Panel. A word that sends a shiver through many prospective adopters. It's where you find out your adoption fate and it feels like the most important day of your life. That might be a bold sentence but it's how I remember feeling about it. These days I'm a panel member and have been for almost 4 years. Every time I think I'm ready to give up all the reading and stand down from my position as 'Adoptive Parent', I go to a panel that pulls me back in.
Today was that panel. It was a long day. We had 7 items and we consider each of them very carefully, which can take some time. Today we had a couple returning to adopt the full sibling of the child they adopted a few years ago. I was there for that panel and again for this one. Hearing about how happy they are to be parents to their little girl and how excited they are to expand their family with her baby brother was incredible. What an amazing thing to witness. We approved several other couples and some matches, all of which made me feel proud to play a very small part in these people's lives. I often sit there with tears in my eyes as the people in front of us tell us how much they want to be parents and why they feel the match is the right child or children for them. Panel can be very powerful.
I know that it can be a terrifying experience for prospective adopters, whether it's to become approved or matched. I know. I've done it. Scroll through my earlier blogs to see how my partner and I had an almighty blazing row just an hour before our approval panel. Because I've been there I always make sure I give adopters an encouraging smile when I say my name in introductions. You get the news of the panel's decision shortly after coming out of the meeting and the people sitting around that table want you to feel relaxed and to do well. Try and remember that.
If you ever get the chance to sit on an adoption panel, I say give it a try. Every month when the massive bundle of papers arrive I curse a bit under my breath. When I start reading and see how many papers I still have to go the curses sometimes get a bit louder. It can be tough and the reading can be very upsetting, but when you see a looked after child matched with their forever family and you just know they're going to have a wonderful life together you feel so darn good.
So, just as I was about to say to the Chair that I think I've done a good 4 years and I would like to bow out, now I might just do it for another few months. It's hard work and there is a LOT of reading but you just can't measure how brilliant it feels when a couple or single adopter walks out of the room knowing they are soon going to be a parent. That bit, I love. The reading? Not so much.