what is a fostering panel?
Fostering panel is a meeting held at the final stage in being approved as a foster carer. Fostering panel’s function is to make a recommendation on a request to become a foster carer. Your fostering assessment report is presented to a panel of around 5-12 people with experience in social care, education, foster carers and often with care experience themselves. You will also attend foster panel to continue approval after your first year and also to end your approval.
so, what’s fostering panel really like?
The word ‘panel’ can instantly evoke anxiety and sound really quite daunting.
‘Is it going to feel like a job interview’. ‘Who will be on the panel?’ ‘What are they going to ask me?’ ‘Will I feel a sense of judgement?’
These are all questions that often go through people’s minds when they are at the final stage of their fostering assessment.
Foster carer, Lucy and her husband, became foster carers in July 2021. Lucy shares her first-hand experience of what fostering panel is really like and what you can expect.
fostering assessment questions
Just when you think you have finished your fostering assessment, you’ve answered every possible question about your childhood and growing up, spoken about the different relationships you’ve had over the years and explained your life story in minute detail… you learn that you still have one final hurdle before reaching the finishing line of becoming approved foster carers – fostering panel!
My husband and I had no idea what to expect but we also felt that there couldn’t possibly be any more questions left to ask us. It’s true to say that we were a little apprehensive about fostering panel because it was the unknown.
At the time, it would have been extremely beneficial to hear about someone else’s experiences of a fostering panel, but I couldn’t find anything online, despite the numerous Google searches.
Our first fostering panel took place on Microsoft Teams in July 2021. It was a particularly busy morning for us. It was the school holidays and our three children were at home, typically all wanting my attention.
what to wear to foster panel
I made a quick decision to wear a smart work shirt and we sat patiently, waiting to be invited into the Teams meeting. It wasn’t long before I realised my error. The nerves, mixed in with hearing ‘mum’ for the 47th time that morning, meant I had forgotten to brush my hair. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, what impression was I giving off!
However, when we were accepted into the Teams meeting, I immediately put on a huge cheesy grin and looked at the people who were on the screen. Luckily, everyone on foster panel seemed human and were all smiling, welcoming, and friendly!
who sits on a fostering panel?
Our assessing social worker was also in the foster panel meeting, so it was really nice to see a familiar face too. It really helped to know that we had the genuine support from the person who had got to know my family over the last several months. The person who started off as a stranger was now our firm support.
The chairperson of panel introduced herself and then asked everyone else in the meeting to introduce themselves. There were several people on the foster panel and they all had different, but necessary, backgrounds and experiences. On our panel, we had experienced foster carers, independent panel members, and a few people who had a role within education.
But, be reassured, members of the fostering panel are not there to catch you out; they merely want to ensure that fostering is right for you.
what questions will be asked at a fostering panel?
Everyone on the panel had read our huge ‘Form F’ assessment, which our social worker had written, and all the questions posed by members of the panel seemed linked to our personal circumstances.
Every question was asked nicely but we couldn’t help feeling a little on the spot.
Between my husband and I, and with the support of our social worker, we managed to answer each question to the best of our ability and the meeting only lasted an hour.
The questions the panel members asked us included:
- Why do you want to foster when you already have a busy family with three children?
- How are you going to manage another person in your home?
- How do you think your three children are going to feel with another child wanting and needing your attention?
- How will you all fit in one car?
- How are you going to be able to transport another person to and from school, family contact, activities etc with your other family and work commitments?
- How do you plan to find time for yourself and as a couple?
We’d already discussed much of this already with our social worker, so we didn’t find these questions too difficult – I think they just wanted to hear it from us.
Once we had answered all their questions, we were then asked to leave the meeting whilst the foster panel considered our application to foster.
After several minutes we were invited back into the meeting and were told the good news that the foster panel were recommending our approval.
It was a lovely feeling, and straight after, we went out for lunch to celebrate.
what happens after fostering panel?
We then had to wait for the Agency Decision Maker (ADM) to agree our approval, which was confirmed a week after.
We received our approval as a formal letter from the local authority with our age range and the number of children we were approved to care for. As part of the assessment we’d spent time discussing the right type of fostering for us with our social worker.
Once you are approved, you’ll be asked to sign a Foster Carer Agreement. In reality, it won’t be long before you are approached about a child or sibling group.
But don’t ever worry about feeling alone. Your dedicated supervising social worker will be there to support you every step of the way. They will help you to prepare for welcoming your first child into your home. They will guide you through every stage of your fostering career.
It’s not just your supervising social worker who supports you though, we are one big team, all working to build better futures for local children.
advice for attending fostering panel
What both my husband and I noticed, and appreciated, that everyone on the fostering panel is genuinely rooting for you, and the questions being asked were because they really wanted to get to know a little more about the people behind the paperwork. Whilst the panel members have an important responsibility in approving foster carers, they are also simply looking forward to meeting you, so my advice to anyone attending fostering panel for the first time is to smile, don’t be nervous, pour yourself a hot beverage, and remember to brush your hair!
fostering is one of the most rewarding careers available
We hope that Lucy’s story has made you feel less daunted with the prospect of facing a fostering panel.
Do you feel more comfortable with starting your fostering journey? If so, get in touch with your local authority fostering team today! They will provide you with all the information you need to decide if now is the right time for you to foster.
Living in Swansea? Send us a message and we will get back to you as soon as we can.
If you live in Wales, visit the Foster Wales website where you can find all the contact details for the local authority fostering teams.
Author: Lucy, foster carer with Foster Wales.