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4.2.4 Disruption Policy


Along with all the chapters relating to looked after children this chapter was revised in December 2013.


  1. Introduction
  2. Professionals Planning Meeting
  3. Placement Disruption
  4. Disruption Meeting
  5. Administration of a Disruption Meeting
  6. Who Should Attend the Disruption Meeting
  7. Attendance of Child or Young Person
  8. Attendance of Parents
  9. Agenda
  10. Some Causes of Disruptions
  11. Disruption Meeting Minutes
  12. Post Disruption Care Planning

1. Introduction

A disruption is the premature ending of an adoption or permanent foster placement, which has been formally matched at either the Adoption and Permanence or the Fostering Panel.

If a disruption occurs following an adoption placement and prior to an Adoption Order having been made, a Disruption Meeting it is good practice for a Disruption meeting to be held. When a disruption takes place after an Adoption Order has been made, it is Cambridgeshire Children’s Social Care Policy that a Disruption Meeting should be offered as part of the adoption support provided to the child and adoptive family and the same process should be followed. Similarly a Disruption Meeting should be offered following the breakdown of a permanent fostering placement approved by Adoption and Permanence Panel or Fostering Panel.

When and how a placement disrupts will make a fundamental difference to the child, the prospective adopters / foster carers, birth families and the agencies concerned.

Disruption is a process, and rarely happens unexpectedly, there is usually a period prior to the disruption when it is recognised that the placement is in difficulties, fragile or at risk. It is therefore important to ensure that every effort is made to support the placement and only if assessed as absolutely necessary to ensure the management of a planned ending to the placement  

Where carers have nearly, but not quite, reached their limits a Professionals Planning Meeting should be convened to consider what interventions may best to support the placement.

2. Professionals Planning Meeting

The meeting should be convened by the Adoption or Fostering Team Manager and should be chaired by the Adoption Service Manager or respective Group Manager.

It is important that the attendance includes someone with decision making and budgetary responsibility who can agree packages of support without undue delay. 

The purpose of the meeting is to:

  • Demonstrate support for the carers and the child;
  • To move on and avoid getting stuck;
  • To share and acknowledge feelings rather than apportion blame;
  • To identify issues leading to placement difficulties;
  • To agree the child’s and carers’ current needs;
  • To make plans to provide for identified needs or to state clearly if and why any identified needs cannot be met;
  • To set timescales for actions and dates to monitor progress;
  • To hear and understand the child’s wishes and feelings;
  • To leave the door open for the placement either continuing or ending.

Disruptions result in life changing transitions and if this happens, it does not mean that the prospective parents have become uncaring; they are still the same people who impressed panel members and were approved to have children placed with them.

If consideration is given to seeking a managed end to the placement then agreements need to be made about how this will happen and the child’s needs must at all times remain central to the planning.

Serious thought must be given to:

  • Who will say what, when and where to the child;
  • How gradual or abrupt will the actual move be;
  • Who will take or collect the child (two people will be needed one to drive and one to concentrate on the child);
  • How will clothes and other belongings be transferred;
  • How will continuity for the child be maintained.

If these elements can be negotiated within the Professionals Planning Meeting it is more likely that an unplanned ending can be avoided, and ensuring that the child will see the disruption as part of a continuing story.    

3. Placement Disruption

The disruption of a placement is never the result of one single factor or what one party has done or left undone. It is usually a combination of:

  • Unidentified circumstances;
  • Misinterpreted circumstances;
  • Unpredictable circumstances, situations or interactions.

Families and children need to understand from the beginning that, in spite of the most careful preparation, training and assessments, experience and knowledge, that it is not possible to anticipate exactly what will happen when this child is placed with this family.

4. Disruption Meeting

The Purpose of a Disruption Meeting:

  • To enable participants to share information and feelings about the placement process and the disruption with openness, honesty and without assigning blame;
  • To facilitate increased understanding of everyone’s actions and points of view;
  • To explore all the factors that may have contributed to disruption;
  • To examine in detail and analyse the various elements of the child’s history and events leading up to the disruption;
  • To explore and identify the current and future needs of the child, the carers, the birth family and the agency or agencies;
  • To formulate plans for the child based on what has been learned from the disruption;
  • To support the adoptive / fostering family to move on;
  • To demonstrate that when a disruption occurs it is rarely the fault of a particular individual or the result of a single factor;
  • To gather learning points to highlight areas for development in policy and improve practice for all involved.

The timing of a disruption meeting is important, not too soon and not too late. The meeting needs to take place while events are still fresh enough for participants to retain clear memories, but allowing time for those involved to recover from the disruption and to reflect on the situation. The BAAF Guidance suggests that scheduling a meeting 5 to 10 weeks following the disruption works well in most instances. Where the Disruption Meeting relates to a pre-adoptive placement it is advised that the meeting is held earlier i.e. between 4 and 6 weeks following the disruption of the placement.

It is important that sufficient time is set aside for the meeting to enable everyone to say what needs to be said, be heard and listened to including time to digress, reconsider, recall and at times be upset. A full day is usually required for the meeting.

5. Administration of a Disruption Meeting

Notification of the need for a Disruptions Meeting should be sent directly to the Adoption Service Manager within 7 days of the disruption. This should include brief details of the case and background to the disruption.

It will be the responsibility of the Adoption Service Manager to identify a Chair for the meeting, usually an independently commissioned person with experience of chairing such meetings. If an external person is not available it is essential to ensure that the person identified from within the organisation has considerable experience in adoption and fostering and has not had line management or decision making responsibility for the case previously.    

The Adoption Service Manager will be responsible for convening the meeting, appointing a minute taker, inviting participants, requesting reports and liasing with the Chair, as well as finalising and distributing the minutes within 14 days of the meeting or as soon as they are available. The Adoption Service Manager will also be responsible for disseminating the learning from the meeting, initially with follow up meetings with the relevant Unit/Team, Adoption and Fostering Teams and Adoption and Fostering Panels. Further training meetings may be appropriate where the practice learning from the disruption meetings requires wider dissemination to practitioners and senior managers within Children’s Social Care, and or the LSCB (if appropriate).  

Where a disruption occurs in a foster placement that is not considered permanent and has not been formally matched at either the Adoption and Permanent Panel or the Fostering Panel then the request for a Disruption Meeting should be made to the Service Manager of the IRO Service (SASU) who will appoint a Review Manager with no case involvement to arrange and Chair the meeting.

6. Who Should Attend the Disruption Meeting

  • Current social worker and consultant social worker / team manager for the child;
  • Current social worker and team manager for the adopters or permanent foster carers;
  • Any previous social workers or team managers for the child or adopters / foster carers who have had a significant role / involvement;
  • The adopter/s or foster carers who have experienced the disruption;
  • Foster carer prior to the placement which disrupted;
  • Present foster carer;
  • Foster carers’ supervising social workers;
  • Independent Reviewing Officer;
  • Other relevant professionals, such as teacher, therapist / clinician, Health Visitor, GP.

If anyone thought to have an important contribution is unable to attend the meeting, they must provide a written report and speak to the chair before the meeting beforehand to convey their views.

7. Attendance of Child or Young Person

A judgment will be required about whether the looked after child should attend the meeting. This judgment should take account of the following:

  • The child's wishes and feelings;
  • The age and understanding of the child;
  • The content of the meeting and possible impact on the child.

A general presumption may be in favour of attendance unless there are good reasons against this, however whether the child / young person attends or not, regard needs to be given to maximising the child / young person's understanding of what is happening and ensuring that the child's / young person's views are obtained and taken account of.

If it is proposed that the child attends for all or part of the meeting the social worker must discuss this with the Chair prior to the meeting. The child must be thoroughly prepared beforehand by the social worker, and must be supported during and after the meeting. The chair should wherever possible meet the child and their social worker before the meeting

Where the child does not attend, his or her social worker will ensure that the child's views and feelings are given to the meeting in the most appropriate way. Following the meeting, careful consideration must be given to providing feedback on the outcomes and any actions to be taken. This discussion should be clearly detailed in the child‘s records.

8. Attendance of Parents

Whether to invite parents will be determined on a case-by-case basis and professional judgement about whether their involvement will contribute to the outcome of the meeting. On some occasions placement breakdowns have initiated a change in the child’s care plan to one of rehabilitation home for the child. Where this is the case, encouragement should be given to parental involvement in the meeting.

Whether parents attend or not, regard needs to be given to:

  • Ensuring parents are appropriately informed about what is happening to their child;
  • Ensuring parental views are known and taken account of.

9. Agenda

BAAF's Good Practice Guide 'Dealing with Disruption' Chapter 9 includes a detailed guide to chairing disruption meetings, including the areas to be covered and the Chair's role.

  • The child's progress in the birth family;
  • The child's progress in care;
  • Preparation of the child for the placement;
  • Adopter’s / foster carer’s progress from application, preparation, assessment and approval to matching and placement;
  • Agency practice in relation to in-house and inter-agency placements;
  • The birth family's involvement, e.g. contact arrangements;
  • The introduction of the child to the new family;
  • The placement;
  • The disruption;
  • Current foster placement;
  • The present and the future plans.

10. Some Causes of Disruptions

  • Key information incomplete or not shared;
  • Inaccurate assessment of child’s needs and attachment patterns;
  • Insufficient preparation of the child for the move to permanence;
  • Insufficient preparation of the prospective carers to parent this particular child / sibling group;
  • Adult led rather than a child centred introduction plan;
  • Failure of therapeutic, health and education services;
  • Poor interagency and inter-departmental communication;
  • Lack of clarity and agreement about the purpose and management of contact;
  • Insufficient support provided to the child and family;
  • Impact of changes in the adoptive or fostering family;
  • Post placement depression;
  • A lack of openness in the adoptive or fostering family;
  • Insufficient consideration of the carer’s own children’s needs and perspectives.

11. Disruption Meeting Minutes

The Chair will produce minutes of the meeting, which will be circulated by the Adoption Service Manager to all those who attended the meeting and to the following:

  • Children’s Services Director;
  • Head of Service for Looked After Children / Children in Need;
  • Service Manager for Fostering;
  • Chairs of Adoption and Permanence Panel and Fostering Panel;
  • Service Manager of (SASU) Independent Review Officers;
  • Relevant Group Manager;
  • Minutes will be sent to key personnel to check for accuracy and should be returned with any amendments within 5 working days of receipt;
  • t is essential that a copy of the minutes is placed on the child's ICS record. A copy should also to be placed on the foster carer / adopter's file or ICS record.

12. Post Disruption Care Planning

A Disruption Meeting will include a reappraisal of the current Care Plan. Where the Disruption Meeting has advised a review of the Care Plan the Independent Review Officer should convene a LAC Review within 20 working days of the meeting. Any amendments to the care plan must be signed off by the relevant Group Manager.

Where a significant change has been agreed to the child’s Care Plan the Adoption Social Worker must ensure that these are reflected in the child’s Permanence Plan and considered at the next Permanence Planning Meeting.