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2.2.5 Adoption

An adopted child may divulge when s/he is in placement, that they have been abused at some time in their previous history. An adopted child can also be vulnerable to physical, sexual or emotional abuse and / or neglect whilst they are placed for adoption. The child may thus already have suffered, or can suffer, to such a degree that it constitutes Significant Harm. See Recognition of Significant Harm Procedure.

Significant harm is defined in as a situation where a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, a degree of physical, sexual and / or emotional harm (through abuse or neglect) which is so harmful that there needs to be compulsory intervention by child protection agencies into the life of the child and their family.

All commissioners and providers of services for children who have a care plan for placement for adoption are responsible for ensuring that each child is safeguarded. Commissioner contracts and provider procedures should reflect the provisions and guidance relating to the Adoption and Children Act 2002.

They should be comprehensive and unambiguous in setting out the responsibilities and processes for safeguarding and promoting children's welfare.

Key provisions in the Adoption and Children Act 2002 include:

  • Aligning adoption law with the relevant provisions of the Children Act 1989 to ensure that the child's welfare is the paramount consideration in all decisions relating to adoption;
  • Placing a duty on local authorities to maintain an adoption service, including arrangements for the provision of adoption support services and an inter-country adoption service;
  • Providing a right to an assessment of needs for adoption support services for adoptive families and others;
  • Setting out a regulatory structure for adoption support agencies;
  • Providing additional restrictions on bringing a child into the UK in connection with adoption; and
  • Providing for restrictions on arranging adoptions and advertising children for adoption, other than through adoption agencies.

Adoption guidance, based on the Adoption and Children Act 2002, outlines the following essential characteristics of adoption services:

  • The focus must be firmly on the needs of the child, whose interests will be paramount in all decisions relating to adoption;
  • Highly skilled professionals should lead a quality service delivered to national minimum standards;
  • Focused effort should go into finding a permanent family for Children in Care (Kent) / Looked after Children (Medway) waiting to be adopted;
  • The courts must deal with all cases involving children in an efficient and child-centred way;
  • A range of potential adopters should be welcomed and assessed efficiently in an open and fair way; and
  • Children and their new families must have easy access to adoption support services.

See the Statutory Guidance on Adoption 2011.

Local authority services and third sector adoption agencies must meet national minimum service standards. The standards set out the following requirements:

  • The adoption agency's service users are safeguarded from any form of abuse, exploitation and discrimination including physical, financial, psychological and sexual, through deliberate intent, negligence or ignorance in accordance with the agency's written policies and procedures;
  • Where the adoption agency provides adoption support services to children:
    • There is a detailed written child protection policy, including the management of and reporting plan for child protection issues;
    • There are procedures for responding to suspicion or evidence of abuse and neglect which are in line with Kent and Medway Safeguarding Procedures to ensure the safety and protection of service users. this includes the involvement of the local authority and police and passing on concerns to the regulatory authority (where appropriate);
    • All staff and volunteers are trained in child protection and are aware of and access to, the agency's child protection policy;
    • All allegations and incidents of abuse in relation to the agency's staff or volunteers are followed up promptly and the details and action taken are recorded on a file, kept especially for the purpose, and on the service user's record; and
  • The adoption agency has written procedures for dealing with allegations of historical abuse which may be made by service users during the course of service provision.

See the Adoption: National Minimum Standards.

The period prior to the transfer of full Parental Responsibility on the making of an Adoption Order can be very challenging and prospective parent/s can under-report worrying behaviours seen with their new children. In addition it is common for these children to be placed at a significant distance from their home local authority, making close monitoring of the placement more challenging.

It is essential that children and their adoptive families receive good support services:

  • Placements are visited and reviewed regularly depending on circumstances;
  • Children are seen alone depending on circumstances;
  • All those who use adoption services are aware that they are entitled to an assessment for support services (including therapy for the child), to meet their needs;
  • There are effective processes in place to address, challenge and monitor the quality of practice - see Adoption: messages from inspections of adoption agencies (CSCI, 2006) at www.ofsted.gov.uk.

Where an allegation of past or current abuse or neglect is made in respect of a child placed for adoption or in respect of a prospective or approved adopter, the following actions must be taken:

  • Where a child is placed with prospective adopters and any allegation of past or current abuse or neglect is received, a referral must be made, in line with the Referrals Procedure, to the LA children's social care where the child is placed (the host authority);
  • Where child protection enquiries are made in respect of a child by the host authority, full co-operation must be given by any other local authority with information about that child;
  • Where the child is not place with prospective adopters and any allegation of past or current abuse or neglect is received, a referral must be made, in line with the Referrals Procedure, to the LA children's social care where the principal office of the adoption agency concerned is based;
  • The registration authority must be notified of the instigation and outcome of any child protection enquiry;
  • Consideration must be given as to the implications of the outcome of any allegation, and any necessary measures taken in order to protect children placed with prospective adopters;
  • Adoption agencies must ensure that appropriate individuals working for the purposes of the agency, prospective adopters and children placed by the agency all have access to information to enable them to contact the host LA children's social care, plus the registration authority in respect of any concern about child welfare or safety relating to an adoptive placement.

The Kent and Medway Safeguarding Children Boards have a responsibility to ensure that children with plans for placement for adoption within or outside the local area have essential safeguards in place and that children placed in their areas from other local authorities have essential safeguards in place.

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