Version 2: 7 May 2020 (PDF version)
Statutory adoption and fostering guidance recognises that panels play an important quality assurance role in providing objectivity and ensuring that key issues, as set out in regulations and/or national minimum standards, are fully explored in order to make a robust recommendation to the agency decision-maker. At a time when agencies are having to re-design their current systems to ensure that adopters and foster carers are recruited, prepared and assessed, children are matched and placements are made, CoramBAAF believes that the role of panels could not be more important. We have heard many examples where agencies have continued to hold their panel meetings virtually. These panels have been playing a vital role in providing independent scrutiny of the evidence, and providing recommendations to the agency decision-maker to assist them in what are life-changing decisions.
CoramBAAF would also urge local authorities to continue to present any plan that a relinquished baby “should be placed for adoption” to an adoption panel before referral to the agency decision-maker. These cases can present legal and ethical challenges and will not receive court scrutiny until the application for an adoption order is being made. Recent court judgements have underlined the complex circumstances behind these requests from birth parents, which would benefit from full scrutiny of an adoption panel.
Adoption and fostering legislation and guidance are clear about the requirement for prospective adopters and foster carers to be given the opportunity to attend and be heard at all panel meetings at which their approval, review of their approval or termination of approval is being discussed. This guidance has not been changed in the amended regulations, and we would suggest it should be one of the factors that agencies consider when deciding whether to hold a panel. It will also be an important part of the planning for virtual panels to ensure that applicants and carers have the opportunity to contribute to and, where that is their wish, to attend the virtual panel and be given the appropriate support to do so.