Thursday 8 May 2014

Adoption Panel

I girded my loins and watched Wanted a Family of My Own on the telly against my better judgement.  Watching reminded me of our own patchy experience of Panels and the trials and tribulations that they inflict on prospective adopters.

First Panel - Approval
We were deferred at our first approval panel, we weren't invited, it was a long time ago before meeting us seemed important. We wanted 2, 3 or more siblings. Clearly no one in their right mind would want to do that. Panel can't approve someone not in their right mind so we were deferred for that reason and suspicions that we were religious zealots.

Second Panel - Approval
However, after a 4 month re assessment by a new Social Worker they took our case back to panel. We stayed at home, our phone was unknowingly broke and we waited and waited and waited with friends. Hours passed then a taxi arrived and told us to fix the phone. The Social worker rang and we were passed.

Third Panel - Match
Two months later we waited by the phone as the matching panel did their thing. Having had mixed results at panel we were naturally sceptical of our Social Workers reassurances. However the call came and we were parents to the Big one, Gracie and Ginger, 6, 3 and 20 months.

Fourth Panel - Fostering
Several years later we decided to foster, so off to panel again, well waiting by the phone again. Surprise surprise deferred again. Concerns that we'd become too attached and not be able to move them on, as if.

Fifth Panel - Fostering
We're through, with a recommendation that we don't have babies placed, which seemed fair enough.

So long story short, Flossy and Lotty, 15 months and 3 months arrived shortly after, we fall in love, court case, mess, court case, mess, blah, what the hell, lets adopt them.

Sixth Panel - Approval and Matching 
So we sit outside this time waiting to go in, times have changed. We are waiting for the judge to rule at the county court that morning so the wee ones can be freed for adoption so the Panel can make approval then match. So, we wait, no word from the court, we miss our slot, we wait, still no word,  panel finishes, we wait, no ruling and we go home crestfallen, heartbroken. We break the news to the big three......................a dark day at Coates Towers

More court dates, judge rules, introductions with others, trauma, loss, disaster, judge rules again and the adoption is back on.

Seventh Panel - Approval and Matching
One year to the day, I kid you not, we sit waiting to go and be approved and matched at panel. We are ready for a fight. We will take all comers and are furious, Flossy and Lotty belong to us and we defy anyone to say otherwise. The Panel thank us for what we have endured and match and approve.
We are relieved and overjoyed but the experiences of the last year have taken a toll that last to this day.

Much water under the bridge, Mrs C and I volunteer on adoption panels, I train as a Social worker and so on and so forth.
Then, along came Peanut and thats another story for another blog.

Eighth Panel- Approval and Matching
Well by now, Mrs C and I have experience of being on Panel and there is no mystery. But the feeling that you get when they say yes was undiminished. We did it. Peanut is ours and we are hers.

I am by nature a pragmatist and I understand the need for Panel and I understand the decisions they make.
Sitting on Panel I've read through Prospective Adopter Reports and had concerns born from hard learned experience. I've worried about lack of knowledge and blind naivety. I've sat in discussions where enthusiasm and optimism have been weighed against reality and challenge.
Panels are a trial for Social Workers and prospective adopters alike but lives, hopes and futures are at stake. I've witnessed adopter deception and seen the havoc it can wreak.

So for all we've had a mixed experience, as have many, I would defend panels.


  1. Your first couple of experiences would be enough to put anyone off, all that tense waiting and built up anxiety. Or is that just what I remember? Now you've experienced it all will you be going back again I wonder? Thanks for sharing your experiences and joining in #WASO

    1. The first six times were tense but the last two were a cakewalk. We were full of hell and up for a fight. Having sat on Panels any mystery or deference was dissolved.
      As for going again, I can give you our stock answer:
      "We would never say never but I assure you we have no active plans"
      Well, that is the polite answer.

      Thanks for the #WASO

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  3. Oh my goodness - what a roller coaster! I think I never really took my panels too seriously, assuming that if there was a problem it wouldn't have got that far! I was obviously wrong, but glad I realised after it was over!

    1. Like you I presumed that If we'd got to panel then we should be approvable. How wrong I was. After the first knock back I lost my nerve and thought of all the reasons why they wouldn't approve/match us.

  4. Am I being over simplistic if I say that it's a real failing of the system and / or local authorities or independent agencies if any adopter fails at panel? If they get that far, shouldn't everyone be sufficiently prepared and vetted to get through? Al, have you ever turned anyone down at panel? Any thoughts about how that can happen?

  5. I think the most challenging Panels are when there appears to be questions raised, i.e. miss-carriage or unsuccessful IVF that appears unresolved or not resolved appropriately. You can ask the Social Worker with out the prospective adopters present but if they can't reassure or answer adequately then you're in a pickle. To ask prospective adopters those questions in front of a large panel of strangers is inappropriate. So, you're kind of stuck. In those circumstances a deferral would be appropriate while the SW digs deeper or gets their act together.
    However, with the new part 1/part 2 process you may be in a situation were something comes up in part 2 that rules them out but they insist, as is their new right, to go to panel. In those cases the Panel can relatively easily go with a Social Workers recommendation and not approve.
    I think that in 99% of cases the panel go with the SW recommendation. I found it useful as a quality control process and it is fantastic symbolic moment in the process for the prospective adopters.
    I hope that answers the question.