South West Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures
South West Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures South West Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures

6.1.10 Foster Carers who wish to Adopt the Child they are Fostering

Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Procedure
  3. Initial Assessment
  4. Full Assessment
  5. General Guidance


1. Introduction

This procedure applies to foster carers who express a wish to adopt the child they are fostering. The same principles apply to foster carers from independent fostering agencies who wish to adopt Wiltshire children in their foster care.

The plan for every Looked After child must be to achieve permanence. For some children, this can best be realised by the foster carers with whom they live becoming their adoptive parents. A request by a foster carer to adopt a child they are fostering should always be considered seriously in a timely manner and as a first option for the child. Research indicates that such placements for permanence can promote the security of a child and encourage the development of a healthy attachment to the foster carers' family. Such an adoptive placement can also prevent a further move for the child.

Any decision about foster carers adopting their foster children should be based on sound consideration of the potential of the carers as adoptive parents and that this will be in the best long-term interests of the child.


2. Procedure

  1. A request by a foster carer to adopt the child they are fostering may be made verbally or in writing to either the child's social worker or to the fostering social worker. Whoever receives the request must inform the other social worker without delay. The matter must also be referred to the Head of Service for the child and the Head of Service for adoption and fostering;
  2. Any planned or current searches for an adoptive family for the child should be put on hold until the request from the foster carer has been considered by way of completion of the initial assessment of suitability and, if undertaken, the full assessment. Where adopters have been identified they must be informed of the request from the foster carer and supported while the request is considered;
  3. The foster carer should be given advice about the fact that the adoption procedures apply in their case as in any other. Although the foster carer has a legal right to institute their own adoption application, the local authority should encourage them to participate in the adoption agency process;
  4. The foster carer needs to be aware about eligibility for support i.e. if the foster carer applies direct to the court for an adoption order and the local authority opposes the application, they and the child will be eligible under the Adoption Support Services Regulations 2005 for counselling, advice and information only. However, if the local authority supports the application to the court for an adoption order, they and the child will be eligible for assessment of their adoption support needs as the child is a looked after child;
  5. Some prospective adopters may have already been given information and counselling. However, the agency should ensure that it provides information about its own policies and procedures;
  6. At an early stage the prospective adopter should be given an explanation of the need, if their application for a full assessment is to be accepted, for the agency to conduct checks into their backgrounds and into the backgrounds of other adult members of their household. It should be made clear that the prospective adopter cannot be considered suitable to adopt where police checks (enhanced DBS checks) identify them or an adult member of their household as having been convicted of a specified offence or police caution;
  7. It should be made clear to foster carers who are applying to be approved for specific children, that their assessment will be in respect of their suitability as adopters generally and that, if they are approved, their suitability to adopt a specific child or children will be addressed separately as part of the matching process.


3. Initial Assessment

  1. Upon the foster carer expressing a wish to adopt the child, a referral for an initial assessment of suitability must be made immediately by the child care social worker to the adoption service. On receipt of this referral a worker from the adoption service will be allocated to complete the initial assessment within 10 working days and a decision reached as to whether the department is supporting the foster carers' request or not, based on the foster carers ability to meet the child's needs via adoption;
  2. The paramount consideration must be the child's welfare throughout his life;
  3. The initial assessment should consider the following:
    • The assessment of the child's needs and the foster carers' ability to meet those needs via adoption;
    • The length of placement, quality of the attachment and risks to the child's emotional well being of disrupting the attachment;
    • The contact plans for the child;
    • Any risk to the child from the birth parents having current placement knowledge of the foster carer;
    • The foster carer's intentions regarding continuing as short-term carers for other placements and the likely impact of this on the child needing permanence;
    • Support needs and financial considerations;
    • The parents' wishes and feelings in respect of adoption by the foster carer;
    • The child's wishes and feelings considered in the light of the child's age and understanding.
  4. The child's social worker has a role in ensuring that the placement will meet the long-term needs of the child. The foster carer's supervising social worker has a role to ensure the foster carer has considered the impact on themselves and their family of a decision to commit long term to a particular child via adoption;
  5. Often the elements that would normally be considered to make a good match may only be partly present, e.g. the carer may be older than ideal. However the positive advantages of maintaining an existing relationship of quality, the perceived durability of this relationship, the benefits of maintaining existing networks of support are all factors that need to be considered and a balance of risks and rewards considered against the uncertainty of seeking to find another adoptive placement;
  6. The outcome of the initial assessment, including reasons for decision, must be shared in a timely manner with the foster carer verbally and in writing;
  7. If the initial assessment concludes that the match does not appear to be in the child's best interests the child care team and adoption team should proceed to identify suitable adopters following the normal process;
  8. Where the foster carer does not accept the outcome of the initial assessment that the match does not appear to be in the child's best interests a professionals meeting should be held including Heads of Service and legal department to decide the department's response and agree the way forward.


4. Full Assessment

  1. Where the proposed match seems likely to meet the needs of the child a full adoption assessment will immediately be undertaken by the adoption service;
  2. The completed assessment will be referred to the Adoption Panel for a recommendation and to the Agency Decision Maker for a decision as to the suitability of the foster carer to be approved as an adopter in accordance with the Council's general procedures;
  3. If approved as adopters the foster carer's suitability to adopt the child will also be referred to the Panel and thereafter to the Agency Decision Maker;
  4. The adoption support social worker will undertake an assessment of the carer and the child for adoption support services as part of the full assessment;
  5. Legal advice should be sought about the timing of any application by the approved foster carer for an adoption order and the need for the local authority to contribute to the prospective adopter's legal costs;
  6. Where the foster carers are not approved as prospective adopters or the match does not appear to be in the child's best interests the foster carers must be advised regarding what action they can take as set out within the legislation and in accordance with the local authority's usual procedures and to include the right to make representations to the agency or to apply for the determination to be reviewed by an independent review panel. The foster carers should also be advised that they can make their own private application to the court for permission to apply for an adoption order (where the child has been in their care for less than one year) or for an adoption order, where they have cared for the child for more than one year, but that the agency will not support this or contribute to the costs. The foster carer should be advised to seek independent legal advice;
  7. In such cases the child care team must consider whether the current placement remains the appropriate one for the child however if the child has been in placement for over one year the department cannot move the child if the foster carer has submitted an application to adopt.


5. General Guidance

  1. At all stages of the process delay for the child must be avoided;
  2. If the foster carer does adopt, this will not necessarily preclude them from continuing to foster, either immediately or in the future. This matter should be determined through assessment of the individual circumstances of the child or children to be adopted and the carer;
  3. In all cases where the foster carer is considering a long-term commitment to the child the potential of this to be secured through the making of a Special Guardianship Order or Residence Order, as well as an Adoption Order, must be thoroughly explored. Where a foster carer secures such an order financial support may be paid - see applicable financial procedure.

End