Last week Tom and I finally made it to Panel. Anyone who follows me on twitter will almost certainly know the result so I won’t try and create any tension and just let you know…we were approved! Whoop!
I felt absolutely fine all day – I deliberately made sure I was busy at work – but as soon as I walked in the building a swarm of butterflies let loose in my stomach. We arrived at exactly the same time as our social worker and it didn’t help my nerves that she seemed quite stressed out herself. I suppose her work is being judged almost as much as we are and a lot is at stake. After settling us in the waiting room she was whisked off to talk through the report with the panel.
While we were waiting we bumped into a couple from our final prep day who had just been approved. They looked so relieved and happy but I was finding it difficult to string a sentence together. I kept repeating ‘how was it?’ over and again. They put my mind at ease and I think I remembered to congratulate them but I can’t be sure.
After about ten minutes, a very severe looking woman, flanked by Denise and another, more smiley woman, walked down the corridor and introduced herself as the Panel Chairperson. Once she started speaking to us, it turned out she was rather lovely and she did her very best to put us at ease. She explained the process and told us the questions they were going to ask.
By this point Denise seemed much calmer. This was probably down to the fact that the panel chairperson had informed us that the report was so well written they had struggled to think of any questions for us. This was great to hear and reaffirmed how lucky we are to have Denise as our social worker.
Despite this, they managed to think of four questions for us, which were: what training have we undertaken during the approval process and what had we learnt form it; how would we set boundaries for our children whilst also being therapeutic; why did we want to adopt siblings and how would we manage; and finally how would we cope if our children were ever bullied for having gay parents?
The actual meeting took place in a room that we’d previously had two training sessions in, so we were comfortable in the surroundings, which helped us relax. The panel itself was made up of six women and two men, the vast majority of whom were adoptive parents, plus an administrator and Denise’s supervisor.
The chairperson then asked members of the panel to ask the questions. Without really making a decision to do so, Tom and I each took a turn to answer them, chipping in extra information where necessary. During one of my questions, I forgot a relatively important piece of information and Denise very helpfully reminded me of it.
While we were answering, everyone around the table smiled and nodded enthusiastically, which was lovely of them. I was aware that I was making odd shapes with my hands on the table so I thrust them under the table and played with my wedding ring. I would have sat on my hands but I think that would have looked a bit odd.
We were probably in there for no more than ten minutes but it flew by and suddenly we were being ushered back into the waiting room while they deliberated.
After what felt like an eternity but was probably no more than a couple of minutes, the chairperson, co-chair and Denise came out to tell us their response. Thankfully, she didn’t beat around the bush and was delighted to inform us that we’d been unanimously approved. To date, I’ve not heard of anyone not being unanimously approved but we’re still going to wear it as a badge of honour.
The chairperson explained that their decision was merely a recommendation to the agency decision maker and that we wouldn’t officially be approved for another ten to fourteen days. As unlikely it is that the agency will now say no, it does make me wonder why so much focus is put on the panel – particularly when, according to the invitation letter, you technically don’t actually need to be there. (I can't imagine why you wouldn't want to be, though.) She also asked us to give some further feedback as to how the process could be improved.
We were finally left with Denise and we all had a big hug. She seemed genuinely happy for us and we started talking about the next steps – but that’s for another blog.
Forty-five minutes after arriving, Tom and I walked out into the summer sun, called our parents, Whatsapped our siblings and friends, and went to a lovely Italian restaurant around the corner from the agency to celebrate. All in all, a very positive experience and a wonderful outcome. Phew.
My husband and I have adopted two wonderful children. Duckling is 5 and Gosling, her little brother, is 3. I'll be keeping track of our journey here...