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Disruption of Adoptive Placements


1. Introduction
2. Policy
  2.1 Responsibility for supporting a placement
3. Procedures
  3.1 Disruption by prospective adopters
  3.2 Prior to the lodging of an adoption application
  3.3 After the lodging of an adoption application
  3.4 Disruption by the agency
  3.5 Disruption after the making of an adoption order
4. The Disruption Meeting
  4.1 Timing of, and purpose of meeting
  4.2 Preparation for meeting
  4.3 Who can be invited?
  4.4 Arrangements for meeting
  4.5 Meeting report and actions
  Appendix One: Flowchart for a Child Looked After
  Appendix Two: Agenda for a Disruption Meeting
  Appendix Three: Suggested Format for Report
  Appendix Four: Action Checklist

1. Introduction

Disruption is used to describe a placement which ends in an unplanned way and which has not achieved its desired time span. Where a placement ends, regardless of the circumstances, support for both the child and the prospective adopters is crucial given the emotion involved.

Although it is not a legal requirement, good practice dictates that the child’s local authority convenes a disruption meeting. This meeting is not to apportion blame but to consider the factors which led to the placement break down and gather information which might help determine the way forward for the child and the adopters. In the case of prospective adopters the disruption meeting could be vital to the successful outcome of their adopters review and continued approval.

2. Policy

Every permanent placement is entered into on the basis that it will succeed. Because placement disruptions can be such destructive experiences for children, young people and their adopters/carers, the Agency will strive to reduce the risk of disruption by careful assessments, matching and effective post placement support. Where there is potential for disruption the Agency will provide sensitive and appropriate support. Where a permanent placement disrupts it is important that the Agency examines such situations in order to obtain information for future practice and planning for the child.

On all occasions that a disruption occurs a disruption meeting will be arranged and the relevant panels and Agency Decision Maker will receive a report to consider the circumstances and note the learning and practice points for future placements. Key practice and learning points will be disseminated to relevant practitioners and managers.

It is recognised that placements usually disrupt through a combination of several factors. The objective of the disruption meeting will be to look at the sequence of events and to learn from the experience.

If the child concerned is Looked After by Gateshead Council or becomes Looked After again as a result of an adoption disruption, a disruption meeting must be held. In all other cases, the relevant Service Manager for the service holding case responsibility for the child in conjunction with the Adoption Service Team Manager, or their manager, will need to decide whether or not a disruption meeting is appropriate. 

Immediately following a disruption, the child must have a named allocated social worker and consideration must be given to undertaking direct work with the child to help him/her to understand the current situation.

2.1 Responsibility for Supporting a Placement

When a child is placed with prospective adopters, the placing authority remains responsible for supporting the placement for three years after the granting of the Adoption Order and for dealing with any disruption within this time.

If a disruption occurs after this period, then dealing with the disruption becomes the responsibility of the Local Authority in which the adoptive family resides.

A disruption to a placement can occur before or after the making of an adoption order and the procedure to follow will depend on the stage of the placement and who holds Parental Responsibility for the child.

3. Procedures

3.1 Disruption by prospective adopters

At any stage up to the granting of an Adoption Order, the prospective adopters may decide for whatever reasons, that they are unable to continue to care for a child in placement. 

Usually this decision will not have been made lightly and hopefully detailed discussions with the child’s social worker and their adoption social worker should already have taken place so that all reasonable attempts to support the placement and alternatives to disruption have been considered and exhausted.

3.2 Disruption prior to the lodging of an Adoption Application

If all the information available continues to suggest that there are significant difficulties within the placement a planning meeting should be convened involving child’s social worker, adoption social worker, independent Chair and any other significant parties e.g. adopters, health personnel, education etc to discuss:

  • How the placement can best be supported, using the adoption support plan as a basis for discussion and if necessary, amending the plan in line with the discussion;
  • If it becomes apparent that it is not in the best interests of the child to remain in placement, or if the prospective adopters are requesting the child(ren’s) removal, an appropriate plan for how this will be carried out, should be drawn up;
  • The plan should detail:
    • The reasons why the child cannot remain in placement/why the prospective adopters cannot continue with the placement;
    • The birth parents’ situation and clarification of who should advise them of changing circumstances and change of plan;
    • Who would be the most appropriate person to move the child from the adoptive home, how and when such a move should take place;
    • Who will assume responsibility for the child once s/he is moved and their role in supporting the child, plus any additional support the child may need;
    • Implications for the prospective adopters of the change of plan, including arrangements for further discussion with them as to whether they should or wish to remain as approved prospective adopters and what arrangements will be in place for their support and for further information on their circumstances to be presented to the Adoption Panel;
    • The child’s current legal status and how this may be affected by the change of plan. If the child is removed from the care of the prospective adopters and returned to the Looked After System, the birth parent(s) and anyone else with parental responsibility must be informed.  If the child is the subject of a Placement Order the court must be informed;
    • Arrangements for a statutory review following any change of placement. As the child will be Looked After by the local authority and subject to a placement order, regulations require that a statutory review of the child should be held no sooner than 28 days and no later than 42 days after the disruption. This review should consider the future plans for the child and specifically whether adoption is still the right Care Plan for the child. The prospective adopters may be invited to this review if appropriate and in the best interests of the child but cannot insist on attending because they will have lost Parental Responsibility.

The review should also consider:

  • The arrangements for the child’s health and educational needs;
  • Whether any changes need to be made to meet the child’s needs or assist their development;
  • Existing arrangements for contact and whether they should continue or be altered;
  • Unless there is a very good reason not to hold a formal disruption meeting, the requirement to hold a disruption meeting and if the arrangements for the disruption meeting are in place.

3.3 Disruption after the lodging of an Adoption Application and prior to the making of an Adoption Order

If the prospective adopters indicate they wish to terminate the placement after the lodging of an application, the procedures outlined above should be followed. In addition the Adoption Social Worker for the prospective adopters should notify the Court and the CAFCASS officer about the change in plan. It is the responsibility of the prospective adopters or their legal representative to notify the Court in writing that they intend to withdraw their application.

3.4 Disruption by the agency

At any point up to the granting of the Adoption Order, social workers involved in the placement may become concerned about the care of the child by prospective adopters, or may receive information about the placement or the prospective adopters unsuitable e.g.:

  • An offence committed by a prospective adopter which has serious implications for the care of the child;
  • Allegations and evidence of abuse;
  • Significant health or personal problems which seriously affect the ability and have a major impact for continued care of the child.

The decision to terminate a placement should only be as a result of detailed discussions and consultation with the prospective adopters and key professionals. Where the child is of sufficient age and understanding, their views should be sought and considered.

Where appropriate, the views of significant birth family members may also need to be considered.

A strategy meeting should be convened by the child’s social worker to ensure that all reasonable attempts have been made to support the situation before any decision to terminate a placement is taken. 

Legal advice must also be sought on the process to be followed and the decision making.

Issues for discussion should include:

  1. Areas of concern and evidence available to substantiate these;
  2. Views of agency and whether the agency should continue to support the placement or not;
  3. In issues of child protection, result of investigations, actions taken and future actions required;
  4. In the case of a sibling group, the individual position of each child should be considered;
  5. Implications for the child including legal status of any change of plan and how this will be implemented;
  6. Support for the prospective adopters including arrangements for further discussion on whether they should remain on the list of approved prospective adopters;
  7. Birth parents situation and who should advise and support them of the change of plan, if appropriate.

3.5 Disruption after the making of an Adoption Order

Support after disruption is one of a range of services which the local authority must provide to adoptive families. If support is not offered and the adopters would welcome help from the agency in coping with the disruption and in understanding the factors which led up to it, they could exercise their right to an assessment of their support needs from the agency.

Once an Adoption Order has been granted Parental Responsibility for the child rests solely with the adoptive parents. If the child leaves at the request of the adoptive parents, or at their own request, they will be accommodated by the local authority under Section 20 of the CA 1989. The local authority will not attain Parental Responsibility unless a Care Order is granted and the adopters will still be entitled to make decisions about the children, have contact with the child and refuse contact for their child with others, and to request the child is returned to them if they wish it. However, the local authority has a legal obligation to make plans for young people whom they are looking after.

If the local authority becomes aware that disruption of a placement is likely, a referral should be made to the appropriate Children and Families team within the local authority in which the family resides. Allocations should be in accordance with local policy for a Child in Need.

The responsibility of the placing authority will depend upon the length of time that the child has been in placement and legally adopted (See Section 2.1, Responsibility for Supporting a Placement). If support is still the responsibility of Gateshead Council as the placing authority arrangements should be made to:

  • Review the adoption support plan either with the adopters and/or their local authority;
  • Co-operate with the procedures of the local authority in which the adopters reside;
  • Contribute to any disruption meeting;
  • Subject to the necessary consents, provide any written information likely to assist with the future planning for the child.

If responsibility for support for the placement belongs to the local authority in which the family resides their responsibilities will be:

  • Allocate a social worker for the child;
  • Initiate local procedures according to the assessed needs of the child, having given due regard to placement within the extended adoptive family;
  • Consider holding a disruption meeting;
  • Obtain background information from the placing authority to help contribute to the planning for the child.

Wherever possible the option of continuing or resuming contact between the child and his/her adoptive family should be explored and pursued unless this is likely to be detrimental to the child.

As adopters hold Parental Responsibility for their child they are entitled to participate in statutory reviews of their child, to be consulted on their views concerning their child and to attend reviews unless the IRO decides that their attendance at some parts of the review is not in the child’s best interests e.g. a young person who does not wish to meet their parents at the review.

4. The Disruption Meeting

4.1 Timing of, and purpose of meeting

The relevant review planning meetings and strategy meetings have the responsibility for making all the necessary recommendations and decisions to safeguard and plan for the welfare and future of the child.

The disruption meeting has the responsibility to look at the experience of the disruption, the implications for both the child and the adopters and the learning points for the agency.  If it is decided not to hold a disruption meeting the reason for this should be recorded on the child’s file.

The disruption meeting should take place no sooner than 6 weeks after the placement breakdown and no later than 3 months. This is in order to provide an opportunity for all parties to come to terms with the disruption and to have sufficient time for reflection prior to the meeting.

The child’s views should be made known through their social worker and the child’s new carers unless the child is older and wishes to attend.

The prospective adoptive family should be encouraged to attend for all or part of the meeting.  If they feel unable to attend the Chair of the meeting should offer them a separate individual interview.  Notes and comments from this interview may be written up, checked with the adopters for accuracy before being appended to the report of the disruption meeting.

Disruption meetings should be chaired by a social work manager who has knowledge of adoption work and the experience of chairing similar meetings. A degree of independence from the particular case in question is essential. The Adoption Team Manager will advise on and help identify a suitable chairperson, book a suitable venue and make the necessary practical arrangements. A disruption meeting will usually take at least half a day and often a whole day.

4.2 Preparation for the meeting

2 weeks before the meeting the following information should be provided to the Disruption Meeting Chairperson by the child’s social worker and the Adoption social worker.

Care plan – child’s social worker

Chronology – child’s social worker

Completed flowchart of moves – child’s social worker See Appendix One: Flowchart for a child looked after)

Child Permanence Report – child’s social worker

Review reports from placement – child’s social worker

Matching report/Adoption Placement Report – Adoption social worker

Post Adoption support plan – Adoption social worker

Panel minutes from identification and matching panel – Adoption social worker

Prospective Adopters Report – Adoption social worker

Child’s views – these should be made known through the social worker and the child’s new carers unless the child is older and wishes to attend

The child’s social worker and the Adoption Team family finder/Adoption Team Manager will need to identify who should be invited to attend the disruption meeting. Everyone who has played a significant role in the earlier decision making process in respect of the placement for adoption should be invited as well as those who were subsequently involved in planning and supporting the placement.

4.3 Who can be invited?

  • Current social worker for the child;
  • Current Foster Carer/Supervising Fostering Social Worker;
  • Adopters;
  • Birth parents (if appropriate);
  • Child if of appropriate age or understanding;
  • Siblings /grandparents (if appropriate);
  • School representatives;
  • Adoption Family Finder;
  • Previous foster carers;
  • Previous social worker for child;
  • Social Work therapist /CAMHS;
  • IRO.

If people are unable to attend their views should be sought in writing or via an individual interview with the Chair/ATM. Children can be encouraged to contribute their views by way of tape recording or letter to the meeting.

4.4 Arrangements for meetings

A list of those to be invited and their addresses should be forwarded to the Adoption Team Manager in order that letters of invitation can be sent out and the Chair informed. The Adoption Team Manager will also identify someone to take notes/minute the meeting. The typed notes should be sent to the Chair as soon as possible after the disruption meeting in order that the Chair can complete their report. A suggested agenda for the meeting is included in Appendix Two: Agenda for a disruption meeting.

4.5 Meeting report and actions

The report becomes the property of the local authority that commissioned it and it is up to the authority to distribute it as appropriate. The chair’s summary could be distributed to all those present and any other relevant persons.

The Adoption Panel, Agency Decision Maker and appropriate service managers will be provided with a copy of the report at the earliest possible panel together with any updated information regarding the implementation of any recommendations made within the report, the child’s current placement and possible plans for the future.

A copy of the report should be placed on the child’s file.

A suggested format for the report is included in Appendix Three: Suggested format for report.

Appendix One: Flowchart for a Child Looked After

Click here to view Appendix One: Flowchart for a Child Looked After

Appendix Two: Agenda for a Disruption Meeting

  1. Introductions
  2. Early childhood and family history prior to being looked after:
    • Date and place of birth;
    • Number of care settings child has experienced;
    • Type and quality of care given;
    • Health, education.
  3. Circumstances that led to child being looked after:
    • Reasons;
    • How child reacted to separation from parents/significant people;
    • Where child was placed and why;
    • Plan for child's future.
  4. Placement and life as a Looked After Child:
    • Number of care settings experienced and type of care offered in each setting;
    • Significant changes of caregivers;
    • Description of child's behaviour patterns in each placement;
    • Perception and feelings of carers about child;
    • Health, education and development.
  5. How the plan for Permanence was reached, including Panel's consideration:
    • How child was prepared for placement, by whom and child's attitude to plan;
    • Legal status;
    • Contact issues, child's response.
  6. Recruitment and preparation of the adoptive family including Panel's consideration:
    • When and how family came into contact with the agency;
    • Type of process used – training, assessment;
    • Description of family structure and lifestyle;
    • Expectations family had of child they hoped to have placed with them;
    • Experience of children;
    • Feelings about assessment process, strengths/weaknesses;
    • Panel viewpoint.
  7. Selection process / match:
    • How family was selected for child and who was involved in the decision, records of decision making process;
    • Why this particular family was selected;
    • Panel's consideration of the match;
    • What support needs were identified for each party.
  8. Introduction process:
    • How process was planned and who was involved;
    • Introductions plan;
    • Feelings expressed by child, adopters, child's foster carers and social worker;
    • How decision to place was made and by whom;
    • How introductions plan worked in practice.
  9. Placement of the child and history of placement:
    • When and by whom decision made to place;
    • How child responded at placement;
    • Description of child's experiences within placement, how attachments build;
    • Description of life in placement; behaviour patterns, play, health, life at school;
    • How difficulties developed and what support was offered;
    • Attitude of child and family to the difficulties;
    • How decision was made and by whom to cease placement;
    • Child's reaction to disruption;
    • Family's reaction to disruption;
    • Subsequent placement for the child.
  10. Future:
    • Description of child in current placement;
    • Future plan for child;
    • Help available to child /family.
  11. Closing summary:
    • The Chair should make a summary at the end of each of the main discussion areas and a final overall summary;
    • Agree who will receive minutes and any recommendations (including Panel);
    • If appropriate make arrangements for the child's social worker to go through the report with the child;
    • Acknowledge and note any unresolved issues/areas of disagreement and arrangements for post meeting support.

Appendix Three: Suggested Format for Report

Child's Name:

Prospective Adopter's Name:

Date of Panel considering this report:

  1. Introduction

This report was compiled from departmental records, discussions prior to and at the disruption meeting held on < date of meeting > The meeting was attended by < names and roles > Apologies were received from < names and roles >

  1. Early childhood, family history and circumstances that led to child becoming "Looked After"

Summary of family composition and chronology, family history together with some insight into the child's experiences.

  1. Placement and life as a “Looked After” child

Summary of placement, experience, contacts and attachments.

  1. Recruitment, preparation and approval of <name of adopters>

Summary of this period, any difficulties and any particular discussions about the type of child to be placed and matching considerations.

In retrospect is there anything to be learnt about the assessment and preparation of the couple.

  1. The family finding process, the match and introductions

Description of the process and whether in retrospect anything can be learnt about whether the child's needs were sufficiently understood and the preparation of both the child and the adopters for placement.

  1. <name of child's> placement with <name of adopters> and placement support

An explanation of the child's experiences within the adoptive placement, how attachments built, difficulties identified, how these were addressed and what support was offered.

  1. The Disruption

When the child ceased to live with the adopter(s), how this was managed, what explanations were given. The child and adopter's perceptions and reactions together with an analysis of what may have been the main child related and carer related factors involved in the ending of the placement.

Outline the support that was offered to the child and the adopters.

  1. Current situation

Where the child is placed and how they adapted to the move. Current schooling, health, developmental needs and issues. Feelings and understanding about situation. Contact arrangements with adopters and birth family. Current situation regarding adopters.

  1. Closing Summary and recommendations

This section should highlight the key issues that have been identified either within the disruption meeting, via interviews with significant personnel and as a result of reading files/reports. Each issue should be evidenced and explained and supplemented with recommendations that will assist future practice.

Appendix Four: Action Checklist

1. Check responsibility for supporting placement Duty Social Worker Senior Practitioner Team Manager See Section 2.2

Follow appropriate procedure depending on stage of placement.

  • Prior to lodging Adoption applications;
  • After application lodged and prior to Adoption Order;
  • After Adoption Order.

Adoption Social Worker

Child's Social Worker

Senior Practitioner

Team Managers


See 3.2

See 3.3, 3.2

See 3.5

3. Consider timing of disruption meeting and statutory review.

Adoption Social Worker Child's Social Worker

Adoption Team Manager

See 4.1
4. Prepare for meeting

Adoption Social Worker

Child's Social Worker

Senior Practitioner

Adoption Team Manager

See 4.2, 4.3, 4.4
5. Meeting report and information on child and adopters circulated to panel, significant personnel and placed on child's file.

Senior Practitioner

Adoption Team Manager

See 4.5