Steve Garside Service Manager responsible for fostering assessment has a wealth of fostering panel experience and knowledge having previously been a Vice Panel Chair and then Panel Chair for a number of years. So who better than to write a blog for prospective foster parents to tell us what happens at panel.
One of the questions I’m often asked by people preparing to become foster parent is what happens at panel and what is it like?
I understand why people do ask because the word panel sounds a bit daunting and the idea of a room full of people asking you questions might seem quite overwhelming. The truth though is that most people say afterwards that panel was much less intimidating than they had feared and that panel members were friendly and welcoming. All panel members will be aware that people may be a bit anxious about attending and they will try to help you to relax.
The Chair will come out to introduce himself or herself to you in the waiting area and you will then come into the panel with your assessing social worker.
Sometimes panel might ask to speak to the assessing social worker alone first but usually you will all come in together.
After introductions and asking you a few questions, you and the assessing social worker will be asked to return to the waiting area while panel considers its recommendation.
The Panel Chair will then inform you of the recommendation and that an Agency Decision Maker will consider that recommendation and make a formal decision as to whether you should be approved as a foster parent.
• Who sits on Panel?
There are usually five to seven people sitting on panel and with an administrator taking minutes and an advisor to the panel as well it can feel a bit full.
The panel will be made up of a few professionals for example social workers and people who have worked in health or in education. There may also be a foster parent or someone who has previously been cared for by foster parents when a child. This is so that the panel has a number of different perspectives when considering the information.
Your assessing social worker is likely to be there with you to explain the recommendation to the panel and if you wish you can bring a friend or relative as a support. That person can come into panel with you but you may prefer that they stay in a waiting area.
• What will panel ask me?
Panel members might ask you about your assessment and your training and what you are looking forward to as a future foster parent.
The panel will be likely to also ask you and your assessing social worker some questions if there are things that they need to clarify after reading your report. However, there shouldn’t be a lot of questions and they are just to clarify issues and not to interview you.
There is usually also a question asked from a pool of questions prepared by a group of ‘looked after’ children. That is to help you to think from the perspective of children who may be placed in your care.
• Good Luck
You will have got to panel after several meetings with your assessing social worker and quite a bit of work to ensure that you are ready and well prepared for the fostering role.
Panel members have a professional job to do but they aren’t there to trip you up or to make life difficult for you but will want to help you to present as well as you can.
FCA look forward to working with newly approved foster parents and will support you as you move forward with your fostering journey and begin to care for children in need of your love and care.
Many foster parents then look back on their day at panel as a positive experience that gave them confidence and set them further on their way.
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