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3.9.18 Managing Allegations in Respect of Children Placed for Adoption, Children Receiving Adoption Support Services, Adopters Awaiting Placement or Allegations of Historical Abuse

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This procedure applies where allegations are made or suspicions are raised that approved prospective adopters have caused Significant Harm to a child. It also applies where allegations are made by or in relation to a child placed for adoption or a child already adopted and in receipt of adoption support services. It may relate to recent abuse or neglect or historical abuse.

It should be read in conjunction with the Lincolnshire Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) Child Protection procedures and the LSCB procedure Allegations against Persons who work with Children.

AMENDMENT

This chapter first appeared on the electronic procedures manual in January 2012. It is compliant with the National Minimum Standards for Adoption.


Contents

1. Policy
2. Introduction
3. Procedure
  3.1 Initial Action
  3.2 Complaints about Prospective Adopters
  3.3 Investigation and Action
  3.4 Procedure for Concluding the Investigation
  3.5 Procedures for Responding to Allegations in Respect of Children Receiving Adoption Support Services
  3.6 Procedures for Responding to Concerns and/or Allegations about Prospective Adopters Awaiting Placement
  3.7 Historical Abuse


1. Policy

All children are entitled to the same level and standard of protection from harm including those receiving services from statutory or other agencies. For this reason, enquiries and investigations relating to children in respect of such services must be dealt with under the principles, policies and procedures laid down by the Lincolnshire Safeguarding Children Board Procedures (LSCB).

Children placed for adoption and those children receiving adoption support services should be provided with the basic safeguards against abuse, founded on an approach which promotes their general welfare, protects them from harm of all kinds, and treats them with dignity and respect.

Allegations or suspicions that a prospective adopter has caused Significant Harm to a child 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 under those procedures and will involve open and honest communication with and support to all those affected.

Historical 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, to consider whether the current employer should be informed.

These procedures are intended to safeguard from abuse and neglect children placed for adoption by Lincolnshire County Council (LCC) and children receiving adoption support where it is believed that the prospective adopter or adopter may have:

  • Behaved in a way that has harmed a child or may have harmed a child;
  • Possibly committed a criminal offence against or related to a child;
  • Behaved towards a child or children in a way that indicates s/he is unsuitable to care for a child.

Where allegations are made in relation to prospective adopters, the welfare and safety of all children in the prospective adopters' household, and children with whom the prospective adopters may have contact, must also be considered during any Section 47 Enquiry.

For allegations in respect of children placed for adoption where the allegation is not against the prospective adopter or a member of their household. The LSCB procedures should be followed and the child’s social worker and the adoption social worker should be fully engaged in the enquiries/investigation.

Clear timescales will be integral to the procedure and those involved must avoid delay unless there is good reason. There will be clarity regarding access to reports and documents relating to the investigation.

The Allegations Procedure outlined below applies in the event of any allegation where a child is placed for adoption where:

  • The prospective adopter is approved by Lincolnshire County Council;

    and
  • All prospective adopters living in Lincolnshire including those approved by other adoption agencies, where children are placed for adoption.

Any allegation that a child placed with prospective adopters in Lincolnshire has suffered, or is at risk of, suffering Significant Harm at the hands of their carers will be referred to Lincolnshire Children’s Social Care and dealt with in accordance with the procedure below.

In those circumstances where allegations involve prospective adopters approved by LCC, but resident elsewhere and allegations against carers approved by other adoption agencies who live out of Lincolnshire, but with whom Lincolnshire children are placed, it is the responsibility of the Local Authority in whose area the prospective adopters live to investigate any allegation of harm under their own safeguarding procedures.

Therefore, any allegation about or by a child placed by Lincolnshire resident adopters will be investigated by Lincolnshire County Councils Children’s Services.

In addition, it is the responsibility of the authority where a child is resident to follow up any concerns or allegations in respect of that child. However, the relevant Local Authority will wish to work alongside the child’s LCC social worker and team manager and the adoption social worker to investigate the concerns and or allegations in those circumstances where this is appropriate.

Whenever a concern or allegation is made regarding prospective adopters where a child is placed for adoption in another local authority area there should be a prompt referral to that authority for enquiries to be made into the concern and/or allegation.

All necessary steps should be taken by the child’s social worker and the placing authority to ensure that the procedures set out in this document are mirrored in the other authority area and robustly progressed to a managed conclusion which ensures the safety and protection of the child and a timely and effective response to the concern/allegation.

In relation to the concerns for the investigation of possible serious breaches of standards, each Adoption Agency has its own service standards in addition to those set out in the Regulations and National Minimum Standards. Adoption Agencies conducting an investigation into a concern or complaint under their own procedures should be mindful of the possibility that a child has been harmed and that a child protection referral may be necessary.

If the person raising suspicions or making the allegation wishes to remain anonymous, these wishes should be respected. However, wherever possible, referrers should be named as this generally assists an open and balance investigation.

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 that the termination of a prospective adopter’s approval cannot be considered.

It should also be noted that it may be necessary to consider during the investigation what action, if any, should be taken with regard to other children with whom prospective adopters against whom allegations are made have contact, including their own children.


2. Introduction

The expectation is that:

  1. At the time of a child's placement, prospective adopters will be provided with detailed information as to the child's background and in particular the context of any abusive experiences of and/or previous allegations made by the child;
  2. All prospective adopters will receive preparation, training and guidance to help them provide a safe environment for the child and all other members of their own family;
  3. All prospective adopters will have received information about this procedure and the LSCB Procedures for Safeguarding Children;
  4. All prospective adopters will record the progress of children placed with them, including any incidents or complaints, and understand that such records are made to protect all those involved in the child's placement, particularly at times of high stress, and will provide important evidence if an allegation is made.

In addition, in relation to the Adoption Service, it is an expectation of the Adoption National Minimum Standards 2011 (Standard 22) that:

  • A senior manager within the Adoption Service is identified to be the designated allegations manager who liaises with the LADO in all cases to which this procedure applies and manages the allegations process. The Head of Regulated Services is the designated allegations manager;
  • All staff within the Adoption Service are aware of the requirements of this procedure.


3. Procedure

3.1 Initial Action

Any person who receives information or suspects that a child has suffered or is suffering significant harm in an adoptive placement must immediately inform the child’s social worker or their team manager.

Any concern that a child placed for adoption in Lincolnshire may be suffering, or is at risk of suffering ill treatment, due to the actions or in-actions of a prospective adopter will be treated as allegations of significant harm pending further enquiries.

Suspicions that a child is or has been:

  • Neglected (e.g. insufficient clothing, inadequate supervision or diet);
  • Sexually abused (beg inappropriate touching);
  • Emotionally abused (beg taunted, constantly criticised, ignored or belittled);
  • Physically abused (beg assaulted, bruised, burnt).

Will be dealt with under the LSCB Safeguarding procedures. Concerns that a child has been hit, smacked, handled roughly, or subject to severe punishment will also be treated as child protection matters.

Allegations may come from a variety of sources; an accusation that a child is, or has been, mistreated by a carer may be made by a child, a parent, a member of staff, another carer, or anyone else. Concerns about significant harm may arise as the result of a single event, observation or accusation, or a number of events which, individually, might not be seen as significant, but collectively constitute harm.

3.2 Complaints about Prospective Adopters

Complaints may have been made about a prospective adopter's actions or behaviour, by a child or member of the public. Complaints will be dealt with under the Children's Services Complaints procedures - see Complaints Procedure. Eligible complainants should be informed of their rights under the Children's Services Complaints procedure and given a copy of the leaflet 'Comment, Compliment, Complaint'. Alternatively, in the case of other Adoption Agencies, a complaint will be responded to according to the Adoption Agency's own complaints procedure as appropriate.

Matters investigated under the Allegations Procedures may also constitute a complaint.

The Children’s Services Complaints Procedure or another Adoption Agency’s Complaints Procedure may also be used where an investigation under the Allegations Procedures has not covered all the issues raised by a child or young person.

On receipt of any such information, the child’s social worker, or their team manager must immediately:

  • Inform the designated allegations manager within the Adoption Service - see Section 2, Introduction; and, in consultation with the designated allegations manager;
  • Inform his or her Team Manager and Head of Service;
  • Inform the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO);
  • Inform the social worker linked to the prospective adopter;
  • Refer the matter to the relevant Team via the Customer Services Centre.

The social worker will:

  • Inform any other adoption agency with an interest in the placement - where the placement was inter-agency.

The social work team responsible for the independent investigation must implement the Child Protection Procedures in relation to the allegation/suspicion. They will gather relevant background information and convene a Strategy Meeting within 2 working days of the referral.

Other investigative routes may be identified as more appropriate at this stage, for example, the complaints process, and should be considered as an alternative to a Child Protection Enquiry.

Referrals regarding prospective adopters who live outside the county will be dealt with by the relevant local authority under its own Safeguarding Children Board’s Procedures and there will need to be close cooperation by relevant staff with the other authority who will lead on the investigation.

At this stage, OFSTED must be informed of the allegation/suspicion and the social worker’s team manager must ensure that an invitation is sent to OFSTED to be represented at the Strategy Meeting.

In exceptional cases where immediate action may be necessary to safeguard the welfare of the child, the relevant Head of Service will take legal advice before making a decision whether to remove the child from the placement (with the Court’s leave, if required).

The child’s social worker should liaise with the Independent Reviewing Officer as to the need to convene an urgent Adoption Review.

NB: Where a child who has already been adopted but is still in receipt of adoption support services makes an allegation of abuse, including where the allegation is of historical abuse, this must be referred to the child's social worker/adoption support worker, who will take the action set out below or, as appropriate, make a referral to Children's Social Care Services for the area where the child lives in order that the relevant LSCB procedures can be followed.

The Strategy Meeting will take place within 2 working days of the referral and will involve a face-to-face meeting. The purpose of the meeting will be to decide if an investigation is necessary, and if so, how it should be carried out.

The following people will be invited:

  1. The manager of the team undertaking the Child Protection Enquiry;
  2. The child’s social worker and his/her manager;
  3. The social worker linked to the prospective adopter, (who will liaise as necessary with the designated allegations manager within the Adoption Service - see Section 2, Introduction) and his/her manager;
  4. The police;
  5. The Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO);
  6. Any other agency involved with the child or prospective adoptive family;
  7. A representative from OFSTED.

The meeting will be chaired by the relevant manager of the team undertaking the Child Protection Enquiry or as provided in the relevant Safeguarding Children Board Procedures.

The Strategy Meeting must consider:

  1. The nature of the allegation, its source and reliability;
  2. Background information relating to the prospective adoptive family, how long the family has been approved, other children in the household, the family’s known strengths and weaknesses and any exceptional features about the child and the placement;
  3. The involvement of other adoption agencies - where the placement was inter-agency;
  4. Who will notify OFSTED of the outcome of the meeting, if a representative is not present;
  5. The safety of all children in the household including the prospective adopter’s own children and whether any action is necessary to protect the children including the removal of all or any of the children while the investigation is conducted;
  6. How the needs of any child who has to leave the placement will be met including contact with other children in the placement;
  7. How and by whom the investigation is to be conducted. (It is important that careful consideration is given to the planning of criteria when a joint investigation is recommended. In situations where the Police or Crown Prosecution Service recommend no further action then the social worker must interview the prospective adopters about all allegations and concerns. Interview notes must be taken and made available to future meetings and/or the Adoption Panel);
  8. The time-scales for the investigation (see below) and any contingencies should timescales prove unlikely to be met;
  9. How the child should be informed of the procedure to be followed and supported through the process;
  10. Whether the alleged perpetrator should be asked to leave the home while the investigation is conducted and confirmation that the Chair will inform the prospective adopters of the allegation verbally and then in writing (within 3 working days of the meeting).

    The Chair should arrange a follow-up face-to-face meeting with the prospective adopter(s), to take place within 5 working days of the meeting, involving both the investigating social worker and the prospective adopters’ social worker. This meeting with the prospective adopter(s) must never be undertaken by one member of staff only;
  11. How to inform the child’s parents of the allegation;
  12. Once informed of the decision, what support to offer the prospective adopters possibly through an independent adoption support agency;
  13. How reports on the investigation will be shared with the prospective adopters and the child or children in the placement;
  14. Arrangements for reconvening the Strategy Meeting or scheduling a resolution meeting.

Whether or not the Strategy Meeting considers that the allegation or suspicion has any foundation, the matter should be investigation unless there are exceptional circumstances, and OFSTED must be notified of the decision and the outcome.

The minutes of the meeting must contain clear action points and clear timescales for each action.

The action points and timescales will be circulated immediately after the meeting. Actions agreed must be recorded and be the responsibility of named individuals.

Copies of the action points and the minutes should be held on the child’s and the prospective adopter’s Adoption Case Record. A copy should also be sent to the child’s Independent Reviewing Officer.

Any decision to take no further action following the Strategy Meeting can only be made by the Designated Manager. This decision and the reasons for the decision must be clearly recorded by the Designated Manager on the child’s and the prospective adopter’s Adoption Case Record, and reported to OFSTED.

3.3 Investigation and Action

In anticipation of the outcome of the investigation being reported to the Adoption Panel, the social worker should contact the Panel Administrator to consider the date for the Panel and whether a special Panel meeting will be required.

The actions agreed at the Strategy Meeting should be implemented by those responsible within the agreed timescales.

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 own children. 

Where considered appropriate by those at the Strategy Meeting, the prospective adopters should 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.

Unless there are exceptional circumstances, any decision to remove the child from the placement or to seek the Court's leave to remove the child while the investigation is being conducted should only be made after an Adoption Review has been held. Any such decision should then be communicated in writing to the prospective adopter by the Head of Service.

Those supporting the prospective adopters must contact the prospective adopters as soon as practicable after the prospective adopters are made aware of the allegation, and explain their role to the prospective adopters. They must make clear their responsibility to report to the local authority, the Police and in some circumstances to the Court if any information relevant to the investigation comes to their attention.

They should confirm that the prospective adopters are aware of the following:

  1. The contents of this procedure and the relevant Safeguarding Children Board's Procedures;
  2. The address and contact telephone number of an independent adoption support agency;
  3. Information regarding consulting a solicitor;
  4. Information on insurance arrangements for legal expenses.

If an Initial Child Protection Conference is convened, the Conference Chair must be consulted in advance to discuss whether the prospective adopters should be invited to attend. In any event, the prospective adopters' views must be obtained for and communicated to the Conference.

The social worker undertaking the investigation will prepare a report on the investigation and a copy will be provided to the prospective adopters and their representatives.

3.4 Procedures for Concluding the Investigation

A Resolution Meeting will be reconvened within 15 days of the final Strategy Meeting. The same people will be invited and the same person will chair the meeting; the prospective adopters and their representative will also be invited but to the second part of the meeting only. Dividing the meeting into two parts will enable the Chair to discuss any information of a confidential or contentious nature without the prospective adopters present. In readiness for this meeting the investigating social worker should have invited the prospective adopters and their representative to submit a written response to the report on the investigation.

The response of the prospective adopters to the social worker's report should be reported during the second part of the meeting.

The purpose of the Resolution Meeting is to agree on the outcome of the investigation and responsibilities for any further action, including arranging an Adoption Review where necessary and/or a review of the prospective adopter's approval - see Assessment and Approval of Adopters Procedure and the need to make a referral to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) for inclusion of the person on the Children's Barred List.

Where the placement ends as a result of the investigation, a Disruption Meeting will be necessary - see Disruption of Placement Procedure.

The Chair will notify the prospective adopters (if not in attendance), the child, the parents, other children in the placement or involved, other relevant agencies and OFSTED (if they do not attend the meeting) of the recommendations made at the meeting.

These can be:

  • Investigation inconclusive;
  • Finding of significant harm.

Although this will always be envisaged as the final meeting, should new information come to light further actions may be required thereby necessitating the suspension and rescheduling of the meeting.

A report should be presented to the next available Adoption Panel which should be held within 20 working days of the Resolution Meeting. 

The social worker preparing the report should consult with the Chair of the Adoption Panel and the Panel Adviser who will advise on who should attend the Panel meeting (usually the child's social worker and the social worker linked to the prospective adopters) and whether or not a special Panel meeting should be convened. Prior to the Adoption Panel, the prospective adopters and their representative should have seen, and had time to comment on, the following:

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 local policy.

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.

3.5 Procedures for Responding to Allegations in Respect of Children Receiving Adoption Support Services

In response to an allegation in relation to an adopted child in receipt of adoption support services, enquiries should be made in accordance with the LSCB Safeguarding Procedures. The adoption support social worker should be informed, consulted and involved at every stage of the investigation, as appropriate.

In addition, it is the responsibility of the authority where a child is resident and receiving adoption support services to follow up any concerns allegations in respect of that child.

Whenever an allegation regarding an adopted child who is receiving adoption support services from LCC, but lives in another local authority there should be a prompt referral to that authority for enquiries to be made into the allegation. However, the relevant Local Authority will wish to work alongside the LCC social worker and team manager to investigate the allegations.

Whenever it becomes apparent within Section 47 enquiries that a child subject to an allegation is adopted, consideration should be given as to whether it is appropriate to involve adoption support services and at what stage. As a guide, adoption support services should be used to address any aspect of need which relates specifically to adoption and may also provide advice to professionals on aspects of adoption. The team manager responsible for the case should discuss the appropriateness of involving the adoption support team with the adoption team manager. Adoption support services cannot be used to lead a formal protection plan. Hence, if the threshold for significant harm is met, a child protection conference will be convened and a child protection plan put in place if appropriate.

3.6 Procedures for Responding to Concerns and/or Allegations about Prospective Adopters Awaiting Placement

In response to a reported concern and/or allegation about a prospective adopter prior to the placement of a child for adoption enquiries should be made in accordance with the LSCB Safeguarding Procedures.

All such enquiries/investigations should be in consultation with the adoption social worker for the prospective adopters and the Team Manager Adoption. This is likely to involve the adoption social worker for the prospective adopters and the Team Manager Adoption attending and contributing to strategy meetings and assisting with any enquiries or investigations, as appropriate.

In addition, the procedures outlined above in Section 1 in relation to a Resolution meeting, a review of approval and an evaluation meeting will need to follow as appropriate to the needs of the case and the nature of the concerns. The Adoption Panel will need to be informed of events and if termination of approval is recommended and prospective adopter(s) are not in agreement with this the case will need to be referred to the Adoption panel.

3.7 Historical Abuse

Adults occasionally disclose experiences of abuse which they perceive constitutes significant harm when they reach adulthood.

Organisational responses to allegations by an adult of abuse experiences as a child must be of as high a standard as a response to current abuse because:

  • There is a significant likelihood that a person who abused a child/ren in the past will have continued and may still be doing so;
  • Criminal prosecution may be possible if sufficient evidence can be carefully collated.

Then an adult discloses childhood abuse, the professional receiving the information should record the discussion in detail. If possible, the professional should establish if the adult has any knowledge of the alleged abuser’s recent or current whereabouts and contact with children.

In view of the potential continuing risk the alleged abuser may pose to children, the professional should make a referral to the relevant Children’s Services.

The social worker receiving the referral should seek sufficient information to develop a chronology, and all records must be dated and the authorship made clear.

If information about the current whereabouts of the alleged abuser has not yet been gathered, Children’s Services should establish this as a matter of urgency.

The adult who has disclosed should be asked whether they want a police investigation and must be reassured that the police are able and willing to progress an investigation even for those adults who are vulnerable as a result of mental ill health or learning difficulties.

Children’s Services should reassure the adult that, even without their direct involvement, all reasonable efforts will be made to investigate the alleged abuse. The Adoption Agency should support the adult to access therapeutic or other services, as appropriate.

Where the adult against whom the allegation is made is an adoptive parent Children’s Services should:

  • Inform the police at the earliest opportunity and establish if there is any information regarding the alleged abuser’s current contact with children, irrespective of the wishes of the victim as to whether a police prosecution should take place;
  • Inform the Head of Regulated Services, if the adult who has disclosed requests a police investigation or if the allegations involve organised and complex abuse (police involvement in an investigation will depend on a number of factors, including the victim’s wishes and the public interest);
  • Initiate Section 47 enquiries if the alleged abuser is known to be currently caring for children or has access to children. This must include making a referral to Children’s Social Care in the area where the alleged abuser is currently living;
  • In respect of historical allegations against an adopter, full enquiries should be made in accordance with the procedures set out in Section 1 above if another child is placed for adoption.

Where an adult alleges abuse in childhood in a different local authority area, the case should be transferred to agencies in the area where the abuse is alleged to have taken place. Parallel enquiries may be needed if the alleged abuser has contact with children elsewhere. The co-ordinating LA Children’s Social Care should be the one responsible for the geographical area where the abuse is alleged to have taken place.

The responsible police service for investigation will be the one covering the area where the alleged abuse is said to have taken place.

End