Welcome to our latest blog by one real-life adoptive mum who so far has shared with us everything from initially thinking about adoption, through to discussing it with her children, submitting an official Registration of Interest, moving onto Stage 1 and then Stage 2. Leading us to this pivotal point in the story – Panel!
Panel brings together a group of individuals with adoption experience and expertise who discuss the application and make a recommendation as to whether the applicant should be approved.
Finally, the day we had been building up to for six months was upon us and our nerves and excitement levels were high. In fact, my tummy has gone all fluttery just thinking about it as I type these words nearly three years later.
Our Panel was in the afternoon, and it was hard to settle too much that morning!
The good thing to remember about going to Panel is that it is designed NOT to be full of surprises – if things have been done properly there really shouldn’t be any dramatic plot twists at this stage. As you go through Stage 2 with your Assessing Social Worker (ASW) they will be very clear with you about what they are thinking in terms of their recommendations, what they have reservations about, and as the process progresses, if and how they have revised their opinions.
Having read your Prospective Adopters Report (PAR) it’s the Panel’s job to ask you (and your ASW) any questions they have and then make a recommendation as to whether you should (or shouldn’t) be accepted as Prospective Adopters – this recommendation then goes to the Agency Decision Maker (ADM) who then reads their recommendation and decides whether or not to uphold it.
Comparing it to a hand of cards – everything is out on the table. As the date for Panel approaches you read your PAR and have a chance to chat it through with your ASW so you know exactly what the Panel members are reading about you!
A daunting meeting
Having said all that, you still don’t know what they will make of you, and the meeting itself is a little daunting if only because it is an unknown. Here are the reflections we jotted down straight after our Panel with a few added details for clarity.
On arrival we were met by our ASW and taken into a room to wait with her. Quite a wait. I knitted and we attempted to chat with our ASW – although none of us were very conversational. All three of us were a bit nervous – sort of jumpy – listening out and turning round at the sound of doors opening or people approaching, and my husband and I were both rather emotionally full. Our ASW read through her notes. At last, the Panel Chair and Advisor came in and introduced themselves and gave us our questions – it was all very friendly.
Sometimes the Panel like to meet with the ASW without the Prospective Adopters, but on this occasion they didn’t feel this was necessary, so we prepped the questions together and then went in.
On entering the room for Panel, we sat with our ASW on one side of a set of tables with the Panel sitting around the other side – it wasn’t a massive room and was quite full.
Who was there:
The Panel introduced themselves – 1 x independent, 3 x staff (Children’s Services) including our first ever Social Worker and another familiar face from a training day. Also present was the Chair, the minute taker and the Advisor.
We were asked about our experience of the process, how we had found the training and asked to give feedback on our ASW. Our ASW also fed back on the process from her point of view. We were also asked why we had chosen to go through the Council as opposed to another agency. It was made clear that they really did want our feedback here as they always want to be improving the service.
Questions specific to us (which we had been given in the waiting room earlier):
We had been given 4 questions – none of which came out of leftfield. All in all, it was a positive, affirming atmosphere. We then left the room – just time for a loo trip before called back in.
The Panel members went round the table starting with the Chair to each give their recommendation.
We received a unanimous recommendation to be approved!
We had a brief, but happy chat with our ASW then headed off to a nearby cafe, to come back down to earth over a game of cards and a debrief chat (which is when we made these notes). We let a few people know via texts, the children came in and we had a lovely family meal together to celebrate.
We have a photo from that meal up in our kitchen and it is also in our little one’s Life Story Book. I love that photo because it captures a moment of celebration – we were as ready as we could be.
The embryo of the idea of adoption had developed through training, assessment, planning, preparing, time and beautiful dreaming and now we were at full term. Heavily expectant. But unlike a biological pregnancy, our journey from conception to readiness was not coincident with our daughter’s journey home.
Looking back, I now know, that while we were arriving at that point of readiness, all prepared for the idea of our little one; her little unborn self was doing just what it is designed to do – preparing for life with her birth family. She was still many months off the readiness that we were celebrating in that photo and even then the readiness would be one imposed on her via a process of court orders and the plans of Children’s Services.
Not that I could have told you any of this at the time, but now, looking back, I can identify alongside the exhilaration and sense of arrival, a slight note of grief. A sadness at the disconnection between our story and the story of our little one – stories that my mummy-heart yearned to intertwine. It wasn’t a raw, painful, obvious grief – just a slight note within the many other flavours of the experience. One thread in the beautiful tapestry of adoptive parenting.
Approval – The final stamp
One week after Panel we heard from our ASW that the Agency Decision Maker agreed with the Panel’s recommendation and that we were officially Approved Prospective Adopters.
We purchased a few items that we had chosen but had been waiting until we got the go ahead to actually order – definitely a bit of nesting going on! The blanket was completed, and the preparations continued as we waited for the call!
A note from Adopt Coast to Coast
Notes from Adopt Coast to Coast: A huge thank you to our adopter for sharing their own experiences of adoption. Please note no two adoption stories are the same and experiences and timescales will vary for each family – if you’d like to find out more about adoption and discuss your own circumstances please get in touch now.
If you’d like to find out more about adoption and discuss your own circumstances, please get in touch now.
If you want to find out more why not come along to an information event or one-to-one appointment?
Alternatively you could make an enquiry and one of our friendly team will give you a call to discuss your own circumstances and answer any questions you might have.