There is one word all prospective adopters fear, not triplets, ‘panel’. If you want to become an approved adoptive parent in the UK you have to go in front of a panel. It’s part of the process and one your social workers talk to you about at almost every home visit. It begins to become the event that your entire life hinges on. ‘Panel need to see that you’ve thought of this’, ‘Panel will need an explanation for that’. It’s hands down the most dreaded part of the process. Until the kids move in, of course.
We had the panel date circled on our calendar for weeks. Just looking at it made my tummy go funny. I was excited. I was ready for it. This felt like the final hurdle (until you discover there are a few more once you get matched). The morning of our panel finally came around and things did not go to plan. My co-mummy works at a law firm and a massive, international crisis had occurred the day before. She was in the office until 5am on the day of panel. She didn’t sleep because she was working like crazy and I couldn’t sleep because I was going crazy. When she finally got home I left her to sleep for as long as I could. Panel was at 11am.
Previously a social worker friend of ours had given us some advice. She told my partner not to wear a work suit because they will think she is too corporate and too committed to her job. Ha. How could we admit she had worked through the night the day before? To clear our heads we took the dog for a walk in the local fields and I mentioned I didn’t think she should wear a suit. Well. I don’t remember lighting a touch paper but something just snapped in both of us. We actually ended up shouting at each other and wrestling on a rugby pitch an hour before we had to show ourselves to be respectable prospective parents. And it was all over what to wear. This was the biggest row we had ever had, before or since. It was ridiculous and we both knew it.
Soon our shouts turned to sniggers and we both laughed at just how pathetic all of this was. We ran back home to get ready, me in a pair of trousers and a shirt, her in a nice black suit. And you know what? We were approved. The whole panel agreed we would be suitable parents and we drove away feeling as close to euphoric as you can get without assistance. We went for lunch to celebrate and were greeted with a bottle of champagne courtesy of some gorgeous work colleagues. It was a wonderful feeling. We were expecting children but we could still guzzle the champagne. Perfect!
You have to remember that if you’re at panel, you’re doing well. You got that far. Your social worker and their managers don’t put you up for panel until they know you and your Form F is ready. My advice to all prospective adopters is to try not to fear panel. I’m a panel member myself now and I always make sure I give adopters a knowing and supportive smile when they come in. There is something utterly nerve wrecking about sitting in front of that many people and you can’t change that. But just know they want you to do well. You will be asked a few questions but they are questions you will be able to answer, because they’re about you.
Oh, and don’t worry about what to wear. Just feel comfortable in what you have on and you’ll be fine. As for my co-mummy and me, she is still the main breadwinner in our house but she makes plenty of time for our children and has never had to work that hard since. Which is a good job too, otherwise we might have had to go for round two.