Yesterday was crunch day. The day that our assessment has been leading up to over the past few months – PANEL DAY!
It doesn’t matter how much people tell you that Approval Panel isn’t as daunting as it seems, that we’ll be fine, that it’s not that bad etc, etc. Until you’re in there speaking to them you can’t help but envision some horrendous auditorium with people judging you from a distance.
At the beginning of the assessment process you are told that Approval Panel is a group of up to 10 (yes TEN!) people from various fields including medical people, social workers and everyday people who have agreed to be part of it. They get sent the report, which our social worker writes during the assessment, in advance and will ask you questions based on it. After scaring the living daylights out of you by telling you this they then try their best to reassure you that it isn’t all that daunting and is quite relaxed. Relaxed? With 10 people on the other side of a table firing questions at you? Are you sure?
I started off the day feeling less nervous than I thought I would if I’m honest. I even managed the whole morning without my usual short-temperedness that is the norm when I’m a bit nervous. OH kept insisting he was excited about it and not nervous at all, and to be fair he never showed signs that he was.
Our panel time was 9.20am and our social worker had asked that we get there for about 9am so we could have a chat beforehand. In true Me style we were 10 minutes early, and a quick text to the SW brought her down to reception to see us. She looked a little nervous but not overly so, perfectly reasonable considering this was her first ever panel.
Something unexpected happened then. The head of the adoption team came to see us, she said she’d read our report and was very pleased that we had chosen to go with them and were under the remit of her team (I’m paraphrasing there I can’t actually remember what she said, but it was in that sort of area except more ‘social workery’). I don’t know if that’s something she always does but it felt good to hear someone who we don’t really know and has been independent of our assessment say that.
We then got escorted to the room next to where the panel was to await being called in, where we met up with our SW’s supervisor who would also be going in to see the panel with us – partially to support us, but also because she would be assessing our social worker’s presentation to panel (another good reason for her to be nervous!).
The chairperson came in and introduced herself and we were briefed on what would happen – The panel would discuss amongst themselves what they wanted to ask us and our SW, the chairperson would then come in and tell us the topics they would be questioning us on, and then we’d go in to face them.
We were waiting about half an hour before she came back, they had three topic they wanted to discuss with us:
1. How we would support a child with additional needs.
2. Our journey to the decision to adopt.
3. How we handle stress.
Our social worker was to be asked a few things about the assessment process, including the discussion we had about the differences between parenting adopted children vs birth children, what we’d discussed about fostering to adopt – and a couple of other things which I can’t remember.
We were given a couple of minutes before we went into see the panel.
The people consisted of the panel chair, the panel administrator (taking minutes), an agency adviser, the medical adviser, a local councillor and several current and former independent social workers. There was also an observer there. I think there were nine people in the room other than us and our social workers, although only 6 of them actually made up the panel.
We walked in and sat down, then they went around the room introducing themselves, and it came to us and we did the same (the first time I’ve had to introduce myself with my new surname!). They were very reassuring and made us feel comfortable (even relaxed!).
After the introductions our social worker was asked to give her opening speech which gave a brief description of us, what we were like to work with and why she was recommending us to be approved. It was a very nice speech delivered well, and one of the panel actually said it had addressed a few of the things they were going to ask about – a good preemptive strike!
Then came our questions. I think we answered them well, we both spoke a bit for each answer; OH said some things which hadn’t even occurred to me to answer with (I’m glad he was there!). For the final question about how we handle stress, my answer actually made them all laugh – it wasn’t really intentional as I was just saying how I felt, but that was pretty much how our part finished, with the panel laughing at something… which was a kind of joke… that I made… weird.
We felt that our SW got worse questions than we did, but she handled them well and answered them articulately.
We were asked if we had any questions for the panel, which we didn’t so I thanked them for their time and consideration and, after being in there for a total of about twenty minutes, we left. We waited for about ten more minutes until the chair and agency adviser came into the room and told us we had been unanimously approved and offered their congratulations.
Technically we have to wait for the Agency Decision Maker (ADM) to write to us to tell us we’re approved before it becomes official, as the panel only really offers a recommendation, but the ADM won’t go against the panel’s decision unless there is an exceptionally good reason, so it very very rarely happens.
We have been approved to adopt 1 child or 2 siblings and so… onto finding us a family.