Social worker's approval for placement of the child
Updated: 01 July 2013
What's Important To Us
The purpose of the social worker’s prior approval is to secure the child’s status with the adoptive applicants in the period during which the birthparents have relinquished their parental authority and the adoptive applicants are in the process of making application to the court for an adoption order.
Careful thought is needed about how to effect the transition in the best interests of the child who is in the vulnerable situation of separation from his or her mother, and not yet established in a new primary attachment with adoptive parents.
Who gives approval?
A social worker has the statutory authority to give prior approval to the placement of any child under the age of 15 years in the home of any person for the purpose of adoption. This power is vested in the individual social worker and not in the Chief Executive of Oranga Tamariki.
A social worker cannot be directed by any person to grant or to withhold approval for placement, but, in the words of O'Regan, J in The High Court, Napier M106/80,”must consider all relevant matters when making the decision, and then the court report will illuminate the rationale for the exercising of the discretion to approve, or to decline to approve, any placement.”
The approval form is usually signed by the social worker who knows the adoptive applicants and who will write the court report for the application for an interim adoption order. As the approval is given in the capacity of a social worker employed by Oranga Tamariki, if the assigned social worker is not available, approval may be signed by a supervisor or another social worker. The applicants have been assessed as suitable in principle, and the placement procedures are already in train, in accordance with the wishes of the birthparents.
How is approval given?
Approval is given for a specific child to enter a specific home. There is no provision for general approvals. The form required for approval for the placement of a child for the purpose of adoption is SW 602 and is available on the client record on CYRAS.
Where a couple are making a joint application, whether married or non-married, the approval can be issued in the names of both of them. This is not to pre-empt the court outcome, but to acknowledge that the child will actually be in the care of both of them.
By the intent and purpose of s6, the ‘home’ could include a motel or other temporary accommodation in which the adoptive applicants have assumed care of the child. It is not a way to circumvent section 6 for the applicants to take the child into their care in a place other than their usual residence.
The timing of approval
There are no directions in the Adoption Act as to the timing of the social worker's approval, but the provision of 10 full days before consent can be given is an indication that while adoption may be planned, it cannot begin to be put into effect before that period has elapsed. Birth parents may change their minds at any time before consent is given. If arrangements have been made, with or without the prior approval of a social worker, to place the child in the adoptive home before consent is signed, all parties will appreciate the risk that the adoption may not proceed.
Unless exceptional circumstances apply, approval for placement is usually issued after consent has been signed and also after it has been received by the applicants in the person of their solicitor. If you are considering issuing approval before the consent is given, make a careful casenote of your reasons and discuss them with your supervisor. Where the adoption is as a result of IVF surrogacy, refer to Key information: IVF surrogacy adoption.
Duration of approval
An approval for the purpose of adoption will remain in force for one month from the date it is issued. Where an application for an adoption order is made to the Court before the month expires, the approval remains in force until the application is abandoned or dismissed or an order is made.
If a solicitor asks you to re-issue an approval because the original has been mislaid, you can produce another certificate dated as previously for the day the placement came into effect. It is not possible to give ‘prior’ approval after the placement has already been made. If a child is illegally in the home do not try to “legalise” its presence by issuing an approval after the event.
If a social worker refuses to grant approval - s(6)3
If you feel unable to issue approval of a placement, the adoptive applicants may apply directly to the court for an interim order of adoption. In your report detail the positive and the negative aspects in respect of the application and clearly state the reasons for the decision to refuse approval. The court may grant an order in respect of the child although you have refused approval.
Placement of the child in the applicants' home
Although eager to take the child into their home, adoptive applicants will feel a sense of entitlement when they know that the birthparents have willingly consented to their parenting the child and this confidence is likely to enhance their early attachment with the child.
If the birthparents and the adoptive applicants agree for the child to be transferred on the day of consent, this may require prior planning with all parties, in order that the solicitor taking the consent ensures that it is given to the solicitor for the applicants as expeditiously as possible. Rather than checking with the solicitor taking the consent that it has been signed, you need to check with the applicants’ solicitor that it has been received – faxed in the first instance. Send the approval to the solicitor for the adoptive applicants on the day that it becomes operative, with a covering letter to the solicitor. Refer to the resource: Consent to adoption for more information.
Most foster parents who have been caring for the child under a temporary care agreement are happy to assist the new parents to learn the child’s routines and demonstrate basic procedures for those who have little experience of child-care. Where the prospective parents have travelled from another district, they may consider spending extra time to establish familiarity and confidence in handling the child for the trip home.
Post-natal services for the child and mother
The midwife who delivered the child is responsible to ensure that post-natal services are available for both mother and child. Once they are in separate locations she may need to obtain the services of another midwife. This post-natal service is very important and the right of both mother and child. If necessary, take steps to ensure that it is provided.
Information about the child
After the child has been placed, provide written information about the child and both families of origin to the adoptive parents in the form of the family history which has been prepared by birthparents for the purpose of being passed on to the adoptive parents.
Information about the birth - time, weight, APGAR scores and other details is very important and should be passed on at the meeting. When birthparents have been unable to pass on information about themselves in written form prepare the information yourself. If possible show it to the birthparents for their approval before delivery to the adoptive parents, in keeping with the Privacy Act 1993.