Attending Your First Fostering Panel: A Practical Guide

Following successful completion of your Form F report and subsequent journey through quality assurance, the final hurdle approaches – presenting your findings at the fostering panel. The purpose of panel is to make clear recommendations to the agency as to whether, in its view, individual applicants should be approved/re-approved. Attending a fostering panel can be daunting, for both applicant and assessor, so you may find below useful points to bear in mind.

Observe a Fostering Panel

Gaining experience of how your organisation’s panel operates will give you a better understanding of what to expect when you are in attendance. Observing a panel will provide you with an opportunity to witness how the panel works, the methodology they use and what they deem to be a robust Form F assessment. You will also gain knowledge and insight into the group dynamics and functioning.

  • Research the panel members

    The panel will consist of numerous individuals, each with a differing area of expertise. Panel members will view your assessment from their own professional perspective and will likely identify and pose questions accordingly. Make it your business to know your panel.

    Meet with the applicants prior to your panel appearance (pre-panel prep)

    It is important that applicants feel fully supported and guided throughout the assessment process and this includes preparation for panel. Perhaps think about going for a coffee together before your panel time slot (being mindful of confidentiality of course!). This will give you both an opportunity to revisit the panel process, explore potential panel questions, as well as discuss any updates that may have occurred since the Form F was submitted to the organisation.

    Support the applicants during the panel

    Do not be afraid to speak up for the applicants whilst at panel. We can all get flustered at times and you may be well-positioned to prompt the applicants to expand on their answers or reframe their responses. However, be careful not to answer for them.

    Meet with the applicants after panel (post-panel debrief)

    The applicants will need an opportunity to process and reflect on their panel experience. It is important that you allow them time and space for this as it will provide an opportunity for learning. It also signifies the official ending to their assessment, and quite possibly, their involvement with you. Encourage them to be open and honest about their assessment experience, request feedback from the applicant and ensure you explain the next steps, whatever they may be.

    Learning from Practice

    Each panel differs in their expectations and what they consider standard practice. Try to remember any questions you are asked and/or critical comments that are made as it will help inform your practice and aid you in future assessment quality. As hard as it can be sometimes, try not to take constructive criticism personally, rather absorb it as part of your learning journey.  I never stop learning.

    Give yourself a pat on the back

    Successfully completing social work assessments and presenting them to an experienced panel requires a diverse and demanding range of professional, emotional, and cognitive skills in addition to continued commitment and dedication. Make sure you take time to acknowledge a job well done.

    Author Bio

    Written by Stef Lewis for One Stop Social.  Independent Social Worker (MASW)  – Atarah Assessment and Consultancy.

    Stef Lewis is an experienced social worker, who has had the opportunity to work within numerous early intervention, adoption and fostering teams and is now a well-established independent social worker and fostering panel member. Stef blogs with One Stop Social because she wishes to share her own learning with others

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