3.9.12 Allegations Against Prospective Adopters and in relation to Children Placed for Adoption or already Adopted

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This procedure applies where allegations are made or suspicions are raised that approved prospective adopters have caused Significant Harm to a child. It also applies where allegations are made by or in relation to a child placed for adoption or a child already adopted and in receipt of adoption support services. It may relate to recent abuse or neglect or historical abuse.

This procedure is supplementary to the West Midlands Safeguarding Children Procedures - see Allegations Against Staff or Volunteers.

AMENDMENT

This chapter was amended in October 2011 to reflect the Adoption Guidance and the National Minimum Standards published in March 2011, which became effective from 1 April 2011, in particular the need to identify a senior manager within the Adoption Service to manage the allegations process and liaise with the Local Authority Designated Officer. In addition the scope of the chapter has been extended to cover children already placed for adoption and matters of historical abuse.


Contents

1. Policy 
2. Introduction 
3. Procedure 
3.1 Initial Action
3.2 Strategy Meeting
3.3 Investigation and Action
3.4 Concluding the Investigation


1. Policy 

All children are entitled to the same level and standard of protection from harm including those receiving services from statutory or other agencies. For this reason, enquiries and investigations relating to children in receipt of such services must be dealt with under the principles, policies and procedures laid down by the Walsall Safeguarding Children Board.

Allegations or suspicions that a prospective adopter has caused Significant Harm to a child or that a child placed for adoption or already adopted and in receipt of adoption support services has suffered Significant Harm will be investigated thoroughly, speedily and sensitively under those procedures and will involve open and honest communication with and support to all those affected. 

Historical allegations by children placed for adoption or already adopted and in receipt of adoption support services should be responded to in the same way as contemporary concerns. It will be important to ascertain if the person about whom the allegation is made is currently working with children and if that is the case, to consider whether the current employer should be informed.

Clear timescales will be integral to the procedure and those involved must avoid delay unless there is good reason. 

Where allegations are made in relation to prospective adopters, the welfare and safety of all children in the prospective adopters' household, and children with whom the prospective adopters may have contact, must also be considered during any Section 47 Enquiry.

In relation to any allegations made, it is important to note that, although there may be insufficient evidence to support a Police prosecution, this does not mean that action cannot be taken to protect a child nor, for example, that the termination of an adoptive placement and/or the prospective adopter’s approval cannot be considered.


2. Introduction

The expectation is that:

  1. At the time of a child’s placement, prospective adopters will be provided with detailed information as to the child’s background and in particular the context of any abusive experiences of and/or previous allegations made by the child. (See Placement for Adoption Procedure);
  2. All prospective adopters will receive preparation and guidance to help them provide a safe environment for the child and all members of the adoptive family;
  3. All prospective adopters will have received information about this procedure.

In addition, in relation to the Adoption Service, it is an expectation of the Adoption National Minimum Standards 2011 that:

  • A senior manager within the Adoption Service is identified to be the designated allegations manager who liaises with the LADO in all cases to which this procedure applies and manages the allegations process;
  • All staff within the Adoption Service are aware of the requirements of this procedure.


3. Procedure

3.1 Initial Action 
3.2 Strategy Meeting  
3.3 Investigation and Action 
3.4 Concluding the Investigation  

3.1 Initial Action

Any person who receives information or suspects that a child has suffered or is suffering Significant Harm in an adoptive placement must immediately inform the child’s social worker.

On receipt of any such information, the child’s social worker must immediately:

  • Inform his or her team manager and Service Manager;
  • Inform and consult the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) in order for a decision to be made as to whether the matter should be treated as a child protection matter and referred for a Strategy Discussion/Meeting;
  • Consult the child’s Independent Reviewing Officer as to the urgent convening of a review of the adoptive placement - see Reviews of Adoptive Placements Procedure;
  • Inform the prospective adopter’s link worker and his or her manager.

The prospective adopter’s link worker will:

  • Inform the designated allegations manager within the Adoption Service - see Section 2, Introduction; and, in consultation with the designated allegations manager;
  • Inform the social workers for any other child in the placement;
  • Inform any other local authority with an interest in the adoptive placement;
  • Provide support to the prospective adopter.

Where it is appropriate to treat the allegation/suspicion as a child protection concern, the child’s social worker will be responsible for implementing the West Midlands Safeguarding Children Procedures in relation to the allegation/suspicion see Allegations Against Staff or Volunteers Procedure. Where the prospective adopter lives outside the borough, the child’s social worker will consult with the social work team for the area where the prospective adopter lives. 

The child’s social worker will complete a single assessment and undertake any action required to protect the child or children involved in accordance with the Safeguarding Children Board Procedures, including requesting that a Strategy Meeting be convened within one working day of the referral.

Any action to protect the child in question or other children should not be delayed because of the Strategy Meeting. Social workers should consult their managers or the child’s Independent Reviewing Officer where they have concerns.

Prior to the Strategy Meeting, the prospective adopter’s link worker should notify the Regulatory Authority of the allegation/suspicion and invite them to be represented at the Strategy Meeting.

NB Where a child who has already been adopted but is still in receipt of adoption support services makes an allegation of abuse, including where the allegation is of historical abuse, this must be referred to the child’s social worker/adoption support worker, who will take the action set out below or, as appropriate, make a referral to Children’s Social Care Services for the area where the child lives in order that the relevant LSCB procedures can be followed.

3.2 Strategy Meeting 

The Strategy Meeting will take place within one working day of the referral. 

The purpose of the meeting will be to plan the investigation of the allegation/suspicion. The following people will be invited:

  1. The child’s social worker and his or her manager;
  2. The LADO;
  3. The manager of the social work team undertaking the Single Assessment, if different;
  4. The prospective adopter’s link worker (who will liaise as necessary with the designated allegations manager within the Adoption Service - see Section 2, Introduction) and his/her manager;
  5. The Police Family Protection Team;
  6. Any other agency involved with the child or adoptive family;
  7. A representative of the Regulatory Authority (OFSTED);
  8. A minute taker.

The Chair of the meeting will be a senior manager from Children's Social Care Services.

The Strategy Meeting must consider:

  • The current allegation made and how it is to be investigated;
  • Whether there should be a concurrent police investigation;
  • Any previous allegations or concerns about the prospective adopters and the outcome of previous investigations;
  • Any previous allegations made by the child in question and the outcome of previous investigations;
  • Whether the children should remain in the adoptive placement whilst the investigation is carried out. This should be considered in the context of the best interests of the child;
  • The safety and well being of other children living with, or having contact with the prospective adopters;
  • Support to be offered to the children in the family during the investigation;
  • Who will inform the prospective adopters of this meeting;
  • Who will support the prospective adopters through the investigation process;
  • Contact and information to be given to the parents of the children concerned. How and when this should be done.

Whether or not the Strategy Meeting considers that the allegation or suspicion has any foundation, the matter should be investigated unless there are exceptional circumstances, and Ofsted must be kept informed. 

The Chair should ensure that a record is kept of the decisions made at the meeting, the actions to be taken and the date of the next meeting.

Copies of the decisions/actions and the minutes should be held on the child’s file and Adoption Case Record and the prospective adopter’s Adoption Case Record.

3.3 Investigation and Action

The actions agreed at the Strategy Meeting should be implemented by those responsible within the agreed timescales.

If the person raising suspicions or making the allegation wishes to remain anonymous, these wishes should be respected.

Unless there are circumstances when the details or nature of the allegation cannot be shared immediately, the prospective adopters should be advised of the allegation as agreed at the Strategy Meeting and of the process to be followed in the investigation, including the possibility that an Initial Child Protection Conference may be convened in relation to their own children. 

Where considered appropriate by those at the Strategy Meeting, the prospective adopters should be given the opportunity to respond to the allegations before any final decision is made about necessary action to protect the child and other children in the household, including the termination of their approval. Immediate action may include asking the person against whom the allegation has been made to leave the household while the investigation is conducted.

Any decision to suspend the approval of the prospective adopter while the investigation is being conducted should be communicated in writing to the prospective adopter by the manager of the adoptive service.

The worker supporting the prospective adopters must contact them as soon as practicable after they are made aware of the allegation, and explain the supporting role. It must be made clear that the support worker will have a responsibility to report to the local authority, the Police and in some circumstances to the Court if any information relevant to the investigation comes to their attention. 

Where the prospective adopters are in receipt of financial support, they should be informed of any implications for the payment of such support, where placements have been suspended. 

The prospective adopters must be given:

  1. A copy of this procedure and the Allegations Against Staff or Volunteers Procedure contained in the West Midlands Safeguarding Children Procedures;
  2. Advice about consulting a solicitor;
  3. Advice about insurance arrangements for legal expenses.

If an Initial Child Protection Conference is convened, the Conference Chair must be consulted in advance to discuss whether the prospective adopters should be invited to attend. In any event, the prospective adopters’ views must be obtained for and communicated to the Conference. 

3.4 Concluding the Investigation 

The Strategy Meeting will usually be reconvened once an investigation has been completed. The same people will be invited and the same person will chair the meeting.

The purpose of the reconvened Strategy Meeting is to agree on the outcome of the investigation and responsibilities for any further action including reporting on the matter to the Adoption Panel and the need to make a referral to the Independent Safeguarding Authority for inclusion of the person on the Children’s Barred List.

The Chair will write to the prospective adopters, informing them of the outcome of the investigation.

The child, the parents, other relevant agencies and the Regulatory Authority (if not in attendance) will also be informed of the decisions made at the meeting. The Chair and the child’s social worker will agree the most appropriate way of informing the child and parents, and also who will notify the other agencies and Regulatory Authority.

A report should be presented to the next available Adoption Panel within 20 working days of the reconvened Strategy Meeting, this report should include consideration of whether a referral to the Disclosure and Barring Service for inclusion on the Children's Barred List is appropriate.

The social worker preparing the report should consult with the Chair of the Adoption Panel who will advise on who should attend the Panel meeting (usually the child’s social worker and the prospective adopter’s link worker) and whether or not a special Panel meeting should be convened.

Any allegation made against a prospective adopter or a member of the household and how it was dealt with and decisions made should be recorded on the prospective adopters’ file and retained for 100 years after the adoption order is made or if no adoption order is made in accordance with local policy: adoption support agencies should have written procedures for dealing with allegations of historical abuse which may be made by service users during the course of service provision.

All relevant documents in relation to the investigation, whatever the outcome, must be retained on the child’s record and the prospective adopter’s record, and their respective Adoption Case Records.

Consideration should be given to holding a debriefing meeting for all involved as to the impact of the allegations and the investigation, whatever the outcome, and any necessary assistance should be made available as necessary. 

End