Panel

Much has happened – and by now you’ll know it’s good news – we passed panel! Hurrah and thank goodness!

I thought though it would be worth capturing what it was like and sharing that – writing everything down has been really helpful for me as well as giving me something to go back to and see how far we’ve come.

Let’s rewind a bit then. We’d had our final grilling for the report and in between that and panel we had a fair few weeks where we literally had nothing adoption related to do. It was amazing – if not a little strange – so much of the past 12 months has been filled with something so the break was welcomed. I went to Paris and Barcelona and husband went snowboarding. Making the most of our free time (albeit not together !)

Whilst we were lapping up Europe, SW was in the background beavering away at writing up about 30 hours worth of meetings, our references, homework and medical info to make our report reflect us as best she could. She’s promised this on a particular weekend so we could read through it and feedback. The bit of the weekend she meant was Sunday evening and she needed our feedback in 24 hours in order to hit her deadline of getting the report to panel. The 40 pages landed in our inbox and we approached in our usual ways – husband checking the detail and me scrolling through and declaring it fine.

I can’t imagine any other situation where you would read so much information about yourself (whilst still alive) and I have to say it is a really strange thing to do. It’s mostly your own words, how you’ve answered the questions or the homework but with a slight interpretation from a woman you’ve spent less than 50 hours of your life with. She got it pretty spot on though and we were happy with the end result. We’d choose us.

She then came round for another visit the week before panel date to check in on how we were and to go through the report and any questions she thought we may get asked at panel from her experience. There were many – what would we do if a cild didn’t like the cat, how are we keeping an active lifestyle, how will I cope with not being a career woman (small feminist rant here from me) how will husband cope with the stress of his job, how will being parents affect our relationship – there were quite a few along these themes and she left us with them to do some prep before the main event.

The following evenings, after our dinner (unnecessary detail), we walked (marched) and grilled and drilled these questions into each other. I played a good social worker actually – so husband (slight tilt of head) tell me all about……It helped to say the answers out loud and then fall out slightly when the other gave feedback we weren’t quite keen on and high fiving each other when one of us totally nailed the answer!

Panel day arrived and we were pretty nervous, we got up and went to the gym. Came home and had brekkie and then got our parent worthy panel clothes on. My first attempt caused husband to comment that I looked like I was going to a fancy dress party rather than panel and he deemed my second outfit much more ‘mumsy’ (great!) We went into town and had a coffee and then made the slow march up to the council building – pausing for a quick selfie before we set foot inside (obvs)

We went to sit down before signing in as we had some last minute forms to sign and we were then collected by a small mousey woman who was a chaperone. She told us they were running late, which we’d anticipated as SW told us they usually are. Then she faffed around what we could do, we could go sit in the room, or walk along the river, or go to a coffee shop, or sit in reception. We said we were totally fine and could sit in the room. She asked us three more times. I said it was fine we could sit in the room. She asked again. I went to the loo. She asked again and I was quite a bit more assertive (then wondered if this was part of the assessment)

We finally got sat in the room – 4 bare white walls and council grade coffee flask – but it felt like we were one step closer. The chaperone went to find sw – it was in her best interests to do so! Left alone we decided to play hangman on the back of an old envelope, then noughts and crosses and then sw arrived.

A bit of chat and how are you and I then began to pace the room. Getting my steps up! We were waiting for the chair of the panel to come in and meet us. They usually give you a heads up about the report as well and some of the questions they may ask. She eventually came in and was really lovely and smiley, put us at ease straight away.

She said the report was exceptional and that our application was really strong. So, she said don’t expect a grilling (!) you might not be in for long and that’s a good thing. But we will have some questions around lifestyle, health and training.

Then we all trooped next door into a big old fashioned board room. I was now at that point where I could burst into tears at any moment. There were 12 people sat around the table and a space for me, husband and SW. There were introductions to everyone (a chair, vice chair, doctor, psychotherapist, someone who’d been adopted, a student, 2 minute takers, someone checking it was all legal and a couple of others)

She started by saying again what a strong report it was and highlighted some of our strengths. Then they took it in turns to ask us questions – the doctor asked us how we were keeping healthy, what will we plan to do when we get a child and what we do in winter (?) Then vice chair asked us about what we had learnt from the training we had been on, the person who had been adopted asked us how we would cope with the change in lifestyle and our change in relationship, someone else asked us about the access to other people who had adopted and then the chair asked us about how we’d manage friends and family in the first 2 weeks when we’re advised not to see anyone and settle our new family.

Then! Then they went around the table and each person had to say if they would or wouldn’t recommend us to be approved and why. They all said they would recommend us for approval and then we got to leave!!!! I almost collapsed in a crying heap on the floor outside but we were just so happy and relieved this bit was over! It is all you focus on for the whole duration of the training and home meetings that for it to be finally over and finally have our approval was really overwhelming.

Now – we do have to wait for final legal approval which will come on 26 April but for now we’re feeling pretty confident! Hurrah!

We made the calls and texts home and to everyone who’d sent lovely good luck messages and then we went home, got changed, went for a drink and celebratory curry in town!

Next stop – an actual child!!

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