We've all been there... the dreaded job interview. All those antiquated techniques you learned in the careers room at school are dredged up some twenty years later, you know; don't smoke or chew chewing gum, wear something smart like a suit, knock before entering, smile, wait until asked to sit down (always an awkward moment when nobody asks and you're left to stand there, gesturing toward an inanimate chair), attempt not to say f*ck or bugger or say 'um' too much. That kind of thing.
Personally, I don't like to provide any false expectations so I tend to ignore all the above and do things my own way... I'll wear something that I deem stylish rather than a suit, like for instance a patterned slinky v neck top and skinny navy chinos. I always chew gum right up until the moment I arrive so my breath smells like lovely Airwaves. I take my posh tablet along under my arm for professional decoration (in reality it's only used for Hitman and BBC iPlayer). I usually arrive really early and have a nice gossip with the receptionist about The Voice or #GBBO before going into the interview room, all smiles and confidence. This approach seems to work quite nicely, at least 75% of the time.
Speaking of interviews, I was headhunted just a couple of weeks ago for a content job at an avant-garde 'storytelling' agency in the city. It was all going to plan, until I realised that I'd arrived a full 24 hours early. In my favourite outfit. Tits. Replacement top purchased, I returned on the correct day (pissing with rain and I had to park miles away - I was soaked) only to completely bodge up the pre-interview assessment, spill a cup of coffee, scuff my best shoes and swear all within the first five minutes. To make matters worse, I completely forget how to say "I am never short of things to say" and left my umbrella behind. Unfortunately I wasn't quite the right fit for the job. Apparently they weren't looking for Basil Fawlty on this occasion.
Anyway, that was a minor detour from today's very important topic which is of course the Adoption Panel.
As an adopter and an Adoption Panel member, I've experienced the panel from both sides. Here, I'll explain how the panel interview works, who you're likely to meet and the type of questions you might be asked.
Adoption and Fostering Panel
Think of the panel as a team, each team member bringing a unique skill or experience (literally) to the table relating to adoption and fostering. Our panel at Adoption Focus is comprised of twelve panel members, including an experienced foster-carer, a paediatric doctor, a panel organiser from the adoption agency, a social worker, a family financial advisor, a panel secretary and an adoptive parent (me). Adoption Focus' CEO, Anna also sits on the panel to observe and make notes.
The Adoption and Fostering Panel at Adoption Focus assembles once or twice a month and usually evaluates three prospective adopters in one sitting.
Before an Adoption and Fostering Panel, each member receives a copy of the applicant's PAR - Prospective Adopter Report. The PAR is a comprehensive document, produced by the social worker during an applicant's assessment. It contains every piece of relevant information possible about the applicants and their history. A PAR is a big read, consuming around three or four hours to read from beginning to end. I tend to make notes (family members' names, any relevant trauma or events that demonstrate resilience and so-on), to refer back to - there's so much information to take on board.
The Adoption and Fostering Panel I belong to takes place at Adoption Focus HQ in Marston Green. Half an hour before the first applicants are interviewed by the panel, we discuss their PAR report. In particular we talk about 'grey areas', contradictions in information or possible issues (unresolved trauma, for instance). The reports are very thorough and more often than not, the social workers have left no stone unturned. But there's usually something we can pick up and explore.
I mentioned that each panel team member brings their own experience or expertise and this is the time that each unique perspective becomes very helpful. As the adoptive parent on the panel, I tend to identify 'practical' issues - for instance the couple might live in a one-bed house, have an unreliable job or their extended family might live miles away, that kind of thing. The doctor will probe into the applicants' health, including issues like weight, mental health and general fitness. The social worker will pick up on grey areas within the report, for instance if there's a passing mention of a loss in the family or a traumatic event. Other areas of discussion often include language barriers, multiple religions within a single family, finances, even the odd family criminal sometimes pops up for discussion.
Once we've had a discussion, we decide on a question each to present to the applicants and their social worker. Then, their social worker joins the panel to respond to the questions and add extra context to the report. Quite often the social worker is able to resolve our questions before we even meet the applicants.
Meanwhile, the applicants are sat in a nearby waiting room, probably feeling pretty nervous (I can sympathise as I was in their shoes just six short years ago!). Once the panel are satisfied with the social worker's responses to the questions, the applicants are invited to join the panel.
Like a big job interview, the applicants enter the room, say hello and then take a seat at the front with their social worker. The chair of the Adoption Panel welcomes the applicants and the panel members introduce themselves... "I'm Jamie, an adoptive father of two sibling boys and I'm an independent panel member." - that kind of thing. It seems to calm the atmosphere which can be quite tense and nervous for the first couple of minutes. The applicants don't know what the panel might ask, but the questions are usually very easy to answer, they're designed to clarify information within the report rather than to put the applicants on the spot.
Recent questions have included:
Your report mentioned that you have some savings. Has your financial situation changed since the report was created?
When you're placed with children, you'll return to work full time with [your partner] assuming the role of primary carer. Your report mentioned that you're not very happy with your job. Have you considered how this might affect your relationship?
Your brother was himself adopted and could be a valuable asset to your family. Does he live nearby?
Your report talks about your family in France. Are they french speaking?
Panel questions are very subjective but designed to explore simple concepts. It's very unusual for an applicant to struggle with a response.
Once the questions have been answered and the applicants have had an opportunity to talk about their experience so far, they are asked to return to the waiting room while the panel discuss their recommendation.
One by one, each panel member declares whether they or not they recommend the applicant for adoption or fostering (depending on the application), and provides a short statement, for instance I might say, "I recommend [John] and [Aaron] should become adoptive parents; they are very resilient and they've prepared by saving money".
After a couple of minutes, the applicants return to hear the recommendation from the panel along with supporting feedback.
Then, for the panel it's back to the start, discussing the next applicants' PAR report!
If you'd like to find out more about the Adoption and Fostering Panel, or you'd like us to talk more about any part of the adoption process, please let us know by getting in touch.