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South West Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures
South West Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures South West Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures

5.2.7 Disruption of Adoptive Placements


This chapter applies to disruptions of adoptive placements, which occur prior to an Adoption Order having been made. Where a disruption takes place after an Adoption Order has been made, a Disruption Meeting may be held as part of the adoption support provided to the child and adoptive family in which case the same principles as set out in this chapter may be followed.


  1. Context
  2. Convening a Disruption Meeting
  3. Practical Arrangements
  4. Format of Disruption Meeting
  5. After the Meeting

1. Context

A proportion of permanent placements will disrupt. CoramBAAF’s Good Practice Guide, ‘Dealing with Disruption’, stresses that adoption outcomes for young children are known to be very good and for later placed children, still very much ‘worth the risk’, but that despite this any expectation of a 100% success rate is unrealistic and unhelpful as it intensifies the fear and experience of failure when difficulties arise.

Placements rarely disrupt because of a single factor or the actions of a single person. The purpose of a disruption meeting is to understand and learn from the events leading to the placement disruption, in order:

  • To allow each participant to share information and their feelings about the placement and the disruption, without assigning blame;
  • To identify the factors leading to the disruption;
  • To understand the needs of the child, the carers and the birth family;
  • To inform future planning for the child;
  • To help the carers to recover and move on from the experience;
  • To highlight areas for development in policy and practice.

Participants need to understand that a disruption meeting:

  • Is not an exercise to apportion blame;
  • Is not a substitute for other planning and decision-making forums (CIC reviews, CP Conferences, Foster Carer reviews etc), although what is learned from a disruption meeting may assist these other meetings.

A disruption meeting should be held whenever:

  • A child stops living with prospective adopters without an Adoption Order having being granted;
  • An adopted child becomes Looked After by the Local Authority, if this is practicable and desirable taking into account all the circumstances including the length of time that has elapsed since the making of the Adoption Order.

The management of disruption must take account of the type of placement which has disrupted and the child’s status in that placement, e.g.:

  • Child is placed for adoption but not yet adopted. Authorisation to place the child for adoption will have been obtained either by formal parental consent to placement for adoption (and perhaps also to adoption itself) or by a Placement Order, The child’s original parent(s) or guardian(s) and the prospective adopters have parental responsibility but the ability of either set of parent figures to exercise PR may be restricted by the Local Authority which also holds PR. The child is still a Child Looked After;
  • Child has been adopted. The adopters are the child’s legal parents even if the child is subject to a Care Order or a Supervision requirement, unless and until the child is adopted again.

2. Convening a Disruption Meeting

Responsibility for convening the Disruption Meeting lies with the Team Manager who is the line Manager of the child’s social worker.

Convening the meeting involves considering:

Timing: When a review is required by the Adoptions Agencies Regulations 2005 (regulation 36.10) the review may consider plans for a Disruption Meeting. CoramBAAF suggests that there are no rules about timing, but that 5 to 10 weeks after disruption seems to work well.

Duration: CoramBAAF suggests that a whole day is required to enable the relevant case history to be considered and each person’s perspective to be heard

Venue: This should be neutral (not the carers home and preferably not the social workers office and should be warm and comfortable with access to suitable refreshments etc.

Participants: Should include the carers from the disrupted placement and everyone who has played a significant part before, during and since the placement. This will include all the social workers involved and other significant professionals, often the child’s previous and subsequent carers and possibly birth family members. Participants should be able to bring a friend or supporter (but preferably not a lawyer as the aim is to avoid an adversarial atmosphere). Careful consideration should be given by the child’s social worker in conjunction with the convenor and/or chair to the child’s participation through attending the meeting or contributing his/her views in some other way.

The practical and other support required by each participant to enable them to attend and participate effectively.

Chairing: The Chair should be someone with suitable experience and skills and who does not have responsibility for the child or the carers. An Independent Team Manager or Service Manager would be appropriate. If an inter-agency placement has disrupted, the Chair should be independent of both agencies. There may be other exceptional circumstances in which it is considered inappropriate for the Chair to be someone within the CYPS and in such a case funding should be sought to employ an external person.

Agenda: The agenda should be agreed between the convenor and the Chair.

Invitations and agenda should be circulated to all participants so that there are shared expectations of the purpose and nature of the meeting.

3. Practical Arrangements

Minute taking: It should not be left to the Chair or other key participants to take the minutes.

4. Format of Disruption Meeting

Chapter 9 of CoramBAAF’s Good Practice Guide ‘Dealing with Disruption’ includes a detailed guide to chairing disruption meetings, including the areas to be covered and the Chair’s role.

The main headings are:

  • The child’s progress in the birth family;
  • The child’s progress in care;
  • The placement family’s progress from application to matching;
  • Agency practice;
  • The birth family’s involvement;
  • The introduction of the child to the family;
  • The placement;
  • The disruption;
  • The present and the future.

5. After the Meeting

The Chair should produce a report of the meeting. This may or may not be separate from the ‘minutes’ of the meeting. The minutes should form an accurate and sufficiently detailed account of the meeting so that all parties feel that the important information and their views have been adequately documented. The Chair's report should reflect the understanding which has been achieved of the reasons for the disruption, and any conclusions, learning points, action points, suggestions for future planning for the child or family, and any issues of policy or practice that have been raised. These should reflect agreed conclusions reached at the meeting and any additional matters the Chair feels should be included.

The convenor should ensure that the minutes and Chair’s report are circulated and that any action points for the agency are followed up.