Adoption Policy Review Group: phase one report

Report on phase one of a two-phase review to look at adoption law and practice, commissioned in April 2001.




the the 1995 Act is the Children (Scotland) Act 19951978 Act is the Adoption (Scotland) act 1978


See Annex 1, page 1

Adoption agency

See Annex 1, paras 17-18

Adoption panel

every agency must have a panel of people to consider plans for children, to consider whether or not to approve prospective adopters and matching children with approved prospective adopters. These people are from inside and outside the agency and have relevant experience. Each meeting of a group of them, to consider cases, is also called a panel.
Panels make recommendation to the agency decision maker about:-whether adoption is the correct plan for a child; whether applicants should be approved as adopters; and a match between a child and adopters. Panels can also look at other issues such as adoption allowances.
Some authority agencies use the adoption panel to consider other types of permanence for children as well, and some panels are called 'Permanence Panels. Some agencies also combine their adoption/permanence panel with their fostering panels, which recommend approval of foster carers.

Adoptive parents

parents whom a child acquires through adoption, as opposed to birth parents.

Agency adoption

an adoption arranged by an adoption agency. See Annex 1, para 20.

Agency decision maker

the person(s) in an agency who make the final agency decisions (about plans for children, approval of adopters and matching) after the adoption panel has made its recommendations.


work to determine the needs of a child and/or their family.

Also work to determine whether a person should be approved as an adopter or a foster carer.

Birth families

the family into which a child is born. The term covers all members of the family, including birth parents, brothers, sisters and grandparents. If a child is adopted, all legal ties are transferred to the adoptive parents and family.


a child can be 'looked after' or adopted up to the age of 18.

Children's Hearing/Panel system

The Hearing system deals with children who may need compulsory measures of supervision. It deals with children who need care and protection as well those who offend. If a child is made subject to a supervision requirement under s. 70 of the 1995 Act, that child is a 'looked after' child, whether at home or away from home.

The individual decision-making bodies are called hearings or panels.

Children's Services Plans

Every local authority must prepare such plans, covering all 'relevant' services, in terms of s.19 of the 1995 Act. 'Relevant' services include all services for 'looked after' children, including permanence planning, and adoption services


arrangements to allow someone (eg. a birth parent, sibling) to keep in touch or 'contact' with a child. It can be direct - meeting the child face to face - or indirect - by post or telephone or otherwise through a third party. If a court makes a formal order for contact, this is called a 'contact order'.
Contact is sometimes called access.

Fostering panel

a panel to recommend whether or not to approve foster carers. Every local authority must have one. Some authorities combine their adoption and fostering panels.


optional court application by a local authority before an adoption. If granted, it removes all parental responsibilities and rights from birth parents and gives them to the authority. See Annex 1, paras 8-10 and paragraph 43

'Looked after' children

children who are 'looked after' by a local authority.
Children may be 'looked after' at home or placed away from Home. The provisions about 'looked after' children are in the 1995 Act and supporting regulations. Local authorities have duties to these children and their welfare must be their paramount concern in all decisions about them. The duties are on the whole local authority, not just the social work department.
Children are 'looked after' if they are:
(1) accommodated in a place provided by the authority and with the agreement of parents - s.25 of the 1995 Act;
(2) subject to supervision requirements from the Children's Hearing, at home or away from home - s.70 of the 1995 Act.;
(3) subject to warrants, orders or authorisations from a Hearing or the sheriff court, being short term orders including Child Protection Orders;
(4) subject to Parental Responsibilities Orders giving authorities parental responsibilities and rights - s. 86 of the 1995 Act;
(5) subject to orders made elsewhere in the UK, when Scottish authorities have had responsibilities transferred to them.

Looked after review

all 'looked after' children, including those at home, must have their cases reviewed by the local authority on a regular basis, usually at least every six months. This review is done in a meeting attended by older children, parents, social workers, and all involved in the individual case. In practice, these meetings are called 'looked after reviews'. Reviews are important to ensure regular monitoring of and planning for children. They are the meetings where local authorities make decisions to go ahead with planning for permanence away from home, including adoption

Parallel planning

planning for a child involving two possible alternative routes for the child's future, e.g. rehabilitation and adoption. This is a way of making sure that all future options are thought about together. It is important that this is done in an open way, so that the child and family are aware of future options. This sort of planning is designed to avoid unnecessary drift in planning for children. Twin-track planning is a similar expression
Concurrent planning is a specialist form of parallel planning used in adoption work, when specific carers, family and professionals agree to work for rehabilitation for a time-limited period, on the understanding that if rehabilitation fails, the carers will adopt the child. It was developed in Oregon, USA and is used by the Goodman Project in Manchester.


sometimes referred to as permanency. There is no one definition or meaning in the context of planning for children. However it can be described as the long-term or permanent arrangements which best meet the needs of a 'looked after' child who is away from home. So planning for permanence is making the best choice for an individual child, looking at all the options and considering all the circumstances, including a full assessment of the child's needs. The child's welfare must be paramount and the other principles applied as well.
There are four legal options:
(1) going home;
(2) Residence Order under s. 11 of the 1995 Act;
(3) Parental Responsibilities Order (PRO) under s.86 of the 1995 Act;
(4) Adoption.
See Annex 1 para 14 for more information about these. However, legal options are only one of the issues to be considered in permanence planning Supervision requirements from the Children's Hearing system (s.70) and accommodation by agreement (s.25) are not normally considered good permanence option.
When local authorities are considering permanence for 'looked after' children, they can use services covered in their Children's Services Plans and request co-operation from other authorities and Health Boards etc. under s.21 of the 1995 Act. See Annex 1, para 7 and para 13.


when a child is placed away from home by a local authority or adoption agency. For example, a child may have a placement with a relative, a foster carer, prospective adopters, or in a residential home or school. In adoption, placement is the stage when an adoption agency places a child with the prospective adopters, ie the child goes to live with them.


an expression used in the process of recruiting and assessing adopters, to cover training, meetings and work with people who want to be adopters. In other words, 'preparing' them for adopting a child.


the four principles covering decisions made about children under the 1978 and 1995 Acts. See Annex 1, para 4 for a note of all four principles.

Post-adoption support

help provided to all parties to adoption, adoptees, adopters and birth families. See Annex 1, paras 46-49.

Relative adoption

adoption by a relative of the child. See Annex 1, para 21.

Step-parent adoption

adoption of a child by the married partner of the birth parent who is caring for the child. See Annex 1, para 21 and para 28.

Twin-track planning

see parallel planning.

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