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EalingChildren's Services Procedures Manual

Adoption and Permanence Panel

This chapter is currently under review.

Contents

  1. Adoption and Permanence Panel Purpose and Function
  2. Adoption and Permanence Panel Membership
  3. Medical Advisor
  4. Legal Advisor
  5. The Agency Advisor
  6. Reports to Panel
  7. Adoption and Permanence Panel Meetings
  8. Adoption and Permanence Panel Minutes
  9. The Agency Decision Maker (ADM)

1. Adoption and Permanence Panel Purpose and Function

The Adoption and Permanence Panel contributes to the running and quality assurance of the local authority's adoption service and receives annual reports on the service and its performance.

In doing so it has an overriding responsibility to promote good practice, consistency of approach and fairness in all aspects of the adoption service, in accordance with its procedures and values.

1.1 Recommendations

As part of this function, the Panel makes recommendations as to the following:

  1. The suitability of prospective adoptive applicants to adopt;
  2. Whether a child is suitable to be placed for adoption, in some cases or long term fostering;
  3. Whether a child should be placed for adoption with particular prospective adopters;
  4. Whether prospective long term foster carers are suitable to become long term foster carers;
  5. Whether a long term foster carer is suitable to long term foster a particular child;
  6. Whether a Stage 2 assessment should continue;
  7. Whether a Stage 2 assessment should be terminated.

The panel can only make a recommendation when it is quorate. The recommendations must be unconditional and cannot be 'in principle'.

1.2 Making a Recommendation

In considering the recommendation the panel can make:

  • A positive recommendation; or
  • A negative recommendation; or
  • Defer the case for further information.

1.3 Timescales

The Adoption and Permanence Panel makes a recommendation on the suitability of a prospective adopter to adopt within six months of the start of the 2 Stage assessment process.

Adoption and Permanence Panels make a recommendation on whether a child who is deemed to be relinquished (where the parents have given consent and there is no application for a Placement Order) is suitable to be placed for adoption within 8 weeks of the Looked After Review where adoption was identified as the child's Permanence Plan and no more than 12 weeks from their birth.

Adoption and Permanence Panels make a recommendation on the proposed placement of a child with particular prospective adopters within six months of the Agency Decision Maker (Adoption) decision that the child is suitable to be placed for adoption.

For a child who is relinquished the timescales are placement with prospective adopters within 3 months from the date of the Agency Decision Maker's decision that the child is suitable to be placed for adoption.

Where the timescales are not met, the Adoption and Permanence Panel should record the reasons.

1.4 Advice

The Adoption and Permanence Panel may also give advise on the following issues:

  1. Where prospective adoptive parents are recommended as suitable to adopt, the number of children the adoptive parents may be suitable to adopt, as well as their age range, sex, likely needs and background, and, in the case of inter country adopters, the country from which they are suitable to adopt;
  2. Where it is recommended that a child is suitable to be placed for adoption, what the contact arrangements for the child should be;
  3. Where it is recommended that a child should be placed with particular prospective adopters, the proposed adoption support, future contact arrangements and whether/how the exercise of Parental Responsibility by birth parents and/or prospective adopters should be restricted.

1.5 Monitoring

The Adoption and Permanence Panel monitors the progress of individual children for whom adoption is the plan up to the making of an Adoption Order, through progress reports as required under the Placement for Adoption Procedure, and receives Disruption Reports in relation to any breakdowns in adoptive placements (see Disruption of Adoptive Placements Procedure).

The Panel will receive and consider data about the children and adopters who are still awaiting a placement. The report should be presented to Panel by the Agency Advisor quarterly.

The Adoption and Permanence Panel Chair should also provide feedback to the adoption agency every six months on the quality of reports and whether there is a fair and consistent approach across the service.

2. Adoption and Permanence Panel Membership

There is no fixed Panel membership or maximum number of members or maximum tenure of office.

A Central List needs to be maintained containing a list of persons considered to be suitable to be members of an Adoption and Permanence Panel. When setting up an Adoption and Permanence Panel, members will be drawn from this Central List. The same people do not have to be appointed to every Panel meeting.

The Central List should include (in addition to the Independent Chair):
  • Adoption social workers with at least 3 years' relevant post qualifying experience in child care social work, including direct experience in adoption work (not necessarily employed by the agency);
  • The Medical Advisor(s);
  • Other persons whom the agency considers suitable including specialists in education; race and culture; child and adolescent mental health services; and those with personal experience of adoption.

The Chair must be independent of the adoption agency, and is appointed by the Designated Manager (Adoption and Permanence Panel Appointments).

The Panel must also have one, and can have two, Vice Chairs (who are not necessarily independent members), who are also appointed by the Designated Manager (Adoption and Permanence Panel Appointments).

The Agency Decision Maker (Adoption) on adoption matters must not be included on the Central List.

In order for Panel to be quorate 5 panel members must be present, including the Chair or Vice Chair, one of the adoption social worker representatives and at least one independent member. In order to ensure there are no quoracy issues 7 Panel members will be rostered to attend every Panel

2.1 Appointments to the Central List

Those on the Central List are appointed by the Designated Manager (Adoption and Permanence Panel Appointments).

All those on the Central List should have undergone a recruitment process that includes interviews, identity checks, verification of qualifications and right to work in the UK, references and Disclosure and Barring Service checks, which are recorded.

New appointees will be asked to give signed agreement to checks being undertaken as above and cannot take up their appointment until the outcome of the checks are known. They are excluded from Panel membership if they have any offences against children or of violence. All members of the Central List are required to notify the Agency Advisor immediately if they receive such a conviction or caution while on the Central List.

All new appointees will be required to; observe an Adoption and Permanence Panel meeting and have induction training before they sit as a member; attend an annual joint training day with adoption agency staff; access appropriate training and skills development and are kept abreast of changes to legislation, regulation and guidance.

They should also have access to the agency's Whistleblowing policy.

Written information about the expectations arising from their appointment should be given to new appointees to the Central List (in relation to their performance objectives, participation in induction and other training, safeguarding the confidentiality of information provided to the Panel and their general conduct - see Section 2.2, Confidentiality and Section 2.3, General Conduct) and they should be asked to sign a written agreement confirming their acceptance of these before taking up their appointment.

2.2 Confidentiality and Data Protection

All written and verbal information given to Panel members in the course of their duties is strictly confidential. As indicated above, those included on the Central List are required to sign a written agreement, before their appointment, to confirm that all information they receive will remain confidential.

Panel members are expected to keep all written information in a secure place and return all Panel documents to the agency immediately after each Panel meeting. All confidential information must be securely erased from any personal computer and handheld devices.

Panel members must not copy, in part or in whole, any documents that relate to a case.

Failure to comply with the above paragraphs may result in the member's inclusion on the Central List being terminated.

2.3 General Conduct

All those on the Central List should be committed to anti-discriminatory practice and should be prepared to consider each case on its own merits.

Panel members should have read the Panel papers carefully, prior to the Panel meeting, and come prepared to present their questions and queries during the pre-panel discussion.

Each Panel Member on the Central List will have an annual Review of performance with the Agency Advisor and the Panel Chair.

If there are concerns about the conduct or behaviour of a person on the Central List, this should be conveyed to the Chair and or Agency Advisor who will raise these concerns with the person in private.

If such concerns cannot be resolved informally, the Chair, in consultation with the Agency Advisor, will write to the person concerned setting out the concerns and what action it is proposed to take. See Section 2.6, Termination of Appointment to the Central List for action that may be taken if the concerns continue.

The Chair's performance will be reviewed annually by the Agency Decision Maker and the Agency Advisor, taking into account the views of those who attend Panel meetings, namely, persons on the Central List, social workers and prospective adopters.

2.4 Conflicts of Interest

Panel members should consider any conflicts of interest in relation to Panel agenda items. A potential conflict arises if an interest may be seen to adversely affect a Panel member's capacity to act without prejudice or preference in a matter.

It is anticipated that in many circumstances there may be professional knowledge of a case which should be notified to the Chair but which will not affect a member's capacity to participate in the Panel. In other circumstances there may be a personal interest or connection which would require the Panel member to refrain from participation. It may be less clear in some cases when advice should be sought.

Therefore if a Panel member has some prior knowledge or involvement in a case, whether in a personal or professional capacity, they should declare an interest by informing the Agency Advisor to the Panel at the earliest opportunity, so that the Agency Advisor can determine, in consultation with the Panel Chair and or Legal Advisor, if there is a conflict of interest or it can be dealt via a declaration of interest. If it is the former the Panel Member will not be able to hear that case.

2.5 Resignations from the Central List

All those on the Central List are expected to give a minimum of one month's written notice of their wish to resign, except where personal emergencies e.g. accidents, illness, make this impossible. Resignation letters should be addressed to the Designated Manager (Adoption and Permanence Panel Appointments), with a copy to the Chair of the Panel and the Agency Advisor.

Initial verbal resignations may be given, but should always be followed by a written resignation. Those on the Central List are asked, as a matter of courtesy, to inform the Agency Advisor of their intention to resign, before making any public announcement.

Those on the Central List wishing to withdraw a submitted written resignation must do so before the one month notice period expires by writing to the Designated Manager (Adoption and Permanence Panel Appointments), who reserves the right not to accept a withdrawal of notice and to allow the original letter of resignation to stand.

2.6 Termination of Appointment to the Central List

Where it is considered that someone is unsuitable to be on the Central List, they must be given one month's notice in writing and reasons for the decision to end their appointment.

Where there are concerns about the behaviour of a person on the Central List either inside or outside the meetings, and the difficulties have not been resolved by discussion and correspondence between the Chair, Agency Advisor and the person concerned, the matter will be raised by the Agency Advisor with the Designated Manager (Adoption and Permanence Panel Appointments), who will decide whether to propose the end of the appointment and if so, will advise the person concerned in writing giving clear reasons for the proposal.

The person concerned will be given the opportunity to make observations on the matter before a final decision is made by the Designated Manager (Adoption and Permanence Panel Appointments).

3. Medical Advisor

The medical advisor to the panel (children) must be a registered medical practitioner and a specialist in paediatrics.

The medical advisor will be a member of the panel.

The medical advisor will review all children who are to be considered by the panel and provide additional medical information as necessary. A written summary will be provided to the panel.

The medical advisor will review the medical assessments of all adults being considered by the panel and will provide written comments for the panel as to their suitability.

The medical advisor will be available for consultation to the Department outside the panel.

Since 1st September 2012 the Panel no longer considers the plan of adoption for a child unless they are relinquished. The Agency has decided that the presence of a Legal Advisor is not required at every Panel. However the Panel via the Chair or the Agency advisor can seek legal advice on behalf of Panel in specific cases if it is deemed to be necessary.

The legal advisor will consider all the reports presented to the Panel in respect of the specific case before providing advice.

5. The Agency Advisor

The Agency Advisor, who must be a senior practitioner or manager in the adoption service with at least 5 years' relevant post-qualification and management experience, attends all Panel meetings to advise the Panel but is not a member of the Panel. Their role is to ensure all the necessary reports submitted for Panel's consideration are fit for purpose and are available for the Panel within the required timescales. The Agency Advisor will advise the Panel on social work and procedural matters and provide feedback to social workers and their managers on issues arising from Panel meetings.

Where the Panel is considering a matter relating to an inter country adoption, the Agency Advisor must arrange to provide specialist advice and any relevant information required in order to assist the Panel to make an informed recommendation.

The Agency Advisor's role is also to assist with appointments to the Central List, to arrange induction and other training for those on the Central List monitor and review their performance and monitor and review the administration of the Panel.

The Agency advisor will also compile a rota for panel members' attendance at panel meetings, at least two or three months in advance, ensuring that everyone on the central List has the opportunity to attend sufficient meetings in any given year.

Social workers presenting reports to the Panel must send their report and any supporting documentation required to the Panel Administrator at least 12 working days before the date of the Panel meeting. 

The Agency Advisor will quality assure all the reports, the child's permanence report, the prospective adopter's report and the adoption placement report and provide verbal/written feedback to Social Workers and Team Managers on issues which require further clarity/work before the papers can be circulated for Panel's consideration.

6. Reports to Panel

Reports to the Adoption and Permanence Panel in relation to matters upon which the Panel are asked to make recommendations must be prepared by qualified social workers with at least 3 years' post-qualification experience. This must include direct experience of adoption work either in assessing prospective adoptive parents or implementing an adoption plan for a Looked After child.  Where the author of the report does not have the requisite qualifications and experience, he or she must have either a qualification in social work or be a social worker in training, and must be supervised by a qualified social worker with 3 years' relevant experience.

Where the person preparing the report is an independent social worker, they must always be suitably qualified and experienced and be supervised by a member of staff with the suitable qualifications and experience;

The Panel should receive the following completed and up to date reports:

6.1 Reports for Relinquished Child

  • CPR – if it is more than three months old it should be updated;
  • Medical advice;
  • Legal Advice if required.

6.2 Report for Prospective Adopters

  • PAR (Prospective Adopter's Report), including nursery/school reference if a child is attending nursery/school;
  • Medical advice.

6.3 Placement of a Child with Specific Adopters

  • CPR;
  • Medical advice;
  • Agency Advisor's advice to the Agency Decision Maker;
  • Agency Decision Maker's Decision sheet;
  • PAR;
  • APR (Adoption Placement Report) including views of the prospective adopters on the proposed placement;
  • Adoption Support Plan.

6.4 Placement of a Child with Long Term Foster Carers

  • Form E/CPR;
  • Form F – assessment of foster carers;
  • Placement report;
  • Support plan.

6.5 Brief Report for Prospective Adopter/s and Long Term Foster Carer/s

  • Brief Report;
  • Observations of the applicant/s;
  • Any other relevant information.

7. Adoption and Permanence Panel Meetings

The Adoption and Permanence Panel should meet at least monthly. The Agency Advisor will ask the Panel Administrator to arrange additional special meetings at short notice as necessary, with the Chair's authority, where for example there is a need to consider an urgent placement and/or the Court timetable requires it.

The Panel Administrator will prepare and circulate an annual list of Adoption and Permanence Panel dates and deadlines in advance of the designated start of the Panel's year.

The Panel Administrator, in consultation with the Agency Advisor, will prepare the agenda for each meeting. The agenda will be circulated to the presenting Social Workers who should formally invite the applicant/s to attend the panel.

The agenda and Panel papers for each meeting should be sent to Panel members at least five working days before the meeting.

The Panel has access to legal advice if required but the Legal advisor no longer attends Panel routinely since the consideration of the child's permanence plan is no longer considered by the panel other than for children who are relinquished. The agenda will include at the beginning an opportunity for any Panel member to declare an interest in any item on the agenda (see Section 2.4, Conflicts of Interest). If an interest is declared, the Chair must then decide whether the Panel member should withdraw during consideration of the item.

7.1 Consideration of cases

Prior to panel all the panel members will be required to read all the cases reports and have identified any questions pertinent to the recommendation before them. Panel members are not reassessing the applicant/s. During the pre-panel discussion the chair will agree the questions to be asked of the social worker and applicant/s. The Panel's consideration of every case should be robust whilst being supportive and non-judgemental towards social workers and applicants.

Depending upon whether Panel is considering prospective adopters suitability to adopt or the placement of a child with specific adopters, the assessing Social Worker, child's Social Worker, applicant/s and the child's current carer (usually a foster carer) will be invited into the panel together unless there are any questions relating to the references when the social worker will be seen on their own.

Following the conclusion of Panel's questions the social workers and applicants should be given the opportunity to ask questions of the Panel. Following this the Chair will ask them to withdraw whilst Panel considers its recommendation.

If the Panel cannot reach a consensus during their consideration of a case, the Chair will consider whether further information is required or whether the Panel should go ahead and make a recommendation on the basis of the majority view.  In this event, any dissenting views should be fully recorded in the minutes. If the Panel Chair uses their casting vote the reasons for this must be fully recorded in the minutes.

Depending upon the circumstances the social workers and applicants may be invited back into Panel to hear the Panel's recommendation or the Chair and Agency advisor may inform them of the recommendation outside of the Panel meeting.

The social workers and applicants will then be asked by the Agency Advisor to provide written feedback to panel about their experience of Panel. The Panel will consider all feedback on the day.

The Chair will collate views and provide written feedback to the Agency Decision Maker on every case presented to Panel.

At the end of each Panel meeting, the Panel Administrator will collect all members' papers. Panel members unable to attend a meeting will be asked to return his or her papers to the Panel administrator.

8. Adoption and Permanence Panel Minutes

The Panel minutes will always record the information in relation to the following:

  1. The reports received;
  2. Who attended and for which part of the discussion;
  3. Medical advice;
  4. Legal advice, if applicable;
  5. The Panel's discussions (main points) and conclusions;
  6. The Panel's recommendations and reasons, including any reservations expressed by any member;
  7. Any advice given by the Panel.
The Panel minutes will be produced by the Clerk to the Panel within five days of the Panel meeting and will be written in accordance with the format agreed. The Panel minutes will be approved by the attending panel members, the Chair, the Agency Advisor as well as the presenting Social workers via email within forty eight hours of receipt. Following this the Chair will agree the minutes on behalf of the Panel and these will be sent to the Agency Decision Maker, together with the reports considered by the Panel when the recommendation was made, by the Clerk to the Panel. The Agency Decision Maker must make their decision within seven days of receiving the agreed minutes of the Panel meeting. This process is compliant with Re B (a child) [2009] UKSC 5.

9. The Agency Decision Maker (ADM)

The Statutory Adoption Guidance requires that the Agency Decision Maker must be a senior person within the agency. The Guidance permits the appointment of more than one decision maker.

9.1 Role of Agency Decision Maker

The role of the ADM is to consider:

  • Children's plans for adoption, long term fostering and SGO (Special Guardianship Order);
  • The approval of prospective adopters and long term foster carers;
  • The placement of children with specific approved adopters/long term foster carers;
  • Brief Reports.

The ADM must make their decision within 7 days of having received the final minutes of the Adoption and Permanence Panel. Their decision is based upon the reports submitted to the Adoption and Permanence Panel, including the medical advice, legal advice, the minutes of the Adoption and Permanence Panel, its recommendation and advice.

The decision should be conveyed to the birth parents and prospective adopters should be informed verbally of the decision within 2 working days and in writing within 5 working days.

If the ADM is minded not to accept the recommendation of the Panel, advice should be sought from the Agency Advisor and another senior manager. The Panel Chair should also be informed of this.

If the ADM is minded not to approve prospective adopters as suitable to adopt a child then the ADM must issue a Qualifying Determination clearly setting out their reasons and inform the prospective adopters that they can either make representations to the Agency or apply to the Independent Review Mechanism for a review of their case within 40 working days of the date on which the Qualifying Determination was sent (see Assessment and Approval of Prospective Adopters Procedure for further detail).