Friday, 25 February 2011

Turned down for adoption? You have an option: IRM case review demystified.

The IRM (Independent Review Mechanism) for adoption and fostering is operated by BAAF on behalf of the Department for Education. One of its functions is to conduct independent reviews for prospective adopters when their agency is proposing not to approve them as suitable to adopt. As with an agency panel, membership of an IRM panel includes people with personal experience of adoption. Karen, a former panel member shares her experience with us.



I’m an adopted adult; I was adopted as a relinquished baby in 1968. I became an IRM panel member in 2004. I sat alongside social workers, health professionals, and legal professionals. They also have other lay members like me, including adoptive parents and adopted people. It’s about striking a balance of expertise between a professional point of view and a personal point of view.

The IRM works in a similar way to an agency panel. However, IRM members don’t see the minutes of the original agency panel meeting, so they shouldn’t be swayed by the initial decision. It’s important to know that, like the adoption panel, the IRM only makes a recommendation to the agency. The final decision remains with the agency’s decision maker.

The process starts when you receive papers including the applicant’s Prospective Adopter’s Report. This is quite comprehensive and tells you basically everything you need to know about this person’s suitability to adopt, as well as all the interviews that were carried out by the social workers including the evidence gathering. Panel members then identify the applicant’s strengths and any areas for concern. The Chair then gathers information from all panel members to work out what the list of questions should be on the day.

As a panel member, you talk to prospective adopters and encourage them to ask questions also. I always found that meeting applicants and being able to discuss their case with them was crucial to understanding their motivation to adopt. The number one rule in social work is to gather evidence and never make assumptions about people. Panel members want to make sure they really understand the potential of prospective adopters their motivation to adopt. Panel members also need to be satisfied about the applicant’s personal capacity to adopt a child, which includes their support network, and that they understand the challenges of adopting a child from care who may have complex needs.

IRM Panel membership is very rewarding. It is important that applicants have the opportunity to receive an independent review which ensures the adoption system is transparent and fair.

Please be mindful that any opinions and information expressed in this feature are from the perspective of an individual panel member. For the most accurate, up-to-date information on the IRM, please visit: http://www.independentreviewmechanism.org.uk/

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