Recruitment of Prospective Adopters

AMENDMENT

In February 2022, Section 2, Responding to Initial Contacts, Section 3, Information Events and Section 4, Initial Meeting were revised in line with local practice.

1. Introduction

Adopt North East aims to recruit and assess prospective adopters who can meet the needs of children for whom adoption is the plan from our five partner Local Authorities.

It is part of the recruitment strategy of Adopt North East to encourage applications from people irrespective of their status and without prejudice; we welcome applications from people who are single, married, living together in a couple relationship, same sex couples, people from any racial, ethnic or cultural background or religion and from those with a disability (see Eligibility Criteria for Prospective Adopters).

2. Responding to Initial Contacts

Enquirers about adoption can access information about adopting with Adopt North East by email, web page form, social media, telephone contact or office visit.

All Initial Contacts are dealt with by Qualified Social Work staff – where appropriate, enquirers are given relevant information verbally and by Information Pack. They will also be invited to attend one of the regularly held Information Events or signposted to other relevant services to support them in the very beginning of their adoption journey.

3. Information Events

Information Events are regularly held by the Agency to enable enquirers about adoption to hear from Qualified Social Workers about the adopter assessment process and the journey for children requiring forever families. There is also an opportunity to meet with and listen to the experiences of adopters.

Details of these scheduled events are available on the Adopt North East website and social media pages.

4. Initial Meeting

If enquirers have received the Information Pack, attended an Information Event or indicate their interest in starting their adoption journey with Adopt North East, the Agency will arrange an Initial Meeting, normally a home visit by a Qualified Social Worker. This is not an assessment visit by the Agency but very much an opportunity for a more focused session about adoption. The enquirers will be given the opportunity to share something of their journey. They will be given advice and support based on the personal circumstances they have shared to help them come to an informed decision whether adoption is the right choice for them.

If an enquirer considers that they wish to commence their adoption journey with Adopt North East, they will be asked to formally Register their Interest.

5. Registration of Interest

From receipt of receiving a Registration of Interest, Adopt North East will formally decide to accept or decline the Registration of Interest within 5 working days of receipt and inform the prospective adopter, in writing, of the decision.

Where Adopt North East accepts a Registration of Interest the acceptance date formally commences Stage One, the pre-assessment process.

From this point the applicant/s are referred to as 'prospective adopter/s'.

6. Stage One – The Pre-Assessment Process

Stage One commences when Adopt North East accepts the Registration of Interest in adoption and ends with a Pre-Assessment Decision. This stage should normally take no more than two months to complete. If the time period is extended by the Agency or at the request of the prospective adopters, the reasons must be recorded on the prospective adopter's case record, along with supporting evidence.

Stage One will focus on initial training and preparation, and on ascertaining, through prescribed checks and references, whether there is any absolute reason why the prospective adopter should not proceed further. The expectation is that the prospective adopter will be closely involved in the Stage One process and that they will be proactive in enhancing their knowledge of adoption. All prescribed checks and references must be carried out during Stage One in parallel with initial training and preparation.

A Stage One agreement will be signed which set out the responsibilities and expectations of both the prospective adopter and Adopt North East during Stage One and prospective adopters will be given an explanation of the statutory duty on the agency to conduct statutory checks into their background and into the background of any other adult members of their household (see Guidance on Checks and References).

This agreement will include:

  • Information about the counselling, information and preparation for adoption to be provided;
  • The procedure for carrying out statutory checks;
  • Details of any training that the prospective adopter has agreed to undertake;
  • Information about the role of the prospective adopter in the stage one process;
  • Information about the process for making representations (including a complaint);
  • Any applicable timescales; and
  • Any other information that Adopt North East considers relevant.

Whilst the importance of openness must be stressed to the prospective adopter, it should not be assumed that a failure to disclose information automatically implies that the prospective adopter is unsuitable. It will be necessary to discuss the matter and the reasons for non-disclosure.

Prospective adopters should be encouraged to use any other materials that offer them the opportunity to explore and reach an informed view about aspects of parenting and their parenting capacity and help them to identify their own training needs. A further visit, meeting or pre-planned telephone call with the prospective adopter (whatever works best for them and best meets their preferences) should be undertaken to ensure that they have the opportunity to ask for more information or training based on their needs.

The expectation is that during Stage 1 prospective adopters will complete 2 full days of stage 1 training and half a day of Early Permanence (Fostering for Adoption) training.

Where there are children of an applicant, whether resident or living elsewhere, they will also attend half a day training, Growing Families.

In addition, Family and Friends training is offered by the Agency and assessing social workers should encourage and help to identify suitable people within the support network to attend this training.

Foster Carers applying to adopt a child in their care are required to attend the same training (with exception of Early Permanence training as the child is already living with them).

Those who have previously adopted are not required to undertake Stage 1 and Stage 2 training but should complete Early Permanence and Growing Families programmes.  It should be identified at the initial visit any refresher training needs they may have which can be addressed by the assessing social worker or on a 1 -1 basis with a training social worker.

7. Stage One – The Pre-Assessment Decision

At the conclusion of Stage One, the Agency will make a Pre-Assessment Decision. Where the Pre-Assessment Decision is that the prospective adopter might be suitable to adopt a child, the prospective adopters will be advised of the decision and that they have six months in which to notify Adopt North East if they wish to proceed to Stage Two – the Assessment Stage.

If the prospective adopters provide notification of their wish to proceed outside this six months' time limit, they will need to restart Stage One. They should be contacted within 5 working days of their notification and offered a re-entry interview. The Stage One assessment should consider activities undertaken previously.

Where the Pre-Assessment Decision is that the prospective adopter is not suitable to progress, they must be provided with a clear written explanation of the reasons why they will not be able to proceed to Stage Two. The pre-assessment decision may be made notwithstanding that not all the required pre-assessment information has been gathered. Prospective adopters who wish to complain about this decision may make a complaint using Adopt North East's complaints procedure. They will also be able to raise general concerns about the process with Adopt North East. The Independent Review Mechanism is not available for decisions made during Stage One.

8. Existing Foster Carers and Previous Adopters

There is a shortened process (termed Fast-Track) for existing foster carers and previous adopters. The requirements are modified for applicants who are approved foster carers or previous adopters. (This does not apply to Connected Persons or to prospective adopters given temporary approval as foster carers, under the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 (as amended)). All statutory checks including police checks will be undertaken in stage 2 of the process. See Guidance on Checks and References.

When an application is received from an existing foster carer or previous adopter, the relevant Agency will be required to share information about a person that is held in their existing foster carer or adopter records with Adopt North East within 15 working days upon the request. Information required in order to inform a new assessment of a person's suitability to adopt includes:

  • The report of the original assessment of the person's suitability to foster or adopt;
  • A copy of the report of the last review of the individual's continuing suitability to foster or adopt and any other review report considered useful to understanding the person's current suitability to foster or adopt;
  • Previous ADM panel minutes for previous approval;
  • Any previous training notes;
  • Details of any concerns about standards of practice and what if anything is being done/has been done to address them;
  • Details of allegations made against the foster carer/adopter or their household members; and
  • Any other information considered to be relevant to the assessment of the person's suitability to foster/adopt.

Information should only be shared with the informed, explicit consent of all parties referred to in the information, including young people where they have sufficient understanding to consent to the sharing of their information (if they do not have sufficient understanding, the consent of a person with Parental Responsibility would need to be obtained). This means that the person giving consent needs to understand why their information is to be shared, what will be shared, who will see their information, the purpose to which it will be put and the implications of sharing that information.

If consent is refused, the current fostering service or adoption agency should consider whether there is any information in the records that is a cause for concern.

Requests for access to information should be accompanied by the written consent of the applicant to the sharing of their information.

The receiving Agency should acknowledge the request and seek consent from all others referred to in the information, the information should be redacted where necessary.

The assessing social worker should, however, satisfy themselves that the information they have is current and relevant before using it to inform the latest assessment.

Where prospective adopters transfer from another Adoption Agency after Stage One

Sometimes prospective adopters begin the adoption process with one adoption agency but for a range of reasons may decide that they would wish to transfer to Adopt North East at the end of Stage One. In these circumstances, Adopt North East will undertake an Initial Meeting prior to any decision being made about accepting the transfer to understand the rationale behind the request. In all cases, Adopt North East will contact the previous Adoption Agency to understand the circumstances from the perspective of the Agency. A Team Manager will decide if the transfer will be accepted. Should a transfer be accepted, all Stage One documentation held by the previous Agency will be requested and should be transferred to Adopt North East within 10 working days (AAR 43)

Where approved adopters transfer from another Adoption Agency

If adopters are approved by another Adoption Agency and request that they transfer to Adopt North East, they are required to resign from their approving agency in writing.

Adopt North East will commence the process at Stage One again, acknowledging the information, training and assessment work previously undertaken.  In all cases, Adopt North East will contact the previous Adoption Agency to understand the circumstances from the perspective of the Agency and relevant documentation, including the PAR held by the previous Agency will be requested and should be transferred to Adopt North East (Regulation 32(6) of the 2011 Regulations requires fostering services, and regulation 42(1) of the Adoption Agencies Regulations 2005 requires adoption agencies, to share information to support the assessment of a person's suitability to foster or adopt, if requested to do so by the fostering service or adoption agency undertaking the assessment).