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The Adoption Panel & Decision Maker

Foster Child

Many find the easiest way to pursue their interest is to complete our registration form.

The Panel consists of agency staff and managers as well as others and part of their role is to consider all applicants who want to adopt. It is quite common to have teachers, approved foster carers and/or adopters sitting on the panel. All adoption agencies have these panels and they meet at regular intervals, but in respect of applicants they only make recommendations to the "Decision Maker". The "Decision Maker" is a very senior member of staff within the agency who has the ultimate responsibility for the agencies adoption service. He or she will often follow the Panels advice but they have the power to decline to do so.

Your Application

Your home study assessment report is usually circulated to panel members a number of weeks prior to the meeting and it is usually read very carefully. It is quite common for any reader of such a lengthy document to come to a point where there are a number of questions or issues that they wish to explore further at the meeting. These issues and questions are usually asked of the social worker who conducted the assessment. More and more panels are also inviting applicants to attend and if you do so they may want to ask you some questions too. Afterwards the panel will discuss you application in private and then reach their recommendation.

The Recommendation

In most instances the panel will reach a recommendation to decline, or approve the applicants and the type and age of the child or children for which they feel they would be appropriate. There are some circumstances where the panel may consider that they need further information before reaching a decision. This need not reflect badly upon the report or its writers, it is most likely to be that one or more of the panel has a concern that was covered in the report but where they may be able to gather further or more detailed information. It is quite right for a panel to feel it is their duty to only make decisions based upon the fullest information they can have available to them.

The Panel may also decide to delay a decision. For example, if a close relatives ill health might result in their coming to live with you. In this situation the dynamics of the family might change considerably and the time and energy you might have for a child now could be significantly affected should this happen.

The Decision Maker

As previously stated the "Decision Maker" pays a great deal of attention to the recommendations of the Panel but is not bound by them. Once they have made their decision you will normally be notified by letter of the decision and if rejected, you should be given the reasons for this. The letter should also indicate in these circumstances what you can do to appeal against this decision, should you choose to do so.

Since the end of April, 2004 all applicants (in England) that have been notified by an adoption agency that they do not consider them suitable and do not propose to approve them as adoptive parents have a choice of actions they can take. If you do not accept the agencies decision you must decide within 28 days of receiving the agencies decision in writing if you wish to appeal through the agencies own appeals process OR if you want to appeal against the decision through the Independent Review Mechanism.(IRM)

The IRM has no power to over-rule the decision maker but he or she must take into account the findings of the IRM when reconsidering your application upon any appeal being made. More details on the IRM.

We are Approved!

Many applicants quite naturally tend to focus upon their approval or otherwise but once that stage is completed the next can be equally slow and frustrating. During this time it often appears that nothing is being done but often quite the reverse is true. Social workers will be discussing your suitability in relation to a number of children but you will not be informed of this. This is because most would find it quite intolerable to be excited at the prospect of a child and then very disappointed when another family is chosen. This process is often referred to as "matching" but in truth it is just as much if not more about "mis-matching". Social workers might consider six families for a particular child, from these they might settle on a first and perhaps second choice, so two thirds of all the families considered, the majority, are "mis-matched".

At the stage when you are considered to be the most suitable new family for a child/ren the social worker is likely to visit you and talk about the child in some detail to gain a measure of what possibilities you might have to offer. Most social workers know that despite their careful and considered assessment and matching process, there is the ingredient of "chemistry" that is just as important to a successful adoption. It is not rare for prospective adopters to be told about a child who may be available for them to adopt but where the adopters just do not feel, based upon the information they are given, that the child would be "right" for their family.


If all are agreed that the approved adopter/s might be suitable for this child/ren introductions are planned. Usually the first of these will take place where the child/ren are most likely to feel comfortable and secure. Later, as the introductions progress, the meetings will start to take place at your home. Introductions can tend to be relatively short as most children are very likely to feel quite insecure at this time.

At the stage when everyone is happy for the placement to start the children come to live with you and you can then start to consider with the social workers concerned what delay there should be before applying for an Adoption Order.

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