Adoption Initial Visits Guidance


In December 2020, this guidance was reviewed and updated throughout to reflect current practice.

1. General Guidance

The purpose of the initial visit should be part information giving, part discussion/assessment of suitability to adopt. The write up and submission to Team Manager should be completed within 5 - 7 working days of the initial visit being undertaken. Potential adopters should be notified of the decision regarding their suitability to progress within 10 days of the visit.

All enquirers will have had access to information which is provided at adoption information sessions and on the website. It is useful for workers to be familiar with the contents of this information prior to the initial visit, so that they are able to clarify information if required. Workers should also see: Assessment and Approval of Prospective Adopters Procedure and the You Can Adopt website, First4Adoption website and e-learning components.

It is important to be encouraging of applicants, but also to be honest and realistic about potential, and to highlight any concerns. It is unfair to raise applicant's expectations when progressing their application is inappropriate or unlikely. If you are not recommending they proceed you should explain this and your reasons clearly to them. If further discussion with a manager is required, this should also be explained, and applicants informed that the outcome will be confirmed to them in writing by the relevant manager. It will be appropriate on occasions, for workers to undertake a 2nd follow up visit.

2. Arranging Contact

Contact by telephone to discuss interest and arrange an appointment to visit should be made within 2 working days of receipt of the request (Statutory Guidance, 2015). This telephone conversation will allow some initial discussion which may lead to a realisation that a visit is not appropriate. If the discussion is positive at this stage, then an initial home visit can be arranged (to be undertaken within 10 working days of receipt of the request) This and the requirement to make contact within 2 working days of receipt of the request (Statutory Guidance, 2015).

The phone call should be recorded within the Initial Home Visit embedded form on Mosaic along with the date and time for the planned visit.

Applicants should be informed of the need to provide documentation evidencing identity at the initial hone visit for the purposes of progressing DBS checks should they proceed in the adoption process. The acknowledgement letter confirming the visit can be attached to an email but ought to be sent in letter format. This letter should then be uploaded within the Initial Visit Work Flow on Mosaic.

3. Visit/Interview

The following is a guide only. Not everything may be relevant, and judgement will need to be taken regarding the depth that is required. Visits should not take more than two hours. There is the option for 2nd visits where more time is required to explore something in greater detail.

Each visit should be led by the social worker and should begin by asking whether the enquirer(s) have any further questions following on from the information event.

The following areas should then be covered:
  1. Accommodation:
    • Smoke alarms and Carbon Monoxide detectors are required and a home fire safety check should be undertaken by West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue service where there are attic bedrooms or the home has only one exit. Applicants can be directed to West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service to arrange a visit in these circumstances;
    • Or West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, Safe and Well to do their own survey which can be printed / emailed to OAWY;
    • Applicants need to be made aware that a Health and Safety Checklist will be completed;
    • Are there any pets? Advise that a Pet Questionnaire will be required in Stage Two. If the applicant(s) own a dog, they must make arrangements to have the dog assessed in Stage One. Adoption Advisors will oversee this. It may be undertaken by a dog trainer or a dog behaviourist and is required before moving into Stage Two. It is inadvisable for pets to sleep upstairs and if training is required for the pet, now would be a good time for such training to begin.
  2. Family composition:
    • If in a relationship, how long together?
    • Ask about previous relationships and the fact that we are likely to make contact with ex partners where the relationship has been significant and involved co-habiting or co-parenting;
    • For single applicants also check relationship status and expectations - are they actively seeking a relationship?
    • Ask brief questions regarding upbringing; significant losses, adverse childhood experiences for example.
  3. Support Networks (extended family / neighbours / friends):
    • The importance of this is shared;
    • Do they have any people who can provide practical and emotional support? Who will come in an emergency? Do they have people they can confide in?
  4. Employment/experience:
    • What sort of hours do they work at the moment?
    • Will they be able to take sufficient time off work to meet the child's needs? We encourage adopters to take a year's adoption leave;
    • If they are thinking of sharing adoption leave this will depend on the needs of our children, as often children need a long time with one person to build attachment;
    • Are they financially stable and do they have any significant debts? (Specific income should not be asked);
    • Have they ever been bankrupt, and how has this been resolved?
  5. Statutory checks and references:
    • Please ask applicants to tell us about any Police involvement, cautions or convictions, including those that they think are spent given that we do enhanced checks;
    • Prospective adopters should be specifically asked to identify anything that they know of that may preclude them from adopting;
    • Have they had help or support from other agencies e.g. Health or CAMHS?
    • Please ensure applicants are aware of our policy on contacting employers, head teachers, health visitors, ex partners, adult children; and of taking up references with family members etc.
    • Please make it clear to applicants that if their application progresses, and they have lived in another country in their adult life, then they will need to provide additional references to ascertain their conduct. If this is not possible, consideration will be given to overseas police checks.
  6. Medicals and health:
    • Check alcohol use (this is 14 units per person per week, and should be no more than 2-3 units in one sitting. There should be several alcohol free days a week), substance misuse, weight (but do not ask for specific BMI), ongoing health issues;
    • Check if they smoke or use e-cigarettes / vapes. If they hope to adopt a child under 5 years the expectation is that we would not be able to offer a ROI until they have been smoke / vape free for at least 6 months to ensure that they are 12 months free of smoking at the potential expected time of their approval;
    • Please ask applicants specifically if they have ever suffered from anxiety or depression and record their responses clearly;
    • Complex issues will require medicals to be undertaken in the usual way and the advice of the agency the agency medical adviser before proceeding.
  7. Interest / Motivation and Childcare Experience:
    • A period of time having passed since infertility treatment is recommended as this can take some time to come to terms with. For some people this can be a few months, for others it can be years. What we know is that if there remains a longing for a born to child, sadly that can impact on emotions and reactions when a child is placed that can be really difficult. Everyone is unique, so it helps to hear from potential adopters about their journey to parenthood and make a person to person assessment that recognises people's differences in exploring if now is really the right time;
    • Applicants need to be aware of the need to use contraception as required;
    • Any child placed for adoption ideally would be at least 2 years younger than the youngest child in the family;
    • We would be reluctant to accept an application to adopt an older child where there is a younger child in placement, due to the potential impact of the relationship between the children;
    • Experienced adopters will not be considered until the first child is at least 2 years of age. However, the team manager will apply discretion where a sibling is born to one or both original parents;
    • If childless, explore what experiences they have of being with children. They should be encouraged and advised to increase childcare experience. They may have friends and family with children and they should seek to build this to overnights. They can volunteer at schools, nurseries, sports clubs, the scout movement etc. If this is being advised it should be included in the Stage One Agreement, and we will assess progress at the end of Stage One before seeking a relevant reference in Stage Two.
  8. Becoming Adopters / Positive Parenting / Lifelong Nature of Adoption:
    • Current demographic profile of children waiting for adoption in West Yorkshire;
    • Early Permanence Placements;
    • Talking about adoption? Consider identity long term and that this changes over time for an adopted person, right through adulthood too;
    • Contact in adoption and birth parent meetings;
    • Adoption support services. Explain that although our children, though will reach potential in a nurturing and secure family, they will have needs that will always be with them due to early life experiences? e.g. Domestic Abuse in-utero that means children are born with pre disposition to stress not dissimilar to PTSD (recent research), drugs, alcohol, learning needs, metal health; these areas can remain beyond the adoption order;
    • Talk about therapeutic methods of parenting; no hitting, ideally no shouting, no time out etc;
    • Explain Stage One including the option for peer mentoring;
    • Explain Stage Two i.e. the assessment process, including tools. Discuss the Attachment Style Interview as one tool in use;
    • Advise in brief of long terms support and training.
  9. Training:
    • Applicants also need to be aware of the preparation/training requirement with compulsory attendance of all applicants. Dates should be given and availability to attend confirmed;
    • Experienced adopters - discretion should be applied regarding the most appropriate training dependent on timescales and changes since the first adoption. This could include the full preparation training, or experienced parent training;
    • Advise that we provide a resource list and that towards the end of stage one we will be asking what they have learned.

The two stage assessment process, and tight time framework requirements around this should be clearly explained. Also advise that this can be slowed down for reasons that may include more time being required for learning and readiness.

Please remember that this is guidance only, and that professional judgement needs to be exercised in each case based on the circumstances presented.

If the outcome of the visit is generally positive, please evidence the DBS forms.

4. Write up Visit

Enter the details on Mosaic. Conclude with a clear Recommendation and the rationale for this recommendation.

It is important that any reservations you have are shared openly with the applicant(s) and that they are clear about the recommendation you will be making.

5. Forward to Team Manager

Pass the initial visit report to the Adoption Team Manager via Mosaic. The Adoption Team Manager will consider the information gathered and make a decision whether the enquirers should proceed. The ROI workflow is sent by the manager to the Advisor. A phone call is usually made by the Advisor to the potential adopters informing of this. A letter will then be sent to the applicant(s) by the advisor confirming the home visit outcome and outlining the next stages of the process. This can be attached to an email. Whilst awaiting the return of the ROI, the Stage One Agreement should be completed by the adoption advisor which should be signed off at the same time the manager accepts the ROI on Mosaic.

The adoption advisor allocated the initial visit will continue to link with the prospective adopter throughout the Stage One process to guide and assist.

If not proceeding, the Adoption Team Manager will telephone the enquirer to inform them of this and then write confirming the decision not to proceed with reasons. A copy of this letter will be added to the Mosaic file. Advice will also be given of any steps to be taken in order to meet the criteria or of how they might pursue their interest elsewhere and details of the You Can Adopt website will be provided.

6. Additional Information

It should be emphasised to applicants that if there are any issues at all in connection with medicals or checks, then they should inform us of these without delay.

Medicals will be requested during Stage One and the Agency Medical Advisor may need to confirm that the medical outcome is satisfactory before an application can proceed. This is usual where there are pre-conditions. However, if there are not likely to be any concerns from the MA advice, it is possible to make an end of Stage One Decision based on the AH returned from the GP without the MA advice. Where applicants disclose issues of concern in connection with the DBS checks, the application cannot progress until the checks have been returned and where required a risk assessment has been authorised by the Team Manager and Service Manager who must also give consent to the application progressing.