Allegations Against Prospective Adopters


This procedure applies where allegations are made that approved/prospective adopters have:

  • Behaved in a way that has harmed a child, or may have harmed a child;
  • Possibly committed a criminal offence against or related to a child;
  • Behaved towards a child or children in a way that indicates they may pose a risk of harm to children;
  • Behaved towards a child or children in a way that indicates they are unsuitable to work with children.

The procedure should be read in conjunction with the West Yorkshire Consortium Safeguarding Procedures, Allegations Against Persons who Work with Children Procedure.


In July 2023 this chapter was amended in line with revised Keeping Children Safe in Education. New Section 2, The Difference Between an Allegation of Harm and a Concern was added.

1. Policy

All adopters and children in adoptive placements are made aware of and advised how to access this procedure and other procedures including the Complaints procedure.

All children are entitled to the same level and standard of protection from harm including those receiving services from statutory or other agencies. For this reason, enquiries and investigations relating to children in receipt of such services must be dealt with under the West Yorkshire Consortium Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures.

Allegations will be dealt with in a manner that provides effective protection and support for children and the person making the allegation, while at the same time supporting the person who is the subject of the allegation.

Allegations or suspicions that a prospective adopter has behaved in a way that has, or may have, harmed a child or possibly committed a criminal offence relating to a child will be investigated thoroughly, speedily and sensitively under those procedures and will involve open and honest communication with and support to all those affected.

Clear timescales will be integral to the investigation and those involved must avoid delay unless there is good reason. There will be clarity regarding access to reports and documents relating to the investigation.

It is important to note that, although there may be insufficient evidence to support a Police prosecution, this does not mean that action cannot be taken to protect a child nor that the termination of a prospective adopter's approval cannot be considered.

The welfare and safety of all children in the prospective adopters' household, and children with whom the prospective adopters may have contact, must also be considered during any Section 47 Enquiry.

2. The Differences Between an Allegation and a Concern

It might not be clear whether an incident constitutes an 'allegation'. It is important to remember that to be an allegation the alleged incident has to be sufficiently serious as to suggest that harm has or may have been caused to a child/ren or that the alleged behaviour indicates the individual may pose a risk of harm to children (or otherwise meet the criteria above).

Incidents which fall short of the threshold could include an accusation that is made second or third hand and the facts are not clear, or the individual alleged to have done this was not there at the time; or there is confusion about the account.

If it is difficult to determine the level of risk associated with an incident the following should be considered:

  • Was the incident a disproportionate or inappropriate response in the context of a challenging situation?
  • Where the incident involved an inappropriate response to challenging behaviour, had the adopter had training in managing this?
  • Does the adopter that their behaviour was inappropriate and express a wish to behave differently in the future? For example, are they willing to undergo training?
  • Does the child or family want to report the incident to the police or would they prefer the matter to be dealt with by the local authority?
  • Have similar allegations previously been made against the individual – is there a pattern developing?

Whether an incident constitutes an allegation and hence needs to be dealt with through these procedures, may need to be discussed with the LADO.

Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE), Part 4, Section 2 provides guidance for schools and colleges, which may be of wider interest when considering low-level concerns. Legal advice should be sought as necessary.

KCSIE provides that if there is any doubt as to whether the information which has been shared about an adopter/prospective adopter as a low-level concern in fact meets the harm threshold and thus should be treated as an allegation, the LADO should be consulted.

If it falls short of this threshold there may still be a role for the LADO to provide advice and support.

Such a consultation process may allow for concerns to be evaluated objectively and to ascertain whether or not similar concerns may have been raised previously but not met the threshold for investigation. Whilst the LADO will only record the details of those allegations which appear to meet the threshold for consideration set out above, a record should be kept of any low level concern that arise in respect of an adopter/prospective adopter.

KCSIE provides that records should be reviewed so that potential patterns of concerning, inappropriate, problematic or concerning behaviour can be identified. Where a pattern of such behaviour is identified, a course of action should be decided upon, either through disciplinary procedures or where a pattern of behaviour moves from a low-level concern to meeting the harm threshold, it should be referred to the LADO.  Records must be held securely and comply with the Data Protection Act 2018 and the UK General Data Protection Regulation (UK GDPR).

More detailed guidance and case studies on low-level concerns can be found in Developing and Implementing a Low-level Concerns Policy (Farrer & Co.).

3. Introduction

The expectation is that:

  1. At the time of a child's placement, prospective adopters will be provided with detailed information as to the child's background and in particular the context of any abusive experiences of and/or previous allegations made by the child where this is known see The Child's Journey - Placement for Adoption Procedure;
  2. All prospective adopters will receive preparation and guidance to help them provide a safe environment for the child and all members of the adoptive family;
  3. All prospective adopters will receive information about the procedure for responding to allegations as part of the Placement Agreement.

4. Procedure

4.1 Initial Action

Any person who receives information or suspects that a child has suffered or is likely to suffer harm in an adoptive placement or during an introduction to an adoptive placement must immediately inform the child's social worker.

On receipt of any such information, the child's social worker must immediately:

  • Inform their line manager;
  • Inform the prospective adopter's social worker and their manager;
  • Inform the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) and the Designated Senior Manager so that a decision can be made as to whether the matter should be treated as a child protection matter and referred for a Strategy Meeting (see below) or a concern about standards of care, in which case the convening of an urgent Placement Planning Review Meeting - see The Child's Journey - Placement for Adoption Procedure - or an urgent review of the adoptive placement should be considered.

N.B. If there are serious and/or multiple referrals about standards of care, it may still be appropriate to refer the matter for a Strategy Meeting for a full investigation.

The prospective adopter's social worker will:

  • Inform the social workers for any other child in the placement;
  • Inform any other local authority with an interest in the adoptive placement;
  • Provide support to the prospective adopter.

Where it is appropriate to treat the allegation/suspicion as a child protection concern, the child's social worker will be responsible for initiating the West Yorkshire Consortium Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures in relation to the allegation/suspicion, unless the prospective adopter lives in another local authority area, in which case the child's social worker will make a referral to the relevant local authority and that local authority will be responsible for implementing their own Safeguarding Children Procedures and inviting the child's social worker and adopters' social worker to the Strategy Meeting.

In either case, a Strategy Meeting will be convened as soon as possible after concerns have been identified and within a maximum of 2 working days of the referral.

Any action to protect the child in question or any other children in need of protection should not be delayed because of the Strategy Meeting.

Prior to the Strategy Meeting, the prospective adopter's social worker should notify the Regulatory Authority of the allegation/suspicion and invite them to be represented at the Strategy Meeting.

4.2 Strategy Meeting

The purpose of the meeting will be to plan the investigation of the allegation/suspicion.

The following people will be invited:

  1. The Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) and the Designated Senior Manager;
  2. The child's social worker and their manager;
  3. The manager of the social work team undertaking the investigation, if different;
  4. The prospective adopter's social worker and manager;
  5. The Police Child Abuse Investigation Team;
  6. Any other agency involved with the child or adoptive family;
  7. A representative of the Regulatory Authority;
  8. A minute taker;
  9. The child's Independent Reviewing Officer.

The Strategy Meeting must consider:

  • The current allegation and how it is to be investigated;
  • Whether there should be a concurrent Police investigation;
  • Any previous allegations or concerns about the prospective adopters and the outcome of previous investigations;
  • Any previous allegations made by the child in question and the outcome of previous investigations;
  • The suspension of introductions or whether the child should remain in placement whilst the investigation is carried out;
  • The need to call an urgent Placement Planning Review Meeting - see The Child's Journey - Placement for Adoption Procedure - or an urgent review of the adoptive placement and the timing of any such review;
  • The safety and well being of other children living with, or having contact with the prospective adopters;
  • How support will be offered to the children in the family during the investigation;
  • Who will inform the prospective adopters of this meeting?
  • Who will support the prospective adopters through the investigation process?
  • Who will contact the birth parents of the children concerned; how and when this should be done, and what information should be shared with them.

Whether or not the Strategy Meeting considers that the allegation or suspicion has any foundation, the matter should be investigated unless there are exceptional circumstances, and the Regulatory Authority must always be kept informed.

The Chair should complete a decision sheet at the end of the meeting summarising the actions to be taken and the date of the next meeting (if required). This should also clearly state who is responsible for what actions, record timescales for completion of any agreed actions and reporting/information sharing systems.

Copies of the decision sheet and the minutes should be held on the child's file and Adoption Case Record and the prospective adopter's Adoption Case Record.

4.3 Investigation and Action

The actions agreed at the Strategy Meeting should be implemented by those responsible within the agreed timescales.

If the person raising suspicions or making the allegation wishes to remain anonymous, these wishes should be respected.

Unless there are circumstances when the details or nature of the allegation cannot be shared immediately, the prospective adopters should be advised of the allegation as agreed at the Strategy Meeting and of the process to be followed in the investigation, including the possibility that an Initial Child Protection Conference may be convened in relation their other children, subject to the outcome of the investigation.

Depending on the level and nature of any concerns and whether they are immediate, the prospective adopters may be given the opportunity to respond to the allegations before any final decision is made about necessary action to protect the child and other children in the household. Such protective action may include asking the person against whom the allegation has been made to leave the household while the investigation is conducted.

Any decision to suspend the approval of the prospective adopter while the investigation is being conducted should be communicated in writing to the prospective adopter by the Adoption Team Manager.

Those supporting the prospective adopters must contact the prospective adopters as soon as practicable after they are made aware of the allegation, and explain their role. They must make clear their responsibility to report to the local authority, the Police and, in some circumstances to the Court if any information relevant to the investigation comes to their attention.

They must provide to the prospective adopters:

  1. A copy of this procedure and the West Yorkshire Consortium Safeguarding Procedures, Allegations Against Persons who Work with Children Procedure;
  2. Advice about consulting a solicitor and obtaining independent support.

Where the prospective adopters are in receipt of financial support, they should be informed of any implications for the payment of such support, where placements have been suspended.

If an Initial Child Protection Conference is convened, the Conference Chair must be consulted in advance to discuss whether the prospective adopters should be invited to attend. In any event, the prospective adopters' views must be obtained for and communicated to the Conference.

4.4 Concluding the Investigation

The Strategy Meeting will usually be reconvened once an investigation has been completed, particularly where no Child Protection Conference is then held. The same people will be invited and the same person will chair the meeting, where possible.

The purpose of the reconvened Strategy Meeting is to agree on the outcome of the investigation and responsibilities for any further action, including the need to call an urgent review of the adoptive placement and reporting on the matter to the Adoption Panel.

The meeting should determine who will write to the prospective adopters, informing them of the outcome of the investigation.

The child, the birth parents, other relevant agencies and the Regulatory Authority (if not in attendance) will also be informed of the decisions made at the meeting. The Chair and the child's social worker will agree the most appropriate way of informing the child and birth parents, and also who will notify the other agencies and the Regulatory Authority.

A report should be presented to the next available Adoption Panel that heard the match. As well as the investigation, the report should address the ability of the approved adopters to help the child(ren) come to terms with past events and to handle future behaviour, and whether the proposed placement or placement continues to be suitable. The procedure to be followed will be the same as for reviews of prospective adopter's approval - see Assessment and Approval of Adoptive Parents Procedure.

The social worker preparing the report should consult with the Panel Adviser to the Adoption Panel and the Chair of the Adoption Panel who will advise on who should attend the Panel meeting (usually the child's social worker and the prospective adopter's social worker) and whether or not a special Panel meeting should be convened.

All relevant documents in relation to the investigation, whatever the outcome, must be retained on the child's and the prospective adopter's respective Adoption Case Records.

Consideration should be given to holding a debriefing meeting for all involved as to the impact of the allegations and the investigation, whatever the outcome, and any assistance should be made available as necessary.