Once your child is home, it isn’t the case that you close the door and never hear from social services again. There are a number of statutory reviews and visits that take place by various professionals to make sure everything is ok and that you have all of the support you need. These visits can feel like quite a burden when you’re trying to get to know your child. But they’re a necessary means to an end as the placing local authority have an obligation to make sure the placement is safe and secure.
Until the adoption order is granted, your child is still a looked after child and is therefore under the care of the local authority. They will share parental responsibility with you until the order is made.
Social work visits
Your child’s social worker should come out to visit within the first week of placement, and then every week until the first formal review. These statutory reviews can be a blessing and a hindrance. It can feel like an extra layer of scrutiny while you’re learning how to be a parent and getting to know your child. But it can also be reassuring having someone to talk to who knows your child.
When our eldest came home, it was our social worker that visited as our daughter’s social worker had left the agency. To be honest, I quite liked the fact that she came round a lot. She was lovely and it felt more like a friend dropping in to check we were ok rather than anything formal.
I appreciate that we were very lucky to feel like that. A lot of people find the visits difficult for a number of reasons, not least because they are unsettling for their child. But they have to take place, albeit on a less frequent basis as the placement progresses.
As with everything to do with adoption, how these meetings take place will vary depending on your agency. If your social worker is from the agency that placed the child, the visits may be split between them so someone comes each week, but they don’t both come. If the placing authority is a different agency to where you were assessed, both may come out. However, it’s done, they’re are a statutory requirement and the visits should be recorded.
The adoption process: Statutory review requirements
Social work visits should be weekly until the first review. The first review should take place four weeks after placement and is a “Looked After Child” review and the social worker might refer to it as a LAC review. The venue of the meetings will usually be in your home so that everyone can see how your child is settling in familiar surroundings for them.
Don’t feel you have to blitz the house and clean everywhere. They’re expecting the house to look lived in so as long as it’s safe, don’t worry about everything looking perfect. Real life is far from perfect and everyone would worry more if it looked like it was.
Either your child’s or your social worker (sometimes both) should attend the meeting, together with the independent reviewing officer and usually your child’s health visitor. Your child’s social worker should have prepared a report outlining a brief history and everyone’s views on the placement. The role of the independent reviewing officer is to make sure the local authority are carrying out all of their statutory obligations. So if there’s something they promised they’d do and haven’t, the review meeting is the time to raise it.
The second review should take place within three months of the first, and if a third one is needed, within six months of the second review. Reviews continue until the adoption order is granted.
Our experience of the reviews was that they were informal. We were very lucky and didn’t have any particular issues following the placement of either child, so it may not be as informal for everyone.
There is a statutory framework for the review so that everyone is satisfied the child’s needs are being met by the placement. How this is covered will vary depending on the social worker. Some may go through every question in that type of format. Others may do it as part of a general chat.
If there are things that you feel are not being addressed by the local authority, this is a chance for you to air them so they are minuted and a plan agreed as to how the issue can be resolved. Make sure there’s a clear plan and it’s clear whose responsibility it is to do what.
In addition to there being statutory requirements for the number of social work visits in the early months of placement, there are increased visits from your health visitor. For a birth
child, health visitors visit regularly during the first six weeks, but then the visits become much less frequent although you can ask them to come out if you have any issues.
When a child is placed for adoption, a health visitor from your area should contact you to arrange to come out. You’ll get your child’s health book (ours are red but the colour changes) which details all of their health visits, immunisations etc since birth. This book is in your child’s birth name and stays that way until the adoption order is granted.
We didn’t ask for new books to be issued for our girls once the orders were granted. We felt that they should stay in their birth names because it’s part of their history and the vast majority of entries were made before the order was granted. Whether you ask for new books will probably depend on your child’s circumstances.
With our eldest, the health visitor was the same one she had been seeing ever since she was born. It was decided it would be of benefit for her to have the same health visitor because she knew of the issues in the first few months of our daughter’s life.
With hindsight, I’m not sure that was the best decision. I often felt that things that weren’t really an issue, were being seen as an issue because the health visitor knew about the history. An example of that is the fact that our eldest didn’t really like lumps in her food.
This was brought up in our initial meeting with her foster carer and medical adviser. We were told it could be a sign that her mouth and throat muscles weren’t developing properly which could lead to speech problems. It’s something that the health visitor made a big thing out of too.
I’d talked to my sister and mum about it and they suggested going back a stage with weaning which is what I did (our daughter was nine months old when she came home). I blended lots of foods until they were smooth and gave her that for the first few weeks with finger food. I gradually made the purees lumpier and she ate them quite happily. It turns out that her issue was that she didn’t like bought pre-made meals. I’ve since read that babies fed bought baby food are more likely to not like lumps. I’ve no idea why that is.
Training in trauma
I was disappointed that the health visitor jumped to the worst case scenario about our eldest’s dislike of lumps, rather than talking through what she was eating and suggesting trying different things. We had several other experiences of her doing this over the next few years too. I suspect it was due to lack of specific training about adopted children rather than anything else.
Health visitors are a great resource but our experience is it’s best to be cautious about issues that may be due to your child’s early life experiences. The majority aren’t trained to deal with adopted children and the kinds of issues they are likely to be affected by.
If you have concerns about behaviour or development, I would speak to your social worker about it first. They’ll be able to say whether it’s normal behaviour in the context of your child’s history, or something that you need to be concerned about. If it’s the latter, I would ask them who they recommend you seek help from.
There may be other meetings with medical professionals, but those will depend on your child’s circumstances. If they are having treatment, that should continue and will have formed part of the placement plan. You may be asked to attend reviews of this before your child is placed so that you know what stage it’s at and how long it will continue.
Depending on the age of your child when they’re placed, there may also be meetings with nursery or school to review how they’ve settled following placement.
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