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

6.2.5 Placing for Adoption: Babies and Children Relinquished by their Mother and Father

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

Some aspects of this policy will only apply to babies relinquished at birth, but for other relinquished children, the overall emphasis remains the same, namely to involve both parents as much as possible and to advise them about the nature and long-term consequences of adoption. Every effort should be made to include both parents in the discussions around planning for adoption.

RELATED GUIDANCE

Statutory Guidance on Adoption (July 2013)

ADCS, Good Practice Guidance for Adoption Agencies and Cafcass: Children Relinquished for Adoption

Children Relinquished for Adoption: Information for Birth Parents (CAFCASS)

This chapter was added to the manual in September 2017.


Contents

  1. The Mother
  2. The Father
  3. Mothers to be under the age of 16
  4. Procedures Prior to the Birth (or afterwards if necessary)
  5. After the Birth - the Mother
  6. After the Birth - the Father
  7. Grandparents and other Relatives
  8. Planning Meetings for Adoption
  9. Timescales for Relinquished Babies
  10. Consent
  11. Dispensing with Consent (Section 52 Adoption and Children Act 2002)
  12. Parent Withdraws Consent after Placement with Adopters


1. The Mother

The initial referral from an agency, GP, mid-wife or pregnant woman should be direct to MASH from where the case will be transferred to the appropriate Children in Care Team. The CiC Team Manager will liaise with the Team Manager in the Adoption Team to plan a joint initial visit to the pregnant mother.

An assessment of the mother's own and family circumstances must then be made. A joint visit by the social worker from the Children in Care (CiC) Team and the social worker from the Adoption Team begins the assessment and a decision can be made about the respective responsibilities of the CiC and Adoption Team depending on the circumstances of the case. The CiC social worker will be responsible for completing a Single Assessment and making the referral to Placement Services for an Early Permanence placement or fostering placement and for supervising the welfare of the child. Based on the presumption that Early Permanence will be considered for all relinquished children, the Adoption Team should ensure that the option of Early Permanence (EP) is fully explored before the child is placed in a foster placement.

As much information as possible should be obtained from both parents during the assessment stage to inform the Child Permanence Report (CPR).

All plans and decisions must be clearly recorded.

The Adoption social worker will undertake counselling of the mother (this may take several interviews) if possible with a view to:

  • Ensuring she is aware of her legal rights and responsibilities and advising her to seek her own legal advice;
  • Realistically exploring the alternatives to adoption (e.g. resources available to help the woman look after her child herself; care by relatives, including paternal relatives, having a termination etc.);
  • Explaining the nature and implications of adoption (including the life-long nature of adoption);
  • Giving the mother the ongoing opportunity to talk with a named adoption social worker throughout the adoption process;
  • Advising the mother that she could also be offered independent counselling. This counselling can be accessed by the Adoption Team.

For further information:

  • CAFCASS leaflet: Children Relinquished for Adoption – Information for birth parents (2015);
  • CAFCASS Good Practice Guidance: Children Relinquished for Adoption.


2. The Father

When the baby's father is acknowledged and named by the mother and wishes to be involved in the decision-making process regarding the unborn baby's future, he must be given this opportunity if it does not compromise the safety of the mother or the unborn child. Where a birth father is named on the birth certificate, he automatically obtains parental responsibility.

The baby's father, whether he is likely to have, or obtain, Parental Responsibility (PR), should be informed of his legal rights and responsibilities and advised to seek his own legal advice regarding the proposed adoption.

Where the father’s identity and whereabouts can be ascertained it should the exception for the agency not to offer him counselling. If the mother wishes to conceal the child’s birth from the father, or her desire for adoption, legal advice should be sought.

The baby's father should be offered the opportunity to talk with an adoption social worker together with the mother or separately. The birth father should also be offered the opportunity for independent counselling in the same way as the mother (see above).

Following the birth, a birth father without PR should be interviewed by the social worker with a view to establishing:

  • Whether he accepts paternity;
  • If he accepts paternity, will he be registering his name on the baby's birth certificate, thus acquiring PR;
  • If not, does he intend to apply for PR in other ways;
  • Does he intend to apply for a Child Arrangements Order (or other order) with respect to the child.

If a birth mother gives consent to adoption and the child is placed, and then a birth father subsequently obtains parental responsibility and the local authority would not give consent to adoption, this does not override the original consent. A review should be set up to consider any legal and practice implications. The Local Authority Legal Adviser should be consulted.


3. Mothers to be under the age of 16

When the pregnant mother is under 16, the counselling should usually involve her parents. It is however, the mother's decision to place her child for adoption. The family should all be informed that if there are child protection issues the matter may have to be reported to the police.

If the mother is refusing to inform her parents of her pregnancy, advice should be sought from the Adoption Agency Legal Adviser. In certain situations, there may be a question as to whether the mother is competent to make her own decisions.

When dealing with a mother under the age of 16, it must be borne in mind that she may be a 'child in need' under the Children Act 1989 and eligible for services under Section 17. The social worker must ensure that the young woman is not at risk of significant harm and therefore in need of protection under Wiltshire’s Safeguarding Children Procedures.

Relevant child protection procedures should be followed regarding any assessed risk to the pregnant mother and/or unborn baby. Where indicated, a Child Sexual Exploitation Screening tool should be used and if risk identified a referral should be made to the Emerald Team, Children’s Services, operating in the MASH.


4. Procedures Prior to the Birth (or afterwards if necessary)

When adoption becomes a well-established possibility, the parents should be given the Coram/BAAF leaflet ‘Information for Birth Parents about Adoption'. This is also the appropriate time to complete Form PH (Coram/BAAF) for both parents so that as much medical information as possible can be obtained. This must be retained for further reference in relation to the child's adoption medical. The pack for birth parents should also be given. The child's electronic case file should be set up now.

The CiC social worker should liaise with the midwife and agree tasks and roles.

The pregnant woman should make her wishes known to her GP and consultant and the CiC team social worker should inform the hospital social worker and the senior nursing officer of the maternity ward, of the plan for adoption. They should be asked to contact the social worker when the baby is born.

As part of the counselling process, it is helpful to advise the mother and father that it is usually desirable for them to see the baby after it is born to help them make an informed decision about the baby's future and to help them come to terms with the reality of the situation.

Responsibility: Children in Care Team social worker

  • Make referral to the Family Placement Service to identify and set up a fostering or EP placement for the child. They should begin to complete the Child Permanence Report;
  • Alert CAFCASS to the need for the witnessing of formal consent. (1a & 1b York House, Edison Park, Hindle Way, Swindon, SN3 3RB).

Responsibility: Adoption Team social worker

  • Discuss with the parent(s) what part they wish to play in selecting adopters. If they wish to be involved, the anonymised profiles written by the prospective adopters will be shared with them after the short-listing meeting, and their views presented to the Home finding interview, preferably in writing. This can be included in information for the child’s records;
  • Encourage birth parent(s) to prepare letters, photo albums, sound and film recordings and so on for their child's life history. Discuss with them the possibility of meeting the adoptive parents. If the birth parent is accessing independent counselling, this could form part of that work;
  • Discuss the options for post Adoption contact again, illustrating the life- long implications of adoption. Ascertain their views on contact both before and after the adoptive placement. Explain the role of the Adoption Support Team regarding Adoption Support services.

The CiC Social Worker and Adoption Social Worker should remind the birth parent of the offer of independent support throughout the process and explain how the Adoption Contact Register operates, including explaining in detail the issues around consent.


5. After the Birth - the Mother

Responsibility: Children in Care Team social worker

  • It is important for all birth mothers to have a period after the birth in which to consider their decision. Therefore, the baby will need to be placed with foster carers, (or EP carers prior to the decision is made that the placement be one for adoption) before being placed for adoption. The Family Finder in the Adoption Team should be consulted to ensure that the option of EP is fully considered before the child is placed in a foster placement;
  • The birth mother and father should be asked to contribute to the Child Permanence Report with information and any preferences they may have about an adoptive family as soon as possible but after they have had time to consider their options. The signature should be witnessed by the child’s social worker and the Child Permanence Report placed on the child's file. It must be explained that this is in no way legally binding and does not mean that they have given formal consent;
  • Explain the procedure for formal consent to placement for adoption. Formal consent cannot be given until the child is six weeks old and it needs to be witnessed by a CAFCASS officer. To arrange this, contact CAFCASS and provide the information required under Schedule 2 of the Adoption Agencies Regulations 2005. Parents can also give advance consent to the making of a future adoption order at this point.;
  • The social worker should visit as soon as possible after the birth to discuss plans including a name for baby and the providing of photos of the baby and birth parent. The mother and father, if appropriate, should be offered the opportunity to be involved with the baby's placement.

If the identity of the birth father is not known at this stage, the social worker should explain to the mother the importance of having information about the birth father for the child's future knowledge and identity.

Hospital staff should be made aware that the mother wishes her baby to be adopted and take her wishes into account when discussing the mother seeing and handling her baby, her discharge from hospital and the involvement of the midwife. The CiC social worker should inform ward staff of specific arrangements for the placement.

Give BAAF form M/B (signed by the birth mother and obstetric and neo-natal reports) to the nurse manager to be completed before the baby's discharge from hospital.

Ensure that the mother, and potentially the father, registers the baby's birth and obtains a full birth certificate, together with an NHS medical card, both of which should be handed to the social worker and retained on the baby's file. (The parents may keep the short version of the birth certificate if they wish or they may wish to have their own copy of the full birth certificate).

Arrange for the EP carer or foster carer to spend some time with the baby and nursing staff in hospital, and then organise the baby's discharge to their home. Collect any items left by the birth relatives (toy, cot-tag, etc) to pass on to adopters. Collect the completed M/B Form needed for the baby's adoption medical and Adoption Panel.

The baby will be accommodated under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989. A Placement Agreement will need to be completed, working with the appropriate Placement Services social worker. Statutory visits and reviews must be carried out in line with the LAC process.

Discussion to take place, with the birth parents, about direct or indirect contact with the child while accommodated under Section 20.

Continue to offer counselling to the birth parents and explore all options for the baby's care, including care by the extended family.

Ensure that the mother is aware of her child's right to access files and records as an adult and the implications of this. Consideration should be given to signing consent to sharing of information from the Child Permanence Report.

Complete the Child Permanence Report, adding details of the birth such as time of birth, birth weight and any birth complications. Share the Child Permanence Report with the birth parents, asking for their comments and for them to sign it. If they feel unable to sign the Child Permanence Report, they should be asked to sign a statement to say that they have seen the report. The social worker should record the reason for not signing the Child Permanence Report and report this to the Adoption Panel.

Arrange for the Medical Adviser to complete a full adoption medical examination when the baby is at least six weeks old.

Consider whether it is appropriate to test the baby for HIV and/or hepatitis in line with BAAF Guidelines: Practice Note 53 and in consultation with the Agency Medical Adviser.

The social worker ensures that photographs are taken in the early weeks to give to the adopters, also that photos of the mother and father and any siblings are obtained for the baby. Photographs of the baby for the mother and father should also be obtained.

The foster carer or EP carer should be encouraged to compile an album for the baby and, if possible, a video to share with potential adopters and birth parents if appropriate.


6. After the Birth - the Father

Responsibility: Children in Care Team social worker

If the father of the child has Parental Responsibility he must also give consent to the adoption in his own right.

Where the mother's husband is not the father, the child is nevertheless presumed in law to be a child of the marriage and the husband's agreement to adoption is necessary unless the presumption is rebutted i.e. he cannot be the biological father. Further professional and legal advice should be sought in these circumstances.

If possible, the putative father (without PR) must also be interviewed and offered equivalent information and counselling to the mother. Information should be obtained about his background, current circumstances and attitude towards the plan for adoption and continuing contact with the child. He should be aware of the adopted adult's right to access records and the possibilities of birth parents and other family members being traced by the child when they are adult. Advance consent to disclosure of his whereabouts can be considered at this point.

If the father opposes the plan, he should be advised of his rights under the Children Act 1989 and encouraged to seek legal advice.

When obtaining information about the birth father from the birth mother, she needs to understand the importance to her child for the future of having as much information as possible about both their parents. The mother may still decline to give the social worker the name of the baby's father. In that situation, as much information as possible should be obtained from the mother about the father for the Child Permanence Report.

If the mother provides details of the name of the putative father but does not agree to him being informed about the birth of the child or the plan for adoption, the Adoption Agency or the court has discretion to contact him. In exercising this discretion an adoption agency should consider the nature of the child’s relationship with the father and the nature and extent of the father’s relationship with the child’s mother and any siblings of the child. The paramount consideration for the agency must be the child’s welfare. Where the agency considers that it is appropriate, i.e. in the child’s best interests, the agency must take all reasonable steps to trace and counsel the child’s unmarried father. It is not automatically “appropriate” for the agency to seek to contact the father solely to obtain background information.

The local authority may make an application to the court under its inherent jurisdiction to determine the issue as to whether the father should be informed.


7. Grandparents and other Relatives

Responsibility: Children in Care Team social worker

If the mother does not wish other members of her family to know about the pregnancy and her plans for adoption, this needs to be discussed with her, bearing in mind the interests of the child. She needs to understand the consequences of this decision in the light of the adopted child's ability to trace birth relatives when an adult. If she remains adamant in her view, even after efforts have been made to help her share the information, then her wishes should be respected. However, this is a complex area with possible legal implications and legal advice should be sought. At all times the welfare check list must be considered.

When grandparents or other relatives are aware of the baby and are expressing an interest in parenting the child, contrary to the mother's wishes, the mother needs to be made aware that the Local Authority has a responsibility under the Children Act 1989 to explore this possibility and decide in the child's best interest.

The paperwork for the Adoption Panel needs to indicate within the Child Permanence Report whether there is a placement already identified, such as an EP placement or one with siblings. In these cases, the birth parent may want to give agreement to a placement with an identified adopter. The Adoption Panel will want to consider this. Once the Agency Decision Maker has made the decision that the child should be placed for adoption, and the parent(s) have been notified, subject to the agreement being signed and the continued consent to the adoption, the child may be placed.


8. Planning Meetings for Adoption

From this point in the process, the child's social worker should follow the procedures for placing children who are subject to care proceedings.

The child's social worker should note that the process will be quicker for relinquished babies. The Child Permanence Report should be started with information from the first joint visit (Children in Care social worker and Adoption social worker) by the time of the Permanency Options Meeting. Following the Permanency Options Meeting, the child's social worker should complete the Child Permanence Report, start completing the adoption plan and support plan, book the case onto the appropriate Adoption Panel and arrange the Home Finding Meeting.

The law permits consent to be given before the Adoption Panel has met if the child is at least six weeks old. This would happen in circumstances where the birth mother is anxious to sign Section 19 consent as soon as her child is six weeks old and or there is a risk that she will not be available to sign thereafter.

The Adoption Guidance and the Cafcass and ADCS Good Practice Guidance for Adoption Agencies and Cafcass: Children Relinquished for Adoption provides that the original consent to placement for adoption and the advance consent to adoption signed by the parent/s with parental responsibility for the child should be sent by the Cafcass reporting officer to the to the Adoption Agency to retain and then to file with the subsequent adoption application.

In the Wiltshire area the Designated Family Judge has decided that the original consent forms should be retained by Cafcass who will file them in the court when the adoption application has been filed.

If formal consent is given and then withdrawn, the social worker should seek advice from the Adoption Agency Legal Adviser.


9. Timescales for Relinquished Babies

Timescales for relinquished babies (Where birth family are clear and firm in their decision for adoption).

Enquiries about potential matches to suitable families should be made without delay. Where parents are unsure and indicate they no longer want adoption and where the child cannot be immediately reunified with his or her birth family, the case responsibility remain with the CIC Team in accordance with Wiltshire’s Case Transfer Procedures.

A relinquished baby may be placed with foster carers who are also dual approved as adopters. Such EP planning means that the baby has fewer changes of placement and adopters can develop positive attachments with the baby at the earliest opportunity.

Three to four weeks after the baby's birth, the Permanency Options Meeting (POM) needs to be held, followed quickly by a LAC review to confirm the decision to pursue adoption.

Immediately following the LAC review, the following should be booked through Placement Services Panels:

  • First Adoption Panel: the panel should make a recommendation on whether a child should be paced for adoption within 6 weeks of the LAC review where the decision for adoption was made (NMS 17.6);
  • Second Adoption Panel: the panel should make a recommendation on the placement of a child with adopters within 6 months of the ADM deciding that the child should be placed for adoption. (NMS 17.7).

Six weeks after the baby's birth:

  • The baby needs full Adoption Medical which must be arranged with and carried out by the Agency Medical Adviser.


10. Consent

If the baby is placed with EP carers, foster carers or prospective adopters, the birth parents with parental responsibility should be asked to sign their agreement to the child being accommodated under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989. Any consent given by the birth parents if the child is under six weeks old is ineffective.

Birth parents should be informed in writing of all actions of the Adoption Agency.

The agreement to place a child can be signed by the birth parents using form CSF3972 under six weeks; this is not, however, effective as consent to adoption on any subsequent adoption proceedings.

The agreement form must be placed on the child's record. It is important, when asking the birth parents to sign the agreement to place, that they are counselled regarding their rights. The signing of the consent to placement must be witnessed by a CAFCASS officer from the office which is nearest to the birth parents’ address.


11. Dispensing with Consent (Section 52 Adoption and Children Act 2002)

This can only occur if either of the two conditions below apply:

  • Child's parent or guardian cannot be found or is incapable of giving consent;
  • The welfare of the child requires consent to be dispensed with. (Welfare is considered by reference to the Welfare Checklist within the Adoption and Children Act 2002. Circumstances would be those where the child would be at risk of significant harm if consent was not dispensed with. This issue would be most likely arising within an application for a Placement Order or where the Adoption application is a non-agency application for an Adoption Order).

The following information must be sent to CAFCASS with the request:

  • A certified copy of the child's birth certificate;
  • Name and address of the child's parent(s);
  • A chronology of the actions and decisions taken by the Agency;
  • Confirmation that the Agency has counselled the birth parents about Section 19 and 20 of the Adoption and Children Act and a copy of the information given to birth parents;
  • Any additional information that the guardian might wish to know.

The CAFCASS officer will then witness the consent and send a letter to the adoption team to confirm the outcome. The application to the court for an adoption order must be accompanied by the original consent, signed and witnessed.

The signed consent form should be kept on file together with any notice under Section 20 that the birth parents do not want to be informed of further proceedings. Once agreement to consent has been received and the child has been to the Adoption Panel, the child may not be placed until the formal consent is obtained.

It is possible to select a family and match a child before formal consent has been received but no placement could occur without formal witnessed consent. Social workers will need to judge whether there are any concerns that the placement may not go ahead.

Additionally, Section 20 Children Act 1989 Placing a Child for Adoption should be signed by prospective adopters to ensure that they are aware that the placement is dependent upon the birth parents continuing to give their agreement to the plan for adoption.


12. Parent Withdraws Consent after Placement with Adopters

If the parent withdraws consent, the Agency Decision Maker must immediately review the decision to place the child for adoption. If it is considered that the child should still be placed for adoption and there are grounds for a Placement Order, an application should be made immediately.

If a parent is seeking the return of the child, the prospective adopter and the Adoption Agency will need to comply with the request within 14 days, unless the Placement Order application has been issued before then.

Where a child has been placed by a Voluntary Adoption Agency, that Agency will not be able to apply for a Placement Order, and any steps will need to be taken by the Local Authority if it agrees that the child is at risk of harm if returned to the parent.

End