At the end of an adoption assessment, all applicants are invited to attend adoption panel. This involves a meeting with a selection of individuals with experience and expertise in adoption. Their role is to discuss the adoption application and make a recommendation to the Agency Decision Maker about whether the applicant should be approved to adopt.

Adoption Focus has its own panel made up of independent experts - adoptive parents, adoption professionals, a medical advisor and adults who were adopted as children. The panel meeting takes place at our office – a venue that applicants will be familiar with having been there for their preparation training.

The applicants’ assessment report, completed by their social worker in partnership with the applicant/s, is read by panel members before the meeting. For the first part of the meeting, panel members speak to the applicants’ social worker before the applicants are met by the panel chair and invited to join.

Although it is not a requirement for applicants to go to panel, and not doing so would not prejudice their application, most do choose to attend. It’s an opportunity for applicants to reflect on their adoption journey to date – how they came to apply with Adoption Focus, what they have learnt during the training and assessment process and what their expectations are going forward. It’s also an opportunity for the panel members to meet the prospective adopters and clarify points from the paperwork they’ve received.

At the end of the meeting, the applicants leave the room while the panel makes a recommendation about approving the applicants as suitable to adopt. The applicants are told what the recommendation is immediately.

The final decision about approval is made by the Adoption Focus Decision Maker within a few days and communicated to applicants as soon as it has been made. Once applicants are approved for adoption, family finding can begin straight away.

The idea of attending panel can seem daunting for some people. However, it’s important to remember that by this time, applicants are well prepared following their preparation training and several months of work with their allocated social worker. It’s equally important to remember that the panel is intended to ensure that all the relevant preparation has been completed and all aspects of adoption have been properly considered, rather than to try and ‘catch out’ applicants.  They also work to a Code of Conduct and have agreed shared values:

• Panel is child-centred
• Panel is respectful
• Panel is open-minded
• Panel embraces diversity.

Above all, our panel members are friendly, professional and sympathetic to the feelings of applicants.

How to start the adoption process

The adoption process - in brief

Patrick & Janet's Story Part III - Approval and Family Finding