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5.3.4 Adoption Panel


This document was reviewed and updated in April 2019 following the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) and Data Protection Act 2018.


  1. Purpose and Function
  2. Membership
  3. Agency Advisor
  4. Adoption Panel Meetings
  5. Agency Decision Maker
  6. Adoption Panel Minutes
  7. Reports to Adoption Panel

1. Purpose and Function

Cambridgeshire County Council's Adoption Panel is run by Coram Cambridgeshire Adoption. This Panel can consider adopter approvals and children's matches. The Panel also contributes to the running and quality assurance of the Adoption Service and receives annual reports on the service and its performance. In doing so it has an overriding responsibility to promote good practice, consistency of approach and fairness whilst prioritising the needs and best interests of children for whom adoption is the plan.


As part of this function, the Panel makes recommendations to the Agency Decision Maker (ADM) regarding:

  • The suitability of prospective adoptive applicants to adopt;
  • Whether a child is suitable to be placed for adoption (in some cases, see below);
  • Whether a child should be placed for adoption with particular prospective adopters.

All recommendations must be unconditional and cannot be 'in principle'.

Not all children must be referred to the Adoption Panel. Situations where the criteria are met for the local authority to apply for a Placement Order (i.e. the child is the subject of a Care Order or the Threshold Criteria for a Care Order are satisfied or where there is no parent or guardian) will not be referred to the Adoption Panel for a recommendation, but will be referred directly to the County Council's 'Agency Decision Maker' for a decision. Where the parents have given consent and there is no application for a Placement Order (usually where a baby is being relinquished for adoption) will be referred to the Panel, sitting as Cambridge County Council's Adoption Panel, for a recommendation, which the director/Assistant Director as the Agency Decision Maker in this situation will take into account when making a decision on behalf of the County Council.


The decision about whether a prospective adopter is suitable to adopt a child must be made within six months of the date on which their Registration of Interest was received, or within four months of the date on which their notification that they wished to proceed with Stage 2 of the assessment process was received.

The Adoption Panel should make a recommendation on whether a child is suitable to be placed for adoption (where the parents consent and there will be no Placement Order application) within two months of the Looked After Review where adoption was identified as the child's Permanence Plan.

The Adoption Panel should be in a position to make a recommendation on the proposed placement of a child with particular prospective adopters within six months of the Agency Decision Maker (Adoption) decision that the child is suitable to be placed for adoption.

Where these timescales are not met, this must be explained in the reports to Panel and the Panel should record and collate this information.


When making a recommendation, the Panel may also advise on the following issues:

  • Where prospective adoptive parents are recommended as suitable to adopt, the number of children the adoptive parents may be suitable to adopt, as well as their age range, sex, likely needs and background, and, in the case of inter- country adopters, the country from which they are suitable to adopt;
  • Where parents are consenting to adoption (usually a relinquished baby) and it is recommended that a child is suitable to be placed for adoption, what the contact arrangements for the child should be and whether a Placement Order should be applied for;
  • Where it is recommended that a child should be placed with particular prospective adopters, the proposed adoption support, future contact arrangements and whether/how the exercise of Parental Responsibility by birth parents and/or prospective adopters should be restricted pending adoption.

Note that in cases referred directly to the Agency Decision Maker for a decision about a plan for adoption, they are expressly prohibited from referring a case to the Adoption Panel for advice.


The Adoption Panel monitors the progress of individual children for whom adoption is the plan up to the making of an Adoption Order, through progress reports as required under the Placement for Adoption Procedure, and receives Disruption Reports in relation to any breakdowns in adoptive placements (see Disruption of Adoptive Placements Procedure).

The Adoption Panel also provides feedback every six months on the quality of reports and whether there is a fair and consistent approach across the service.

2. Membership

There is no fixed Panel membership or maximum number of members or maximum tenure of office.

A 'Central List' is maintained comprising persons considered to be suitable to be members of the Coram Cambridgeshire Adoption Panel. This List is maintained by the Coram Cambridgeshire Adoption Agency Panel Adviser. For each Panel meeting, members will be drawn from this Central List; the same people do not have to be appointed to every Panel meeting.

The Central List includes (in addition to the Independent Chair):

  • Adoption social workers with at least 3 years' relevant post qualifying experience in child care social work, including direct experience in adoption work (not necessarily employed by the County Council);
  • The Agency Medical Adviser(s);
  • Other persons considered suitable. This may include specialists in education, race and culture, child and adolescent mental health services fostering and those with personal experience of adoption.

The Chair (Independent Person) is independent of the Council and is appointed by CCA in discussion with CCC, as is the Deputy Chair.

The Agency Decision Maker (Adoption) cannot be included on the Central List.

Normally, 6 people will sit at each Adoption Panel meeting, provided that there is a quorum of 5, one of whom must be the Chair or their Deputy, one of the adoption social worker representatives and at least one independent member.

2.1 Appointments to the Central List

Those on the Central List are appointed by the Coram Cambridgeshire Adoption Panel Adviser and have undergone a recruitment process that includes interviews, identity checks, verification of qualifications and right to work in the UK, references and Disclosure and Barring Service checks, which are recorded.

New appointees are asked to give signed agreement to checks being undertaken as above and cannot take up their appointment until the outcome of the checks are known. They are excluded from Panel membership if they have any offences against children, or of violence. Further, they are required to notify the Panel Adviser immediately if they receive such a conviction or caution while on the Central List.

New members are required to observe an Adoption Panel meeting before they sit as a member and all members are expected to attend an annual joint training day with adoption agency staff. All receive induction training which must be completed within 10 weeks of inclusion on the List and access to appropriate training and skills development and are kept abreast of changes to legislation, regulation and guidance.

They also have access to the whistle-blowing policy.

Written information about the expectations arising from their appointment is given to new appointees to the Central List (in relation to their performance objectives, participation in induction and other training, safeguarding the confidentiality of information provided to the Panel and their general conduct - see Section 2.2, Confidentiality and Section 2.3, General Conduct) and they sign a written agreement confirming their acceptance of these before taking up their appointment.

2.2 Confidentiality

All written and verbal information given to Panel members in the course of their duties is strictly confidential.

Panel members must keep all written and electronic information secure and return all Panel documents immediately after each Panel meeting.

Panel members must not copy, in part or in whole, any documents that relate to a case.

If a Panel member has some knowledge of a case, whether in a personal or professional capacity, they must declare an interest and inform the Chair of the Panel at the earliest opportunity, so that an alternative member can be invited if required to ensure that the Panel is quorate (see Section 2.4, Conflicts of Interest).

Failure to comply with the above could result in the member's inclusion on the Central List being terminated.

2.3 General Conduct

All those on the Central List must be committed to anti-discriminatory practice and consider each case on its merits.

Panel members are expected to have read the Panel papers prior to the Panel meeting and come prepared to contribute to the Panel discussion.

The Panel Adviser will review the performance of those on the Central List annually.

If there are concerns about the conduct or behaviour of a person on the Central List, this should be conveyed to the Chair who will initially address this with them.

If such concerns cannot be resolved informally, the Chair, in consultation with the Panel Adviser, will write to the person concerned setting out the concerns and what action it is proposed to take. See Section 2.6, Termination of Appointment to the Central List for action that may be taken if the concerns continue.

The Chair's performance will be reviewed annually by the Agency Decision Maker, taking into account the views of those who attend Panel meetings, namely, persons on the Central List, social workers and prospective adopters.

The Panel Chair and their Deputy are provided with independent external supervision every quarter from an experienced Panel Chair.

2.4 Conflicts of Interest

Panel members should consider any conflict of interest in relation to Panel agenda items. A potential conflict arises if an interest may be seen to adversely affect a Panel member's capacity to act without prejudice or preference in a matter.

It is anticipated that in many circumstances there may be professional knowledge of a case which should be notified to the Chair but which will not affect a member's capacity to participate in the Panel. In other circumstances there may be a personal interest or connection which would require the Panel member not to participate. Panel members should immediately consult the Chair who may discuss it with the Panel Adviser or Legal Adviser, giving as much advance notice as possible, particularly having regard to the need for the Panel to be quorate.

2.5 Resignations from the Central List

All those on the Central List are required to give a minimum of one month's written notice of their resignation, except where personal emergencies e.g. accidents, illness, make this impossible. Resignation letters should be addressed to the Coram Cambridgeshire Adoption Panel Adviser with a copy to the Chair of the Panel.

Initial verbal resignations may be given, but should always be followed by a written resignation. Those on the Central List should inform the Chair of the Panel of their intention to resign, before making this public.

Someone wishing to withdraw a submitted written resignation must do so before the notice period expires by writing to the Coram Cambridgeshire Adoption Panel Adviser, who reserves the right not to accept a withdrawal of notice and to allow the original letter of resignation to stand.

2.6 Termination of Appointment to the Central List

Where it is considered that someone is unsuitable to be on the Central List, they must be given one month's notice in writing and reasons for the decision to end their appointment.

Where there are concerns about the behaviour of a person on the Central List either inside or outside the meetings, and the difficulties have not been resolved by discussion and correspondence between the Chair, Panel Adviser and the person concerned, the matter will be raised by the Panel Adviser with the Coram Cambridgeshire Adoption Panel Adviser, who will decide whether to propose the end of the appointment and if so, will advise the person concerned in writing giving clear reasons for the proposal.

The person concerned will be given the opportunity to make observations on the matter before a final decision is made by the Coram Cambridgeshire Adoption Panel Adviser.

3. Agency Adviser

The Agency Adviser to the Adoption Panel, is also the Panel Adviser and has extensive adoption experience.

Their role includes assisting with the appointment (including re-appointment), termination and review of appointment of members of the Central List; responsibility for the induction and training of members of the Central List; responsibility for liaison between the agency and the Adoption Panel, monitoring the performance of members of the Central List and the administration of the Adoption Panel; and giving such advice to the Adoption Panel as the panel may request in relation to any case or generally. The Adviser may, if requested, provide advice to the Agency Decision Maker when they are considering a particular case.

The Panel Adviser is not a panel member and cannot take part in the decision-making process. However, they are able to contribute to panel meetings by raising issues and providing advice, for example about procedures and best practice.

The Adviser maintains an overview of the quality of reports, to both the Panel and to the Agency Decision Maker, and liaises with team managers to quality assure the Child's Permanence Report, the Prospective Adopter's Report and the Adoption Placement Report. Where there are concerns about a report, the Agency Adviser and the Panel chair should consider whether it is adequate for submission to the Panel. It will be for the Agency Adviser alone to decide whether the report is adequate for submission to the Agency Decision Maker.

The Panel Adviser will also update the Panel on the general progress of cases it has considered. This is particularly important where the Panel's recommendation or advice was not accepted.

4. Adoption Panel Meetings

The Adoption Panel meets twice per month at CCA's offices at Lincoln House in Cambridge The Panel Adviser will also ask the Panel Administrator to arrange additional special meetings at short notice when necessary, with the Chair's agreement, where for example there is a need to consider an urgent match.

The Panel Administrator will prepare and circulate an annual list of Panel dates and deadlines.

The Panel Adviser attends all Panel meetings to advise the Panel but is not a member of the Panel. Their role is to ensure all the necessary reports are available for the Panel, to advise the Panel on social work and procedural matters and to report to social workers and their managers on issues arising from Panel meetings.

The Panel Adviser also assists with appointments to the Central List, arranges induction and other training for those on the List, monitors and reviews their performance and the administration of the Panel.

The Panel Administrator, in consultation with the Panel Adviser, will prepare the agenda for each meeting and draw members from the Central List. The agenda and Panel papers for each meeting will be sent to Panel members at least five working days before the meeting.

The Panel's legal adviser provides legal advice for the ADM decisions for the plan for the child, for matching a child and for adopter approvals. They do not attend the Panel in person, except in exceptional circumstances. When they do attend they are not a Panel member.

The agenda will include, at the beginning, an opportunity for any Panel member to declare an interest in any item on the agenda (see Section 2.4, Conflicts of Interest).

. If an interest is declared, the Chair must then decide whether the Panel member should withdraw during consideration of the item and ensure that the Panel will still be quorate.

In the event of a disagreement between Panel members, the Chair will consider whether further information is required or whether the Panel should go ahead and make a recommendation on the basis of the majority view. In this event, any dissenting view will be fully recorded in the minutes.

Social workers presenting reports to the Panel must send their report and any supporting documentation required (see Placement for Adoption Procedure and Assessment and Approval of Prospective Adopters Procedure) to the Panel Administrator at least 15 working days before the date of the Panel meeting.

At the end of each Panel meeting, the Panel Administrator will collect all members' papers. Panel members unable to attend a meeting must return their papers to the Panel Administrator.

5. Agency Decision Maker

The Coram Cambridgeshire Adoption Agency Decision Maker considers recommendations from the Adoption Panel and, in those circumstances outlined in Section 1, Purpose and Function, also makes decisions about whether a child is suitable to be placed for adoption without reference to the Adoption Panel. The following principles apply to all such decisions.

In reaching their decision, the Agency Decision Maker must consider:

  • The welfare checklist in Section 1 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002*;
  • All the information surrounding the case including the reports submitted to the Adoption Panel (where applicable), and that the authors of the reports are appropriately qualified to prepare them (see Section 7, Reports to Adoption Panel);
  • The stability and permanence of the relationship of any couple under consideration;
  • The recommendation and reasons of the Adoption Panel and any Independent Review Panel under the Independent Review Mechanism; and
  • The final minutes of the Adoption Panel including any minutes from adjourned Panel meetings and the Independent Review Panel;

*Welfare Checklist:

  • The child's ascertainable wishes and feelings regarding the decision (considered in the light of the child's age and understanding);
  • The child's particular needs;
  • The likely effect on the child (throughout his life) of having ceased to be a member of the original family and become an adopted person;
  • The child's age, sex, background and any of the child's characteristics which the court or agency considers relevant;
  • Any harm (within the meaning of the Children Act 1989 (c. 41)) which the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering;
  • The relationship which the child has with relatives, and with any other person in relation to whom the court or agency considers the relationship to be relevant, including:
    • The likelihood of any such relationship continuing and the value to the child of its doing so;
    • The ability and willingness of any of the child's relatives, or of any such person, to provide the child with a secure environment in which the child can develop, and otherwise to meet the child's needs;
    • The wishes and feelings of any of the child's relatives, or of any such person, regarding the child.

The Agency Decision Maker should:

  • List the material taken into account in reaching the decision;
  • Identify key arguments;
  • State whether they agree with the process and approach of the relevant Panel(s) and are satisfied as to its fairness and that the Panel(s) has/have properly addressed the arguments;
  • Consider whether any additional information now available to them that was not before the Panel has an impact on their reasons or recommendation;
  • Identify the reasons given for the relevant recommendation that they do or do not wish to adopt; and
  • State (a) the reasons they agree with and (b) any further reasons for their decision.

6. Adoption Panel Minutes

The Panel minutes will always record the information in relation to the following:

The Panel minutes will be written in a standard format and kept on every child's or prospective adopter's Adoption Case Record.

The Panel chair is responsible for ensuring the accuracy of the Panel's recommendations, reasons and, following agreement with Panel members, the minutes.

The minutes must accurately reflect the discussion and cover the key issues, rather than be a verbatim record of the meeting. Where Panel members have serious reservations, the Panel chair must ensure these are recorded in the minutes and are attached to the Panel's recommendation. If the Panel cannot reach a consensus on its recommendation after the chair and other members of the Panel have voted, the Panel chair has a second vote, i.e. the casting vote. The Panel's minutes should clearly set out the reasons why the Panel chair had to use their casting vote.

The Panel minutes must be produced promptly and agreed by the Panel members before being approved by the Chair and sent to the Agency Decision Maker, together with the reports considered by the Panel when the recommendation was made, so that the Agency Decision Maker can meet the timescales for making the decision as set out in the relevant procedures - usually the timescale is within 5 working days of receipt.

Panel minutes, like other parts of adoption case records, are exempt from the right of access provisions contained in the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act 2018 (i.e. the person to whom they relate does not have a statutory right of access to the information they contain).

7. Reports to Adoption Panel

Reports to the Adoption Panel must be prepared by qualified social workers with at least 3 years' post-qualification experience. This must include direct experience of adoption work either in assessing prospective adoptive parents or implementing an adoption plan for a Looked After Child. Where the author of the report does not have the requisite qualifications and/or experience, they must have either a qualification in social work or be a social worker in training, and be supervised by a qualified social worker with 3 years' relevant experience.

Where the person preparing the report is an independent social worker, they must always be suitably qualified and experienced and be supervised by a member of staff with the suitable qualifications and experience.

The same qualifications and experience are required for social workers undertaking visits of children placed for adoption (see Monitoring and Supervision of Adoptive Placements Procedure) and authors of Court Reports in adoption cases.