I was absurdly nervous about the Approval Panel, although we had been told that it was a sure thing, because the adoption agency policy was to only take adopters to panel when they are highly confident that they will be approved. It was brilliantly managed, though. When we arrived, we were taken into a small room by our social worker and shown a booklet that included photos and short biographies of all of the panel members. These biographies stated facts such as “ex-foster father of 15 years, now adoptive father of 2,” “adoptee with 20 years of experience working with looked after children” etc. These people sounded amazing! Although we had no chance of remembering who was who, seeing their faces ahead of time and knowing a little about the sort of people they were (amazing and kind), somehow made it feel much less scary than it usually would be walking into an interview with 12 interviewers.
A friendly man came into the room and introduced himself as the Chair of the Approval Panel. He told us that he would be running the meeting and how it was going to go. First, the panel would list what they perceived to be our strengths and the reasons why we should be approved to adopt. He assured us that there were a lot of these, which made me blush! Then they would go on to talk about any concerns. Each member of the panel would ask us one question, then they’d have the chance to ask follow-up questions after we had responded. Then we would have the opportunity to tell them anything else that we felt they ought to know. Finally, we would leave and return to the tiny waiting room while they discussed the interview and voted as to whether or not we should be approved as Prospective Adopters.
The interview went smoothly and we received a lot of questions about how to support our daughter, such as “how will you prepare your daughter,” “how will you know if your daughter is struggling emotionally with the introductions,” “how will you manage the fact that your daughter won’t receive letterbox contact like your adopted child,” etc. We also had a few more questions about how my husband would manage working from home while I was on adoption leave with our son, and what we would do if we needed support.
We were escorted back to the waiting room and after a few minutes, the friendly man came back and told us happily that we had a unanimous “Yes” vote. Despite these 12 interviewers deciding collectively that we were suitable, the report and recommendation from the interview would be sent to the adoption agency’s “independent reviewer,” for yet another review, and the decision can actually be overturned at that stage. We were reassured that it is rare and extremely unlikely for there to be any issue after a unanimous “Yes” vote, and sure enough we received a letter 10 days later, confirming that we were officially approved as Prospective Adopters.
We had a license to parent!