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How your can improve your panel experience

In retrospect, I have learnt a few things about the Panel and how it can be better handled.


To have a successful panel experience I would recommend that you be totally prepared.

First of all you must ascertain from your social worker that she is confident that you will pass The Panel.  It is not unheard of, although the reasons are questionable, for a social worker to send a family to Panel when she is aware that there is information lacking and the possibility of failing the Panel.

Try to glean as much information as you can from the social worker as to who will be on the panel, what their role is and the questions they are likely to ask. 


Speak as if you already have your child

Be relaxed, and confident and talk as if you already have your child.

When they ask you about meeing other parents with children, talk about the mother- toddler group that is held in your local church and how you will take your new baby there on Thursday mornings, as you have already met the woman, who runs it and you have already been introduced to a couple of local parents who have toddlers.

One woman asked me what I would do with my child, if I was suddenly called to work (I worked as a freelancer). I duly replied that I would have child care in place for allow for this eventuality, which I considered a common sense reply. This, though, was unacceptable to her. She kept pushing and pushing - well what if ...what it...what if? Until I responded, that if it was an absolute dire emergency I would call my neighbours  in to help.  "Ah ha" she jumped on that "You haven't put your neighbours down on your support map.' 'This is because I haven't told them yet'.  'Why not?' Because I don't know if I will ever get the chance to adopt and so I don't want to alert them to a situation that might or might not happen'.'  I felt as if I was standing totally on the back foot and spent the whole time trying to justify my ideas.


If I had answered as though I already had the child, and had the situation already planned, then it would have sounded as if I was much more in control.

This is a difficult but clever tactic, as it means that  mentally you have moved into the position of already being a parent and therefore the responses would be more grounded and pragmatic.  Those who already have children, will have the knowledge and experience to respond to this kind of questioning but for those whose dreams are balancing on this encounter, it is difficult.  You are still in the phase of 'going through the emotions' and at this stage, the reality of actually becoming a parent, is still very far away, perhaps still a pipe dream.

Hence, "I have organised a local child minder, who will work with me the three days a week which I have calculated will bring in a sufficient income. I will only put myself available to work on those days. If someone calls me for work when I do not have childcare cover, I will not take it. I have also approached my neighbours opposite me, as well as those on my left, informing them  of my adoption plans and they have  both volunteered to provide a safety net whenever I should need it." 

See the difference?


Closing  the question

There is also the trick of closing the question. Many of these professionals have been trained in interview techniques and they will leave things open. "What makes you think that you would make good adoptive parents?" You then put forward 5 good reasons and then there is a big pause, and the pause goes on and on and you begin to feel that you need to fill in that space....and before you know it your have put your foot in it. Be confident what you have to say and then close the question.  Say something to the effect that you appreciate that being an adoptive parent is a life long learning curve and you are completely open to that life of learning.  They then cannot ask you any more about that as you have successfully closed it.

Be aware also of body language and do not be intimidated by it. There was a very large man on my panel and he sat back and crossed his arms and started firing questions at me. I read his body language, that clearly stated that he did not approve of me, and I fumbled. This was the exact reaction that the was looking for, and gave him the opportunity to keep on digging at me. Had I just ignored his obvious intimidation tactic I would have been on better ground.


Take time

If you do not understand the question, or the enquirer was not clear - be confident enough to ask them to repeat it or reword it.  Taking a moment to listen to what is being requested of you will save you trying to dig yourself out of a hole!  Also take time to respond, this will give you an opportunity to catch up with yourself and regain control if you feel you have lost it.


Before you go into the Panel ensure that both you and your partner agree on the main issues. You do not want to get into a situation where there is divide and rule.  Discipline, child care, family relations, are money matters are all issues where you should agree. When the question arises about what are you going to do when and if your child gets sick, you must both agree on the plan. You don't want to be sitting there saying your wife will take time off work, when your wife feels that as she is the major bead winner and her boss has made it clear that he will not allow her to take time off for sick children.  

In the interests of the child

Remember that in all your answers, the interests of the child come first. In the above example, both of you should have plans in place to take time off work for a sick child.  Adopted children may have issues you haven't thought about, and in that case their needs will need to come above yours.  There is also the possibility, as in my case, when I simply did not want to leave my little boy in care and go out to work. He needed a full time parent and it was my duty (and joy) to give him that.  So always in the interests of the child.

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