SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This guidance is intended to highlight areas of concern and to assist prospective adopters in providing a safe and healthy environment for children.
AMENDMENTIn June 2019, Section 3.12, Pets was updated to note: Applicants with dogs will be asked to obtain a reference from the vet and/or rescue centre re the temperament of their dog(s). This will be required during stage one of the process.
Some children placed for adoption will be developmentally immature and more likely to be at risk from hazards than their peers. Others will not have received appropriate guidance in this area from their birth parents and will be unaware of potential dangers.
The adoption officer completing your assessment will have completed a health and safety assessment with you as part of this process. Any significant issues identified will need to be rectified prior to a child being placed.
There are a number of precautions which should be taken to ensure the safety of all members of your household. The following is a basic guide:
The West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service undertake free fire safety checks, click here to book online. Following the fire safety check you will be provided with a safety certificate which your adoption social worker will ask to see during Stage 2 of your assessment. You may also be eligible for free smoke alarms on completion of this test.
Below is a list of some of the key points relating to fire safety:
Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a poisonous gas that is produced when any fossil fuel such as gas, coal, oil or wood is burnt without enough oxygen. You can't see it, smell it or taste it so you don't know when it is present.
A build up of Carbon Monoxide can be extremely dangerous and can cause a variety of symptoms, and even death. All heating and cooking appliances should be serviced regularly by a qualified engineer, and a Carbon Monoxide detector should be fitted.
Cars must be well maintained, regularly serviced, adequately insured, and covered by a current MOT certificate if the age of the car requires it.
It is essential when carrying children in the car that Government guidance and laws in relation to seat belts and car seat standards are adhered to at all times. Please make sure you know what these are and that you meeting the requirements by going onto the GOV.UK Website to check all the latest safety standards and legal requirements.
If seat belts or child restraints are fitted in the rear of the car, it is the driver's legal responsibility to ensure that children under the age of 14 years use them. It is also the responsibility of the driver to ensure that passengers are carried safely and that the vehicle is not overloaded. It is against the law to smoke in a car with children under 18 on board.
Car keys should not be accessible to children and young people and should always be stored safely and securely.
Most childhood accidents can be dealt with fairly easily although medical advice should be sought if there is any doubt. It is advisable to have a well stocked First Aid box available.
Consideration should be given to whether children are allergic to certain ointments and lotions in common use. All medication should be kept securely out of the reach of children.
Good hygiene standards prevent the spread of illness and infection. Good hand-washing is one of the easiest and best ways of preventing cross-infection. This practice should be followed by responsible adults, encouraging children to do the same.
A range of minor and major infections can be transmitted via blood and body fluids. Hygiene standards should be maintained for all children and young people, e.g. cuts and sores on the hands should be kept covered with waterproof, adhesive dressings. Hands need to be washed thoroughly before and after carrying out first aid procedures or after contact with bodily fluids. Disposable gloves should be used when carrying out first aid procedures.
Because the faeces of a baby can carry live traces of the polio virus following vaccination, it is advisable to check with your GP that you are immunised against polio and to maintain thorough hygiene standards after each nappy change.
It is important to promote a healthy lifestyle and to eat a varied and balanced diet. Food and mealtimes can be a source of tension and eating disorders can create a great deal of worry. It is important to recognise that children may come from different backgrounds in terms of diet, and to recognise the need to be flexible and introduce new foods appropriately. Attitudes towards food, mealtimes and eating habits are extremely important and influential.
Homes should be in good repair, adequately insured, safe and hazard free for children. All glass that can be reached by a child should be toughened to relevant British Safety Standards, or fitted with protective safety film. Electrical equipment should be well maintained and in good order. Gas fires / boilers / cookers should be regularly serviced by an appropriately qualified person. Portable electrical equipment should be safe and adequately maintained. Doors, windows and floor coverings should be safe and secure.
The Lullaby Trust provides the following advice to promote safer sleeping for babies:
Children may have experienced trauma and abuse associated with alcohol use so it is vital that adopters have full background knowledge of the child, and are sensitive to the child's perception of adult drinking patterns and behaviour.
Drug use is illegal, dangerous, and detrimental to children.
Smoking does not automatically rule you out from adopting. However, if you wish to adopt a child under five or a child with particular medical conditions, you are likely to need to be smoke-free for 6 months before making an application (this includes e-cigarettes and vaping).
Children need support to be healthy and stay healthy. Adopters need to provide an environment that encourages improvements in the health and wellbeing of children and young people in their care. Children often have little choice about smoke in their environment. Breathing other people's smoke - passive smoking - has consequences for children because their lungs are smaller and their immune systems less mature. They also breathe quicker, taking in more harmful substances per pound of body weight than adults. It has been found that the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (cot death) is doubled when the parent or carer smokes up to nine cigarettes daily, and trebled when ten or more cigarettes are smoked. Lower respiratory tract infections (pneumonia and bronchitis), asthma and glue ear occur more frequently in young children in smoking households. Passive smoking is also associated with persistent coughing, wheezing, bronchitis, asthma, sore throats, middle ear problems, snoring, impaired lung growth and slower developmental progress.
Pets can be important members of the household and can bring benefits for children of all ages who grow up with them. There are however a number of health risks associated with household pets. They can also injure and cause emotional distress to children unfamiliar with animals or who have had negative experiences of them.
Children and animals are unpredictable. Household pets are expected to be well looked after and children should be taught to behave responsibly towards animals.
It is expected that basic animal welfare such as regular worming of domestic pets will be undertaken. Pets' housing, sleeping and toileting arrangements, routine and training must be carefully considered, and good hygiene standards observed. Adopters need to be able to demonstrate that they have measures in place for the welfare of all concerned.
Information about your pets is important when it comes to making decisions about placements, for example of a child with allergies or asthma. Applicants with dogs will be asked to obtain a reference from the vet and/or rescue centre re the temperament of their dog(s). This will be required during stage one of the process.
The presence of certain dogs in a household will need to be carefully considered and may be incompatible with adoption.
Adopted children can be particularly vulnerable when accessing social networking websites and parents will need to be vigilant in ensuring that any internet usage is adequately supervised. Computers should have "parental controls" activated and these should be reviewed regularly. Children will also need your involvement, experience and guidance so that you can make sure their experience of the internet is educational and enjoyable whilst also safeguarding them from any potential risk of harm.
See also Social Networking Guidance - to follow.
Prospective adopters must disclose if they hold or have access to firearms. Where applicants confirm that they hold firearms, a current firearm certificate must be seen and a copy placed on file. The assessing worker must be satisfied that guns and ammunition are stored in such a way that they cannot be accessed by children or young people.