Allegations Against Prospective Adopters

1. Introduction

These procedures should be used in respect of all cases where it is alleged that an adopter has:

  • Behaved in a way that has harmed a child, or may have harmed a child
  • Possibly committed a criminal offence against or related to a child,
  • Behaved towards a child or children in a way that indicates they may pose a risk of harm to children, or
  • Behaved or may have behaved in a way that indicates they may not be suitable to work with children.

2. Procedure

2.1 Initial Response

Any member of Adopt North East staff who receives information alleging or suspects that a child has suffered or is likely to suffer harm in an adoptive placement must, without delay:

  • Immediately inform their line-manager;
  • Immediately inform the child's Local Authority Social Worker and their Team Manager;
  • Immediately inform the prospective adopter's Social Worker and their Team Manager.

The prospective adopter's social worker must also:

  • Inform the social workers for any other child in the placement;
  • Inform any other local authority with an interest in the adoptive placement;
  • Provide support to the prospective adopter.

2.2 Referral to Local Authority where the child is resident

Where the Local Authority responsible for the child is of the opinion that the allegation or suspicion should be dealt with as a safeguarding concern, the Local Authority Child's Social worker will be responsible for making a safeguarding referral to the Local Authority where the child is resident.

It will be for the Local Authority where the child is resident to determine whether a multi-agency Strategy Discussion should be convened.

As the allegation or suspicion is against an adopter, as well as a safeguarding referral to the Children's Social Care where the child is resident, a referral should also be made to the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO).

2.3 Strategy Meeting

Where a Strategy Meeting is deemed necessary, the purpose of the meeting will be to plan the investigation of the allegation or suspicion under Working Together 2018.

The following people should be invited by the convening Local Authority:

  1. The Manager of the Social Work Team of the Local Authority convening the Strategy Meeting;
  2. A Social Worker from the Local Authority convening the Strategy Meeting who will undertake a Section 47 Child Protection Investigation if this is the outcome;
  3. The Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO);
  4. The child's Local Authority Social Worker;
  5. The prospective adopter's Adopt North East Social Worker;
  6. A Police representative (from the area the child is resident);
  7. A health representative;
  8. Any other agency involved with the child or adoptive family;
  9. A Minute Taker (if appropriate).

The Strategy Meeting should consider:

  • The current allegation and how it is to be investigated, including whether it is to be investigated under Section 47 Children Act 1989;
  • Whether there should be a concurrent criminal investigation by the police;
  • Any previous allegations or concerns about the prospective adopters and the outcome of previous investigations;
  • Any previous allegations made by the child in question and the outcome of previous investigations;
  • The suspension of introductions or whether the child should remain in placement whilst the investigation is carried out;
  • The need to call an urgent Placement Planning Review Meeting or an urgent review of the adoptive placement and the timing of any such review;
  • The safety and well-being of other children living with, or having contact with the prospective adopters, including those with whom the adopters may work or volunteer with;
  • How support will be offered to the children in the family during the investigation;
  • Who will inform the prospective adopters of this meeting?
  • Who will support the prospective adopters through the investigation process?
  • Who will contact the birth parents of the children concerned; how and when this should be done, and what information should be shared with them.

The Meeting should include a discussion of information known and clear decisions about next actions, including who is responsible for what, with clear timescales for completion of any agreed actions.

Copies of the Minutes of the Strategy Meeting should be provided by the convening Local Authority and stored on the child's adoption file and the prospective adopter's Adoption Case Record.

2.4 Child Protection Investigation

The actions agreed at the Strategy Meeting should be implemented by those responsible within the agreed timescales.

Unless the Strategy Meeting agreed that there are circumstances when the details or nature of the allegation cannot be shared immediately, the prospective adopters should be advised of the allegation as agreed at the Strategy Meeting and of the process to be followed in the investigation.

Depending on the level and nature of any concerns and whether they are immediate, the prospective adopters may be given the opportunity to respond to the allegations before any final decision is made about necessary action to protect the child and other children in the household.

Any decision to temporarily suspend the approval of the prospective adopter while the investigation is being conducted should be communicated in writing to the prospective adopter by the Senior Manager for Adopt North East.

Those supporting the prospective adopters must contact the prospective adopters as soon as practicable after they are made aware of the allegation and explain their role. They must make clear their responsibility to report to the local authority, the Police and, in some circumstances to the Court if any information relevant to the investigation comes to their attention.

Where the prospective adopters are in receipt of financial support, they should be informed of any implications for the payment of such support, where placements have been suspended.

If an Initial Child Protection Conference is convened, the Conference Chair must be consulted in advance to discuss whether the prospective adopters should be invited to attend. In any event, the prospective adopters' views must be obtained for and communicated to the Conference.

2.5 Concluding the Child Protection Investigation

The Strategy Meeting will usually be reconvened once an investigation has been completed, particularly where no Child Protection Conference is then held. The same people will be invited and the same person will chair the meeting, where possible.

The purpose of the reconvened Strategy Meeting is to agree on the outcome of the investigation and responsibilities for any further action, including the need to call an urgent review of the adoptive placement and reporting on the matter to the Adoption Panel.

The meeting should determine who will write to the prospective adopters, informing them of the outcome of the investigation.

The child, if appropriate, and the birth parents may also be informed of the decisions made at the meeting. The Chair and the child's Local Authority Social Worker will agree the most appropriate way of informing the child and birth parents.

A report should be presented to the next available Adoption Panel that heard the match. As well as the investigation, the report should address the ability of the approved adopters to help the child(ren) come to terms with past events and to handle future behaviour, and whether the proposed placement or placement continues to be suitable.

The social worker preparing the report should consult with the Panel Adviser to the Adoption Panel and the Chair of the Adoption Panel who will advise on who should attend the Panel meeting (usually the child's social worker and the prospective adopter's social worker) and whether or not a special Panel meeting should be convened.

All relevant documents in relation to the investigation, whatever the outcome, must be retained on the child's and the prospective adopter's respective Adoption Case Records.