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14.1.5 Independent Birth Family Counselling Service


This chapter details the support available to birth parents to discuss their feelings with someone independent of the child's social worker. Nottinghamshire has an agreement with Adoption Plus, a voluntary adoption agency, to provide an Independent Birth Family Counselling Service. The information describes the location and remit of the service.


  • Adoption Agencies Regulations 2005 (Regulation 14);
  • Adoption and Children Act Guidance (2011) - Chapter 2;
  • Adoption National Minimum Standards (2011) - Standard 12.


This chapter was updated in January 2016 and should be re-read throughout.


  1. Introduction 
  2. Purpose of the Service
  3. Who is the Service for? 
  4. How will the Service be Provided? 
  5. Location of the Service 
  6. Procedure 
  7. Monitoring the Service
  8. Withdrawal of Service 

    Appendix A: Flowchart of Process

1. Introduction

Caption: Introduction

The principle of independent support for birth parents is a requirement of the Adoption Minimum Standards and is reflected in statutory guidance:

  • "Birth parents are given access to, and are actively encouraged to use, a support worker from the time adoption is identified as the plan for the child. The support worker is independent of the child's social worker";
    Standard 12.3;
  • "The agency should offer the parents the services of an independent support worker: someone who can provide advice and support and is either from another agency or adoption support agency or, at least, not a member of the team of social workers who are responsible for the child's case";
    Guidance Chapter 2.26.

Agencies are also required to offer support to other members of the child's birth family, in recognition of the fact that the decision to place a child for adoption is likely to have implications for those who have lived with, cared for, or are simply related to the child.

Nottinghamshire has entered into an agreement with Adoption Plus, a voluntary adoption agency, to provide an Independent Birth Family Counselling Service. It is anticipated that this service will meet the needs of the majority of birth relatives. However, if a relative has specific needs relating to their ethnicity, culture or language, alternative sources of counselling and support may be considered. Any such requests should be made to the Service Manager (Permanence).

2. Purpose of the Service

  • To provide members of birth families with the opportunity to discuss their feelings about the adoption of a child and receive support independent of their child's social worker;
  • To improve the quality of contact with the child, in whatever form that takes, by helping birth family member/s to manage their own feelings;
  • To direct service users to appropriate specialist services if continuing or other needs are identified.

3. Who is the Service for?

The service will offer face-to face or telephone counselling and support to birth family members aged 18 years or over from the point onwards that the agency has made the decision that the child should be placed for adoption.

However, birth mothers who are considering relinquishing their baby may be referred or refer themselves at the earliest opportunity to ensure they are able to access independent support in reaching their decision.

4. How will the Service be Provided?

4.1 Adoption Plus will make a counsellor available for one day per week in 46 weeks of the year. 4/5 sessions will be available each day.
4.2 Counsellors employed by Adoption Plus to provide the service will, between them, have a range of skills, experience and/or qualifications. At least one counsellor shall be experienced in working with people who have learning difficulties.
4.3 Anyone assessed by Adoption Plus and agreed by Nottinghamshire Children and Young People's Department as likely to benefit from the service will be offered 6 sessions of counselling in the first instance. Further sessions may be offered if appropriate.
4.4 Where a relative is receiving extended counselling, the case will be discussed at the quarterly review meeting of the Steering Group to confirm that this level of resource should continue.

5. Location of the Service

5.1 The venue for face-to-face counselling will be on neutral territory to be consistent with the independence of the service. A central location in Mansfield will be used.
5.2 Nottinghamshire Children and Young People's Department will ensure that service users from all parts of the county reach the venue as easily as possible and will provide practical support wherever necessary to achieve this. The Locality may pay for public transport to enable a birth relative to attend counselling sessions, coding this against the appropriate adoption budget.

6. Procedure

(see Appendix A: Flowchart of Process)

Caption: Procedure table

As part of the initial counselling about adoption, the social worker should inform birth parents of the availability of an independent counselling service once the agency decision maker makes the decision that their child should be placed for adoption.

However, birth mothers who are considering relinquishing their baby may be referred or refer themselves at the earliest opportunity (i.e. before adoption panel considers whether the child should be placed for adoption) to ensure they are able to access independent support in reaching their decision.
6.2 The social worker should also consider any other birth relative aged 18 years or over who has a significant relationship with the child, and who might benefit from independent counselling.
6.3 Information about the Counselling Service will be shared with the birth parent by the child’s social worker.
6.4 The child’s social worker will also identify if there is any other relative with whom to share information about the Counselling Service.
6.5 Birth relatives can make direct contact with Adoption Plus or they may ask the child's social worker to do so on their behalf. If a self-referral, Adoption Plus will ask for the social worker's name, but will seek basic information from the birth relative (name, address, telephone number, name and age of child, relationship to the child, any transport issues in relation to attending counselling sessions).

If the social worker refers the birth relative, or is contacted by Adoption Plus following a self-referral of the birth relative, s/he will be asked to provide the following information:

  • Name of birth relative;
  • Relationship to the child;
  • Address and contact number;
  • Stage in the adoption process;
  • Name and age of birth child;
  • Basic background information;
  • Transport issues and how these might be addressed.
6.7 Adoption Plus will complete a referral form using the above information, and also a transport information form. These will be forwarded to the counsellor with an Initial Interview form and Counselling Agreement/Confidentiality form.
6.8 The counsellor will contact the birth relative to arrange an initial meeting.
6.9 At this meeting the Initial Interview form will be completed, and the Counselling Agreement/Confidentiality form will be discussed and signed. The (male) counsellor will establish whether the birth relative needs a female counsellor, and if so pass this request to Adoption Plus who will arrange this. The female counsellor would then have an initial meeting with the birth relative before beginning the counselling sessions.
6.10 A series of six sessions will be arranged. The content of the sessions will remain confidential, but if the birth relative fails to attend a session for which transport costs have already been paid, the counsellor will inform the social worker.
6.11 Those receiving counselling will be asked to evaluate the service they have received after each 6 counselling sessions using a review form. The information collected will be used to improve and develop the service.
6.12 Further sessions may be provided if requested by the birth relative and the counsellor's assessment is that this would be beneficial. Provision of service over a prolonged period will have to be agreed by the Service Manager (Permanence).

7. Monitoring the Service

7.1 The counsellor will complete a monthly monitoring form and send this to Adoption Plus who will produce a quarterly report for Nottinghamshire.
7.2 A Steering Group will meet quarterly to monitor the development and take-up of the service.
7.3 There will also be an annual review of the service provided, including service user satisfaction. The review will consider suggested improvements or changes to the service and the way it is provided.

8. Withdrawal of Service

8.1 If Adoption Plus is considering withdrawing the service from a birth relative before the completion of the agreed counselling sessions it will first discuss this with the Service Manager (Adoption).

Appendix A: Flowchart of Process

Click here for Appendix A: Flowchart of Process.