Monday, 17 February 2014

Chapter 34 - The great reformation, part 2


As of July last year a new, revised adoption process came into force. New? Well, newish. Many of the elements remain much the same as under the previous system but to a much compressed timescale which aims to get prospective adopters to panel and placed with children more quickly.

After an initial, informal part of the process where those interested in adoption are encouraged to find out more about what adoption entails (and are resourced to do so) the more formal part of the process begins. Compressed into about 6 months, rather than the previous 8-9, this is split into two distinct phases.

Stage 1:
Once the prospective adopter has decided that adoption is the right route for them and have decided on their preferred adoption agency they are invited to register their interest formally. At this point the official process kicks in. There is no formal standard application form for this stage but no doubt a best practice will evolve over time, just as many adoption agencies have previously used BAAF designed forms. If the adoption agency accepts the registration of interest (First4Adoption recommends a shopping around process and a "try, try, try again" attitude for those facing a rejection at this stage) then the time intensive part of the process begins. 

Implementation is likely to vary from agency to agency but initially there may be individual introductory meetings or group intro sessions where applicants can get more detailed information and where the agencies can begin to gather the information they will need to complete the checks needed in this stage. It is likely that applicants will be asked to provide:

  • Factual information about themselves and their household such as full names, date of birth and other information
  • Basic information on the applicants such as income, occupation and health
  • The names of three referees (only one of whom can be a relative) that the agency can contact
  • Initial information on the type of child they are open to adopting.

They will also need to provide any documents needed for the agency to carry out a check at the Disclosure and Barring Service (formerly the Criminal Records Bureau - "CRB checks").

Other aspects of Stage 1 may include educational sessions aimed at helping applicants understand more about the practicalities of adoption, work-book tasks and study and formal medical assessment checks. At the end of two months the agency will inform applicants whether they have been accepted into the more intensive Stage 2 of the process.

Stage 2:
Predictably Stage 2 follows Stage 1. This is a more intense period of preparation not dissimilar to the current home study process but, again, to a much compressed timetable. Previously the statutory target for home study was to compete it and be assessed by adoption panel within eight months. This is now four months (making the full process from Stage 1 to panel only 6 months.

At the start of Stage 2 the applicants will agree an Assessment Plan which will set out the  steps of the process, including dates for meetings, training etc. It will also set out the additional information which will be provided to panel. The formal guidance on the process doesn't specify what papers and information will be requested by panel but it is safe to assume that they will be similar in scale and scope to the current panel paperwork. I've set out in a previous blog what information our social worker provided to our approvals panel under the previous process.

It is likely that, at the beginning of Stage 2, prospective adopters will be invited to attend some Preparation Days where, along with other prospective adopters they can explore in more detail the realities of adoption in the UK. Our experiences of Preparation Days under the previous system are set out in this blog and the subsequent ones.

After (or given the compressed timetables, alongside) the Preparation Days the home study period will commence. Each prospective adopter or couple will be assigned a social worker who will work through a series of targeted conversations in the prospective adopter's home. This will allow them to get to know the prospective adopters, assess their potential strengths and weakness as adoptive parents, work through issues and complete the dossier necessary to go to approval panel. It is likely that the conversations will, as previously, focus on experiences in childhood and how this will have affected and shaped the prospective adopter's outlook, personality, attitudes and potential parenting styles. At this stage the agency will also want to contact any previous partners and family of the prospective adopters. Previous partners will not have a veto over the ability of the prospective adopter to move to panel but the reasons for the break down of the previous relationships and reflection on them will form part of the home study process.

At the end of this process a report will be prepared to go to panel and the prospective adopters will be given the opportunity to comment on it. After that the adopters will go to approval panel, hopefully to be approved onto the adoption register. Our experiences of adoption panel are set out here.

Once approved onto the adoption register, after the decision has been ratified by the agency's official "decision maker" (the person with overall accountability for the agency's approvals) successful candidates will be considered for placement with a child.

The next blog will look briefly at family finding under the new process.


The Adoption Social said...

This was a really interesting post for me, as it is now 8 years since we went through this process and there are indeed a lot of changes. That 6 month window makes me very nervous indeed, I hope that the thoroughness will not be neglected to reach target time scales. Also, I'm sure we attended our prep type course before we could make an application, it was used as a way of explaining modern day adoption and what you may experience. You do a great job of providing detailed and informative posts that will be so valuable to those wanting to learn more about the process.
Thank you for linking to #WASO

Anonymous said...

Worth saying that in our LA there are preparation days in both stages 1 & 2 (coming to the same as we had under old process) - so it does still vary by agency.

Suddenly Mummy said...

Thanks for part 2 :)

AdoptionJourneyBlog said...

I couldn't agree more on the timings. Our home study took a full 7 months from start to finish and that didn't exactly feel leisurely - and we were a pretty straightforward couple in terms of family and relationship histories etc. I also hope that the speed of that part of the process doesn't lead to corners being cut and bad decisions being made. Four months for the whole home study and panel process seems hasty.

And yes, for us the final application forms were handed out on the third of the four preparation days... With an "if after hearing all this grim detail you think you can hack it..." caveat attached by the trainers...