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Agencies and references

The adoption agency needs to verify who you are via a third party and that is your reference.

The social work needs to obtain information about you from people who know you.


How is the information from referee gathered?

Written references, followed by face-to-face interviews, should be sought by letter from three people, not more than one of whom should be a relative.


How many references?

Some agencies choose to ask for more references and this may be necessary in some
cases but it is not obligatory. A single reference that provides details of a prospective
adopter’s safe parenting capacity is more valuable than a number of references that lack
depth and detail.

Who should the referee be?

A referee should know the prospective adopter personally and be familiar with their
family and home environment.

At least one of the referees should have known them for a minimum of five years.

Where a couple is applying, then at least two of the referees should have knowledge of them together as a couple rather than knowledge of only one partner.


Contact made with referee

Referees should be sent information about adoption with the letter seeking the reference.

The information should provide general advice about adoption and explain that references
are sought to help establish whether the prospective adopter could provide a safe and caring
family for a child.

The letter from the agency to the referee should ask for the following information and views:

a)      In what capacity they know the prospective adopter or prospective adopters personally?


b)      How long they have known them and how often they see them?

c) The prospective adopter's child care experience, if any, and any related strengths and weaknesses?

     d) If the referee has children, how the prospective adopter has interacted with and related to those children?

    e) How the prospective adopter might cope with caring and parenting a child?

     f) Any concerns about the safety of a child placed in the prospective adopter's home?

     g) If a couple are being assessed, the stability and permanence of their relationship?


     h) And any other information that the referee thinks may be helpful to the assessment?


Who will see this information?

Access to the reference will be restricted to the agency and the adoption panel  (but will be seen all through the adoption process by all the involved agents). However, it will be revealed to the prospective adopter if they apply for it under the Data Protection Act 1998 and the referee agrees to its disclosure to them.

The agency will need to discuss information the referee provides during the interview with them.


What happens on face-to-face interview?

A face-to-face interview with the referee enables the practitioner :

to question them about the details of the reference;

to explore the extent of their knowledge of the prospective adopter;

and to understand the basis for their views.

If it becomes clear that the referee has insufficient knowledge or that their views have no sound basis, then the prospective adopter should be asked to nominate another referee.


If concerns about the adopters?

If the referee raises serious concerns about the prospective adopter, or the relationship if
they are a couple, these will be carefully considered by the agency.

Where the concerns remain, the prospective adopter should be given an opportunity to respond.

If the agency decides that their response or explanation is unsatisfactory, it may decide that the matters are so significant that the assessment should be terminated.

The agency should counsel the prospective adopter and explain the position, giving its reasons so far as it can while taking care, as far as possible, not to disclose its source.

The prospective adopter may accept the concerns and choose to withdraw their application.

If they do not, the agency should prepare the report about the interviews with referees and a brief prospective adopter’s report for the adoption panel to consider.

Alternatively, the agency may decide to continue with the assessment but to ensure that
the matters of concern are set out in the report about the interviews with referees, which will
be considered by the adoption panel alongside the full prospective adopter’s report and reports



(Information taken from government guidelines Preparing and Assessing Prospective Adopters)

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"Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time, and always start with the person nearest you." - Mother Teresa

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