We have a new website go to gov.scot

Guidance on the Looked After Children (Scotland) Regulations 2009 and the Adoption and Children (Scotland) Act 2007

Listen

Chapter 18 Adoption Panels

In this chapter:

1. Introduction
2. Function and Regulation of Adoption Panels
3. Specific Roles on an Adoption Panel
4. Principles underpinning Adoption Panels and Decision Making

1. introduction

An Adoption Panel must be appointed by each local authority and registered adoption service which is carrying out the functions specified in the regulations. This chapter sets out the establishment, functions and considerations of the Adoption Panel, including the matters that fall within its auspices.

Duty to Provide, and definition of, an Adoption Service

Section 1 of the 2007 Act states the duty of the local authority to provide an adoption service and indicates the range of persons for whom the service is, or may be provided and the nature of the services to be provided. Section 2 enables the local authority to use a registered adoption service to provide or help provide their services under section 1. Only registered adoption services or local authority adoption agencies may make agency arrangements for adoption.

"Registered adoption service" is defined in s.2(3) of the 2007 Act as an adoption service or agency as provided for in section 2(11)(b) of the Regulation of Care (Scotland) Act 2001 (as amended by the section 7 of the 2007 Act), and registered under Part 1 of the 2001 Act. A registered adoption service must be a "voluntary" agency in terms of s.7(6) of the 2001 Act, and s.77(1) of that Act says that "voluntary" means it is not operated for profit.

The requirement for a registered adoption service to be a voluntary organisation is repeated in s.59(3) of the Public Services Reform (Scotland) Act 2010.

2. Function and Regulation of Adoption Panels

Part II of the Adoption Agencies Regulations (Scotland) 2009 looks more specifically at those functions which should be scrutinised by an adoption panel and how those panels should be regulated.

Key Functions

The key functions of an Adoption Panel can be summarised as follows:

  • formally recommending adoption for a child;
  • approving adopters;
  • matching a child with approved adopters; and
  • any other matters referred to them which are relevant to the agency's functions under the 2007 Act, such as adoption support plans and adoption allowances.

In appointing such panels, agencies need to be clear about the purpose of the panel in relation to these functions. These are major decisions with life-long implications for children, their birth parents and adopters. They may also involve the agency in a legal action and also be open to appeal.

Recommendations and Decisions

The decision-making function of the agency is carried out by a designated Agency Decision Maker and there should always be at least two. The purpose of the panel is to provide an objective view of each case, ensuring that all the work required to reach a decision has been completed and to make a recommendation based on discussion of the information provided.

Quorum and Constitution

Regulations require there to be at least six panel members appointed and a quorum of at least three for any meeting of the panel. They further require the appointment of a medical and a legal adviser to the panel. These advisers have an important role but they are not included in the quorum for panel business. Agencies therefore need to appoint sufficient members to the panel to cover the requirements.

Experience and Background of Panel Members

One of the values of an effective panel is the breadth of experience members bring to frequently complex areas. The panel should therefore be drawn from a selection of people with wide professional or personal experience relevant to the task. This may include the following:

  • experienced social workers with practice or managerial knowledge of child care and family placement;
  • others from allied professions such as education and psychology;
  • counsellors;
  • experienced adopters; and
  • adults who have been adopted or placed a child for adoption.

The panel should reflect the community from which children and families may come and may include councillors. Attention should be paid to the balance of membership of the panel - such as gender. The backgrounds of both the children for whom adoption may be planned and the applicants coming forward for assessment as adopters are wide ranging and panels need to be informed and sensitive to issues around ethnicity, beliefs, sexuality and lifestyles. While panel members may be offered anti-discriminatory training there should be some evidence of experience in this area.

Recruitment to the Adoption Panel

The principles which are applied for the safe recruitment of staff also apply to the recruitment of panel members who are considered within the regulations as "working" in the adoption agency. There should be agency procedures and processes in place for appointing and monitoring panel membership. These could include the following:

  • job and person specifications;
  • terms of appointment including expectations of panel members;
  • the signing of confidentiality statements;
  • period of appointment; and
  • fees and expenses.

Regulations allow for the termination of the membership of a panel by giving notice in writing with reasons. Good practice should also include appraisal which recognises any areas for development of panel members alongside recognition of their contribution. Panels should also routinely seek feedback on their operation.

Combined Panels

Providing a robust framework for the functioning of both adoption and fostering panels is vital to good decision-making. As there are similarities between both - and in small agencies there may be combined panels. It will be useful to also look at the guidance for the Looked After Children (Scotland) Regulations 2009.

Learning and Development requirements of Adoption Panel

There should be induction arrangements for new panel members, especially where they are appointed because of particular expertise or understanding they bring but are not routinely involved in adoption arrangements.

All panel members should be included in training opportunities to ensure that they are up to date with legislation, best practice and agency policy. They should also have the opportunity, at intervals, to meet as a panel to consider both business and practice issues arising from individual cases. This should be at least annually, but normally six monthly.

Declarations of Interest

The objectivity of panels should be transparent. Panel members should be clear about when they need to declare a conflict of interest either because of previous professional involvement in a case or personal prior knowledge. Agencies should provide panel members with guidance on this.

3. Specific Roles on an Adoption Panel

Certain roles within the panel need to be defined. The two covered by regulations are the medical and legal adviser. In addition, although it is not specified in regulations, there is an expectation of the appointment of an appropriately qualified chairperson to ensure the effective functioning of the panel. In addition, the accurate taking of minutes is an essential component of sound decision making. The minute taker, therefore, is an important role.

Medical Adviser

Regulations require this to be a registered medical practitioner. Medical information is required on both prospective adopters and children for whom adoption is planned, therefore the primary role of the medical adviser is to look at all medical reports and interpret any medical issues for the panel.

Registered adoption services who principally bring applicants to adopt normally seek someone who will focus on adult health matters and their potential implications for adoptive parenting. This is often a GP with interest in the area.

Local authorities in their adoption agency capacity frequently place emphasis on the needs of looked after children and identify a medical adviser through the Health Board, often someone with a community paediatrics background. Some authorities may have more than one medical adviser with different areas of expertise.

It is the responsibility of the adoption agency prior to appointment of a medical adviser to ensure firstly that the person understands the context within which they are providing advice and also the extent of the role. With regard to adult medicals, medical advisers may be required to follow up any information with specialists where there are identified medical conditions and some agencies might look to the medical adviser to meet prospective adopters prior to a panel if there are complex issues arising.

A paediatrician acting as a medical adviser may carry out a medical examination. Medical advisers may also be expected to speak to adopters about the health needs of a child with whom they are linked.

The Sharing of Medical Information

The panel does not need to see the full medical on adoptive applicants as part of the paperwork for the meeting but members should receive the summary sheet giving the medical adviser's view. It is recommended that agencies use a pro forma which will ensure that all relevant health information is brought together and a summary of the short, medium and long-term implications of this. As noted above, the medical adviser is not part of the quorum for the panel. It is up to the agency to decide whether s/he is a voting member of the panel.

Legal Adviser

Regulations require this to be a qualified solicitor with a current Practising Certificate or a practising advocate.

This role will vary considerably between registered adoption services and the local authority as an adoption agency. A registered adoption service may occasionally be providing the service to a relinquishing birth parent and will therefore need to provide legal advice to the panel on the plan for adoption for the infant. Beyond this, their main role in relation to panel business is likely to be about advising the agency on aspects such as application of criteria for accepting applicants for assessment, and appeal and complaints procedures.

Registered adoption services may also turn to their legal adviser when there is a possibility of adopters approved by the agency being linked or matched with a child where the legal route is highly contentious. Approval may be required in advance for any costs incurred.

Clearly, the role of legal adviser is much greater in local authorities where adoption may be considered for a wide range of children who are already looked after, and where adoption was not the original intention of intervention or the parents' request. The regulations specify a number of areas which the panel must address in reaching its recommendation and which may later be scrutinised in court. It is therefore important that legal advice is clear and robust to ensure that all recommendations are legally competent and that the Agency Decision Maker may be confident in reaching a decision that could involve the authority in a complex legal process.

The regulations do not specify how the legal advice should be provided to the panel but wherever possible it is good practice for the legal adviser to attend the panel and be available to clarify any questions for panel members. This should be the expectation for all cases where the consent of parents or those with parental responsibilities and rights may not be forthcoming. Given the number of legal issues that may need to be considered at the panel and the requirement for accuracy, the legal advice should be provided in writing and wherever possible accompany the papers for the panel. This is for the information of panel members and should not be incorporated into the report provided by the social worker and shared with the birth parents.

Similarly to the medical adviser, the legal adviser does not form part of the quorum and because of their potential role in taking forward a legal case they should not be regarded as a 'voting' member.

Chairperson

Although not required by the regulations a chairperson should be appointed by a senior officer of a local authority or the chairperson of the Management Committee in the case of a registered adoption service. The panel chairperson does not have to be present for the panel to be quorate, but a deputy chairperson should also be appointed by the agency who can chair the panel in the absence of the chairperson.

The adoption agency should have comparable procedures for appointing a chairperson as they have for panel members. To establish credibility in the objectivity of the panel, a growing number of agencies are appointing independent chairs to their panel. Where chairs come from outwith the agency, they should have a thorough understanding of the structure and policies of the agency and be aware of the financial and organisational procedures in respect of adoption.

Apart from their ability to chair, the person appointed should have a thorough and extensive knowledge of all aspects of adoption. This is particularly important where agencies have made efforts to bring in a diverse range of skills and experience and need to ensure that these are utilised. The chairperson must also co-operate with other staff within the agency to ensure that the recommendation reaches the Agency Decision Maker in a form and within the timescales to enable the decision to be competently made.

Minute Taker

Although this role is not specified in regulations, there is a requirement for a written record of the proceedings of the panel and the reasons for its recommendations and also a written report in relation to particular recommendations. This places importance on the quality of the record or minutes of the panel and what must be covered within them. Agencies need to ensure that minute takers are carefully chosen for the task, that they have the necessary skills and are given appropriate training, support and protected time to complete the task within the necessary timescales.

4. Principles underpinning Adoption Panels and decision making

The following principles underpin the operation of effective Adoption Panels and Decision Making:

I. Recommendations and decisions should only be made on sufficient information

II. Adoption should only be chosen when it is in the best interests of the child

III. All routes to Permanence should be given robust and balanced consideration

IV. The Life-long implications of Adoption should be carefully considered

These four underpinning principles are explored more fully below.

I. Recommendations and decisions should only be made on sufficient information

Where the panel considers that they do not have sufficient information to make a recommendation, they may defer consideration until the additional information identified is obtained.

Where the panel has made a recommendation and the Agency Decision Maker believes additional information is required, a decision must still be made within 14 days.

II. Adoption should only be chosen when it is in the best interests of the child

Throughout the interventions of agencies into the lives of children there is a general duty to regard the child's best interests as paramount and this clearly continues through to adoption. The duty on the adoption panel is to make a recommendation on whether adoption is in the best interests of the child. To do this there must be positive reasons to recommend this step. The panel should be aware of developing practice and research on the outcomes of adoption and whether and how this can be achieved for the individual children presented to it.

For all children discussed at the panel there should be explicit consideration of the benefits of the legal security of adoption for growing children (if their birth parents are not able to provide it) and a recognition of the life-long aspect of adoption. For each individual child there needs to be clear evidence of why this is not available to them within their birth family or kinship network and sufficient understanding of the needs of the child to be confident that s/he can become a full member of another family.

This should be rooted in the history of the child's life thus far and a comprehensive assessment of their future needs. Where it becomes necessary to consider grounds for dispensing with the consent of the birth parents to the adoption, these are listed in section 31 of the 2007 Act. Adoption agencies need to ensure that everyone playing a part in planning adoption has the opportunity to explore these concepts covered by the grounds and consider the evidence to look for and measure against the most up to date knowledge of the effectiveness of adoption. This may be incorporated in the philosophy of the agency and encapsulated in the local authority adoption plan as required in section 4 of the 2007 Act.

III. All routes to Permanence should be given robust and balanced consideration

Regulation 6(3) also requires the adoption panel to provide "a written report of the consideration given by it to the alternatives to adoption". This will normally be part of the minute and confirm what is already contained in the reports presented to the panel or provide further information of how the panel reached their recommendation. This should build logically on the earlier assessment, planning and reviewing which was aimed at establishing safe and sustainable care for the child and avoiding drift.

The Looked After Children Review that decided on the need for permanent placement of the child outwith the birth family should have done this on the basis of firm evidence of the need for that level of intervention and exploration of all the possible ways forward.

  • Decision not to return home

The first key decision that will have been made at the review will have been the conclusion that the previous efforts to return the child to the care of his/her birth parents had not succeeded or that it was never possible in the first place and there was no substantive indication that this was likely to change.

  • Subsequent decisions in relation to achieving permanence

The subsequent decisions following on from this should address the following key points:

  • whether for the child in question, given his/her needs and wishes, the best alternative would be to establish them within an alternative permanent family;
  • whether, in order to provide legal security for the plan, some or all of the parental responsibilities and rights should be transferred.

While adoption is one such alternative it is not the answer for every child in these circumstances. It would be in the spirit of the 2007 Act that the majority of cases where children cannot return home and need a secure family placement should be treated similarly and be referred to the adoption panel for consideration of the plan for permanence. Local authorities should provide guidance to staff regarding the exceptions to this presumption of Adoption Panel consideration, e.g. young people who became looked after in middle to late adolescence and, although unlikely to return home, have no motivation to achieve permanence with a new family.

Any decision to apply for a court order is significant, warranting the additional scrutiny that presentation to the Adoption Panel brings. The use of the Adoption Panel in this way is intended to ensure that:

  • birth parents are made fully aware of the plans, their rights and responsibilities in the process, including the right to take legal advice and the likely timescales;
  • the child's current carers are aware of the plan and process, able to respond to the child's questions and in a position to help prepare the child;
  • identification of the support which a future placement will need;
  • clarity about the specific support arrangements, including legal and financial ones which the agency will provide.

The main purpose of the adoption panel is to add an additional objective forum, independent of the case thus far, to look at all the circumstances before it becomes confirmed as the agency decision. It therefore makes sense for this body to be free to consider all the alternatives for permanence for the child.

A small piece of research carried out for the first stage of the APRG sought the views of young people who had grown up within the care system. While they expressed clear perceptions of the difference between adoption and fostering, the overall impression was that the different options had not been explored with them. Some indicated that adoption might have been of interest to them if it had been raised while others were clear that it was not for them.

Equally, research has shown that while the risks of possible disruption increase with the adoption of older children who have had very difficult early experiences, this is not straightforward and one significant contributory factor in 'older child adoption' is whether the child actively wants to be adopted or still feels a loyalty to his/her birth family.

  • Kinship and Adoption

In considering the alternatives to adoption, in addition to the nature of the placement required, the panel should also ensure that all possibilities of retaining the child within their family network have been checked. The guidance to the LAC regulations contains fuller information about the steps in approving and reviewing kinship care placements. Each local authority should have a process for the approval of kinship carers for looked after children, including the independent scrutiny of their assessment prior to agency approval. The ongoing review of a kinship placement should include confirmation that the kinship carers continue to be able to meet the needs of the child. Where it subsequently emerges that one of these arrangements is likely to be permanent, it is equally useful to ensure that there are clear channels to confirm the plan and clarify that this is the agency decision. Where this plan extends to adoption, the appropriate forum would be the adoption panel.

In most instances now, however, adoption by kinship carers, who are frequently grandparents, is not the first choice as it can distort family relationships - but at times this may reflect the wishes of grandparents and children. Other forms of securing the placement may be preferable and the agency may direct these to the adoption and permanence panel but other similar independent foras may be considered, depending on whether the local authority has other arrangements for overseeing kinship care.

Where children are already placed with foster carers when the plan for permanence is made, the question of kinship care should be revisited. Relatives who are at a distance or do not know the child well may not feel it is appropriate to offer care initially but may come forward when adoption is on the agenda. An absent birth parent - especially a birth father with parental responsibilities and/or rights that have not been exercised - may take a more active interest at this stage or his relatives may feel enabled to enter into discussions. Any new interest would need to be assessed and presented to the adoption/permanence panel.

Agencies need to ensure that they have made proper provision for addressing all the alternatives for permanence for a child as the context within which the panel can provide its reasons for recommending adoption. The legal terminology is clear - where there is a better practical alternative for the child the agency must not make arrangements for adoption. Therefore the agency decision must reflect the reasons why adoption is the best option.

IV. The Life-long implications of Adoption should be carefully considered

Section 14 of the 2007 Act lays out all the considerations that the court or adoption agency must bear in mind in making a decision about the adoption of the child. Reference has already been made to the best interests of the child and in section 14(3) this is stated as "the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child throughout the child's life as the paramount consideration". This confirms the life-long dimension that identifies adoption amongst the other options for permanence.

  • Stability

Equally, section 14(4)(d) makes one of the considerations "the likely effect on the child, throughout the child's life, of the making of an adoption order". Central to much of this is what is understood by "the value of a stable family unit in the child's development". In what is now regarded as 'traditional' stranger adoption, this was easier to define when the birth mother's relinquishment of an infant meant that the child's birth family was not available to her/him and the expectation was that adoption would mean the child was accepted into a two parent family who were viewed as conforming to the social and moral values of the time. In deciding whether there is sufficient evidence that the birth parents cannot provide a stable family unit for the child and that this has, or is likely to have a detrimental effect on the child's development, agencies need to demonstrate a robust rational approach to this. Equally, in assessing prospective adopters and long-term/permanent foster carers the information presented to the panel and going on to the Agency Decision Maker should pay attention to how the potential for applicants to provide this can be evidenced. The 2007 Act lays out the range of people who may apply to adopt which clearly indicates that 'a stable family unit' is not defined by any specific legal structure of the family. Some useful areas to look for include:

  • positive, respectful relationships between adults
  • appropriate relationships and boundaries between adults and children
  • valuing each individual within the family group
  • containing and managing a whole range of behaviours and emotions within the family unit
  • celebrating, supporting and learning to problem solve together
  • valuing family relationships across generations
  • maintaining a sense of being part of the family through challenges and disruptions.

Adoption is not the only option with the potential to provide a secure family environment for a child - this may also be possible through kinship care or long-term fostering with a PO. The question is whether a particular child could respond and would benefit from being transplanted into a new family where they can put down roots, begin to thrive and have a sense of belonging. Section 14(4)(b) also requires the agency to consider the child's ascertainable views. Where a child is not of an age or maturity to convey views directly, consideration should be given in the assessment to what is indicated by his/her responses, behaviour and evidence with regard to their need and ability to form new primary attachments - or consolidate existing ones with foster carers.

  • Identity and Culture

In whatever form it takes, adoption represents a significant disconnection in a child's life. Section 14(4)(c) restates the principle from the 1995 Act in relation to regard for the child's religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background. This principle has a very immediate impact in temporary care when the child is expected to maintain active contact with the birth family, although they may be living in a different environment. The potential impact in adoption is much more long-term. An infant or very young child may make a transition to a very different family culture with relative ease. As they grow up, over time they will need to integrate their adoption and identity in relation to both their birth and adoptive families. This is one of the life-long issues of adoption. Adopted people will vary considerably in the extent to which this is a concern for them but the responsibility for the agency is, wherever possible, to have regard for the level of discontinuity between the birth and adoptive family, to try and find placements that keep this to a minimum and where this is not possible, to ensure that the adopters are sensitive to the concerns and equipped to meet the child's needs in this respect.

  • Contact

Contact will have been an important area on the agenda from the time the child became looked after. This is clearly articulated for the adults in the responsibilities and rights in sections 1 and 2 of the 1995 Act. For looked after children who move into the permanence route this may have featured as an area for debate, often in terms of questioning whether parents have fulfilled their responsibilities to their child in 'maintaining personal relations' or in parents seeking an extension to their 'rights' to see their child.

Clarity about the purpose of Contact

From the outset in planning it will be helpful if information about contact also places emphasis upon the purpose of contact and the different ways it can contribute to the welfare of the child. This should be incorporated explicitly in any information to birth parents about the centrality of the best interests of the child and how the 'responsibilities and rights' language of contact will be interpreted in that context. It is this language of the 'best interests of the child' that surrounds any consideration of ongoing contact when planning adoption for the child. This calls for robust evidenced assessments about the value - and potential harm - of contact.

Just as it is helpful to identify how contact may be used to progress the plans towards a positive return home, the purpose of contact in adoption needs to be understood. The information provided to the adoption panel should enable them to provide in writing in the minutes the reasons why any continued contact is in the best interests of the child.

The dynamic nature of contact

The regulations in this respect do not define whether this is direct or indirect contact. They also only refer in regulation 6(4) to continued contact with the child's parent or parents. In practice, any panel considering a plan for adoption should look at all possible contact for a child, direct or indirect with any family members - including siblings elsewhere, grandparents and other relatives - as well as any other significant carers such as the child's foster carers. Some of this contact might have most relevance in the early period of placement to ensure links with familiar people during and following transition. Other contact may have greater possible relevance when the child is older and has questions for which they are seeking answers.

All contact in adoption is seen in the context of the expectation that the child will be aware of their adoption and that it will be the responsibility of the adopters to support their child in understanding their origins. This is confirmed by the requirement in regulation 24(2) of the Adoption Agencies (Scotland) Regulations 2009 about written advice to the adopters on the need to inform the child about their origins. This thread should be running through all preparation and assessment of adopters and every effort made to encourage and enable them in the ongoing task of talking about adoption and life-story work. The information provided to adopters under regulation 24(2)(a) will be what is available at the time of placement. It may not answer all of the child's questions. New information may be relevant to add following the adoption. This may be particularly so if further children are born and may also need an adoptive placement - either to explore the possibility of the new child joining an older sibling or setting up new sibling contacts. Other events may be relevant to share when thinking ahead to offering guidance to an adopted person who is seeking access to further information in their own right and considering tracing their birth parents.

Properly managed indirect contact arrangements (often under the heading of 'letter box contact' which greatly underestimates the complexity of this area) will identify channels of communication that may be utilised for the child. This could include consideration of direct contact at some future date if this was agreed to be in the child's best interests. Managing this would be part of the post-adoption support service. Any such steps would need to be well prepared and supported.

The long-term implications of contact

The distinctive feature about consideration of contact in adoption is that while it may be addressed at the particular time when legal adoption is being considered, the adoption plan itself must address the child's needs, both during their childhood and those that are life-long. Any need or interest in contact is likely to change over time and in relation to developmental needs. This would indicate the need for flexibility and an emphasis on understanding the principles underpinning contact rather than trying to set out specific parameters about its form and frequency. Increasingly the views and wishes of the child will play a greater part as they become more able to express these.

In order to reach a balanced view regarding the issues and dilemmas of contact the panel and the Agency Decision Maker should have the following:

  • an assessment of the quality, content and pattern of contact over a period of time and what contact tells us about the parent/child relationship - and any other family relationships;
  • information about how contact contributes to the child's understanding of their situation;
  • a perspective from carers about impact on the child before and after contact and questions raised;
  • the parent's ability to keep the child's needs at the centre in contact;
  • the potential for compatibility between the permanence plan and the proposed contact.

This will, first of all, inform the nature of the permanence plan for the particular child. Where there is clarity that adoption is in the best interests of the child, the panel and Agency Decision Maker need to distinguish between situations where there should be careful management of contact during a transition period, including resolution of a contested adoption plan and circumstances where some regular ongoing direct contact might be supportive and reassuring for a child. The most effective post-adoption arrangements are those where all parties are positive about its value and make an investment in working together in the child's interests. This indicates a need for some structure to support and monitor any type of contact arrangement and access, where appropriate, to mediation. This is particularly important given that, unlike the provisions for reviews of looked after children and reviews of supervision requirements in the hearing system, there is no similar statutory base for routinely reviewing post-adoption contact. National Care Standards will assist in promoting external scrutiny of arrangements made for such support.

The regulations place the emphasis on the role of the adoption panel in situations where contact with birth parents is being proposed post-adoption. It is equally important to consider situations where there are clear contra indications to such contact either because of any risk posed to the child by links with their former environment or because of evidence of the potential for contact to threaten the stability of the adoption. In reaching its decision the agency should be explicit about its position in this area. In contentious cases contact may become central, with the possible difficult legacy of a compromise that does not satisfy any of the adults and leaves tensions which continue to unsettle the child. Building sufficient confidence and trust between the adults requires time and skills if, in the longer term, contact can serve its purpose for the child or young person.

The responsibility of the adoption panel is in respect of the permanence plan for the child and the role of contact in adoption. The legislation permits the situation where a child moves to live with a family who can offer adoption before the question of the parents' consent is resolved and this is also reflected in the terminology of the regulations. Agencies often have to consider the best legal route in these situations. One practical consequence is that in the interim, until the full legal decision is made, contact arrangements, usually made by the Children's Hearing, remain in place. Agencies need to ensure that they have mechanisms in place to support all parties in this and to ensure that the changing needs of the child are fully addressed. Addressing the following questions will assist with these considerations:

  • How will the child understand the contact in the context of the work in preparing them for a move to a new family?
  • Does the level of support need to alter so that the child is not caught up in the tensions?
  • How involved should the proposed adoptive family be, given that this is an important time for them to build up trust with the child and demonstrate that they will be there for the child during possibly stressful times in their life?
  • If 'transitional' contact arrangements with birth family continue well into the child's placement with adopters, does this in itself affect the picture? The Looked After Children reviewing system needs to be sensitive to such issues coming up during this new phase in achieving permanence for a child.