child sitting on father's shoulders in a crowd

Glossary of Terms

Adoption is a legal procedure in which the parental responsibility for a child is transferred from their birth parent or other person with parental responsibility, to their adopter. When an adoption order is made, the child becomes a full member of their new family, usually taking the family surname. Adoption is a significant legal order and is not usually reversible.

An adoption agency is an organisation that works with prospective parents and children to assess, match, arrange and support adoptive placements. There are two kinds of adoption agency in England – local authority adoption agencies and independent/voluntary adoption agencies. The main difference between the two is that local authorities have children in their care, whereas independent/voluntary agencies do not. All adoption agencies are subject to strict regulatory control and regular Ofsted inspections.

Adoption order is the final court order which gives approved adopters full and permanent parental responsibility for a child. It is issued by the Family Court. The adopter/s will then be provided with an adoption certificate bearing the child’s new surname (if changed) which becomes the child’s formal identifying document.

An adoption panel is made up of social workers and independent members including those with personal experience of adoption. At the end of stage 2 of an adoption assessment, panel members are provided with a copy of the Prospective Adopter Report (PAR) and meet to consider the content and to make a recommendation about the prospective adopter’s suitability to become an adopter. Prospective adopters are invited to attend the panel if they wish, and will have seen their PAR in good time before the panel meeting. At the end of the meeting the panel will make a recommendation which will be passed to the adoption Agency Decision Maker for their decision, to approve or reject.

Birth parents are the child’s biological mother and father, who may or may not have been involved in the child’s early care. Birth families include by extension the grandparents, uncles, aunts and siblings who may or may not have played a part in the child’s life. Birth parents will always be the child’s biological parents, and their history will be important for a child to understand as he/she grows up. After an adoption order is made, birth parents are no longer the child’s legal parents.

Family Finding is the process by which local authorities find the most suitable permanent family for a child. Adoption agencies will work with approved adopters to help make links with a child or children for whom they may be a good match. Profiles of children are made available to approved adopters for consideration.

Fostering places a child with an approved foster carer who can provide a stable and safe family environment and care for children who are unable to live at home. Fostering may be a permanent arrangement, or temporary until a permanence plan such as a return to birth family or adoption is made. To find out more about Fostering with Foster Birmingham

Life Story Books are often put together by a child’s social worker, but may also be prepared and developed by adopters, to record the child’s history up to and beyond the point of being placed for adoption. Usually they contain baby photos, pictures of birth parents, foster carers and any significant other people, with simple text helping children to understand their early history and the reasons why the child could not remain with their birth family.

Life Story Work is an ongoing process whereby parents help adopted children to feel more secure in their adoptive family. Adopted children are helped to understand their personal history and develop their sense of identity, including who they are, their biological parents and family, their early life experiences and why they were taken into care, and how they came to be adopted into their families. An understanding of the past can enable a child to feel more settled with their adoptive family and deepen bonds within the family.

Kinship care is when a child is cared for by a relative or close family friend rather than their biological parents People who are caring for children in his way often apply for a Special Guardianship Order (SGO), which allows them to share parental responsibility with the child’s parents, and provides some legal security for them and the child.

Placement Order This court order may be made by a court at the end of care proceedings and gives permission for the local authority to place a child with prospective adopters. If a child, subject to a placement order, is placed with a prospective adopter, the local authority and the prospective adopter share parental responsibility for the child. A placement order ends when an adoption order is made.

Prospective Adopter Report (PAR) is a report written by the prospective adopters’ social worker which summarises the information collected during the adoption assessment process. The PAR contains a lot of information and provides evidence about why the social worker considers the prospective adopter suitable to be approved as an adopter. Prospective adopters have the opportunity to read the report, to clarify any inaccuracies and add their own comments. The PAR will be presented to the Adoption Panel, and once adopters are approved, the PAR is also used to provide information to social workers who are seeking adoptive parents for children in care.

Regional Adoption Agency (RAA) is a new and innovative way of delivery adoption services.