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6.2.8 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 or members of visitors to an adopter’s or prospective household have:

  • Behaved in a way that has harmed, or may have harmed a child;
  • Possibly committed a criminal offence against or related to a child; or
  • Behaved towards a child or children in a way that indicates s/he is unsuitable to work with children.
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.

The procedure should be read in conjunction with the Wirral Local Safeguarding Children Board Procedures.

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in September 2012 in regard to Section 3.2, Professionals Meeting and Section 3.3, Investigation and Action.


Contents

1. Policy
2. Introduction
3. Procedure
  3.1 Initial Action
  3.2 Professionals Meeting
  3.3 Investigation and Action


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 of the Local Safeguarding Children Board.

Allegations or suspicions that a Prospective Adopter has caused Significant Harm or that a child placed for Adoption or already adopted and in receipt of Adoption support services has suffered Significant Harm to a child 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. There will be clarity regarding access to reports and documents relating to the investigation.

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 a 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 and Matching 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. For Wirral the Designated Person is the Looked After Children Service Manager;
  • All staff within the Adoption Service are aware of the requirements of this procedure.


3. Procedure

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 or during an introduction to an adoptive placement must immediately inform the child's Social Worker.

On receipt of any such information, the child's Social Worker must immediately:

N.B. If there are serious and/or multiple referrals about standards of care, it may still be appropriate to refer the matter for a Strategy Meeting for a full investigation.

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;
  • Provide the LADO with the details of any other children placed with the Prospective Adopter and provide the names of the child’s Social Workers;
  • Inform any other Local Authority with an interest in the adoptive placement;
  • Provide support to the Prospective Adopter.

Where the Prospective Adopter lives outside the Wirral Local Authority area the LADO will liaise with the LADO from the relevant Local Authority.

Where it is appropriate to treat the allegation/suspicion as a child protection concern, the child's Social Worker will be responsible for initiating the Local Safeguarding Children Board Inter Agency Procedures in relation to the allegation/suspicion, unless the Prospective Adopter lives in another Local Authority area, in which case the child's Social Worker will make a referral to the relevant Local Authority and that Local Authority will be responsible for implementing their own Local Safeguarding Children Board's Procedures and inviting the child's Social Worker and adopters' link worker to the Strategy Meeting.

In either case, a section 47 Strategy Meeting will be convened (by the appropriate Practice/Team Manager or Principal Manager if following Wirral’s Procedures) as soon as possible after concerns have been identified and within a maximum of 2 working days of the referral which will focus on the needs of the child.

Any action to protect the child in question or any other children in need of protection should not be delayed because of 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 Specialist Services for the area where the child lives in order that the relevant LSCB procedures can be followed.

3.2 Professionals Meeting

The LADO will consider calling a Professional’s meeting/discussion within 2 working days of the referral which will focus on the action required relating to the Prospective Adopter or adopter. The purpose of the meeting/discussion will be to decide if an investigation is necessary and, if so, how it should be carried out. In certain situations the Professionals Meeting/discussion and the Section 47 Strategy meeting held by the Practice/team manager can be the same meeting.

The following people will be invited to be involved:

  1. The Local Authority Designated Officer and the Designated Senior Manager;
  2. The manager of the team undertaking the Section 47 enquiry;
  3. The child's Social Worker and his or her manager;
  4. The manager of the social work team undertaking the investigation, if different;
  5. The Prospective Adopter's Social Worker (who will liaise as necessary with the designated allegations manager within the Adoption Service - see Section 2, Introduction);
  6. The Police Family Crime Investigation Team;
  7. Any other agency involved with the child or Adoptive Family identified by the chair;
  8. A minute taker;
  9. The child's Independent Reviewing Officer.

The Strategy Meeting must consider:

  • The current allegation 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, or anyone else making the allegation and the outcome of previous investigations;
  • The suspension of introductions or whether the child should remain in placement whilst the investigation is carried out;
  • The need to call an urgent Placement Planning review meeting - see Placement for Adoption and Matching Procedure - or an urgent review of the adoptive placement - see Adoption Reviews Procedure - and the timing of any such review;
  • The safety and well being of other children living with, or having contact with the Prospective Adopters;
  • Whether there should be a referral to the Disclosure and Barring Service for inclusion on the Children's Barred List. This should be considered whenever a carer is suspended from their duties;
  • 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;
  • Timescales for actions to be completed.

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

The Chair should complete a decision sheet at the end of the meeting summarising the actions to be taken and the date of the next meeting. This should also clearly state who is responsible for what actions, record timescales for completion of any agreed actions and reporting/information sharing systems.

Copies of the decision sheet and the minutes should be held on the child's file and Adoption Case Record and the Prospective Adopter's Adoption Case Record, but should not be shared without the expressed permission of the LADO.

3.3 Investigation and Action

The actions agreed at the Professionals Meeting/discussion should be implemented by those responsible within the agreed timescales and appropriate feedback provided to the chair of the Professionals Meeting/discussion and the LADO.

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 (e.g. where there is a suggestion that there will be a police investigation or where the children have not yet been interviewed), the Prospective Adopters should be advised of the allegation as agreed at the Professionals Meeting/discussion 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, subject to the outcome of the investigation.

Depending on the level and nature of any concerns and whether they are immediate, the Prospective Adopters may 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. Such protective 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 LAC Service Manager.

Those supporting the Prospective Adopters must contact the Prospective Adopters as soon as practicable after they are made aware of the allegation, and explain their role. They must make clear their 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.

They must provide to the Prospective Adopters:

  1. A copy of this procedure and the relevant Local Safeguarding Children Board's procedure, (see Wirral Local Safeguarding Children Board Procedures);
  2. Advice about consulting a solicitor and obtaining independent support;
  3. Advice about insurance arrangements for legal expenses.

Where the Prospective Adopters are in receipt of financial support, they should be informed that any periodic payments will cease, where placements have been suspended. 

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.

The LADO will recommend to the Adoption Service any further actions following the professionals meetings/discussions including reporting on the matter to the Adoption Panel and/or considering whether it may be appropriate to make a referral to the Disclosure and Barring Service for inclusion of the adopters or Prospective Adopters on the Children’s Bared list and whether the placement can be resumed or not.

If the allegation is founded or unsubstantiated a report should be prepared by the adopters Social Worker to be presented to the next available Adoption Panel. This report will detail the allegations, how they were resolved, actions taken and the decisions that were reached. A copy of this report mist be given to the adopters/Prospective Adopters and retained on the adopters file.

As well as the investigation, the report should address the ability of the approved adopters to help come to terms with past events and to handle future behaviour, and whether the proposed placement or placement continues to be suitable. The procedure to be followed will be the same as for reviews of Prospective Adopter's approval - see Assessment and Approval of Prospective Adopters Procedure.

The Social Worker preparing the report should consult with the Panel Adviser to the Adoption Panel and 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 worker) and whether or not a special Panel meeting should be convened.

If as a result of the investigation and subsequent Panel Review the Prospective Adopters are considered unsuitable to adopt consideration should be given to making a referral to the Disclosure and Barring Service for inclusion on the Children’s Barred List.

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 file and the Prospective Adopter's file, and their respective Adoption Case Records.

A debriefing meeting will be held 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