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 is, though, that most people say afterwards that the panel meeting 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.
Who sits on panel?
In accordance with fostering legislation, Fostering People maintains a “central list” of panel members who are selected to reflect the community that the panel serves, and as wide a range of professional and stakeholder/service user experience as possible. This includes some Fostering People social workers but predominantly independent adults with experience and knowledge of fostering, having been fostered or in care themselves, work in children’s social care, or health and education.
A Panel Chairperson
They are not an employee of Fostering People, but an Independent person with the necessary skills knowledge and expertise to chair the panel.
A Vice Chair
This person is responsible for chairing meetings in the chair’s absence or when the position of chair is vacant.
One Social Worker
They will have at least 3 years relevant post-qualification experience in child care with direct experience of fostering or in placing/supervising children in foster care. Usually (but not always) employed by Fostering People.
At least three other Members
Panel membership must include at least 3 other members not including the independent Chair person, one of whom must be a foster parent for another fostering service.
The Panel Adviser
At Fostering People, this role is fulfilled by our Practice Improvement Manager; Quality Assurance and Safeguarding Manager or Assessment Manager. The Panel Adviser is present at Panel as a non-voting member. The Panel Adviser is there to advise panel members on regulations, agency policy, practice and performance requirements.
When applications are presented to panel, a member of our placements team observes too. This helps our placements team to learn about the skills and experience that you bring which will help them when identifying children to come and live with you.
A supervising social worker may also attend panel in order to familiarise themselves with your application to foster, this person will go on to become your supervising social worker if your application is successful.
This means that there are usually 9 to 11 people in the room including an administrator taking minutes; as such, it can feel a bit full. But your assessing social worker is there with you to explain the recommendation to the panel and, if you wish, you can bring a friend or relative for support. That person can come into panel with you or stay in the waiting area, which ever you’d prefer.
Before the panel, the chair will come and introduce themselves and explain what will happen and how the panel works.
There are usually 2 questions asked from a pool of questions prepared by a group of our foster children; this is to help you to think from their perspective. You’ll be given these whilst you wait to come into panel, so you have time to consider your answers.
The panel will discuss your application and then ask you to come and join them along with your assessing social worker. The panel will then introduce themselves and ask you a few questions, including your answers to the children’s questions.
What will the fostering panel ask me?
Panel members might ask you about your assessment, your training and what you are looking forward to as a future foster carer.
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 there just to clarify issues and not to interview you.
What happens next?
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.
Having concluded its discussions and deliberations, the Panel must do one of three things:
1. Recommend approval
This will include terms of approval (number of placements, age and gender of the child, long term or short term placement or both).
2. Defer making a recommendation
This will occur where Panel feels they require additional information in order to make a fully informed recommendation about your suitability for approval.
3. Recommend not to approve
This recommendation will be made by Panel where they feel that you are unsuitable to foster.
The Panel Chair, along with the Panel Adviser, will then come and inform you of the recommendation and that our Agency Decision Maker (ADM), Oliver Kirkland will consider that recommendation and make a formal decision as to whether you should be approved as a foster parent. This decision will be made as quickly as possible and will normally be communicated to you verbally within 2 days of the ADM making their decision and then in writing within 10 working days of the agency decision.
A few weeks after panel, you will receive a feedback form to let us know your views about your assessment and panel experience. This is helpful and lets us know what is working well and whether there are any areas we can improve on.
Fostering children is one of the most rewarding careers available.
What better way to make a difference to a child’s life than providing something that most of us have taken for granted – a safe, supportive and caring family environment, through which children can learn, grow and develop?
Opening your home and your family to others is a big decision and we know that you need time to consider this fully before taking the first step to becoming a foster parent.
In the meantime, why not take our fostering quiz to see if you are eligible to foster or find out how the fostering process actually works.
Take your first step to becoming a foster parent today
If you’re interested in becoming a foster parent and would like to learn more, then we’d love to hear from you.
Simply fill in the form below and one of our friendly team will be in touch.