Adoption Initial Visits Guidance
In June 2019, 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. We want to be able to get back to potential adopters with a decision, ideally within less than 10 days.
All enquirers will have had access to an Adoption Information Pack which is provided at adoption information sessions. It is useful for workers to be familiar with the contents of this pack 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 National Gateway, 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 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.
Contact by telephone to discuss interest and arrange an appointment to visit should be made within 2 working days of receipt of the request. 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 are the timeframes set within in the Statutory Guidance, 2013).
The phone call should be recorded within the Initial Home Visit embedded form.
As soon as date and time is booked for the visit, please log this with the Initial Home Visit embedded form on Mosaic. This has date reporting implications.
On receipt of the Registration of Interest (ROI) form, Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) paperwork will be sent with an acknowledgement letter. Please remind applicants of the need for identity evidencing documentation to be available at the initial hone visit. The acknowledgement letter 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.
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 more in depth.
The social worker will lead the visit in the order, direction and depth the will judge as required throughout.
Each visit should start by asking whether the enquirer(s) have any further questions following on from the information event.
The following areas should then be covered:
- 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. 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.
- 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.
- 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 a couple of friends they can confide in?
- 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 ask for a minimum of 6 months, but strongly encourage a year;
- 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?
- 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 take all reasonable steps to get a certificate of good conduct or a police report from that country, and we will reimburse only the cost of any translation where that is required. If this is not possible and all reasonable steps have been taken, then they will be required to provide an additional reference to ascertain their good character during the time they were living abroad. In many cases it may be pragmatic to gain a reference only.
- 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) issues;
- Check if they smoke or use e-cigarettes / Vaping. National Guidelines are that if you fall into the category of a smoker of vaper, you cannot come forward to adopt a child under 5 years. Thus if a smoker / vaper and 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 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 but agreement of the medical adviser before proceeding.
- Interest / Motivation and Childcare Experience:
- A period of time having passed since infertility treatment is often recommended as this can take some time to come to genuine 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. However as there are young children to place, the team manager will apply discretion as appropriate regarding an age gap;
- We would be very 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 ideally will not be considered until the first child is at least 2 years of age. However as there are young children to place, the team manager will apply discretion as appropriate regarding an age gap. This is particularly relevant where the child is a sibling born to one or both original parents;
- If childless, explore what experiences do 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 we will want to see how they got on at the end of Stage One and we would usually seek a reference in Stage Two.
- 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 – do they have any questions? 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 – do they have any questions? – think about long term, social media, openness;
- Adoption support services - do they have any questions? 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.
- Applicants also need to be aware of the 4 full days preparation/training requirement with compulsory attendance of all applicants at all days. Dates should be given and availability to attend confirmed;
- Experienced adopters attending preparation/training more than 5 years ago will be required to attend preparation/training again in full. Those attending preparation/training less than 3 years ago will be required to attend the one day training provided via the Hub. There is an element of discretion here – it may be felt that if significant changes have been made to training since the adopters attended, it would be beneficial for them to attend the full 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 is 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 interview 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 or if they are not suitable to proceed. The ROI workflow is sent by the manager to the Advisor. A phone call is usually made 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 First4Adoption
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.