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5.3.10 Allegations Against Prospective Adopters

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This procedure applies where there are concerns that approved prospective adopters have caused, or might pose a risk of causing, significant harm to a child. It also applies where allegations are made by, or are in relation to, a child placed for adoption. It may relate to recent abuse or neglect, or to historic abuse.

In relation to concerns for a child already adopted, normal child protection processes must be followed, with close liaison ensured between the investigating social worker and the provider of any ongoing adoption support services.

The procedure should be read in conjunction with the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Safeguarding Children Board, Managing Allegations or Serious Concerns in Respect of Any Adult who Works or Volunteers with Children.

AMENDMENT

In October 2018, this procedure was revised in full.


Contents

1. Introduction
2. Procedure
  2.1 Initial Action
  2.2 Strategy Meeting
  2.3 Investigation and Action
  2.4 Concluding the Investigation


1. Introduction

All children are entitled to the same level and standard of protection from harm including those receiving services from statutory or other agencies.

Allegations or suspicions that a prospective adopter has caused, or might pose a risk of causing, significant harm 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 in accordance with inter-agency procedures and will involve open and honest communication with, and support to, all those involved.

Historic 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, immediate contact must be made with the LADO.

On contacting LADO there will be a case discussion led by LADO to agree next step. Safeguarding the child is the priority and discussions will then follow as to when / whether the alleged perpetrator's employer should be informed.

Where allegations are made in relation to prospective adopters, the welfare and safety of all children in their household and any other children with whom they may have contact, must also be considered during any enquiry.

In relation to any allegations, 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.

Social workers must ensure that:

  • At the time of a child's placement, prospective adopters are provided with detailed information regarding the child's background including the context of any abuse experienced. Where a child has previously made allegations against carers, this should be discussed and a safe caring plan developed as part of the placement planning process - see Placement for Adoption Procedure;
  • All prospective adopters receive preparation and guidance to help them provide a safe environment for the child and all members of their family;
  • All prospective adopters receive information about this procedure.

In addition, there is a senior manager within Coram Cambridgeshire Adoption who, as the designated allegations manager liaises with the LADO in all cases to which this procedure applies and manages the allegations process and ensures that all CCA staff are aware of the requirements of this procedure.


2. Procedure

2.1 Initial Action

Anyone who receives information or suspects that a child has suffered or is likely to suffer significant harm in an adoptive placement or during an introduction process must immediately inform the child's social worker or, in their absence, that worker's line manager.

The child's social worker must immediately:

  • Inform their line manager;
  • Inform the prospective adopter's social worker and their manager;
  • Inform the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) and their District Safeguarding/Service Manager so that a decision can be made as to whether the threshold for LADO intervention has been met, in which case LADO would take the lead, or it should be treated as a child protection matter and referred for a Strategy Meeting (see below) or as a concern about standards of care, in which case an urgent Placement Planning Review Meeting - see Placement for Adoption Procedure - or review of the adoptive placement should be considered - see Adoption Reviews Procedure.

Note: 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 social worker will:

  • Inform the designated allegations manager within CCA and, in consultation with them;
  • Inform the social worker(s) of any other child in the placement;
  • Inform any other local authority with an interest in the adoptive placement.

If, following consultation with the LADO, it has been determined that the LADO threshold has been met, the LADO will take the lead. If the LADO is of the view that an allegation has been made against an adult in a position of trust which meets the criminal threshold, they will refer this matter to Police colleagues at the MASH. The LADO and Police will discuss/agree whether a LADO Allegations Management Meeting (AMM) should be convened.

The LADO will convene the meeting and invite all relevant professionals, ensuring appropriate safeguards are in place prior to the meeting.

Where it appears appropriate to treat the allegation/suspicion as a child protection concern, the child's social worker must follow the inter-agency procedures in relation to the allegation/suspicion, unless the prospective adopter lives in another local authority area, in which case they must make an immediate referral to the relevant local authority who would normally be responsible for any investigation and should invite both the child's social worker and adopters' link worker to the Strategy Meeting. There would usually be a discussion between managers to agree which authority would lead the investigation.

The Strategy Meeting will be convened as soon as possible, usually within 24 hours, but always within a maximum of 2 working days of the referral.

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.

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

2.2 Strategy Meeting

The purpose of the meeting will be to determine whether the threshold has been met for a s47 enquiry and then plan the investigation.

The following people will be invited:

  • The Local Authority Designated Officer and the District Safeguarding/Service Manager;
  • The child's social worker and their manager;
  • The manager of the team undertaking the investigation, if different;
  • The prospective adopter's link worker (who will liaise as necessary with the designated allegations manager within CCA);
  • The Police;
  • Any other agency involved with the child or adoptive family;
  • Ofsted;
  • The child's Independent Reviewing Officer.

The Strategy Meeting must consider:

  • Threshold for s47 enquiries and whether this has been met;
  • The current allegation and how it is to be investigated;
  • Whether investigation will be single agency or joint with the police;
  • 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;
  • Current arrangements for parental responsibility as these will determine whose consent is required for medicals, interviewing the child, etc.
  • Where relevant, the suspension of introductions, or whether the child should remain in placement whilst the investigation is carried out;
  • Whether to call an urgent placement planning review meeting - see Placement for Adoption Procedure - or an urgent review of the adoptive placement - see Adoption Reviews Procedure - and the timing of any such review;
  • The safety and wellbeing of other children living with, or having contact with, the prospective adopters;
  • 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;
  • What support will be offered to the children in the family during the investigation;
  • Who will inform the prospective adopters of this meeting, what information will be shared and how will they be supported through the investigation process;
  • Any contact arrangements and what information should be given to the parents of the children concerned (where appropriate);
  • Arrangements for keeping Ofsted informed of developments and the outcome.

See Strategy Meeting Guidance (Documents Library).

The Chair will record the actions to be taken and set the date of the next meeting. The record must clearly state who is responsible for what actions and set timescales for completion.

Copies of the record must be promptly placed on the child's file and Adoption Case Record and the prospective adopter's Adoption Case Record.

2.3 Investigation and Action

Where the LADO has taken the lead, the multi- agency AM Meeting will agree when, and what details of, the allegation can be shared with the alleged perpetrator. All actions agreed at the meeting will be recorded in the minutes with a clear timescale. The meeting will also agree the type of investigation to be followed and, where appropriate, the suspension from work of the alleged perpetrator will be discussed/agreed. The meeting will also consider and agree support for the alleged perpetrator.

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 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 CCA Service Manager.

Those identified to support the prospective adopters must contact them 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, potentially, to Court any information relevant to the investigation that comes to their attention.

They must provide to the prospective adopters:

  1. A copy of this procedure and the relevant Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Safeguarding Children Board, Managing Allegations or Serious Concerns in Respect of Any Adult who Works or Volunteers with Children;
  2. Advice about consulting a solicitor;
  3. Advice about obtaining independent support;
  4. Advice about insurance arrangements for legal expenses.

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

2.4 Concluding the Investigation

If the LADO has taken the lead they are responsible for informing all relevant parties of the outcome of the investigation. Where relevant, a further AM Meeting will be held to share this information.

In other cases, the Strategy Meeting should be reconvened once an investigation has been completed. The purpose of the reconvened Strategy Meeting is to agree on the outcome of the investigation and responsibilities for any further action, including any need for an urgent review of the adoptive placement (see Adoption Reviews Procedure) and reporting on the matter to the Adoption Panel and also whether it would be appropriate to make a referral to the Disclosure and Barring Service for inclusion of the person on the Children's Barred List.

The meeting should determine who will talk to the prospective adopters, informing them of the outcome of the investigation, confirming this in writing. Other agencies consulted, including Ofsted, should also be informed of the outcome. Where the child has been aware of the allegation/concern, the outcome should be sensitively explained to them. Where birth parents have been made aware of the concern, the social worker will also inform them of the outcome.

A report should be presented to the next available Adoption Panel outlining the investigation and its outcome. Within the investigation a decision will be made as to whether the child remains in placement, or introductions continue. Should the placement be discontinued, it will be for the Adoption Panel to consider the continuing suitability of the applicants as adopters. The social worker's report should address the assessed ability of the adopters to help children come to terms with past events and to appropriately manage future behaviour, and specifically comment on whether the proposed or existing placement continues to be suitable. It may be that the investigation has identified a need for additional training, support, etc. 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 for Panel should consult with the Panel Adviser and Chair for advice on who should attend the 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 Case Recording Procedure.

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.

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. This should also consider any lessons learned regarding the preparation of adopters, or children, for adoption.

End