25. Further risk assessment questions


Being Clear About Risk.

Risk Assessment – General

You may wonder why we make a risk assessment of all the people we work with – whether you are our client or the subject of our search. This document is to help you understand the questions we will ask you and why. But as usual you can e-mail us at any time if you have further questions. Our risk assessment is based on our key value, that our clients and the subject of searches must be supported and kept safe. We cannot keep you safe if we do not know about any vulnerabilities in your life. So, all our questions revolve around what we call our ‘risk register’. This register is a list of key areas that can be more demanding and stressful with a search. Here are our risk questions and the explanations for why we ask them. All of the answers to these questions are kept in strictest confidence unless it is appropriate to tell others so that they can support you.

If you are our client or the subject of our search.

Do you know of any Safeguarding issues relating to this case?

If people or children are at risk of harm of abuse, they can be subject to a Safeguarding Order, which means that the Local Authority oversees the child’s safety. If this was in place at the time of an adoption or a separation from a family member we need to know. We also need to know if any of the children or young people around you now are subject to safeguarding regulations so that we can notify the social workers concerned that we are in touch with you or your children. Safeguarding also applies to vulnerable adults. We really want to know if you are cared for or supported by others so that we can take this into consideration. Our team are trained to protect vulnerable adults, but it really helps us to act more quickly if you believe you are vulnerable right now. This may mean physically or emotionally in need of protection or support or in need of protection from any kind of exploitation such as financial or emotional abuse.                                                                                                                     

Are you aware of any Historic Abuse? (i.e. sexual, emotional, physical, mental).

We ask you about this so that we can be sure to give you extra support. Abuse is distressing for people and any contact with new family members may restimulate long held memories. These memories may be nothing to do with the person you are seeking or the person finding you, but the associations and memories may all the same come to the surface at this time. It is therefore vital that you inform us of this so that we can quickly support you with our counselling service, should any of these fears or worries come to the future. We can also signpost you to mental health services should this be needed in the long term.

Are any of the offenders still present? (for safeguarding i.e. Schedule One offenders).

Are there any Criminal Offences that we need to understand?

If you have anyone around you who may cause harm to our client or subject you must inform us immediately. So, for example if you are in touch with anyone who may cause harm to children it is vital that we know straight away. We can deal with this by getting in touch with the probation officers concerned who can guide us as to the best actions to take to reduce risk or harm. It is not for us to judge people with criminal offences or discriminate against you. It is, though, up to us to ensure that safeguarding procedures are kept in place.

Was there any domestic violence involved in the case?

Experiences of domestic violence mean that people are unsafe and living in fear. If we contact you, and you are living in a situation where you are affected by domestic violence, we will take steps to ensure that you know how you and any children around you are safe before proceeding with any search or contact.

Are you aware of any Mental Health/Section Mental Health Act?

We ask this question so that we can ensure that our clients or the subjects of our searches are in a stable position to have contact with a new family member. It is possible that it may not be the right time for you to make a search or be contacted. On the other hand, we can and frequently do work with mental health professionals around you who can support you as a search or contact continues. We have worked successfully with many mental health teams who support their clients while a search is taking place, but we can only do this if you let us know the details. For example, any issues with anxiety, depression, or diagnosable mental health conditions.

Are there any Health Conditions that might make you vulnerable?

If you have a health condition such as a weak heart or you are going through stressful surgical procedures, it is possible that this will not be the right time for you to have contact or make a search. On the other hand, we have worked with many health teams who support their patients to make the search for their own wellbeing. If you give us details, we will then know how to support you.

Do you or does anybody struggle with any Learning Difficulty?

It is important to us that you understand this process. We will work with any supportive professionals around you so that you understand everything about our service. If there is anything you do not understand please let us know as soon as you can. For example, some people find reading difficult or have struggles with understanding. Don’t struggle – let us help you.

Are you aware of any Vulnerable Person (Financial/exploitation) in the case?

If you are a vulnerable adult, please let us know so that we can ensure that we work with your support team so that you have a clear and safe sense of the work of our organisation. For example, in the past we have worked with social workers who take care of our client’s money for them. We welcome working in this way so that there is absolutely no chance of exploitation.

Can you help us with Diversity Information to help us remain sensitive to the participants such as:

Gender Identity information, Faith culture or ethnicity or Disability.

We frequently trace people who may have changed gender or who wish to have their gender fluidity acknowledged. For example, you may wish to have certain pronouns used in relation to your gender. You may need to have your faith and culture clearly understood as well as any sensitivity if you are in a minority ethnic group. Inclusivity and Diversity are vital to our service, and if you have any information that may help us to ensure that you have a fair and respectful experience, please let us know.

If you are Aged 27 or Under.

If we are searching for younger people or our subjects are younger, we consider this to be a special category of risk that requires extra attention. This is because younger people may be subject to all of the above risk questions and more. They may still not be managing their own affairs and may require extra support. You may have been in the care system, and the circumstances of removal from a birth parent may have been more complicated. Any difficult memories you have may be closer to the surface and you may have been subject to trauma that might be stimulated by a search. So, these searches will take us longer. In fact, we are so focused on this area that we have written a separate advice leaflet for anyone under the age of 25. So just for you please go to Advice leaflet 26.

Dr Joanna North

Consultant Psychotherapist (Adoption)

September 2024.

Joanna North Adoption (Ofsted registered)