Adoption by Foster Carers - Professional Meeting
Adoption by foster carers has many advantages in terms of continuity and stability for a child who is already settled in a placement. There are also advantages in that the carers already know and accept the child's background. They already know that they are able to love the child. Not every foster care adoption is however the best permanency option for a child. If a foster carer expresses an interest in adopting a child or if a worker proposes to encourage a foster carer adoption it is important that there is full consultation to stop foster carers and children getting the wrong message about the care plan for the child. Managers and social workers involved with the case from the Children and Family Resource Team, the Adoption Team and the Fostering Team should all be involved at a Professional's meeting in taking an initial view of the proposed adoption by the child's foster carer before any discussions are held with the foster carers.
Independent review officers should advise foster carers that there must be a departmental meeting before a response can be given to their request to be considered as adoptive parents. In the early stages no financial commitments should be made about any future arrangements.
The following is a checklist to be used during the professionals meeting when a foster carer expresses an interest in adopting a foster child:
- Attachment - What is the level of the child's attachment to the carer(s) and the carer's family? (Relevant factors to consider will include length of placement, age of child, child's previous history of attachment (or lack of it) and number of moves etc.);
- Health - What are the child's health needs? Can these be met by these particular carers, both now and in the future?
- Child's Siblings - Does the child need to be placed with siblings elsewhere? Is this more or less important than the child remaining with these carers?
- Child's Racial, Cultural, Religious Needs: Is the child's heritage and religion the same as the carers? If not, how could the carers meet these needs? And what is the level of priority given to this compared to the child remaining with these carers?
- Contact: What are the long term contact plans for the child with:
- Birth Parents;
- Other Birth Relatives.
Are the carers committed to maintaining and encouraging this contact? Should the contact arrangements change because of the proposed adoption?
- If this is an Older Child - What are their wishes and feelings?
- View of Birth Parents / Relatives - What are the views of the birth parents about either adoption by mainstream adopters or adoption by these carers?
Do the birth parents know the identity and whereabouts of the foster home? Does this matter? Do they live nearby and does this matter?
THE FOSTER CARERS
- Why - why do they wish to adopt this child? Is it an emotional response to wishing to 'rescue' the child or meeting their own needs (say, from having fertility problems themselves) rather than the child's. What is their level of attachment to the child?
- Health - Are they healthy enough to bring up a child into and beyond adulthood?
- Age - Relative to the child's age, are they young enough to have the energy and physical abilities to bring up a child into and beyond adulthood?
- The Child's Needs - To what extent can they meet all of the child's needs? (As identified above);
- Attitudes to Birth Family - Will the carers promote positive information and agree to contact where appropriate?
- Views of Foster Family/Household - What are the views of the foster carers' own children, and other household members, and the wider extended family? How will they be affected? Is the child likely to be accepted as a permanent family member? Are there other foster children in the family - how will they be affected? Are there children on other permanency orders - what will be the impact on them?
- Space and Sleeping Arrangements - Is there enough space in the house for this child permanently? Will he / she have their own bedroom?
- Fostering Career - Do the foster carers wish or intend to continue fostering other children and how would this affect this child or vice versa? (NB -Foster carers who adopt are not 'banned' from further fostering, but there is an expectation by Panels and the Agency that there will be a break before more foster children are introduced into the family, to enable this child to become established and secure within the family unit);
- Finances - What fostering payments are the carers already receiving for the child? Full information should be obtained before a Professional's Meeting is held. Do the carers receive fostering excellence payments on top of the fostering allowances? Is any support given for nursery fees or day care?
Is the child eligible for time limited or ongoing adoption financial support? If the child is eligible do the carers know that payments are means tested?
- Decision not to proceed - If the local authority concludes that it would not be in the child's best interest and welfare to be adopted by the foster carers would the carers be able to work with mainstream adopters towards the placement of the child? Would it be better for the successful placement of the child if he/she were placed with different foster carers?
- One Year Rule - Foster carers can apply for an adoption order after the child has lived with them for at least one year immediately preceding the application and have previously given three months notice to the local authority that holds parental responsibility for the child. There are occasions when foster carers may want to adopt the child they are fostering without support of the child's local authority. In such cases the foster carers must convince the court that it is in the best interest of the child to dispense with the local authority's or parent's consent to the making of an adoption order. Foster carers would also have to convince the court that the adoption order is in the best interest of the child despite those views of the child's local authority. It is strongly advised that we proceed with caution regarding legal considerations.
It is likely that the foster carers will need expert legal advice to overcome such obstacles.
Other Orders - Would a Child Arrangements Order or a Special Guardianship Order be more appropriate in this situation?