Panel

I don’t think there’s now anyone left on the planet who doesn’t know about the result of fostering panel, but nonetheless I realised that I haven’t yet blogged about it, so just in case anyone has been in space these past two weeks, or wants a more in-depth version of the experience itself, here goes:

We were scheduled for panel at 10am, so had arranged to meet our social worker there at 9.45 so we’d have a bit of time to prepare before being called through.  At least, that was the plan.  What actually happened was that we got there at about 9.30 in the pouring rain and were shown through to a room with a huge table and a drinks trolley (tea, coffee, hot chocolate, not bourbon, gin, rum...which may have been more useful under the circumstances) There was a smartly dressed woman sitting in there already, who I assumed was there for the same reasons as us, i.e. waiting to find out if she’d been approved to foster, but it turned out she was actually a social worker, going to panel to present a ‘match’.  She was waiting on someone else to arrive, who had apparently gone to the wrong set of offices, so even though we should have been second on the list, someone from the panel came through to ask if we’d mind going first and when we said that was fine, they sent word up to our social worker, who was upstairs in her office, grabbing a coffee.

So it was a bit of a whirlwind- one minute we were slurping drinks, analysing our nervousness levels, thinking we’d have time for a little chat with our social worker before going in, the next our social worker was there and being called straight through.  Then after about 5 minutes they then called us through.  I’m not sure there is anything I can really use to compare the experience of walking into a room full of people sitting around a table who have all read ostensibly EVERYTHING there is to know about you.  It’s sort of like an incredibly intense and personal job-interview situation, I guess.

We went to take our seats at the big rectangular table, next to our social worker and she cut through the massive tension by attempting to pour us both a glass of water and knocking it everywhere, for which I was very grateful!  Someone produced a tea towel (which in hindsight, I was like “Wut?!  Where did that come from?!”) and then the introductions got under way.  There were 10 people and then the two of us.  They all introduced themselves with names and job titles and I now can’t remember any of them.  There was basically a head of panel, an actual foster carer, a social worker from the fostering team, our social worker, a scribe, an independent body overseeing it all, and then others.  I remember smilling and nodding at each one and trying to commit their names and reasons for being there to my memory and failing completely.

The person chairing the panel welcomed us and started out by saying that they “appreciated our application to foster” which right off the bat made me think:

“It’s a no”

because really, isn’t that how every gentle rejection begins?  “I’m flattered you want to marry me but…NO” “We’re grateful for your job application but…NO”

Anyway, the first question they had for us was basically “Why NOW?” which I attempted to answer with a “carpe diem” kind of explanation, and then worried they’d think we were so busy ‘seizing the day’ that we wouldn’t have considered the practicalities, so tagged some actual logical reasons on to the end.

The second question was more complex but really boiled down to “Do you really think you can do it?!” so I waffled extensively about how the boys are moving on and I feel I have the time/space/energy to give mentally/emotionally/physically to another child, and then Chris kind of saved me from eternal waffling by chipping in with some practical strategies and ways we would cope with the demands it would present.

Towards the end of the questioning Chris said that the panel head said something that made him think “we’re in”, like a slip of words, meaning to say “IF you were approved you’d need to make use of the support offered” but saying “WHEN you are approved” instead…but I was so busy being HELLA NERVOUS that I missed that, so was genuinely relieved/surprised/delighted when she looked around the table and said “I think we will be recommending your approval?” and was met with a sea of nodding smiling faces.

It was explained that technically panel do not approve, they recommend, and that it takes about 10 working days for The Master of the Universe (or, you know, an independent head body person) to actually, as Chris put it “rubber stamp” our approval.  After that we were congratulated and wished luck and sent on our way.  The whole thing took maybe 15 minutes maximum, but felt much longer!  We had a hug and a little debrief from our lovely social worker, who I will be so sad to say goodbye to, as she doesn’t get to follow us on the rest of our journey- we will be passed to a supervising social worker now.  Then we celebrated in the entirely ridiculous manner of going food shopping in big Asda and putting the christmas decorations back in the loft…lame, I know.

So, just 7 months after making our initial enquiry into fostering, we were approved, and now we are waiting for a visit from our new social worker, and for our ‘equipment’ (pram, cot, baby monitor etc) to be in place and then we will be added to the vacancies list, which will mean at any time from that point we could receive a call about a potential ‘placement’, i.e. a foster baby or child!

We have been approved for one child of any gender or ethnicity between the ages of 0 and 2, so it’s kind of crazy knowing we could suddenly have a tiny newborn, or a toddler, or any age in-between living with us within the next few weeks…but it’s also pretty damn exciting.  I finally feel like I can really clear out the spare room and that I won’t be ‘jinxing’ anything, or getting ahead of myself by doing it, because for sure, there is going to be a tiny person using that space very soon.  Eeeeek! 🙂

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4 thoughts on “Panel

  1. starryeyedfirefly 24/01/2015 / 10:17 am

    So exciting!! I bet those 15mins felt like an eternity but yay!!

  2. Joanne 24/01/2015 / 5:35 pm

    Gosh, that brought back memories! The rectangular table (the size of a football pitch) millions of people you can’t remember their names when speaking to them let alone anytime after. I had 13 and just me! One of them was a 20 year old who had been in foster care all her life. I found her questions the hardest!
    All the very best to you both. Exciting times ahead! And fabulous there are folks out there to give kids a chance 🙂

    • rlholland 26/01/2015 / 7:11 am

      Wow, that does sound really intense. Thank you so much- I’m getting pretty nervous, but I think it’d be weird if we weren’t, and I’m definitely excited more than anything. I imagine it’s going to turn our lives upside down- I just hope in a good way 🙂

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