Foster Carers Who Wish to Adopt the Child they are Fostering
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTERThis chapter contains the procedures to be followed when a Foster Carer expresses an interest in adopting a child / children they are currently caring for.
The plan for every Child Looked After must be to achieve permanence. For some children, this can best be achieved by their foster carers becoming their adoptive parents.
However, it is important that any decision about foster carers adopting their foster children is based on sound consideration of the potential of the carers as adoptive parents and that this will be in the best long-term interests of the children.
A skilled foster carer cannot be assumed to be an appropriate adoptive parent. Some different skills and competencies are required, such as:
- Acceptance that they are providing a permanent home for the child no matter what behaviour the child may present;
- Acknowledgement that support will be offered but in a different way from the support available to foster carers;
- Acceptance that they may have to manage birth family contact without the high level of support they have previously received as foster carers;
- Ability and willingness to take on sole Parental Responsibility for the child and a financial and emotional commitment for life.
2. Permanence Planning Following an Expression of Interest by a Foster Carer to Adopt the Child in their Care
If a foster carer expresses an interest in adopting a child for whom they are caring, a visit will be undertaken by the supervising social worker, the child's social worker and the family finder (where applicable). The purpose of this meeting is to explore the potential match and decide whether to progress to an assessment of the foster family's suitability to adopt the child/ren. If the outcome of this meeting is positive, the child's social worker should immediately convene a Permanence Planning Meeting which will be chaired by the Adoption Team manager.
The meeting will include the foster carers, supervising social worker for the carer; the relevant Children Looked After practice manager, family finder and the practice manager for adoption recruitment and assessment. The meeting will consider:
- The current plan for the child;
- The child's wishes and feelings;
- The assessment of the child's needs and the foster carers' ability to meet those needs via adoption, both in the short term and long term;
- The availability of other adopters for the child and whether pursuing an assessment with the foster carer will cause delay in securing legal permanence;
- The length of placement, quality of the attachment and risks to the child's emotional well-being of disrupting the attachment;
- The carers motivation in wishing to adopt this child;
- The contact plans for the child, and should they be reviewed if the child is being adopted by the carers;
- Any risk to the child from the birth family having current placement knowledge of the foster care, and any associated geographical risks in the long term as well as short term;
- Implications for sibling contact, both now and in the future;
- The foster carer's intentions regarding continuing as short-term or long-term foster carers for other children and the likely impact of this on the current child needing permanence;
- Consideration of a direct application to Court by the foster carer, supported by the department; and
- Eligibility for adoption allowance.
The child's social worker has a role in ensuring that the placement will meet the long-term needs of the child. The foster carers' supervising social worker has a role to ensure the foster carers have considered the impact on themselves and their family of a decision to commit long term to a particular child.
The elements that would normally be considered to make a good match may only be partly present, e.g. the carers may be older than ideal. However the positive advantages of maintaining an existing relationship of quality, the perceived durability of this relationship, the benefits of maintaining existing networks of support are all factors that need to be considered and a balance of risks and rewards considered.
Following the permanence planning meeting, if the decision is to pursue the foster carers interest, an allocated assessing social worker will undertake a visit to plan stage two of the adoption assessment process with the foster carer. They will ensure that the approval and matching panel are timetabled within timescale with child's social worker and family finder.
The child social worker will advise the IRO of the carers' interest.
Where the match does not appear to be in the child's best interests the foster carers will be advised in writing of the reasons by the child's social worker. If any child has been living with foster carers for a year or more the foster carer may make an application to court for an Adoption Order as a "non agency adoption". In this situation, Calderdale will not support this or underwrite the costs.
The implications of this are that the foster carers will not be entitled to any form of post adoption allowance nor is it necessary to have an Adoption Support Plan. See also: Non Agency Adoption Procedure (One Adoption).
It is important to note that if foster carers submit a "non-agency" application to court for an Adoption Order, the child may not be removed from them without the permission of the court. If foster carers apply to the court for an Adoption Order to prevent the child being removed immediate legal advice should be sought.
3. Foster Carers making a Direct Application to Court with the support of the Local Authority
This is a relatively rare occurrence.
In some situations it may be appropriate to encourage foster carers down this route. Although there is no requirement for a post adoption support plan and no adoption allowance is payable, it avoids the need to assess the adopters as prospective adopters. If the child is not already subject to a Placement Order it also means that there is no necessity to return to court for a Placement Order. It is also likely that the adoption can be secured much faster using this route particularly if the child is not subject to a Placement Order.
These factors must be carefully balanced by social care staff when discussing options with the foster carers. If the recommendation is to support a non-agency adoption, then the case should be referred to the Gateway Panel In exceptional circumstances, the head of service can consider support similar to that of an agency adoption cases.
4. Approval of Foster Carers Who Wish to Adopt a Child in their Care
The decision as to whether the prospective adopter is suitable to adopt a child must be made within four months of the date on which the prospective adopter registered their interest in adopting a child.
The Stage One is not necessary, and the assessment process progresses straight to preparation of the Prospective Adopter's Report.
There is no requirement to carry out police checks or to gather the specified information in relation to the prospective adopter and their household, unless it is considered to be necessary. This will depend on the time since approval as foster carers.
Personal references will be taken up.
The information collected will vary according to the individual circumstances but will include information on:
- Child's wishes and feelings;
- The age and health of the foster carers and their ability to offer care until adulthood and beyond;
- Their understanding of the lifelong nature of adoption;
- The views of other family members particularly birth children of the foster carers, prospective grandparents etc.;
- The likely view of the child's birth family;
- Risks associated with the proposed placement, for example. Do the birth family know where the foster carers live etc.; and how do the carers propose to work and live with risks;
- The length of time the child has been with the foster carers and the level of attachment;
- Discussion around their proposals about continued fostering and the impact on the child.
Any necessary additional training should be provided, or evidenced in the assessment that full consideration has been made by the foster carer to the transition from foster carer to adopter.
As the child will have lived with the adopter for 10 weeks or more, the carer will be expected to lodge their adoption application immediately following approval of the match by the Agency Decision Maker (ADM). At this point the child becomes "placed for adoption". Both the adoption social worker and the child's social worker will also have completed their Annex A report for submission with the application to ensure the child or children is legally secured as soon as possible.
5. Adoption Allowance for Former Foster Carers
It is important during the initial stages for prospective adopters to be clear about the procedure with respect to adoption allowance.
The circumstances in which provision of regular financial support may be paid to adopters are as follows:
- Where it is necessary to ensure that adoptive parents can look after a child;
- Where the child needs special care which requires a greater expenditure of resources by reason of illness, disability, emotional or behavioural difficulties or the continuing consequences of neglect - and the child's condition is serious and long-term;
- Where it is necessary for the local authority to make any special arrangements to facilitate the placement or the adoption by reason of the age or ethnic origin of the child or the desirability of the child being placed with siblings or a child with whom he/she has previously shared a home.
In terms of the adoption allowance for the child, this is based on the same financial assessment as all adopters, unless there are exceptional circumstances.
6. Transitional Allowances
Under the 2005 Adoption Support regulations, a foster carer may receive their skills based payment or remuneration for up to a maximum of two years, unless there are exceptional circumstances.
When considering what defines exceptional circumstances, the following should be considered:
- What are the particular needs of the child, over and above the needs of other children with an adoption plan?
- What are the financial resources of the foster carer?
The purpose of the transitional provision is to enable local authorities to maintain payments to foster parents who go on to adopt, at the same rate as they received when they were fostering the child. This is intended to give the family time to adjust to their new circumstances.
The transitional payment covers the fostering fee for the child being adopted. It will be paid for the full two years as long as the placement previously occupied by the adopted child is not filled. If another foster child fills this vacancy within the 24 month period the transitional payment will cease as the family will be in receipt of a fostering fee once more.
|The transitional payment will decrease over a period of two years as follows:|
|0 – 12 months post adoption order||100% of fee and allowance (minus child benefit)|
|12 – 18 months post adoption order||75% of fee and allowance (minus child benefit)|
|18 – 24 months post adoption order||50% of fee and allowance (minus child benefit)|
Each foster family is unique and each child has their own individual needs. It is important therefore that during the adoption assessment, the carers, the child s social worker and the fostering and adoption workers social workers reach an agreed understanding of when, and if, the carer will resume fostering. It is very important that the carer is made fully aware of the likely timescale before they can be re-assessed and hope to resume their fostering career. Foster carers must be reminded that re-assessment does not necessarily mean re-approval.
As adopting a child is a significant change in the household, assuming the carers continue to have a spare bedroom in the home, a foster carer review will be undertaken and a report taken to the Fostering Panel to re-consider their approval range prior to them re-commencing fostering.
If it is decided that a foster carer is not able to continue fostering for any for any period of time following the placement for adoption, the carer(s) will be asked to resign from this date. The fostering staff will ensure the carer(s) are made fully aware of the process and likely timescale before they can be re-assessed and hope to resume their fostering career. Foster carers must be reminded that re-assessment does not necessarily mean re-approval.