Keep Calm and Go To Panel

Archived: Posted June 19, 2013

According to internet boffins, there are only three questions that any job interviewer really wants to know:

1.  Can you do the job?
2.  Will you love the job?
3.  Could we work with you?

That’s it. Just three. Any other question is just a variation on one of these topics – a roundabout way of sussing out your strengths, motivation, and fit.

Now, I’m not saying that going to panel is the same as a job interview. Far from it. But when I read that article, it really struck a chord with me. And that’s because those three key questions, in essence, are what the journey to become a foster carer’s all about. And they’re exactly what your fostering panel will want to know. Do you have the right skills and qualities? Are you passionate about making a difference? Will you work well with children, families and childcare professionals? That’s panel in a nutshell.

Yet type ‘fostering panel’ into any online fostering forum and you’re guaranteed a horror story or two. “Prepare to be grilled” one carer says; “a necessary evil” remarked another. Even though most carers will tell you that it was a relaxed and even enjoyable experience, the idea still persists of panel as scary and elusive. Something to be approached with caution and nerves of steel.

And how do I know this? Because I felt exactly the same before I went to panel myself. For months, I’d been preparing myself for a full-scale interrogation. I imagined a Dragon’s Den-style showdown with each panel member, one by one, coldly declaring “I’m out.”

I couldn’t have been further from the truth. Ok, I’ll admit that having nine pairs of eyes watch you walk into a room is pretty daunting. But everyone was friendly. Honestly. Not a suit or shoulder pad in sight.

There were questions of course – about how we found the assessment process and what we thought about Skills to Foster training. They asked us why we wanted to foster, how our daughter felt about it and how we would cope financially in between placements.

These were things that we had discussed ourselves dozens of times. So don’t panic  – they’re not trying to catch you out. It’s not a test and there are no trick questions. These people have just read a 90 page document about you and your life. Now they want to meet you in person – to see your face and hear your voice. Panel is your opportunity to add some flavour to your Form F and show what you can offer. You’re not sitting an exam; you’re bringing yourself to life.

Our time in the hot seat seemed to fly by. Before we knew it we were being thanked and asked to leave the room for a few minutes whilst the panel convened to make a decision. It’s a very strange feeling sitting in that separate room, knowing that on the other side of the wall a group of people you’ve never met before – and will probably never see again – are making one of the most important decisions of your life.

When they called us back in to share their recommendation, the feeling of relief was fantastic. “It was unanimous” smiled the chairman of the panel. I didn’t know whether to cry with relief or run around waving my scarf in the air.

Poor Mr. C had to put up with my singing all the way home….

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Phone us

Call us on 0800 023 4561 (lines open Monday - Thurs: 9am - 7pm, Fri: 9am - 6pm)

Fostering a child or young person is a big decision so we,re here to answer any questions you may have. Our friendly fostering advisors, many of whom are carers themselves, can talk you through everything you need to know about becoming a foster carer.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Call me back

Haven't got time to chat now? Leave your details and we'll call you back at a time that suits you:

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
  • Why do we need this? So we can email you a brochure.
  • Why do we need this? We appreciate that starting to foster is a big decision that needs careful consideration and you are likely to have questions. We’d like to help answer those questions.
  • Please enter your postcode to see news and events in you area
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