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7.2.11 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 requirement 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 applicant(s) continuously for 6 months prior to the application;
  • If the applicant(s) are local authority foster carers, the child must have lived with the applicant(s) 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.

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 Court Reports in Adoption / Special Guardianship Guidance.

AMENDMENT

This chapter was revised in September 2019 following the transfer of Swindon Borough’s adoption services to Adopt Thames Valley, Regional Adoption Agency.


Contents

  1. Initial Contact
  2. Notifications
  3. Medical Information
  4. Other Checks
  5. Local Authority Duty to Supervise the Child
  6. Court Request for Report
  7. Parental Consent
  8. Child's Wishes and Feelings
  9. The Applicant(s)
  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, email, telephone or in person in relation to a non-agency adoption, 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 applicant(s) 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 they are 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.

If it is clear that the applicant(s) 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 relevant Community Team. The allocated worker must fulfil the qualifications and experience criteria set out by Adopt Thames Valley (ATV).

Where a foster carer is making a non-agency application to adopt a Looked After child, with the support of the local authority, the manager of the Adopt Thames Valley Adoption Team will allocate the case as soon as possible to a social worker in that team.


2. Notifications

In the case of non-agency placements, applicants who wish to adopt a child who is already in their care must notify the local authority for the area where they live of their intention to apply for an Adoption Order. This applies equally to Swindon foster carers who live outside the Borough who wish to adopt their foster child. The notification should be sent at least three months and not more than two years before the date of the adoption application.

On receipt, the notification must be acknowledged in writing by the relevant team manager and the applicant(s) invited to bring their DBS documents into the Local Authority office. Checks should be started and once checks are complete, or within 3 months, the case should be allocated to a social worker for completion of the required assessment and report. The allocated worker must fulfil the qualifications and experience criteria set out in Adopt Thames Valley (ATV).

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 the Child - and this should be referred to MASH who will refer to the Private Fostering Team.

System files to be opened for the applicant(s), the applicant’s partner (if relevant) and the child / young person.


3. Medical Information

Except where the application is by a step parent (in which case a medical report is not required), the social worker must check that both the applicant(s) and the child have undergone the required medical before the adoption application is submitted.

If medicals are required, the social worker should provide the applicant(s) with the relevant CoramBAAF medical form(s) for completion. These should be submitted to the Court with the adoption application and the Court will then 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. The Medical Adviser’s 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 Check on each of the applicants and on any other member(s) of the household aged 18 years or over. 

The signed notification of intention to adopt (application form) includes consent for checks to be carried out with the local authority and NSPCC, as well as with personal referees and schools (if required); the necessary checks should be requested without delay.


5. Local Authority Duty to Supervise the Child

On receipt of a notification in relation to a child who comes within the definition of Privately Fostered, the social worker will hold responsibility for supervising the welfare of 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. If this applies, the family should be referred to the Private Fostering team and the social worker will also refer to the MASH team.

The purpose of the supervision is:

  • To ensure that the child is well cared for and in receipt of appropriate health and education services;
  • To support the prospective adopter(s) and help them to focus on the task of integrating the child into their family and of providing the child with information about their 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 adopter(s) 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 aged under 5 years. The social worker should send all available medical information to the Medical Adviser for comment.

The social worker should ask the prospective adopter(s) for the names of two personal referees (for each applicant), 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 applicant(s) no longer intend to apply to adopt.


6. Court Request for Report

Prospective applicants should be asked to clarify their intentions if there is a delay and no adoption application is lodged with the Court. If this is not forthcoming, the social worker involved should write to the prospective applicant(s) indicating that unless an application is made to the Court, it will be assumed that the notification is withdrawn. In any event, after 2 years the notification will lapse.

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 that 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 their parents - see sections below.

The allocated worker must fulfil the qualifications and experience criteria set out in Adopt Thames Valley (ATV).

For the contents of the report, see Court Reports in Adoption / Special Guardianship Guidance.

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


7. Parental Consent

The adoptive applicant(s) 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 applicant(s) 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 in order to ascertain their views. If the parents do not live within a reasonable travelling distance, the social worker may request that a social worker from the local authority for the area where a birth parent now lives to interview him or her.

The report should address the significance of the role played so far by the birth parent(s) 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 their 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 prospective adopter(s) 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 an adoptive applicant is a relative.


9. The Applicant(s)

The report will need to comment on the perceived strength and likely 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 (whether between the applicants, between the sole applicant and their partner or between the applicant(s) and the child), the applicant(s) 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 applicant(s), who should be encouraged to consider them.

For example, where the main concern is the child's name, the applicant(s) 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 Procedure.

Adoption Support Services for Swindon are provided by Adoption Thames Valley (see Adoption Support 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 parent(s)' 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 upload a copy of the Adoption Order (if made) and complete the necessary system case closures for all parties (applicant(s), partner (if relevant) and child(ren)) and arrange for its safe storage in the Adoption Archives.

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