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Details about the make up and law of the adoption panel

The Adoption Panel has a legal function under the Adoption and Children Act 2002.

The Law

The function, composition and conduct of the Adoption Panel  is set out in the Adoption Agencies Regulations 2005. Although the panel is conducted by your local borough or adoption agency, the Regulations state that the Panel should have a separate independent identity from the adoption agency.  

Who sits on an Adoption Panel

Each local authority has their own system but this is roughly the make up:

Each panel must be made up of no more than ten ‘voting’ members and must include:

  • A Chair who is independent of the Local Authority,
  • Two qualified and experienced social workers who are currently engaged in placing children for adoption as well as managers with experience of social care services for children including adoption;
  • a County Councillor;
  • a Medical Adviser and
  • at least three other ‘independent’ persons who are not employees of Children’s Services but are drawn from a range of services including health visitor, child minder, independent and social work agencies, adopters, adopted persons, birth parents or from the education sector.

To be a quorate and able to proceed a Panel must have five voting members present including:

  • The Panel Chair or Vice Chair,
  • A social worker and
  • An independent member.

Adoption Panels also include an Adoption Adviser and a Legal Adviser who are not ‘voting members’ but who act in an advisory capacity to the panel within their specialist role.

What happens at the Adoption Panel?

Again each local authority or adoption agency operates in their own way but this is the process that happens at one local authority and others will be a variation on this theme.

On arrival at the venue, with your Social Worker, you will be shown to a waiting area where refreshments will be available.

The Panel Chair and Adoption Adviser will meet with you to introduce themselves. The Panel will meet with your Social Worker first whilst you are waiting and after a period of time, you will be invited to join your Social Worker and the Panel for a discussion about your application to adopt.

Panel members will have questions to ask you about your assessment, application and intention to adopt.

"It is not the intention of the panel to embarrass applicants by asking any awkward questions or those of an intensely personal nature that may cause offence".

Questions that the adoption panel members would like to ask are collated by the Panel Chair who ensures that all the questions are appropriate and relevant prior to applicants joining the panel.

Your social worker will be with you to support you throughout your time in the panel.

All information given in connection with your adoption application, be it  written in your home study or given verbally at the adoption panel, is supposed to be CONFIDENTIAL.

Unfortunately, one of my panel members is very active in the adoption community and I cringe every time I see him as he knows my whole entire life history. So too, do at least 100 other people on the adoption journey, from translators to facilitators, court aids to notaries - so be aware of this.

You will also have an opportunity to put your own questions to the Panel before being asked to return to the waiting area whilst Panel makes its recommendations on your application to adopt. Your Social Worker remains with the Panel during this time.

The Panel Chair, Adoption Adviser and your Social Worker will then rejoin you and the Chair will inform you of what the Panel’s recommendation to the Adoption Agency Decision Maker will be.

Alternatively, if you wish, you can be told the recommendation later, at home, by your Social Worker.

If you did not attend Panel you will be informed of the Panel’s recommendation by your Social Worker.


Deferred decisions

In some cases it is possible that the Panel may want to defer a recommendation. This may happen because it feels that it needs some more information, or they feel more work needs to be done by the adoption agency or the applicants.

In this case the Panel will outline what needs to be done before the application can be re-presented to the Panel.

They should also be able to offer a time-scale for when this work needs to be carried out.


After Panel

After the final decision has been made by the Adoption Agency Decision Maker a formal written notification will be sent to the applicants, normally within 7 working days of the Adoption Panel. Two working days after the Agency Decision has been made your social worker will verbally give you the decision.

At this stage, your dealings with the local authorities comes to an end...yeah.. until you have been matched with your child and have returned home with your baby. Your papers now move onto the next stage and that is with the Department of Education and the request for your Certificate of Eligibility. 

If there are any major changes in your circumstances, it is important that you inform your social worker immediately, as this could affect your approval status.


How exciting to finally get the result that you have passed. This is definitely a celebration of the major parts of the process is over!!

Go out for a slap up meal, congratulate yourselves and know that the first major hurdle has passed.

I highly recommend that you do celebrate these landmarks in the process. It breaks it up, rewards you for effort thus far, gives you a sense of closure on that section and allows to look to the future and all its possibilities.


Now do not think that your documents are going to automatically make their way to the Department of Education on the fast track. For some reason the decision of passing the panel has to be ratified at the next panel meeting ie a whole month later, if you are lucky ,or a couple of months, if unlucky. Apparently not all LAs do this but be aware if yours does. 

I was completely caught out by this, no one told me about it and I was so disappointed that  my papers were not going to the next stage for another whole month - which of course meant that a child sits in an orphanage while your papers are sitting waiting for someone to say OK for the OK. Strange.

Do not become complacent either. Follow up with your social worker that your application has been signed and sent to the Department of Education. Chase them, chase them.

Failing panel

Where applicants are not approved as suitable to adopt a child they have a couple of options:

a) either make a representation to your adoption agency or

b) apply to an Independent Review Mechanism for a review of the agency’s decision.

Applicants must choose between the two options as there is no right to make representations to the agency and apply to the review panel.

Full information will be provided to applicants at the time of the Agency Decision.


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