Relinquished Child Counselling - Practice Guidance

This page sets out the Department's policy when dealing with relinquished children.

Relinquished Child Counselling - Practice Guidance

Policy statement

1.1    States of Guernsey Health and Social Services Department Services for Children and Young People (SCYP) recognises the dilemmas for those parents faced with difficult decisions surrounding a pregnancy that may be unexpected, unwanted or difficult for the parents to cope with for a variety of reasons.  SCYP undertakes to ensure that people facing this situation are provided with timely, accurate and positive information about the adoption service.  They will also be signposted to other organisations that can provide therapeutic counselling.

1.2    All callers to The Assessment and Intervention Team enquiring about relinquishing a baby will be offered a meeting with a social worker who will offer information, support and guidance about the options available.  This will include appropriate written leaflets and information.

1.3    In addition SCYP will endeavour, through development work, to ensure that relevant professionals in other agencies are aware of all the details of the adoption process for relinquished babies.

1.4    In the case of new born infants who are being relinquished for adoption, SCYP will make every effort to minimise the number of moves for the child.

1.5    Infants under six months old who are being relinquished for adoption, should be placed with prospective adopters within three months of the Departments decision that the child should be placed for adoption.  It should be noted that every effort should be made to place the child as soon as possible.

2. Scope

2.1    This process applies only to cases where a child is to be placed for adoption with the consent of the parents or those with parental responsibility.

2.2    Social workers should read this procedure in conjunction with LAC procedures about placing children for adoption.

3. Timescales to be met when placing an infant under six months

3.1    Where a child is to be placed for adoption with parental consent and is under six months of age, the child must be placed with prospective adopters within three months of the Departments decision that the child is to be placed.

3.2    The timescales applicable to all adoption processes also apply i.e.

4. Avoidance of drift and delay

4.1    It is important to make timely plans when dealing with any child and to work to the principles contained in the Adoption and Children Act 2002 Welfare Checklist that emphasise the need to avoid unnecessary delay.  It is good practice to keep the number of moves to a minimum and to plan to place the child with permanent carers as early as possible.

5. Pre birth

5.1    In all cases when the Assessment and Intervention Team are notified of a parent considering relinquishing their baby for adoption, including where the baby is unborn the case will be allocated as a priority.  In deciding on allocation, the Team Manager must be mindful of the legal restrictions on the qualifications of staff undertaking adoption work.  An initial assessment will be completed by the social worker, involving the Fostering and Adoption team worker, within seven days.  Appropriate written information, such as leaflets, will be given to those likely to have parental responsibility.  Parents should be made aware of the family support services that would be available if they decided to keep the child.

5.2    The allocated social worker will also contact the Fostering and Adoption Team to advise them of the case.  The Fostering and Adoption Team will allocate a worker to assist with family finding and provide advice to the child's social worker about the processes involved.  The Fostering and Adoption Team will also provide information about independent support for birth parents.

5.3    Parents with additional needs. If there is concern that either of the parents cannot give informed consent, then the case must be discussed with the Team Manager and legal advice sought.  This would always apply where a parent is under sixteen or where a parent has a learning disability or mental illness.

5.4    A Child Protection enquiry should always be considered in respect of a mother below the age of sixteen.  This should consider whether the mother needs assessing as a child in need in her own right.

5.5    Where parents have a learning disability or mental illness then they should be referred to the relevant Adult Services to receive advocacy services and support.

5.6    If the parents are still considering relinquishing the child for adoption the allocated Assessment and Intervention Team will start a core assessment.  This must include serious consideration of all members of the parents' family and social networks to identify anyone able and willing to meet the child's needs for life long care.  The social worker must be mindful of what information is required for the Child's Permanence Report (see LAC procedures).

5.7    The social worker will seek to establish who will have parental responsibility/custody for the child/explain to the parent(s) what this means in terms of making future permanence plans and giving consent to adoption.

5.8    If the father is not contactable then the social worker needs to seek advice from their manager, and consider approaching the Panel Professional Adviser and Legal Department.  A decision will need to be reached as to how far it is appropriate to involve the father or to take steps to locate him.

5.9    If the pregnancy has been concealed, legal advice should be taken on whether extended family should be approached.

5.10  All attempts to contact a putative father and any action taken by the Department must be clearly recorded.  It is advisable to use recorded delivery if there is any doubt about the father's whereabouts and whether or not he will receive communications from the Department.

5.11  The Fostering and Adoption Team Social Worker should explain the legal implications of adoption and ascertain the parents' wishes and feelings in respect of planning for the future of the child.

5.12  The Fostering and Adoption social worker will explain processes around the completion of the Child Permanence Report and need for health information to be provided.  They will also explain that the Department will need to keep in contact with birth parents at least until the adoption order has been granted.

5.13  Counselling Checklist, understand the parent's/guardians specific needs, for example:

When discussing the meaning of adoption it is important to make sure that each of the consenting parents has been made aware of:

Care will need to be taken if the parent seems to have characteristics which may impede their level of understanding of giving consent to adoption, for example:

Further information about the parent's understanding may need to be sought from another professional person, preferably someone who knows the parent such as:

6. Pre birth decision making

6.1    It is important that agreement is reached with the mother of the child about how the actual birth and confinement will be handled.  The Obstetric, Medical and Nursing staff need to know the mother's wishes about seeing and handling the child and arrangements for her own discharge and that of the baby.  They should understand that the child is to be placed for adoption and that it is not appropriate to discuss this at all with the mother or others unless the mother indicates she wants this.  The social worker should arrange to be notified of the birth.

6.2    Give consideration to the potential placement for the child - A foster placement will be needed following the child's discharge from Hospital.

6.3    Social worker to contact Emergency Duty Team to alert them to the situation and to give details (verbal and written) of procedure to be followed if child is born when they are on duty.

6.4    Once a foster carer has been identified the social worker must ensure that carers will have sufficient information to care for the child.  LAC Essential Information 1 & 2, Placement Plan 1 & 2 and Foster Care Undertaking form must be provided at the point of placement.

7. Procedure for dealing with relinquished infant - post birth

7.1    SCYP is notified of a newborn baby where the mother is requesting adoption, a same day response is essential and the parent(s) will need to be given all the information as outlined above.

7.2    SCYP is notified of an abandoned baby, the case should be allocated immediately and legal advice should be taken about the Department securing parental responsibility for the child in order that they can take key decisions.  In all cases the transfer protocol should be followed and the case should be transferred to the appropriate team within timescale.  The LAC team must be involved in all planning for a relinquished baby.  A multi agency child protection conference should be convened promptly (chaired by a Review Manager)  that includes the Police, representatives from the field care and Fostering and Adoption Team and Legal services, to agree how to proceed in respect of the tracing of the child's parents/relatives and to take any immediate decision regarding the child's welfare.  It will be important to give attention to how to handle the media in such a case - any decisions must be consistent with promoting the child's welfare.

7.3    The social worker should see the parents and child as soon after the birth as possible and ascertain if the plan is (still) adoption.  The social worker should also ascertain the mother's wishes about naming the child and giving of any gifts etc.  Photos should be taken (with mother's permission) for life story work/later life letter.  Advice/Support should be given about registering the child's birth.  The social worker should give her information about the foster carers and agree any contact arrangements.  The father with custody should be included in this process.

7.4    If the parents wish to keep the baby, their need for family support services should be assessed by the allocated social worker.

7.5     If adoption is still the plan - Child can be discharged to foster care

7.6    The child's social worker must complete the Core Assessment and use this to complete the Child Permanence Report.

7.7    Health reports must be obtained, so that they can be sent to the Adoption and Permanency Medical Adviser before the Panel meeting to decide whether the child should be placed for adoption.

7.8    Ensure that the Mother (and Father if this is the case) register the birth and two copies of the birth certificate must be obtained.

7.9    The child's social worker must set up the child's LAC file and Child's Adoption file to be kept at the Fostering and Adoption Team in accordance with procedures.

7.10  The child's social worker must visit child in foster home in accordance with statutory timescales.

7.11  The child's social worker must refer the case to the conference and review service to ensure that the first statutory review will take place 14 days after the child is accommodated.

7.12  The Fostering and Adoption Team should arrange a Permanency Planning Meeting.

7.13  A Permanency Planning Meeting must be held to identify and progress adoption.

8. Obtaining Parental agreement to Adoption when child is six weeks old

8.1    Once the child is six weeks old, consent can be given by the parents to placement for Adoption.

8.2    If the Department intends to apply for a Community Parenting  Order when  the parents have given consent, this information should be shared with parents.