Adoptive Parents Handbook
- This handbook is aimed at those people who have had some initial information and counselling regarding their interest in adopting a child. Most of you will also have attended Hull City Council's initial "Adoption Awareness Day"; designed to help you begin to think more deeply about the lifelong meaning of adoption for the different parties involved;
- The main purpose of this handbook is to give you written details of the basic processes that you will become involved in if you adopt a child through Hull City Council's Children and Families Department. You will also learn a great deal more from your own reading and from attending a further three separate days of preparation during your home study period;
- This guide is also designed as a reference book for you, not only as you go through the process of becoming an adoptive parent, but also beyond that as your child grows and changes. It is too detailed for you to absorb by reading it all at once; remember it is a handbook to be used as you progress through different stages; to prepare for each event or stage and to remind you of things you may have already discussed or heard;
- It is not possible to cover the full range of possible circumstances surrounding adoption experiences, in a handbook of this size. Everyone's life and experience is unique; your situation and interests will be considered with care during our personal contact with you;
- The lay-out of the handbook is in a chronological order, starting with the processes involved in becoming an approved adoptive parent and moving through learning about children who are waiting, to being linked with a child, introductions, and the child joining your family.
After a child has come to live with you and the processes leading to an adoption order are then explored, followed by some comments on possible situations arising after adoption is finalised, and including details of the "Letterbox" information service.
A supplementary section on "Attachment and its meaning for Adoptive Parents" is followed by a final miscellaneous chapter on processes which may be followed when something has gone wrong.
Lastly, there is a comprehensive set of appendices which are referred to at different points in the handbook and a glossary of terms for easy reference;
- All this may seem unduly detailed or complex to you at this stage. Hopefully you will find, like most adoptive parents, that you feel much more confident by being well informed;
- With hindsight, many successful adoptive parents place a high value on the gradual development of their knowledge and understanding of the differences that adoptive parenting brings. Don't imagine that you must read and understand everything at once;
- This handbook is very much a supplement to your personal discussions with your adoption Social Worker over a considerable period of time. It may also be useful to share with other members of your family or to use as a reference to remind you of what to expect at different points along the way;
- Finally your views on what you have found useful in this handbook, and what may be done to improve its quality are very important to us.
How to get the best out of this Guide
- Have a look at the Contents, and choose the topic that interests you;
- Be guided initially by your adoption Social Worker to those areas that are relevant to the stage you are at;
- Share what you read with your partner or if you are single - your closest friends or relatives;
- Ask your Social Worker about anything that you read which seems unclear to you;
- Use the glossary of terms at the back of the guide for explanations of various terms used that you may not be familiar with;
- Resist the temptation to read the whole handbook at once as you will become overloaded and not take the information in.
1. Preparation and Assessment
This section covers the period between formally applying to be considered as suitable to be adoptive parents, up to the Adoption Agency's decision whether to approve your application. The length of this period depends on a range of factors including your own circumstances. If there are no delays, it should be completed within six months, from the receipt of your formal application.
There is a diagram at the end of this section to show the stages during preparation and assessment.
1.2 Working Together
- Most applicants at this early stage feel some anxiety and a sense of powerlessness. Having children is usually a very private and personal matter that is under your own control. Adoptive applicants who have not chosen to be childless will often have undergone medical treatments and investigations that have been stressful and unsuccessful. These applicants come to adoption, having learnt something about dealing with sorrow and disappointment, and sometimes feeling that their future as potential parents is entirely out of their hands;
- One of the aims of this handbook is to help adoptive applicants to be well-informed about adoption processes within Hull City Council's Children's Social Care, and to know more about how adoptive parenting differs from having children by birth.
Becoming a parent by whatever means is likely to be the most important feature of your adult life. The pleasures and strains of modern parenthood certainly add colour to your life.
Learning about children and their care is not so often learned naturally through large families today as through friends with children, working with children, reading and observing. All these avenues of learning about children are open to you - it is up to you how much use you make of them;
- Having to be 'assessed and approved' before adopting a child or children may make this seem like someone else's decision, rather than your own. All Adoption Agencies have a duty to help adoptive applicants to know about being successful adoptive parents and a further duty to ensure the welfare of children who need adoptive families. To do this effectively means Adoption Social Workers and Adoption Agencies must undertake co-operative joint work with adoptive applicants;
- Working together means openness and honesty on both sides; it means we must have respect for your circumstances, views and feelings; it also means that the more you understand about the laws and practices relating to the adoption of children, the more empowered you will feel;
- Quite often adoptive applicants can feel unsure about how to present themselves in front of an adoption Social Worker. People often begin by believing that they will be misunderstood or misjudged if they "say the wrong thing". Others have been known to clean the house from top to bottom before a Social Worker's visit. Many feel a little resentful that a stranger should seem to have the power to judge whether they will be good parents to an adopted child.
- Most people accept that children are vulnerable and deserve adults' best efforts to protect, nurture and care for them. Children who need adoptive families are more vulnerable than most; adoption agency workers clearly have a duty to always work thoughtfully on behalf of those children who are waiting for a family;
- However, without adoptive applicants like yourselves, the future for too many children would be bleak indeed. We have no 'perfect' children to place with adoptive families, and we do not search for 'perfect' parents. Our experience does show us that a wide variety of people can be fulfilled by parenting children by adoption. By working together, you and we, can hope to develop our understanding of your capacity for recognising your own strengths and limitations as a potential adoptive parent;
- In summary, the more knowledge you are able to acquire the less powerless and anxious you are likely to feel. Be open to all sources of learning, including about yourselves and be confident that our aim is to work with you as openly as possible. If you do not find this to be so, please tell us straight away;
- Once you have completed your application form, an adoption Social Worker will be assigned to take responsibility for your progress. This Social Worker will ensure that your application is dealt with effectively and is the person to whom you should direct all your worries and questions, initially;
- Your Social Worker will make an initial visit to confirm the accuracy of your details, this will involve them checking a range of documents of which you will be forewarned to prepare to obtain your consent and signature for medical and police checks;
- Should you feel unable to develop a good working relationship with your assigned Social Worker, please feel free to contact the Adoption Service Team Leader to discuss your difficulties and plan for a way forward.
An honest discussion with your Social Worker first may well resolve your worries to your satisfaction. The sooner your Social Worker is alerted to any difficulties the quicker we can help you.
1.3 First Stage - References
- A range of written checks on adoptive applicants is undertaken at this early point to ensure that there are no immediate factors which indicate an application is not likely to be accepted. These are to do with the safety and welfare of children and your own past records;
- The checks are required by law and are undertaken by asking certain people and agencies whether you are known to them and for what reason. Special checks are made on your health and police records;
- Comments are requested from the following authorities:
- Probation Providers;
- Health Visiting Service;
- Children's Social Care in the area which you live;
- Present and previous employers where your work involves or did involve children or vulnerable adults;
- Education Welfare Service (if you already have school age children);
- The school(s) where your child/ren attend;
- Disclosure and Barring Service;
- Police Public Protection Unit;
- NSPCC Records.
- A special form is used for you to declare any police cautions or convictions that you may have. These, along with all references are treated as confidential to each applicant. It is vital that you complete this form honestly, and fully. If a caution or conviction is reported by the Police Authorities that you have not declared we will arrange to discuss this with you separately;
- Each applicant is required to have a thorough medical examination, usually carried out by your own General Practitioner (GP). A special Adoption Application form for your General Practitioner to report on the examination and on your medical history is used. Your signature agreeing to this is required on this form, and you are responsible for paying the doctor's fee. If this expense is likely to make you delay obtaining a full medical examination, please tell your Social Worker as we may be able to help you;
- Hull City Council has a specialist Adoption Medical Adviser responsible for advising on the medical suitability of applicants. Perfect health is not the gift of many adults and you should not worry unduly about minor ill-health matters. If you have a more serious condition, early discussions with us can often be reassuring about how this will be explored and assessed;
- Two personal referees of your own choosing are also requested to give a written reference for you. These should be people who are not related to you, but who know you well as friends or neighbours. We will later visit your referees personally and anything they say will be treated as strictly confidential to the Adoption Agency. We will also request two family references from whom we will obtain a written reference and who we will visit;
- As requested on your application form, a family reference is also taken up for each applicant at this stage, to enable us to know more about the views of your wider family;
- Additional checks will also be carried out as follows:
- With the firm or company with whom a home mortgage is outstanding;
- Current employers to confirm your identity details.
- Evidence to support the details in your application form will be checked by your visiting social worker.
1.4 Second Stage - Initial Panel
- If there are any immediate concerns from your references and/or our early discussions with you, we will explore these clearly with you, as far as confidentiality allows;
- When all the initial information is gathered, we will assess your situation and advise you as to whether we are able to take your application;
- If there are areas to discuss further we will visit you to look at these together;
- We may not be willing to accept your application if it appears to us that:
- You are unlikely to be recommended by the Adoption Panel for approval;
- Your circumstances are outside our policy guidelines;
- You are not offering to adopt the kind of child Hull City Council has waiting for adoption.
We may be happy to consider your application in a few months time according to our priorities and we will advise you of this.
- If we are planning not to accept your application, you will be given a written explanation of the reasons. If you are not willing to accept these reasons, you will need to write to us to explain why, so that we can re-consider your situation;
- Your situation may need to be formally examined by the Adoption Agency's Panel to recommend whether it is appropriate to accept your application or not;
- Information from statutory and personal references will generally remain confidential. Any other aspects of the report prepared for the Initial Panel's consideration will be available for you to read and comment on, unless there is a confidential matter on one applicant that has not been disclosed to the partner applicant;
- You will be allowed up to 10 working days to respond either verbally or in writing to the report before Panel considers the matter, including your comments. You will be invited to attend the Panel and given an opportunity answer direct any questions the Panel may put forward;
- The Adoption Agency Decision-Maker will consider the Adoption Panel's recommendation and write to you indicating the reasons for any proposed decision. If the decision is to continue with a full home study, you will move directly to the 'Third Stage';
- It is usual practice for the letter proposing non-acceptance of your application to be delivered personally by your Social Worker, where possible, and to discuss your reaction to the proposed decision;
- If the proposed decision is that your application should not be accepted, you will have another 40 days to make any further comment or representation to the Adoption Agency that you wish to make, or apply for their case to be reviewed bay an Independent Review Panel. This review is free of charge to adoptive parents and is operated by the CoramBAAF. The Independent Review can recommend you be considered for approval, or concur with original Panel decision;
- The proposed recommendation will be reconsidered in the light of any comments you make and a final decision is then made and shared with you;
- The aim of these processes is to ensure that you have had several opportunities to make your views known and to correct any misrepresentations that you may feel have occurred.
1.5 Third Stage - Home Study
- This is the more intensive period of getting to know you and you getting to know more about adoptive parenting;
- Personal discussions in your own home form a significant part of the home study; other important features are:
- Further group preparation meetings;
- Your own reading and discussions with your partner or close family / friends;
- Your use and reference to this 'Handbook';
- Attending the monthly adopters' support group sessions;
- Regular feedback both ways; you to us, us to you;
- Creating a 'family' book for later use with a child;
- An Attachment Style interview.
- In-line with Department for Education expectations and National Adoption Standards we use the guidelines developed by CoramBAAF to indicate the skills and abilities which are needed by adoptive parents across the years of a child's growing up and beyond;
- These are rather "ideal" in our view and Hull City Council takes the view that the capacity to be flexible and to develop is what is most important in adoptive parents, alongside being able to love a child as s/he is;
- Usually, at an early stage of your assessment your adoption social worker will conduct an Attachment Style Interview with each applicant. This is an assessment tool used by your social worker to gauge your individual attachment style. It is a means of gathering information to help assess your relationship with each other and others close to you. Moreover, ASI assessment helps establish your current levels of resilience and whether you are likely to provide a stable emotionally warm family home for a child;
- There are several aims to be achieved by the end of the home study period. For your part you will be aiming for approval as being suitable to be an adoptive parent and you will be looking forward to considering which child or children may be the ones for you to love and cherish.
You will hope to be well prepared for the reality of an adopted child joining your lives and you will hope to have built a trusting partnership with your Adoption Social Worker and the agency as a whole;
- From the Adoption Agency's point of view we will be aiming to have offered a relevant and thorough preparation to you, and to feel that we have got to know you well. The 'PAR' report for the consideration of the Adoption Panel and Agency Decision-Maker will cover a wide range of topics and information about you;
- It will usually contain a clear recommendation which is based on the report's findings and on the assessment of your strengths and vulnerabilities that will have been discussed with you;
- You may like to make contributions to the composition of the 'PAR' report by writing details about yourselves of the topic areas. By contributing as much detailed information about significant dates and events in your life, to writing about your lifestyle, or describing your ideas on what children need from their parents, you can significantly help the progress of your assessment. Any or all of the areas covered can benefit from your own words about your views. Do discuss the part you can play in describing yourselves with your adoption Social Worker on a regular basis;
- During your home study period you will find it helpful to read other sections of this handbook. Be guided by your Social Worker about which areas to concentrate on as the home visits progress.
Although informality is important for your relaxation and comfort, there will usually be a planned focus for each session and your preparation in advance will make the best use of the time you have with your Social Worker;
- If your Social Worker has not told you what s/he wants to discuss during the next planned visit, don't be afraid to ring up to ask how you can prepare for the session. Remember, it's your application, and you should be as much in charge of this as we have to be.
Group Preparation Meetings
- The group preparation sessions follow a pattern. The first group meeting is the Adoption Awareness Half day. This will be your first meeting with the adoption service and you are invited to participate in morning group meeting with other prospective adoption applicants. The aim of the meeting is to provide information about the adoption process in order to assist you in making a decision as to whether adoption is the right choice for you;
- The next group meeting for those wishing to proceed is the "Introduction to Safeguarding" meeting that is generally held on an evening the week preceding the start of the three day training groups;
- Safeguarding has a broader meaning then "Child Protection" as it also includes prevention. Safeguarding has been defined as:
- All agencies working with children and their families have a duty to take all reasonable measures to ensure that the risk of harm to children's welfare are minimised; and
- Where there are concerns about children's welfare all agencies take appropriate action to address those concern working to agreed local policies and procedures in full partnership with other local agencies; and
- It is the duty of everyone working with children to safeguard the welfare of children and take appropriate actions ensure the welfare and safety of children, safeguarding is everybody's business.
- The three separate training days are a broad programme of topics. As with the initial Adoption Awareness Day, you will join with other applicants, who are hoping to adopt, in small and large group exercises, designed to help you consider the issues under discussion;
- During each session reading material is distributed to the group to complement the day's learning;
- It is up to you how much use you make of the materials and the meetings. However, your preparation is likely to be impaired if you do not take up the opportunities for learning that are offered to you in this way, and your participation helps us to know more about your ability to develop and learn;
- Occasionally, work commitments can be difficult for applicants to re-arrange for a particular day (Preparation Group). It is still worthwhile for one of you (if making a joint application) to attend and share the learning with your partner later;
- If you miss a day, please ask your social worker to bring you copies of the materials used, so that you can go over these together. You may be given an opportunity to add the day you missed at a future group. The group training facilitators will write a short record of your experience over the three days and this will be given to your adoption social worker and incorporated into your PAR;
- Comments from other adoptive applicants indicate that they derive a great deal from attending preparation day groups. They sometimes make friends and later share their adoptive parenting experiences together. A toddler and parent group for adoptive parents and their children was started as a result of such a friendship;
- Most appreciated and valued are the contributions that are kindly made by people who have adopted children themselves, and by a birth mother whose children were adopted against her wishes. We try to have at least one topic presented by an adoptive parent each day / group, because these are the sessions which applicants value the most;
- A significant feature which we feel is a 'must' for all adoptive applicants is the first day spent looking at how children develop attachments when young and what happens when this process is interrupted or disturbed. There is also a specific section on 'Attachment' in this handbook for further information on this very important area.
Adopter's Support Group
- This group meets most months, usually on a Tuesday evening at Brunswick House, Strand Close, Beverley Road, Hull;
- The meetings are open to those who are already adoptive parents and those hoping to become adoptive parents; the main aim is to provide a forum for discussion and support both during and after adoption;
- A list of the current year's topics and speakers is included in Adopters' Support Group. This is usually planned at the last meeting in December each year, and led by suggestions from those attending;
- Although the group does have a topic or theme for part of the evening, the emphasis is on friendly informality with time for social conversation amongst yourselves, and tea / coffee and biscuits. Most speakers offer their time free and give an informal discussion, with plenty of time for questions and comments;
- Group meetings are not to everyone's taste. However, it can be very valuable to attend the Support Group during your home study period as you are always likely to learn something new or make friends with others in the same position as yourselves.
Your Own Readings and Discussions
- If you live with a partner you will obviously spend time together sharing your views and thoughts about the areas covered during your home study;
- If you are a single applicant, having the support and interest of your friends and relatives will be particularly important to you, as it often is to couples too;
- Think about who you usually turn to for friendship or help and advice and ask them if they would like to know more about preparing for a child joining your family by adoption. Let them share in your learning, especially if their instinctive views on some matters seem to be at odds with those you are learning about.
As an adoptive parent you and your child will need all the understanding you can get - it's up to you to help those who care about you to share in the process;
- It can often be useful for your adoption Social Worker to meet the closest members of your family, later on in the home study, if this can be conveniently arranged. Any child you adopt will become a family member, and your parents or brothers and sisters are often glad of an opportunity to show their support and interest. We will always visit separately any family member who has provided a written reference;
- Good communication - listening and sharing - is one of the keys to most successful relationships and parenting is no exception. If you and your partner have become so familiar that conversation rarely gets beyond the plans for a holiday or what to have for tea tomorrow, be prepared for a big change. Your home study will explore many emotional and personal areas that will demand much careful thought and discussion between yourselves.
We ask all adoptive applicants to prepare a short photographic account of themselves, their home, hobbies, pets and closest friends / relatives, together with very brief descriptions for use with a child or children that you hope to have placed with you.
Full advice on what is most appropriate will be given during your home study. The aim is to introduce you via your family book to the child you hope to adopt before you meet for the first time.
When your application is presented to the Adoption Panel for consideration, your family book will also be shared with Panel members. If you choose to attend the Adoption Panel in person, you may find your family book a very useful 'prop'.
Monitoring your progress
- One of the most repeated questions that you will be asked by interested friends and relatives during the home study period will be "How are you getting on?". Sometimes it can be hard to know how to answer;
- One of the areas we are trying to improve is the frequency and clarity with which we share our impressions with you. We recognise that this is important to you and that it forms a major part of our openness and straight-forwardness with you. Don't be afraid to ask if you feel unsure;
- The progress of your home study work is monitored by the Adoption Service Team Manager or Senior Social Worker in consultation with your Social Worker on a regular basis, and if all seems to be progressing well, we will make sure that you know this.
Attachment Style Interview
- As your assessment gains momentum there will reach a stage when your social worker plans to do what is called an Attachment Style Interview (ASI). These interviews last a couple of hours and are conducted individually so if you are a couple you will be seen individually. An ASI provides helpful information that helps classify the attachment style of applicants, as well as assessing their specific support context and quality of close relationships. The resulting attachment profile determines which style best characterises individuals (e.g. secure, enmeshed, fearful, angry-dismissive, or withdrawn);
- If your ASI or home study discussions lead to concerns on either side, then we will strive to address the issues and hopefully resolve presenting problems in a constructive manner which will allow us to continue working together towards your adoption goal, but if there is an issue that becomes an obstacle to progress then your case would be taken to an initial panel to obtain panel's opinion on the matter. They may recommend that we continue with the home study or end the home study; alternatively you may take the matter into your own hands and withdraw your interest in adoption and progress no further.
Hull City Council Policies Regarding Adoption
- Hull City Council's adoption policies have been developed to recognise children's needs and best interests. They attempt to embrace the best practice identified from research into adoption outcomes;
- The policy on "Placement Endings" indicates that working together is important. In section six in this handbook there is more detail on how we hope to work together should a child's placement with you end because of difficulties.
Extract from "Making Better Placements" by Sheila Smith - CoramBAAF Publication 1994
Below is an extract of questions that adoptive applicants should feel able to answer by the end of their home study. If you have any concerns at this time, please voice them.
- Has your preparation helped you to be more aware of what you may bring to a placement from your own history? What potential strengths and vulnerabilities have you identified?
- Are you clearer about the emotional needs of separated children? Are there particular aspects about which you would value more discussion / help?
- Have you looked honestly at your feelings about contact and openness? Have you discussed your hopes and fears and recognised the long-term implications?
- What part have you played in preparing your (Form F) assessment? Do you want / are you able to attend the agency's Adoption Panel meeting? Do you know what procedure exists if you are unhappy with the way your application is being handled?
- Do you feel confident about the sources of help after placement and how to use them?
1.6 Panel Processes
- When your assessment PAR report is completed and you have had the opportunity to correct any factual errors, and Social Worker's Summary and Assessment sections, you will receive a final draft along with a comments sheet. The comments sheet is provided for you to feedback to the Panel your thoughts and feelings about your assessment and raise any issues you may have regarding your PAR;
- You are entitled to 10 days to prepare and return any comments you wish to make for the Adoption Panel's attention. You may make verbal comments if you do not wish to write them down, and it is our job to put any verbal comments in writing for the Adoption Panel's attention. You will need to see and agree anything that we write as your comments before it is presented to the Adoption Panel;
- You may choose to attend part of the Adoption Panel meeting that considers your application if you wish;
- The recommendation from the Adoption Panel is submitted to the Agency Decision Maker for their consideration and decision. Where the decision is to approve your application, you will receive a formal letter notifying you of this. Your Adoption Social Worker will telephone you with the news as soon as the decision is known;
- Where the decision is not to approve your application, a similar process to that described under Commitment to Proceed will be followed. This includes notifying you of the proposed decision and the reasons for it. You are then allowed 40 days to submit any representations to the Adoption Agency for the Agency Decision Maker to consider They may then refer the case back to the adoption panel for consideration and to make a fresh recommendation to the agency;
- Alternatively, adoptive applicants who have not been approved may apply for a review of their case by an independent panel-this is called the Independent Review Mechanism (IRM)-and this is a free of charge service. To the adoptive applicants;
- The IRM panel can recommend the Agency reconsider its decision, or agree with the agency's decision. The IRM does not have the authority to overturn an agency decision;
- Occasionally, the Adoption Panel may recommend that an application be deferred for further work on specific areas. In this case, your Adoption Social Worker will explain the purpose of this and arrange to carry out further work.
Additional reports to the Adoption Panel will then be prepared with your comments as above, and your application will be re-considered at a further Panel meeting;
- Any approval as prospective adoptive parents is made for a two year period. If you have not had a child placed for adoption with you after one year, a brief review of your circumstances will be undertaken by your social worker and the adoption Team Manager;
- If two years pass without a child being placed with you, a full review will be completed and your approved status will be re-considered by the Panel and Agency Decision-Maker;
- The same process applies in relation to your sight of, and comment on, any review reports as to your initial 'PAR' report.
Adoption March - The National Adoption Register
- The National Adoption Register is a computerised 'matching' service for England, aimed at helping bring children and potential adoptive families together;
- Details about all children waiting are sent on special forms to the National Adoption Register, three months after their approval and no local match is being pursued. All adopters must be referred on special forms if after three months if they have not had a placement.
Families have to give written agreement to be entered on the Register; you do not have to agree to this if you do not wish to.
2. Children and Placement Preparations
- During your home study you will probably have looked at some 'case studies' of real children's circumstances with your adoption Social Worker;
- Any information that is shared with you about a child is subject to strict confidentiality, and we ask you to acknowledge this by signing a confidentiality agreement;
- Weighing up the situations you feel most confident about handling will have been part of your assessment and preparation. Considering 'real life' cases can be very helpful in recognising where your own dreams and fantasies of a child begin and end. It is most important for you to learn about how your own experiences and expectations might affect you as a parent, and to carefully consider what kind of child's circumstances you can respond to best;
- How a child behaves and responds to his/her adoptive parents is dependent on two main factors:
- The pattern of attachment the child has developed during its early years, as a result of his experiences;
- The pattern of interaction and attachment displayed by adoptive parents towards the child.
- Throughout this section, try to remember the above factors, and discuss your thoughts with your partner and Adoption Social Worker when considering your suitability as parents for any child under discussion;
- There is an initial section on 'Legal Processes' regarding the court processes that may have been undertaken in order that a child can be safely placed for adoption with a family. You should also read the section on Adoption Applications, and explore the details with your Adoption Social Worker.
2.2 Legal Processes
- Children who are voluntarily being looked after by the Local Authority (i.e. who are not subject to any court orders or proceedings) are still the responsibility of their birth parents and all legal rights and duties are still maintained by their birth parents. All other children being considered for adoption will be, or will have been, subject to some court process; these will have include:
- Interim Care Order;
- Care Order request by Local Authority;
And often will include:
- Local Authority to have leave to refuse contact between birth parent and child.
The procedures relating to Care Orders are under Section 31 of the Children Act (1989) and the refusal of contact is under Section 34(4) of that Act. A Freeing Application is under Section 12 of the Adoption Act (1976).
- Any court application for adopting a child or for Freeing a child for adoption must either have the parents agreement formally given, or must consider the reasons for asking the court to dispense with the birth parents agreement. No Freeing application can be made on a child who is voluntarily in the care of the Local Authority;
- There are legally specified reasons for dispensing with birth parents agreement. The one most often used is that the parent is "unreasonably withholding his/her consent".
Birth Parents and Legal Parents
- A birth mother is always a legal parent and will always have parental responsibility prior to adoption order being made;
- A birth father, when married to the birth mother, also has legal parental responsibility, unless he signs a formal declaration to say that he is not the father of the child;
- When a birth father is not married to the mother, he is known as the alleged or putative father. His views may be sought on the adoption plan, but he has no formal legal rights in the proceedings;
- If the child's birth was registered jointly by the mother and unmarried birth father on, or after December 2003 the birth father shares parental responsibility equally with the birth mother;
- However, an alleged birth father can apply to a court to obtain a parental responsibility order, whereupon he does obtain legal rights in relation to the child. This means his agreement to the child being adopted would either be required, or would have to be dispensed with by the court.
Care Orders and Placement Orders
- For a court to grant a Care Order, it has to be satisfied under the Children Act 1989, that the child "has either suffered, or is likely to suffer, significant harm". The burden of proof lies with the Local Authority who will bring any witnesses during the Care Proceedings;
- At the time of requesting a Care Order, the Local Authority has to describe to the Court what its plans are for the child's long-term care, and adoption may be proposed if the child seems unlikely to be able to return to his parents or extended family's care;
- During Care Proceedings, the court must also be satisfied that full 'exploration of other family members' capacity to offer care for the child has been undertaken;
- If birth parents are not in agreement with an adoption plan, Hull City Council will usually apply to the Court to make a Placement Order which entitles them to place a child for adoption. A Placement Order can only be applied for after the child's situation has been fully documented and considered by the Adoption Panel and agreed by the Agency Decision Maker;
- When considering making a child subject to a Placement Order, the court must find:
- The child is already subject to a care order under the Children's Act 1989; or
- The child is suffering, or at risk of suffering Significant Harm attributable to the standard of parental care; or
- The child has no parent or guardian; and
- Each parent or guardian consents to the placement; or
- The court is satisfied that consent should be dispensed with.
- Following the lodging of an adoption order application by the prospective adopters the court will hold a "Direction Hearings" to monitor progress and to explore any difficulties or differences of opinion in the reports presented. They also plan for how much court time will be required for the full Hearing;
- During Care Proceedings, the Court will appoint a special officer, to protect and promote the child's interests, called a Children's Guardian;
- When a Placement Order is granted, the Local Authority holds the overriding parental responsibilities. The birth parents become entitled to be kept informed and consulted on developments concerning the child.
2.3 Waiting after Approval
- Most approved adoptive parents are delighted to have completed the home study successfully and believe that the "worst" is over;
- In truth, the most important step, that of identifying a child or children to join your family is usually yet to be achieved, and waiting for this can be testing;
- The "dream" of a child not yet identified can sometimes be dispiriting. However, practical matters should not be overlooked and a range of activities in preparing for a child can now be usefully undertaken;
- Your Adoption Social Worker will help you to think about the changes that you may need to make, for example:
- How child-safe and child-friendly is your home and garden?
- How are you planning to manage financially?
- Have you made sound plans around taking leave from work, or reducing hours and being free to undertake introductions to a child?
- What parts do your close family and friends expect to play? Have you discussed a child's need to build a secure attachment to you with them?
- Have you thought about how tired you will feel in the early weeks of a child arriving? Who might help by doing your ironing or cleaning the bathroom for a few weeks?
- What extra items might you need for a child of the age you are looking for?
- Sometimes the urge to 'get ready' can develop a life of its own, and it is worth remembering that even young children may have tastes and preferences that you cannot predict before meeting them. It is better to make plans that can be adjusted nearer the time, rather than exhaust yourself on tasks that may turn out not to fit your child;
- Don't put the whole of the rest of your life on 'hold' while you are waiting. Enjoy the extra freedom whilst you still have it.
2.4 Considering Children
- However long you may be waiting for a child or children to be identified, your Adoption Social Worker will be aware of all children waiting for adoptive families and will be actively considering your suitability for any of them;
- Alongside this, all children and families waiting are reviewed monthly by the Adoption Service as a whole;
- Your preparation should have helped you to feel more aware of the situations you can and cannot handle well. In looking at children's circumstances you will be given a range of information both verbally and in writing. You will meet the present foster carers of any child whose placement with you is looking promising, as well as the child's Social Worker;
- A list of the usual processes involved is at the end of this section to help you judge the timescales and actions that need to be fulfilled. A child's main social and background information document is a Child's Placement Record (CPR), similar to your adoption PAR. There should also be an 'Assessment' record completed by the child's Social Worker and foster carer, that will cover a wide range of details about the child's health and development - make sure you see this;
- Your Social Worker will share profile details of any child or children with you. The main areas for you to consider regarding a child's possible placement with you should include the following:
- The child's past experiences and present behaviour;
- The child's health needs;
- The child's educational and developmental needs;
- The child's needs arising from race, culture, language and religion;
- The child's attachment patterns and likely long-term needs in this area;
- The child's birth family history and how far you can take a compassionate view of their life styles and parenting failures;
- The child's preparation for adoption;
- The current legal circumstances of the child and the plans for future contact between the child and birth family members, and how you feel about these;
- Your own assessment of what you may find difficult in any of these areas and how you might be helped;
- Your adoption Social Worker's thoughts about the above areas in relation to your identified strengths and vulnerabilities.
- Taking time to consider all these issues is important for your future and particularly for the child's future. There may be a clear sense that this is the child for you or you may slowly come to feel so;
- If however, at any time you begin to experience doubts about a specific child under consideration, or about being an adoptive parent in general, you must voice these. It can be very unwise to remain silent.
Anxieties are very common at this time and your Adoption Social Worker will know you well enough to help you through this. Very occasionally the 'reality' of adoptive parenting can become clearer to you as something you are not able to carry out.
We would want to understand your feelings and support you in arriving at the best decision for your future. Please be confident in our concern for your happiness as well as any child's;
- If you are still feeling keen to proceed once you have discussed the circumstances of a child, the child's Social Worker will read your 'PAR' report and discuss your potential suitability with your Social Worker;
- At this, and future points, it may be that a decision is made not to proceed with plans for this child joining your family. The child's Team Manager have an important role in considering the suitability of any family for the child and at this early stage it may be decided not to pursue your interest any further;
- If this happens, you will naturally feel disappointment and hurt. We will want to explain carefully why the decision has been made and support you in your recovery before looking at other possible children;
- Where your interest is welcomed, a visit to your home will be arranged, when the child's Social Worker will answer any of your questions, listen to your views and ask questions of you;
- If you continue to feel positive about parenting the child and the Social Workers involved share this feeling, you will have the opportunity to meet the child's present carers. This will ensure you know more about the child's daily routine, interests, and present relationships. You should also find out how the child is behaving, his development, general temperament, and character;
- You should also learn, or ask, about how the child has been prepared for adoption, what kind of written and photographic history the child has to bring with him, and what explanations and discussions have taken place with him. Even young children can be helped by simple comments and explanations;
- It is helpful to remember that some children develop ways of coping with the temporary nature of foster care by superficially functioning quite well.
On arrival in a permanent family, quite different behaviours can sometimes be seen, which are much more testing and which reflect the confusion and distress of their pasts. Always be ready for this and don't assume it is because either (a) the foster carer did not give you the true story, or (b) you are not the right family;
- On the other hand, some children can show their insecurity whilst in foster homes, but make a very positive response to a "forever" family, once they learn about you;
- You should also have the opportunity to look at any other reports and information on the child – such as any Assessment reports, and any 'All About Me' record from the foster carer. Generally speaking, the more information, the better for you in making your decision;
- In considering a child who has special health needs or special educational needs, you may need specialised information. The Adoption Panel Medical Adviser is always willing to meet with prospective adoptive parents to explain the child's health needs, treatments and prognosis for the child's future development in detail;
- Never be afraid to ask for more time or more information on any child you are considering. Equally, be strong enough to say 'no' if a particular child does not feel right for you;
- We can all have 'gut' feelings, and these can often be peculiarly accurate – never ignore yours.
Children from other Local Authorities
Extract from "Making Better Placements" by Sheila Smith - CoramBAAF Publication 1994
To recap, here are some questions that you should feel able to answer in relation to any child that is to join your family:
- Are you confident you have as much information as possible about your child? Do you know about their different past care settings, including the quality of attachments, hospital admissions, school changes, behaviour patterns?
- Have you been given a full and honest assessment of the child's needs, including emotional, racial and cultural, educational and medical needs? Would you like the opportunity to discuss these further with the relevant professionals?
- What help has your child received to prepare for placement? How has your child responded and what does this tell you about him or her? How does he or she make sense of their situation - which words, play materials or tools have been used? Are there outstanding issues you will need to help to manage?
2.5 Financial Support to Prospective Adopters
This document outlines the financial support that Hull City Council can offer prospective adopters when placing a child with them for adoption, who is in the care of this authority. If a child is placed from another authority, that authority's financial scheme, which may be different, will apply.
The financial support available falls into three areas, one for support during introductions, the second is for support during the placement, and is designed to assist with the extra expenditure or pressures during the early phases of a placement; the third is a range of financial support packages that are provided under the adoption Support Services Regulations 2005.
2.6 Panel Matching Process
- If all parties are of like mind to proceed with a formal request to place a child or children with you for adoption, the Adoption Agency Regulations demand that clear proposals for this are considered by the Adoption Panel;
- The recommendation of the Adoption Panel is then considered by the Agency Decision Maker who makes the formal decision to agree or not to agree to the proposal of a child being placed with you;
- Given the careful thought and planning beforehand, it is unusual for a proposal to be rejected, but in complex cases this may occur. You should be aware of any such possibility in advance if it seems to exist in any plans being made with you;
- There is a format for proposing a 'match' between child and family. You should be able to see this and agree its contents;
- Once the Agency Decision Maker's formal decision to approve the placement has been made, plans for introductions can be made.
2.7 Placement Planning
- Your Adoption Social Worker will have already begun exploring with you the various factors to be accommodated in planning for a child's placement with you;
- For example, prospective adopters have to plan for time off work to spend time getting to know a child. Foster carers and child care Social Workers have to ensure a child has preparation for moving to a new family. A child has to have opportunities for taking leave of those around them who will be left behind, such as school friends, neighbours, members of extended foster family;
- Any significant move contains sadness and loss for a child, as well as hopes and expectations for the future. Even for very young children, talking and sharing plans can often be of enormous help in coping with feelings of anxiety and powerlessness, during this major upheaval;
- Once it is clear that everyone is free to plan a series of introductory sessions, a time and venue for drawing up a placement plan and introductions timetable will be set;
- Before this meeting it is usually appropriate that you have at least one short meeting with your child. This should always take place in the home where the child is living and in the presence of those caring for the child. Shortly before this meeting, your child will have been "introduced" to you by being shown your family book, told of your names and your interest in becoming his mummy and daddy. The book will be left for the child to look at again as often as he wishes, and for the foster carer to talk about having already met you, and to listen to the child's questions or worries;
- For some older children we may hold a 'Life Appreciation' Day, when you can meet and discuss your child's history with those who have known them, such as previous and current Foster Carers, Nursery and School Teachers, Health Visitors, etc.
- Where you are meeting an older school-aged child, one or two initial visits may be made before the planning meeting is held. These are with a view to checking that you and the child can begin to develop a 'real' sense of each other after all the reading and hearing about each other from others;
- If you continue to feel positive and optimistic that this is a child you can care for and grow to love, the placement planning meeting will be held;
- The matters covered in a placement planning meeting are documented and shared with you. A copy of the format used for this should be read;
- Most of the areas listed under "Considering Children", will be addressed and commented on, to form part of our formal agreement with you;
- Most children that we place for adoption are in the care of the Local Authority under a Court Order made earlier (see Section 2.2, Legal Processes). In these cases, a specific document signed by a Senior Social Services Manager will be given to you indicating that you are to be in full charge of the child's health care once he is placed with you. We ask you to keep us informed of any major health issues;
- A list of all the written materials that you should receive concerning the child, is an important part of the placement planning document. Please have no hesitation in reminding us, if for any reason, these are not handed to you in a timely fashion;
- Financial support to cover out of pocket expenses during introductions, as well as any other arrangements such as adoption allowances, or one-off initial placement grants will also be considered. Discussions with your Adoption Social Worker should have addressed these areas in advance;
- Plans for any 'letter box' scheme contact with your child's birth relatives will be agreed. Formal agreements will be drafted and sent to you and to any birth relatives involved shortly after the child is placed with you;
- A information leaflet on the 'letter box' service, designed for adoptive parents. Please read and consider this carefully;
- Meetings with birth parents follow a simple 45 minute format, you and the birth parents are given advice on how to prepare for the meeting, a list of questions is the best place to start and bring a camera. The birth parents are similarly advised, or given help to draft a set of questions to ask you. These meetings are sometimes arranged before a child has joined you, we have found that they can be more constructive and beneficial if arranged a little time after the child has been living with you. You can then speak more sincerely about the child and your care for him; you can share photographs and agree the time of year for sending news; it also seems that birth relatives who were not in agreement with their child being adopted, have often had time to begin to accept the situation and can respond more constructively to meeting with you at this time;
- Preparation for any meeting with birth relatives is very important and your Adoption Social Worker will want to help you with this thoroughly. Anxiety is always high before any meeting; other experienced adopters will tell you that such meetings are almost always moving and have long-term benefits for them as adoptive parents, and for their children.
2.8 Introductions and Placement
- Any timetable of introductions between a child and his prospective adopters has as its main aims the following:
- Helping to familiarise the child with his new parents, and they with him, whilst still in the security of his present home;
- Enabling the child to learn about his new family, their home, surroundings and style of interaction in a gradual way;
- Ensuring prospective adopters have time to adjust to the child as he is before he joins them;
- Helping a child to see that his present carers are positive about the planned move for him;
- A minimisation of the disruption to the child by graduated steps towards placement and a sharing of information between foster carers and prospective adopters;
- Opportunities for reflection and review;
- To plan for placement to occur at an appropriate point of "readiness" for the child.
- Plans for young children of under 3 years of age will need to take account of their limited grasp of time, and will therefore be relatively intensive over a period of 7- 10 days;
- Older children can manage introductions over a longer period of time that will include periods for thought and reflection. Adopters of older children will need to learn more about the friendships, acquaintances and activities of their child. They should certainly visit school and see the child's class teacher and learn about the work they have been doing, as well as how they interact socially;
- However much information has been shared with you, introductions will involve learning a great deal more about your child in a short space of time. Your child's past history of moves will be very important at this time and he will need extra support and consideration from those around him;
- Experiencing the various aspects of a young child's daily routine in his present home will help you to know what he is used to, the pet names he has for things, how he expresses himself and how his present carers respond to his needs;
- All the early meetings will be best where the child feels safest, on his own familiar territory. You will gradually become more involved in caring for him, playing with him, joining in daily routines, including bath times and bed times;
- First visits to your home will be planned to ensure the child's main carer can accompany him, to show reassurance and support. Your family book is a helpful preparation for this if it contains inside / outside shots of your home. Occasionally, videos are used for this purpose;
- Keeping a child in the dark about future plans can be very frightening, and so explaining the plans for meetings is very important to a child; even very young children benefit from this.
Introductions are also about testing out the hopes that you will be the "right" mum and dad for the child and that he will be the "right" child for you. In the event of this not being the case, it is least damaging for a child to know that hopes sometimes go wrong and that adults sometimes have to think hard and change their plans;
- How well you get on with your child's foster carers is crucial during this time. All carers want children to be settled and happy, and foster carers work enormously hard to make sure you feel welcome and at ease in their homes;
- However, your 'gain' of a child is clearly a loss to the family who has cared for him, sometimes for a lengthy period of his life and your awareness of this can make you feel guilty about the planned move and your role in it;
- Try to put your guilt into perspective by remembering two things:
- Your child needs a family who will be there for always and that's your job - no-one else's;
- Your child needed good and concerned carers at a difficult time in his life and that was the job of the foster carers.
Be glad he has had such concern and care before you met him, but never underestimate how important the security of a family 'forever' is for him. Believe in what you have to offer and value what his carers can share with you, even if that includes their mixed feelings about letting him go.
- An introduction plan should include 'time-off' for thought and reflection. If you feel that you are being rushed along on a tidal wave of optimism, take care and slow down. Demand some time to yourselves if you feel there isn't enough planned;
- Your Social Worker will check how the introductions are going, and a review meeting to look at how all parties are feeling and to check whether any changes need to be made is built into all plans. Do some serious thinking before this meeting, and if you have any misgivings that you haven't already shared, please air them at this meeting. There is too much at stake for you and your child, to imagine that your worries will disappear by themselves, or that you will be letting adults down by voicing them. On the contrary, you let yourself and your child down by staying silent;
- Our experience shows that generally the careful thought and planning beforehand pays off handsomely, and a date for your child to formally join your family can usually be agreed at the review of introductions. If there are difficulties identified that seem likely to be remedied by the lengthening (or shortening) of further introductions, this can be planned, and a second review may be held;
- Time for packing final items (most possessions move across gradually during the later days of introductions), and for saying farewells, sometimes by way of a small party at school or at the foster home, is arranged for the child;
- Young children often seem disturbed by sleeping over at their new homes and then returning to their foster homes. Because of this your child's first night with you is likely to be the day he moves in. Older children enjoy the opportunity for sleep-overs before a final move is planned.
- It is usual for a move to happen in the morning and to be done relatively quickly with a Social Worker present. Often you will go to collect the child at an arranged time, but occasionally foster carers may bring the child to your home. It is usually a moment of tears for everyone - the kind that involve relief, anxiety, sadness and hope. Don't be afraid of them - sharing feelings is a wonderful part of family life;
- There is a good deal not covered in this section that your adoption Social Worker should discuss with you throughout the intensive and emotional period between considering a child and that child actually joining your family. Your Social Worker is there to support, guide and help you - don't be afraid to use her/him fully.
3. After a Child Joins Your Family
- Without doubt the first weeks of a child's arrival in your family will be more exhausting than you could have imagined. You need to believe this before it happens to you so that you have plans to minimise your own tiredness well in hand;
- There can often be an urge to have 'grand' family plans such as a party or a holiday. Be convinced that you have all the rest of your lives to enjoy such events with your children and don't plan any too early after a child joins you;
- As you adjust to having a child to permanently consider and care for, a whole new way of life is developing for you and your child. The emotional strain arising from so many adjustments at once is quite enough to handle initially.
- Christmas has long been known by adoption workers as a most unwise time to have a child join a new family for similar reasons. Expectations of 'happy' family events are all too readily dashed by an anxious child struggling to understand his new life and "spoiling" everyone else's fun, by behaving poorly;
- This section hopes to explain some of the areas which need your best attention, as well as the roles and responsibilities which others may have in relation to you and your child. As with other sections of this handbook, any pointers given here are supplements or reminders to go with the personal support and advice of your Adoption Social Worker.
3.2 Support Visits and Reviews
- We will visit your child within 7 days of their arrival, and thereafter at regular intervals. If all goes well, your need, and your child's need for encouragement and support will obviously diminish over time, and the frequency of our visits will be dictated by these factors up to the point of an Adoption Order being granted to you;
- Our support and encouragement to you involves a good deal of listening (having children creates a fund of stories and anecdotes), keeping you informed of any legal processes, sharing in your parenting successes and failures, and above all, supporting your efforts to find solutions to any emotional, practical or behavioural problems that you are encountering. These latter may not always be from your child;
- For example, it is possible to be overwhelmed in the early days by the intended kindness of close relatives and friends. Their desire to welcome and show interest in your child can lead to too many interruptions from other adults, just when you are trying to establish a predictable routine for your child from which he will take much reassurance;
- Try to engage those who care about you in understanding what your child needs initially (your attention!), and help them to find ways of supporting you that don't take too much of your attention away from your child;
- Be prepared for some awkward moments too, as you and your partner and close family find out new things about each other, as you all adjust to new patterns of living. Of course, there are usually lots of pleasing things to discover too, but don't be too surprised if you don't always see eye to eye about how to deal with new situations;
- The other major focus of our visits following a child's arrival is to monitor his progress and welfare in your care. We write a welfare report following every visit and these form the basis of our review reports;
- Until a child is legally adopted he remains technically under the care of the Local Authority. Although placed with you "for adoption", the Local Authority continues to be responsible for any such child's welfare until an Adoption Order is granted;
- We are always interested, therefore, in both the major and minor aspects of your child's developments. Although, we are sometimes accused of only focusing on the potential problem areas during preparation, it is fairer to say that we believe fore-warned is fore-armed. However, the joys of parenting a specific child are just as rewarding for us to hear about as they are for you to share with us;
- With regard to any kind of worries or concerns that you may have, the sooner we know of these, the quicker we can explore ways of supporting you to successfully manage these. Similarly, if we have any concerns, we aim to share these with you in a supportive way as soon as we become aware of them;
- With children who are old enough to speak fluently, it is common practice to have the opportunity of seeing these children on their own during visits. There may be small reassurances to be made or questions that the child would like answering. It is also an opportunity for the child to confide any worries or feelings that need to be raised;
- School age children may wish, or need to continue to see their own child care Social Worker from time to time. They will be used to having time on their own with their Social Worker and they will often seek reassurance about birth relatives or previous foster carers from the person who knew them in the past;
- The child care Social Worker will always attend the formal reviews of your child's progress with you. These are legally required meetings, usually held in your own home, which are fully documented and chaired by a reviewing officer;
- Adoption Reviews are held one month after your child arrives, then 3 months after that, and thereafter at a minimum of 6 monthly intervals. A Review can be called at any time, by any of the parties involved, should this seem necessary;
- There is a separate report form for adoptive parents to complete, and also one for a child who is of an age to make his views known, verbally for others to record, or in his own writing;
- The final set of documents will be copied to you once the reviewing officer has completed his report;
- Applying to legally adopt a child is the step that you will look forward to as your ultimate aim, and this will be considered at review meetings, and during support visits. An adoption application can be lodged ten weeks from the date of placement (see Section 3.6, Adoption Applications and Hearings).
3.3 Other Sources of Support
- Often the most valuable early support that you can receive is from your child's previous foster carers. Their concern for a child does not end when he leaves, and they are always ready to answer your questions, or advise on how they have dealt with a situation that you may be facing. They are excellent at reassuring new parents and are delighted to be of help;
- From your child's point of view it can be very reassuring to know that you and he are still in touch with those who previously looked after him. Follow-up visits and contacts with his foster carers are strongly advised as a way of ensuring a child's sense of continuity of care. Without these, a child can be made to feel that his past is to be 'forgotten', or that people who have been important to him count for nothing. It is a short step from this to a child quietly believing that his past self counts for nothing too;
- For children under 5, the Health Visiting Service provided in your own home can be of great value and reassurance. As soon as a child is placed with you your Local Health Visitor is notified by us and they often call to make themselves known early on. Most Health Visitors are now attached to General Practitioner Surgeries; they have vast experience of the health and developmental needs of babies and pre-school children, and are obliged to carry out specified checks on all children at certain ages before they start school;
- The foster carer should have passed on to you the "Red Book", which is a parent's record of a young child's growth and general health, as well as all immunisation carried out to-date and the results of any previous developmental checks. These are wonderful records of your child's health and development from birth - please look after it;
- Your own General Practitioner will also have been notified of your child's arrival, and even where there are no special health needs, most General Practitioners like to do a 'welcome' check on your child at the surgery;
- It is important that you can feel confidence in your General Practitioner's attitude to, and knowledge of your child. The full medical records of your child should arrive at the surgery shortly after you have registered him there using a form we give you;
- For a child with any specialist involvement, you will need to make sure that any planned future out-patient appointments are kept, and foster carers will pass on any dates for these. For more serious medical conditions, you may have had discussions with your child's specialist before placement and these can be very important for your confidence in handling your child's special health needs;
- Hull Adoption Service provides a range of adoption support provision for children, prospective and actual adopters and birth parents. As stated above adoption support includes financial help but also a complete assessment of support needs which may lead to being referred onto professional services. There are a range of 'therapies' such as play therapy, art therapy, drama therapy, filial therapy dyadic therapy which can be of benefit to your child in difficulties, and these may be provided under the N.H.S. Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS);
- 'Family therapy' can also be effective, but as your child's problems often stem from before they joined your family, other interventions may be more appropriate;
- School aged children are always helped by knowing that their parents are interested in their school achievements. A child placed for adoption needs your support too, especially when school is already a feature of his life. Hull school age children in care and moving onto adoption have an Personal Educational Plan (ePEP), a document put together between a teacher, social worker and carers for the child. The child should also be part of their educational planning either at the PEP meeting itself, or through discussions outside the meeting. An ePEP is a document describing a course of action to help a child reach his/her full academic and life potential. The education of many children looked after by the Local Authority has suffered because of their disrupted lives; they often need extra time, acceptance and support to catch up, and your close working relationship with the school can be invaluable;
- Further mention must be made here of the Adopters' Support Group (see Adoption Support Procedure), which is available to you at any time. Some of the special issues that arise in schools for children who are adopted or placed for adoption, is an area that is often discussed with teachers during one of the monthly adopters' support group meetings, each year.
Being a parent of a child by adoption is a different way of becoming a parent, and these differences can be difficult to explain to those who have no experience of them. The value of meeting and talking with others in the same position is greater than seems apparent at first and the support gained from attending is well worth the effort of getting there.
3.4 Learning to Live Together
- There is a range of advice and information on this area from specialist organisations, and you really can't know too much. You we find a long list of organisations and advice on the Internet by simply googling "How can a family live together in harmony";
- Much of what follows here may seem to relate to parents of children who have noticeable behavioural problems, or who are older than the child you have, or intend to take. It is still worth reading, as you may find something useful or reassuring about how children feel and react.
- Your child may arrive with a range of behaviours or lack of them (as in manners), that you feel you should change straight away to make your child more 'likeable'. As a word of warning, don't set your child too many new standards at the beginning - it's far too tiring; and a tired parent or child is usually an impatient and irritable one. Set yourselves a priority or two instead;
- That said, children, however poorly behaved, do feel safety where some clear boundaries on behaviour are set by their parents. Meaning what you say in this respect is most important and so it's worth thinking about what you are going to say before you say it!
- Being consistent about what behaviour is acceptable and what isn't is the quickest way to get good results. If a child realises that you "give in" after a while or when distracted, he will become very good at demanding or whining, until you do give in. Each scene like this tends to go on longer than the first and can result in very angry people all round. You as a parent will feel a sense of defeat, because the child knows he will 'win' if he goes on long enough - and he will!
- However, firmness and consistency work best where warmth and patience are clearly part of the parental response. Your child is in a strange new world; he cannot suddenly 'un-learn' what life has taught him so far. If he is to learn that you will love and care for him, he will only do so if cold harsh discipline does not exist, and if reasonable boundaries, fairly imposed, do;
- Try to remember all you know about your child's past and also to recognise that there will be much that you may not know. If he lived in a household where raised voices led to rows, which led to violent scenes, your raised voice when cross may be extremely frightening to him. A quiet, but firm voice is preferred by most children when discipline is being meted out;
- For most children placed for adoption there is a greater or lesser sense that they are not likeable children, and the traumas of the past are somehow their fault. Being told off can carry this same dreadful message for them. Quietly explaining your discipline with a young child on your knee or with your arm round an older child is much more reassuring and effective than a finger-wagging lecture at full volume;
- When feeling particularly challenged by your child, resist all urges to threaten him with anything that sounds like rejection or abandonment; his life has had too much of this already. Distraction works a treat with young children, and you are bound to find your own ways of dealing with your child at these times. In times of dire need you can buy yourself some time by saying you need to think about how best to deal with the situation, and he might do the same;
- When thinking about discipline, the words "'bad" and "naughty" often spring to mind. A child who believes he is responsible for all the bad things that have happened to him already believes he is "naughty" or "bad" in a very powerful way. Your purpose is to help him develop a more positive and confident view of himself.
For this reason alone, these two words are best replaced by others - "not very nice", "not very kind", etc. Parents recognise that a child behaving poorly needs some control, and some choose to make a child sit still for a few minutes on a "naughty" chair. Much better to call it a "thinking" chair, or when appropriate to suggest you sit together for some "thinking" time and a cuddle;
- The value of praise, encouragement and warm forgiveness is well recognised by most parents. By using descriptions such as "not very nice" for behaviour you don't like, it becomes very easy to use phrases such as "how kind it is of you to share your sweets" when your child does something pleasing;
- Practicing praise and encouragement is actually the most important and effective part of discipline. So often we don't voice our pleasure at the actions of others - try to do so as often as possible with your child;
- Hull City Council has a No Smacking Policy
Foster carers are forbidden from using physical chastisement of children in their care, and it is hoped that adoptive parents, however angry, will continue to find other ways of responding to a poorly behaved child.
3.5 Building Attachment
- Enjoying your child, using praise and encouragement, having fun together, doing a wide range of both mundane and exciting things are all part of parenting, and building a strong relationship;
- They are also part of helping your child to experience a positive rewarding relationship with you, and through this, to develop an attachment to you. They are of even greater importance when a child joins you late by adoption rather than being born to you;
- If your child has had reasonably good parenting experiences, he will be responsive and co-operative with you. Sadly, many children being placed for adoption have had more damaging experiences, and these children can appear to throw some of your efforts back in your face;
- Any actions on your part that help a child to feel worthwhile and cared about are the best beginnings to building attachment. Being physically affectionate is easy with a child who makes you feel happy. It is crucial that you remain physically affectionate when you are not so happy about your child and his behaviour. The times when he is being at his most unpleasant and rejecting of you are the times when he most needs your understanding and warmth;
- Unfortunately, your instinctive urges may well lead you in quite the opposite direction, i.e. to be angry when he is angry, to be aggressive if he is aggressive, to be cold and critical when he is aloof and distant, to act as if you don't care when he doesn't seem to care. These are understandable reactions to the hurt a child can cause us, but they are unhelpful ones when trying to build a close relationship;
- Babies who have suffered early neglectful or abusive parenting can show reactions to this, and on a move from a foster home may react to the change by being difficult to comfort and resistant to physical contact. They need you to be confident about giving them physical stimulation, eye contact, rocking and crooning, stroking and hugging, whatever their protests. Similar reactions can occur in babies who are affected badly by the loss of their trusted carer and require similar efforts to be overcome;
- Older toddlers who can wriggle out of your grasp, nip, bite, scream or even swear, need very similar efforts on your part, as do older children who can protest in a range of ways that can be very powerful;
- It is worth knowing that as your patterns of warm close interactions develop, the more your child's inner model of insecure attachment will prove to be unhelpful to him (see Section 4.3, Patterns of Attachment). When this happens he is likely to panic and behave worse than ever for a period of time; getting through this patch can be very tough indeed on everyone in the family;
- At very difficult times extra professional help, say from a child psychologist with experience in attachment difficulties, can be essential to getting through successfully;
- While parents who have children born to them can appear to juggle home, children and going out to work successfully, it is easy to see that this is much more difficult to achieve with a child who arrives with a history of damaging styles of parenting. The time and commitment involved in building relationships through adoption also demands great reserves of patience and resilience over prolonged periods of time.
As adoptive parents, you need to think very carefully about how far work may be a valuable release from such demands and how far it may add to your stress levels, as well as your child's insecurity;
- With children who are not so demanding, your continual efforts to be genuinely demonstrative and warmly responsive will still be valuable;
- There are many rewards in seeing the results of your efforts to heal some of the hurt done to your child; your confidence will increase as you chalk up small successes. Most of all, you will be able to see the difference in your child as he comes to believe in himself, takes pride in his achievements, and gets much fun and happiness out of life;
- Looking after yourselves, taking a break (even if its only for a long luxurious bath), letting others help you, and having some space to "re-charge", are all part of making sure you enjoy your years of looking after children without getting too jaded;
- Finally, do become familiar with your child's past experiences and encourage a sharing of these. Your interest in a life story book, or photographs of people from the past, can matter a lot to a child.
Independent Support Services
- A further support service is available for prospective adopters between the time of becoming "approved" and any child becoming legally adopted at Court;
- There is a leaflet in the Appendices - to follow giving information on this service, and the direct contact numbers of the counsellors providing the service;
- You can approach the people providing independent support directly or be referred by your Adoption Social Worker;
- One of the circumstances where you may feel the need of such help, is if you were to have an allegation made against you in terms of your care for a child. These circumstances are fully addressed in Section 6.3, Child Protection Matters;
- However you may be facing lesser concerns about which you feel you would rather approach an Independent Advisor initially. Your enquiry can be kept confidential if you so wish;
- This is a specific service for Hull approved adopters - do make use of it if you feel it may help you.
3.6 Adoption Applications and Hearings
- There are two types of Court which hear Adoption Applications – the Family Courts, where a bench of magistrates sits, and the County Court, where a single judge sits;
- There are more Family Courts than County Courts, and the charges to lodge an Adoption Application are less in the Family Courts;
- However, you are not automatically able to lodge your application in a Family Court; it depends where previous Court proceedings were heard in relation to the care of your child. For example – if your child is the subject of any order, which was made in a County Court, then your Adoption Application must be heard in that Court;
- It is possible to ask a County Court if they will 'release the papers' down to a Family Court, but this is not automatic (a charge will be made for this service);
- Your Adoption Social Worker will help you to correctly complete your application form (in triplicate) and to have all the appropriate documents together. These include your child's full birth certificate, marriage certificate (if you are married), and any Court Orders pertaining to your child, as well as the lodging fee;
- Once you have taken these into the local Court of your choice, they will be acknowledged and notices will be sent to all 'party to proceedings', if you do not wish your personal details to be shared with with parents (where they are a party) you must ask for, and be given, a serial number from the court.
Two Important Points
- An Adoption Order cannot be made until a child has been with the adoptive applicants for a minimum of 13 weeks. You can submit an application in the Court before this;
- Your own legal position changes once you have lodged your application to adopt a child. Prior to this you are a prospective adoptive parent, under the Adoption Agency Regulations, and the child remains the responsibility of the Local Authority. After lodging your application, you are a legal applicant to adopt, and no-one has the right to remove the child from your care, against your wishes, without leave from the Court to do so;
- A full report on all matters has to be completed by Social Work staff. This is called an Annex A report. This will be seen by the Judge / magistrates, but not the parents unless the Court orders its release. If it is released all information which could identify potential adopters is removed. Where the child is subject to a Placement Order and consent for the adoption has not been formally given by the birth parents or guardians they cannot oppose the adoption order being granted unless the court gives permission and such permission is not given lightly by the court. The criteria for being given permission to oppose are that there has been a significant change of circumstances since the placement order was made and the welfare of the child requires permission to be granted. The birth parents, however, have a right to attend the adoption hearing and, therefore, it is not advisable for prospective adopters to attend the court at this stage. Providing that that the court is satisfied everything is in order they will make an Adoption Order and then set a further date for a Celebratory Hearing where only the adopters, child(ren) and social workers are present;
- Always feel free to ask questions about your own situation, and if you don't understand at first, do ask again, until you do;
- You can ask beforehand about being allowed to take photographs with the Judge or Magistrates, as special permission is required for this to occur;
- Some adoptive families mark their 'adoption day' by a celebration and continue to do so each year, when the date comes round again;
- The Adoption Order, and later the Full Adoption Certificate (very similar to a birth certificate) will be posted out to you a few weeks later. Keep them in a safe place.
Where a Court Refuses an Adoption Order
- This eventuality is so rare as to make it difficult to give a clear diagram of probable processes;
- It may occur where a baby's birth parent has contested an Adoption Application, and the Court has found in favour of the birth parent resuming care of the baby;
- It may also occur where the Adoption Agency or a Guardian has not recommended an Adoption Order be granted, or has applied to a Court for a return of a child to Local Authority care;
- The fullest and most knowledgeable legal advice is extremely important in all contested, or not 'recommended' applications, and obtaining this advice is vital for adoptive applicants;
- A list of local solicitors on the 'Children's Panel' is included. You should approach one of these for advice immediately if you find yourself in conflict with the Adoption Agency, or are involved in an Adoption Application which is contested by birth parents;
- Do always seek advice and clarification from your Adoption Social Worker, who does have access to the Adoption Agency Legal Adviser.
4. Attachment and it's Meaning for Adoptive Parents
- Although you will have had a whole day in preparation groups exploring attachment, it is such an important area in adopting a child that some points are worth making more than once;
- When adoption was concerned mainly with the placing of infants, the issue of how children make attachments was much less well understood, and was often of less concern to all those involved;
- Healthy babies who are offered appropriate care, affection and stimulation within a permanent family have the usual opportunities to develop secure and healthy attachments to their carers and to become happy, self-confident adults within those families;
- Today, adoption is rarely about placing healthy infants, and the focus of this section is to highlight not only children's attachment patterns, but also the extra sensitivity and self-awareness that adoptive parents need to possess if they are to understand and help the many children whose early attachments have been damaging or distorted.
N.B.: Attachment is the term used to describe an enduring bond that develops between two people.
4.2 Understanding your own Experiences
- "Know thyself" is an ancient dictum that applies to all of us as we make decisions and choices in life to best suit who we are;
- Being a parent consumes much time and energy across many years and is the source of great fulfilment for many people It can be both uplifting and discouraging, rewarding and worrying. It teaches most of us things about ourselves that we hadn't fully recognised before;
- The process of adopting a child and successfully parenting him asks that adoptive applicants try to understand themselves in a mature way before the child arrives, so that the right decisions are made, based on sound information;
- Most lives contain periods of pain and loss; most adults can review their childhoods and recognise the times when their own parents fell short of the 'ideal' however well-loved they were.
Be prepared for learning that all parents suffer doubt and worry about how to best care for their children. Beware of falling into the trap of expecting that you should be the world's first perfect parent, just because you are adopting your child;
- However your understanding of your own experiences in life, your ways of reacting and responding within your close relationships and how you have dealt with past personal difficulties needs to be as honest and accurate as you can make it;
- Adoptive applicants who have had particularly difficult life experiences, for example, need to know what effect these have had on them and their way of dealing with pain and emotional stress.
Past problems which have been overcome will almost always have increased your tolerance and resilience, as well as your understanding. They may also have left you vulnerable to negative responses in the face of certain difficulties; understanding these is a crucial element of self awareness when becoming an adoptive parent;
- Married couples can often help each other by honestly sharing the features of their relationship which are rewarding, and then exploring their views of each other's weak spots in a supportive way. Where a loving partner may know how to be most helpful to get over difficulties or disagreements, an adopted child is likely to know just how to "wind you up". How are you going to help each other with this, without blaming the child?
- Some of the following points on children's attachment responses may remind us of ourselves when facing situations we are frightened of, or feel inadequate to cope with. Adoptive applicants' strong desire to have children must be tempered by an honest appraisal of their capacity to respond to a child in a way that is helpful to the child, rather than defensive of their own vulnerabilities;
- To repeat, knowing yourselves and knowing as much as possible about any child you hope to adopt is the best foundation for making appropriate decisions about your possible future together.
4.3 Patterns of Attachment
- Your group preparation will have helped you to understand how the quality of care that a child receives in its very early years has a profound effect on the ease with which he can form close and rewarding relationships with others, i.e. his capacity for, and style of 'attachment';
- Where the child you are considering has been warmly and appropriately cared for - with foster carers from early infancy for instance - the major task is in transferring his healthy and secure attachment from the foster carers to yourselves;
- Worrying as these transfers may seem, a careful introduction programme can minimise the risk of any serious damage and experience shows that a securely attached young child who has to move has excellent prospects of developing a secure attachment to his new parents;
- More often, however, children waiting for adoptive families will have experienced mild to severe inconsistency in their lives. They may have had several moves; several changes of care; a lack of routines and boundaries; uncertainty about basic needs such as food, warmth, cleanliness; unpredictability or complete lack of comfort and affection at crucial times from their parents;
- Such children have to learn how to cope with situations they cannot change, and their patterns of attachment behaviour reflect their own efforts to 'cope'. This means that faced with similar experiences, children may develop different ways of surviving, but they all basically suffer from insecurity;
- During foster care, children with adverse parenting experiences can begin to learn about other more positive patterns of interaction. However, the insecurity of short-term foster care can often mean a child can remain 'detached' without obviously demonstrating the underlying damage to attachment development (see Section 2.4, Considering Children) that has already occurred;
- Recent research (D. Howe: Patterns of Adoption 1998) has suggested four insecure attachment patterns within children placed for adoption. These are:
- Anxious patterns;
- Angry patterns;
- Avoidant patterns.
- Patterns where children appear to have previously had no selective attachments;
- Details of these patterns will be available to you through your group preparation, your Adoption Social Worker and further reading. Suffice to say here, that they are all ways of trying to cope with adverse circumstances in early life; they require understanding and confidence on the part of adoptive parents and despite the hard work that such children present for adopters during their childhoods, there is much evidence for the enormous long-term value of thoughtful, encouraging and warm adoptive parenting for such children;
- In a nutshell, securely attached children develop a positive view of themselves and other people. They have confidence and fun, they can be considerate of others and easy to reassure and comfort because they essentially trust their parents to look after them lovingly;
- Insecurely attached children develop a more-or-less negative view of themselves and other people. They struggle to trust their adoptive parents because past experience has taught them that carers are likely to be unavailable, untrustworthy and a source of emotional stress rather than comfort and warmth;
- Anxiously attached children tend to be those who have had basically some good early parenting experiences that have later become more hostile and neglectful. Their confidence and trust is shaken and at times of change, stress or tension within their lives, their need for reassurance and support is likely to be far greater than the situation would seem to warrant;
- Children develop inner "working models" through their very early relationships with their parents / carers. Where these relationships are characterised by emotional neglect, inconsistency and unreliability, very young children develop a mixed and vulnerable sense of their own 'lovability' and self-worth causing demanding and angry patterns to develop;
- Where children experience early parent figures as cold, hostile, rigid and rejecting, they are likely to defend themselves by developing self-reliance, distance and an avoidance of intimacy - the avoidance pattern;
- For a very small minority of children, their early care may be so fragmented and impersonal over prolonged periods of time that no pattern of attachment emerges. Such children appear to not really forge relationships to any degree; other people are simply sources of interest and gratification; frustration occurs easily and an understanding of others' feelings is very limited. Highly structured environments have the most steadying influence on the difficult behaviour of such children;
- These brief descriptions do little justice to the complexities of emotional and psychological development in children whose childhoods are disturbed by trauma, insecurity and harmful parenting. They tell us nothing of the enormous courage such children display daily; nor of the efforts, however hamfistedly, that they repeatedly make to try to connect with their adoptive parents. Nor do they tell us of the hard-won, but often surprising progress that they can make within the long-term security of supportive adoptive families, who are well advised by knowledgeable professionals.
4.4 Some Implications for Adoptive Parenting
- Where attachment issues are identified for a child that you are considering adopting, you will need detailed information, discussion and planning around how your child may behave and how you can most helpfully respond;
- Where your child does not have identified attachment issues, but does have a history of poor care in his early years, then you need to find out with the help of professionals what attachment needs are likely to exist that have not been identified;
- Sometimes, young children's patterns of interaction may be difficult to accurately identify before your child joins you. Your awareness of 'normal' behaviour in children will be important in helping you not to see every mild misdemeanour as evidence of attachment problems. Conversely, your understanding of your child will be immeasurably enhanced if you start off from a position of some knowledge about why children may behave in ways that are demanding and wearing, when you know that what they really want is to be loved and accepted;
- Essentially any "inner" working model that your child has developed in response to adverse early care will only slowly come to be revised into a more secure and positive one by dint of your understanding and perseverance;
- It is now rather naive, for today's adoptive parents to say they only wish to have a "straight forward" child placed with them for adoption. Whilst some young children for adoption may have had consistently beneficial parenting, they are now few and far between. If you truly feel that this is the only child you would want to parent, then adoption may not be a rewarding way to achieve it. Indeed, no parent is given this kind of guarantee!
We are back to an honest assessment of what your needs as a parent may be and a realistic assessment of what children waiting for adoption need from their adoptive parents. If there isn't a comfortable fit between these two needs, unhappiness and disappointment are the likely results. The children waiting deserve more than this and so do you;
- Whatever the attachment style of a child you come to parent by adoption, the central tasks for you are essentially the same. That is, to demonstrate over time and through the things you say and do with your child that you are sensitive to his needs and can be relied on to respond in ways that are warm, steady and consistent;
- During the three day 'Preparation for Adoption' training course, you will have been given materials to consider how to encourage positive attachment between your child and yourself;
- These materials and ideas are worth a further look, along with the detailed ideas contained in the Adoption UK publications "Tiddlers and Toddlers" and "Tykes and Teens" by Caroline Archer;
- In the face of seemingly destructive, resistant or challenging behaviour it can be enormously difficult to recognise your child's continual need for warmth and reassurance about your capacity to love and protect him;
- Adoptive parents like anyone else can feel the urge to retaliate to a hurtful child; to reject a child when he is being rejecting or to 'control' a wilful child through destructive power struggles or increasingly harsh sanctions that become unsustainable and where everybody loses;
- The noticeable ability of a child with an insecure attachment pattern to draw adoptive parents into playing the same role as earlier damaging parenting figures is well known to Adoption Social Workers. Without an understanding of the child's way of seeing other people, it can be difficult for adoptive parents to find a more productive way of responding. Extra professional help and support can be very valuable at these times;
- It is true to say that adoptive mothers are the most frequent targets for children's 'worst' expectations. These mothers are often on the receiving end of the most powerfully rejecting behaviours that the child can display. The emotional strength and resilience of adoptive mothers together with the supportive behaviour of partners and wider family can be critical features in the successful transformation of children's 'inner' working models to more secure and positive ones;
- All this can seem a long way from many adopters initial dreams and hopes of fulfilling parenthood, and yet, seeing hurt and sad or angry children blossom in your home - seeing their delight at small achievements and knowing that you have offered warmth and understanding where the child expected blame and rejection can be a source of the deepest fulfilment, despite the sometimes unrelenting hard work.
Extract from "Making Better Placements" by Sheila Smith - CoramBAAF Publication 1994
Here are some further questions for you to consider:
- Have you learned more about attachment in preparing for adoption? Do you understand the need to build attachment with a hurt children and what this means for you?
- Have you explored the obstacles to attachment building that the child may produce and ways of overcoming them?
- What help have you had in thinking about managing difficult behaviours? How do you honestly feel about lying and stealing? What feelings do you think rejecting or controlling behaviour might provoke in you? How will you deal with them?
- What roles or family alliances are important in your household? Have you considered how they may be changed by a new member? What messages did you receive in your family? How might they affect you or your parenting skills?
- Who are your 'supporters'? Is anyone who is important to you likely to be intolerant of difficult behaviours or otherwise unsupportive? How will you handle this?
5. After Adoption
After an Adoption Order has been legally granted, the full responsibilities of parenting belong to a child's adoptive parents. Any Care Order or Freeing Order to the Local Authority ceases at this point and the formal requirement for the Local Authority to visit and review the child's situation and progress also comes to an end.
For adoptive families life after adoption goes on much the same as for any family in the community bringing up children. However there will be occasions when the differences that adoption brings will be at the forefront of your mind – some of these will be pleasant and enjoyable, others may be more of a challenge. Hull City Council's Adoption Service is there for you to contact for advice or information, should you need this at any time. The following section describes some of the services available to adoptive parents and families from the Adoption Service, and from the regional 'After Adoption' service.
5.2 General Support
- The staff at the Adoption Service can be contacted during office hours and particularly via the office "duty" system, which ensures that an Adoption Social Worker is available every week-day between 9.00am and 12.30pm, except Wednesdays, when the duty time is 1.30pm - 4.30pm;
- We operate an open-door policy to those adoptive families who live within Hull City, regardless of where their child originally came from and the same applies to those families who live further afield and who adopted their child through Hull City Council;
- If you have a query or a need for advice about adoption-related matters, we will always do our best to help as quickly as possible. Sometimes a single telephone call can provide the help you need; at others it may require some discussion and time to achieve this;
- Where families are needing help with explaining a child's background and early experiences, we should be able to give you advice and support in doing this, or can refer you to After Adoption (Yorkshire)'s local service (see below);
- Where your need is for more intensive help with your child's behaviour or with your relationship with your child, we will try to help you to analyse the issues and may advise you of other appropriate sources of help, if we are not able to provide it;
- Your child's developing sense of identity may lead to your recognition that further information about his birth family is needed. On occasions, children may seem to need to have a meeting with their birth mothers or other family members;
- Older teenagers may approach us directly about their situation or about their need for further information or counselling. Occasionally they may do this without your knowledge and although our broad policy is to encourage such young people towards the open sharing of concerns with adoptive parents this may not always be the most appropriate response;
- In the Appendices - to follow you will find a leaflet "Services for People after Adoption", which indicates the kinds of service on offer at present to all parties to adoption, including young people under 18 years of age.
5.3 Adoption Parties
- These happen twice yearly in February and July;
- The main aim is to provide a social event for adopted children and their families. It is an opportunity for adults to catch up with friends and acquaintances made during the adoption process and for children to meet a whole crowd of other adopted children in an enjoyable way;
- The Winter and Summer parties are also occasions when brothers and sisters growing up in different adoptive families have a chance to meet up and become familiar with each other in a relaxed setting;
- Hull City Council's Adoption Service provides the venue, drinks and entertainment food;
- These are very popular events that we hope to continue providing for years to come. As children grow older, we may propose alternative gatherings for older children, if consultation suggests the kind of arrangement that would be enjoyed;
- To ensure that your names and addresses are on our list, do let your Social Worker know that you wish to be invited or telephone the Administrative staff to confirm your interest.
5.4 Adopter's Support Group
- As the Monthly Support Group has already been mentioned twice in this handbook, this is just a reminder that it is available for adoptive parents after adoption too;
- Hull City Council's Adoption Service is interested in developing new opportunities for adoptive families as the need arises. From time to time we may enquire of past adopters whether there is any specific area that they would like more information on, via group meetings or workshops. Alternatively, we would always be interested to receive suggestions for any form of information or support;
- The current year's list of Support Group Meeting times with dates and topics is available from your social worker.
Adopter's Coffee Morning
- These are held monthly and informal meetings where you can chat to adoption social workers and discuss any issues with fellow adopters.
Independent Counselling and Advice
- Hull Children and Families Department has developed an arrangement with an independent voluntary body called After Adoption Yorkshire for some independent provision of advice and support after adoption.
5.5 Letterbox Scheme
- The 'Letterbox Service' is designed to enable news to be passed between birth relatives and adoptive families in a confidential way;
- These arrangements are usually expected to continue until your child reaches adulthood. However, everyone's circumstances develop and change over time and as your child grows older, he may have his own views on this process;
- An explanatory leaflet is enclosed in the Appendices - to follow to this handbook, which covers a range of details. If there are any issues or concerns that arise for you, please contact the Adoption Service staff for advice.
6. Some Important Matters
This section covers some difficult areas that you do need to know about. Most adopted children 'grow' into their families, and are loved and cared about for the rest of their lives, through thick and thin, as other family members are. However, this does not mean that some particular problems may not arise, or that occasionally, children may not leave their adoptive families when relationships have become untenable.
In all instances of difficulty, you should find Hull City Council is open and sensitive in its dealings with you. You should seek advice from organisations such as Adoption U.K. for extra support too. The final sub-section looks at how you can complain if you feel unhappy about the service you receive.
Problems are best solved if we work together, if we keep open minds, and if we each challenge any response that is destructive or dismissive. Knowing the procedures that are in place for the two following areas – disruption and child protection – will be a real help to you, should you find yourself in either of these positions.
Both disruptions and allegations of child maltreatment are rare occurrences, and you should read the following sections, to be informed, rather than to be alarmed.
- "Disruption" is a term given to a child prematurely leaving the care of his adoptive parents, usually because of difficulties that have not been resolved;
- A disruption can occur during placement for adoption, or after a legal adoption has been finalised. It is usually the result of adoptive parents requesting that a child leaves them because they feel unable to continue providing a home for their child. Less usually, it may be the decision of professionals in the interests of the child, or at the request of the child;
- The reasons for relationships failing are many and varied; they are rarely the result of a single event or a single person, but are much more likely to be the sad consequence of a combination of circumstances. Disruptions to adoptive placements occur for the same kind of reasons;
- Communication and understanding (sharing, listening and learning) are often at the heart of these difficulties. For example, maybe your child's difficulties were not fully understood or not properly communicated to you at the time he joined you. Maybe your expectations of yourself or of your child turn out to be unrealistic. Maybe you have been struggling for sometime and felt unable to share this or to seek help;
- The possibilities are many; the essential message is that preparation for adoption is also a preparation for dealing with difficulties. A willingness to confront uncomfortable feelings in a non-blaming way is a first step for everyone towards finding solutions, and that includes professionals;
- Whatever support and specialist help may have been given, there are still occasions when relationships cannot be healed, and where a child leaves his adoptive family, either temporarily or permanently. Whatever the reason, a thorough sharing of everything that is known can be fruitful for better understanding of the past and more appropriate planning for the future;
- Sometimes such a 'sharing' can be productive before a child has left his adoptive family. At others it will necessarily occur after that. An independently chaired meeting of everyone involved, called a 'Disruption Meeting' is a common way of doing this and there are notes in the Appendices - to follow which give greater detail on the format and organisation of such meetings;
- If, despite efforts to avoid it, a child has to leave his adoptive family, the pain and guilt that everyone suffers is enormous. There can be a strong urge in adoptive parents to try to get on with their lives and to close the door to any more discussion or contact;
- For a child, this urge to 'close down' in adults, simply adds more pain. What can be of help over time are the same things that helped at the time of joining his adoptive family – sensitive explanations, written and photographic records of the past, and someone brave enough to face his confusion and sadness with him. Letters and visits can be very helpful in the early weeks and months, however strained relationships are;
- Hull City Council does ask prospective adoptive parents whose young child has to move out, to help in the preparation a record of his time with them, and in helping to prepare the child for such a move;
- Your Adoption Social Worker will spend time with you, offering counselling and listening, as you deal with your sadness. Your Social Worker can also help you in your dealings with other professionals who may be involved in arranging for alternative care for your child;
- Where a child has been legally adopted, adoptive parents continue to have legal responsibility for their child and you will be vital partners in arranging for the best plans for your child if he has to leave your care;
- Information about your legal situation and the Local Authority's involvement with your child should be freely available to you;
- Recovery from a 'disruption' is likely to be a lengthy and difficult process. Consider all offers of help that may support you through this, and if there is anything that you do not understand or are worried about, please ask for clear explanations and make your views known.
6.3 Safeguarding Matters
- Should an adoptive parent be the subject of an allegation of conduct likely to cause emotional, sexual or physical harm to the child, the standard child protection procedures will be implemented. This applies whether the child has been legally adopted, or is not yet adopted;
- Similarly, should a child disclose to his adoptive parents, previously unknown suffering of any harm, they must report this to the Social Services Department for investigation;
- In brief, the standard child protection procedures, as applied to adoption, are as follows If an allegation is made relating to the time since a child was placed with his/her adoptive family.
We would expect to be informed immediately and would expect the local authority covering the area where the child is living to conduct any enquiries following discussion with the child's agency.
If there is an allegation / disclosure made about any previous carers we would again expect to be informed immediately and the child's agency would undertake the enquiries. In both cases we would expect to work closely with any other Authority and be kept informed of events or keep others informed of events
6.4 Concerns / Compliments / Complaints
- Hull City Council's Adoption Service is committed to improving its responsiveness to the comments and concerns of its service users;
- As prospective adoptive parents your views are sought at various points in relation to:
- The information you receive;
- The group preparation courses;
- The quality of the PAR Report presented to Panel;
- The overall process you have experienced.
- We also keep a Concerns, Compliments and Complaints 'log' to ensure that your comments are recorded and taken seriously;
- 'Concerns' are to do with those areas where you believe things could be done better. Concerns are not complaints, but are very much to do with feedback on ways of improving the quality of service which adoptive applicants receive;
- 'Compliments' are where you let us know of anything that you have particularly valued or appreciated, be it major or minor;
- 'Complaints' are where you feel seriously aggrieved about something, and wish to have this formally investigated;
- You can make your concerns or compliments known to any Adoption Social Worker who will log it and ensure the Team Leader is informed;
- You may also chose to register any concern directly with the Adoption Service Team Leader, particularly if you would like to know what actions may be taken as a result of your concern;
- A 'Concern' may become a complaint if you are not happy with any proposed action, and you let us know that you wish to pursue the matter further;
- A 'Complaint' may be made to a range of people, including the Customer Group Manager (see below), either in writing or by telephone or visit. However, in the first instance any complaint will be passed for the Adoption Service Team Leader's attention unless it is apparent that a more Senior Manager should arrange an investigation;
- A 'Complaint' will be acknowledged in writing within 7 days of receipt and you should be kept regularly informed of how your complaint is being dealt with, up to the final outcome;
- The Complaints Group Manager is based at Brunswick House, Strand Close, Beverley Road, Hull, (T: 01482 616159);
- A detailed set of procedures has been developed to ensure the careful and consistent handling of complaints;
- Your views matter to us and whilst we cannot guarantee to always be able to change something for you, the keeping of a 'log' of your concerns or comments, helps us to identify what we do well and what we need to re-consider;
- It may be just as important to tell us what you appreciate as what you find unwelcome, so that a balanced outcome for service users is achieved.
- Adoption: Some Questions Answered;
- Information for Birth Parents and Relatives about Adoption;
- Information for Children about Adoption. (In revision);
- Information for Adoptive Parents;
- Information for Prospective Adopters: Attending Adoption Panel.
- Information for Adoptive Parents "Letterbox Service";
- Information for Birth Parents / Relatives "Letterbox Service;
- Services to Help People after Adoption;
- Meetings between Adoptive Parents and Birth Parents or Relatives.
These are available from your adoption social worker.