referees) it will not be possible to disclose this and the Chair will need to decide how best to manage this, in consultation with the Agency Adviser.


10. Making Representations 

10.1

Where the agency is minded to make a decision which the prospective adopters may wish to contest, they are able to make representations before the final decision is made. They can do so in the following circumstances:

  • If the agency decision maker is minded to decide that the prospective adopters are not suitable to adopt a child and that their assessment should not continue (brief report);
  • If the agency decision maker is minded to decide that the prospective adopters are not suitable to adopt a child (full report);
  • If the agency decision maker is minded to decide to withdraw prospective adopters’ approval (review report).
Please note: there is no mechanism for making representations about a match which is not recommended by Panel and/or agreed by the agency.
10.2

Prospective adopters will be sent full information about the options available to them, which are as follows:

  • Accept the agency decision;
  • Make representations to the agency decision maker, who may;
  • Refer the case back to Panel, although there is no requirement to do so;
  • Refer themselves to the Independent Review Mechanism (IRM);
  • The prospective adopters must act within 40 working days of the date of the letter outlining these options.
10.3 The prospective adopters cannot make representations to the agency first and subsequently apply to the Independent review mechanism (IRM).
10.4

The IRM is not an appeal mechanism. An independent Panel considers the application afresh and makes a recommendation to the agency, which the agency decision maker must take into account when making the final decision.

Further details of the Independent Review Mechanism can be found on their website.


11. Service User Feedback

Prospective adopters and their workers are invited to complete a feedback form after attending Panel. The form is sent to prospective adopters with their invitation to attend Panel, and to workers when they book a case into Panel.

Feedback is also sought from prospective adopters who choose not to attend Panel to identify the reasons for their decision and see if more could be done to facilitate attendance.


12. Information for those Attending Panel

Prospective adopters will receive information about attending Panel through their training and in conversations with their social worker.

They will also have access to up to date information including Panel personnel through the AdoptionHome website.

There are also leaflets that will be sent out containing broader information and within which will be further details about attending Panels.

In preparation for attending Panel and on the day of Panel, prospective adopters will be given details about the actual Panel that they will be attending and the names and backgrounds of those people on that Panel who will be making recommendations about their future. This will also contain information about the agency decision maker and other staff involved in Panel activity.

End