Guidance on References in Adoption


In December 2020, this guidance was reviewed and updated.

Who is an Ex Partner and When Should they be Contacted?

  • If married or in a relationship for more than 5 years and living together within the last 10 years, the ex partner should be contacted whether they had children or not;
  • Where there were children or step children within a previous relationship which resulted in co-parenting they should be contacted;
  • Advise the prospective adopter to let the ex partner know re: potential contact from the department.

Adult Children

  • All adult children should be contacted.

What Constitutes Contact?

We will only visit adult children if they live within a 30 mile radius. If outside of this, they may be contacted by letter, email or telephone depending on the arrangements agreed and facilitated by the prospective adopter.

Regarding any ex partner where there are no children from the relationship, the applicant will provide contact details and advise the most appropriate form of contact.

What are we Checking?

Child Protection matters and the ability to parent.

What if they Refuse to?

Where it is not possible to make contact with an adult child or ex partner, or where they refuse to provide information, a Team Manager will make a decision regarding the requirement to undertake a risk assessment or additional references in order to inform a recommendation regarding the applicants' suitability to adopt.

Grandparents/ Significant Support Figure

It is agreed that visiting a grandparent or significant other should be a standard part of the assessment if they are likely to be involved as a major support or if there are concerns re: extended family.

Current Employer

To write to current employers, use the standard reference request form with an accompanying letter. In addition, contact the previous employer if that employment was in a caring profession with children or vulnerable adults.

Headteachers/Nursery Teachers/Health Visitors

Contact to be made with the headteacher if there is a school age child in the family; nursery teacher if in pre school and health visitor if pre school.

In addition if a child has a disability or special needs then contact should be made with the professionals involved with the family directly. It may be a psychologist/paediatrician/ psychotherapist/ GP. (Adapt sample letter to head teacher for this purpose).

Guidance on Interview with Ex Partner

Interviews with ex partners are sometimes difficult and it is helpful to have some ideas about the areas to cover in the interview.

It is envisaged that the interviewer will engage the ex partner in a general discussion acknowledging that the?relationship has ended.

It is important to look at the strengths in the relationship:

  • Was it supportive?
  • Was the relationship open/difficult to talk to; warm/distant?
  • Was it on equal terms?
  • What were the differences that led to breakdown?
  • Describe the temperament/ personality of applicant?
  • Do you continue to have a friendship on any level? Can you describe this?
  • What sort of parent was the applicant towards the children? Ask about each child?
  • Does the applicant continue to have contact with the children? Of not, why not?
  • Would you have any concerns about the safety of a child being placed with the applicant?
Guidance on Questions for Adult Children

Some ideas about what to ask adult children of applicants when we interview them:

  • Can you give me an overall impression of your childhood?
  • How would you describe the way in which you were parented?
  • Do you feel you had a close relationship with your mother/father?
  • Can you tell me a happy memory with your mother/father?
  • Can you tell me a sad memory with your mother/father?
  • Can you describe an occasion when your mother/father has supported you in a time of crisis?
  • How did your mother/father deal with you in adolescence? Did this bring up issues of growing up?
  • Can you tell me how boundaries were set or discipline maintained when you were a child? Were you ever smacked as a child?
  • Is there any aspect of you upbringing that you would not want to be repeated with an adoptive/foster child?
  • Do you have any concerns about your mother/father's suitability to carer for a vulnerable child, or the safety of a child placed either physically, emotionally or sexually?