What is this Panel thing?

Our Local Authority generally offers a superb range of biscuits when you go to Panel. It’s not the best reason to foster, but it’s certainly worth considering.

There are three things you need to know about Panel.

  1. It’s not nearly as bad as you think
  2. It’ll be running late
  3. Panels are held in buildings that you’ve probably never been to before

Your Assessing Social Worker will give you the time, date and venue of when you’re due to attend.
You’ll be unsure about what to wear.
If you’re me, your wife will tell you. I’m afraid you’ll have to make your own decision.
I normally go with Polo Shirt and jeans.
The more Panels I attend, the scruffier I’ve become.
I really don’t think anyone is too bothered.

On the day of Panel, you’ll fret about finding a place to park, then you’ll park, wonder if you should straighten up, and then realise you might be late, leave the car, and go and find Reception.

You’ll find Reception.
You’ll say you’re there ‘for Panel’ and the Receptionist will wave you through into a waiting area.

You’ll hang around in the waiting area, possibly drinking a lot of tea and eating a lot of biscuits.
You’ll need a wee, but will be afraid to go in case you get called in to Panel.
If you’re me, you’ll be nervous and talk a lot, guessing what you may or may not be asked.

I like to dress ‘smart casual’ when I’m going to Panel. You don’t need a shirt and tie.

Your Assessing Social Worker will arrive just in time, and you’ll be relieved to see a familiar face.
Your Assessing Social Worker will go into Panel first, will be in for about 20 minutes and come out smiling. They’ll then rush off to deal with another child who needs their help.

Then, it’s your turn.
Panels often sit in a horseshoe formation.
There can be about 7 or 8 members and in my experience, they will all be smiling at you.
The Chair will introduce themselves and try to reassure you not to be nervous.
The Panel will introduce themselves.
Some will be Social Workers representing the Council.
Some will be Independent Members which means they will have no connection with the Council. There will be a solicitor from the Council, but they probably won’t say anything.
If you’re a man, you’ll probably be in the minority.
At least one of the Panel will be a Foster Carer. The Foster Carer will be another Independent Member and will foster for a different Local Authority.
The Foster Carer will normally be the most casually dressed.
You won’t remember any of this.
You won’t remember any of their names or their roles

A good Chair will then:-

  1. Apologise that they’re running late
  2. Tell you again that they are not trying to catch you out.

This is true.
This is not an interview for a job where you have to beat the other candidates.
Unless something absolutely weird happens, if you’ve got this far they want to approve you.
Although it’s far from easy to become a Foster Carer, society needs us.

The Panel will all have been sent your Form F, and they should have read it.
They will ask you a handful of questions about Form F.
Prior to your arrival, the Panel Members will have worked out who is going to ask what, and in what order.
Sometimes they get out of sync and glare at each other.
This is quite funny.
Even if you think the answer is definitely in your Form F, resist the temptation to say so.

Just answer as honestly and as clearly as you can.

Typical questions might be:-

  1. Could you tell us a little more about how you think your own children will react to a Foster Child arriving in your home?
  2. Could you tell us a bit more about your Support Network?
  3. Is your fish pond ‘child safe’?
  4. How did you find the process of being assessed?

If you’re a couple, you’ll look at each trying to work out who is going to answer.
Try not to disagree or have a row in front of the Panel.
It’s not the end of the world, but it doesn’t look good.
If you’re a big talker, like me, you’ll start a monologue, throw in some random ideas, add a couple of anecdotes and then end with ‘I can’t remember the question, but those are some of my thoughts and I’ll stop talking now’.
This is fine.
Panel like it when potential Foster Carers are real people with frailties and gaps in their knowledge
The Panel will have decades and decades of experience between them.

The Panel are generally very knowledgeable with years of experience. They’ll ask if you have any questions. The questions need to be about fostering, not the possible whereabouts of Elvis Presley.

You may be asked if you have any questions.
Any questions you have should refer to fostering.
Don’t ask them if they think Elvis is still alive and working in a chip Shop?

You leave.
You hang around in the Waiting Room and wonder if you did alright.
The Panel will have a chat.
They’ll call you back in.
They’ll almost certainly confirm that they want to approve you to foster.
Technically, this is only a recommendation.
All the paper work has to go to be verified and checked by a very important person in the Council.
You’ll then get a letter saying you’re approved to foster.

I’ve known people to get a phone call on the same day asking if they can take a child, I’ve known others wait several weeks.
It’s no easy thing to become a Foster Carer, and rightly so.
The Assessment may have taken 6 months from your first enquiry, or, significantly longer.

Even though it’s very very thorough, I’ve never known anyone to feel fully prepared to welcome a child into their home.
But, you’re as ready as you’ll ever be.

Published by

fosteringandadoptionwithphil

Birth parent, Foster Carer, Adopter and Recruiter of Foster Carers for Liverpool City Council

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