Adoption assessment process

On 1 July 2013 the government announced a new six month approval process for prospective adopters. The new process consists of a two-month pre-qualification stage, followed by a four-month full assessment stage.

A fast-track route is also available for approved foster carers who wish to adopt children in their care and those who have adopted before.

For more information on the new assessment process visit the first4adoption website.

We started using this new two-stage process to assess prospective applicants from 1 September 2013.

A guide to the new adoption assessment process

Pre-stage

1. Initial contact and enquiry from adoption applicant(s)

2. An information pack will be sent to adoption enquirers within five days. This will include details of the dates of upcoming information sessions for adoption enquirers.

3. Information session for adoption enquirers, which includes a talk from an existing adopter and the opportunity to speak with a social worker.

Stage 1: Initial training and preparation (two months)

Stage 1 begins with us accepting your registration of interest form. We will decide whether or not to accept the registration of interest within five working days (unless there are exceptional circumstances).

1. Statutory and local authority checks are undertaken; medical and personal references collected, including those from previous partners; criminal records checked.

2. Adoption workbook completed - this includes health and safety, accommodation, pet questionnaire, chronology, journey to adoption, detailed written information on a range of topics including pen picture, family background, educational experiences, health, employment, support networks, relationships, financial questionnaire and child care experience. We will support you in completing this.

3. Preparation day (training).

4. Stage 1 will be completed with our written decision as to whether you can proceed to Stage 2.

Stage 2: Assessment stage (four months)

Stage 2 is agency-led and begins you confirm with the agency that you wish to proceed.

1. A formal agreement is drawn up between you and us covering the Stage 2 process.

2. You will complete a four-day consolidation course.

3. You will be allocated an adoption social worker to work with you to complete your assessment report, called the Prospective Adopters Report. You will have already carried out some preparatory work on this in Stage 1.

4. We will then complete the Prospective Adopter Report.

5. You will be invited to attend the Adoption and Permanence Panel with your social worker. The panel will recommend whether you're suitable to adopt.

6. Stage 2 will be completed with our decision on suitability to adopt.

There is provision for you to extend both stages if you feel you need more time; this must be clearly recorded.

The Prospective Adopters' Report

The adoption social worker will arrange to meet with you in your own home. Generally the assessment is completed within four months unless there are extenuating circumstances.

If you are working, you will need to be committed to making yourself available for these sessions, which tend to take at least two hours. The assessment process involves:

1. Discussions with the adoption social worker about your background, your way of life, culture and religion, any skills in relation to caring for children and the likely effect.

2. The effect of adoption on you and your family. The adoption social worker will need to gather evidence from you that you have experience in caring for children, promoting a safe and caring home environment, working as part of a team and that you have an appreciation that adoption is a life long process.

3. Once all the information is gathered, the social worker will write the Prospective Adopters' Report for presentation to the Adoption Panel, which meets once a month. You will see the report (except the written references) once it has been written. If there are any points where you disagree with the social worker's assessment, your comments will be recorded on the report. You will be asked for your comments and if you agree with the report you will be asked to sign it.

The Adoption Panel

The Adoption Panel is a group of people with considerable experience of adoption and childcare. The composition of the panel is regulated by the Adoption Agency Regulations and has four independent members.

The panel members will have questions about the assessment report, which they will put to your social worker and yourself, and after the discussion they will arrive at a recommendation, which goes to the agency decision maker, who makes the final decision regarding whether or not you are approved as an adoptive parent. The decision maker is a senior officer at the council.

After approval

Once you have been approved as an adoptive family, your adoption social worker will help you find a child/children who is/are a suitable match for you.

Your details will be shared with the West London Adoption Consortium boroughs (Ealing, Hounslow, Hillingdon, Harrow, the City of Westminster and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea) to help us find the best match of child for you.

Your information will also be shared with the National Adoption Register, which is a register operating in England and Wales and has details of all available approved adopters and children waiting to be placed.

There is a detailed assessment and matching process prior to a child coming to live with you. Once a child is placed with you, you can apply for an adoption order after a minimum of ten weeks. You can wait longer than this before applying to the court, to give you and the child a chance to settle down together. You would need to talk this through with your adoption social worker, who will help you with your application.

An Adoption Order is the legal order granted to you by a court which gives you sole and irreversible responsibilities for your adopted child. Every effort is made to make this a friendly and welcoming process.

After the Adoption Order is granted, a social worker from the Adoption Support team will be allocated to provide on going support to your family.

What if you don't get approved to adopt?

If an agency is planning not to approve prospective adopters, the applicants can make representations to the agency asking them to review their determination. In England, as an alternative, applicants can request that an independent body (Independent Review Mechanism) undertake this review and make a recommendation to the agency.