Martin reflects on our first fostering panel from this year…..
When Changing Futures North East set out to create a Fostering Agency in 2019, we couldn’t have imagined that we’d be doing most of out work remotely during 2020, let alone be holding fostering panels by video call, but more so than ever children need safe, stable and secure foster families. This meant that the technical challenges of virtual fostering panels were not going to get in the way of us being able to provide a much needed, loving family to a child or children in the near future.
It was fantastic to be able to be an observer at our first ever fostering panel earlier this year; particularly satisfying knowing the amount of hard work and effort that had gone into getting to that point, and see our agency reach another important milestone in its development and growth. I thought I’d use this blog to share some reflections of our first panel.
Firstly, the work that goes into holding a foster panel, particularly a first panel is huge and cannot be underestimated. Just a few tasks included the recruitment, vetting and training of panel members, ensuring appropriate panel advisor and administrator. Let alone making sure the technology all worked smoothly and correctly! These were just some tasks, amongst others, and without even mentioning the substantial work of assessing social workers and the applicatants themselves.
Secondly, the prospect of a fostering panel is nerve-wracking and worrying for the applicants at the best of times, but across video calls when only a fraction of the non-verbal communication like body language is able to be seen and understood, anxiety can be even higher. Amongst a thoroughly professional performance by all panel members, the thing I want to recognise and thank them for most was the way that their approach, presentation and way of communication created a warm and anxiety reducing atmosphere in which the applicant foster parents were able to feel comfortable, at ease and shine.
Finally and above all from first panel experience, I realised that the training, preparatory reading, advice, information and experiences of peers and colleagues in fostering as well as the meticulous studying of fostering regulations didn’t come close to preparing me for the biggest moment of all….
The look of joy, relief and sense of achievement on the faces of the applicant couple as the panel chair informed them that they were recommending them to be approved as foster parents was a real privilege to witness and share. Their reactions told me loud and clear that something life changing was happening for them in that moment. As I am sure will be case for the children they will welcome into their family in the near future.