What is a fostering panel?
While you have been finding out more about becoming a foster carer, you would have heard about a fostering panel.
The word “panel” may sound scary to some, so we caught up with our Chair of the fostering panel, Shirley Walker, who has a wealth of experience and knowledge on this topic and can alleviate any fears or concerns you have. With her expertise, Shirley was the perfect person to write a blog for prospective foster parents to tell us what happens at the panel.
- What is a fostering panel?
- Who sits on the panel?
- What happens at a fostering panel meeting?
- What will the panel ask me?
I thought it would be a good idea to start with the answer to the question I get asked the most: what is a fostering panel?
A fostering panel is a meeting held to consider an applicant’s:
- request to become a foster carer or,
- continued approval after their first year of fostering, or where there are practice issues or,
- de-registration if there are concerns about their practice
Fostering panels are governed by fostering legislation and guidance. The fostering panel’s primary legal function is to make a recommendation about a person’s suitability to be a foster carer. In doing so, they consider the terms of their approval, including the number and age range of children they wish to care for. panel members’ recommendation is based on information in a report prepared by an assessing social worker prior to the panel meeting.
Some foster carers can be approved to offer respite care for children, perhaps one weekend, a month, or task centred care, involving longer periods until children are able to return home, or permanent carers are found for them.
Permanent carers may be through adoption, or matching with permanent foster carers until they reach adulthood. Foster carers will often seek to be matched with children they are already caring for, which panel believe is an excellent outcome for children, as they already know the foster carer's family and it gives them a real sense of belonging.
The panel also has a crucial quality assurance role to play in the monitoring of foster carers’ practice to ensure children’s needs are being met. Approved foster carers are therefore invited back to the panel to talk about their first year of fostering. Panel members’ really look forward to seeing foster carers again and hearing about their fostering experience. The panel also monitor Haringey’s practice to make sure it is providing the right support for foster carers.
Haringey’s fostering panel is made up of a central list of fourteen people, some employed by Haringey, while others are independent. Don’t worry only five members will be invited to sit on each panel. Of these five, one must include the Chair or Vice-Chair, a Haringey social worker and at least three independent members. These include other professionals working with children, for example a children’s nurse, foster carers and educators. There are also care leavers who bring an understanding of the care experience.
The panel is supported by a panel adviser, who quality assures all reports and advises on Haringey’s policy, and the Administrator who organises the panel and takes the minutes. Panel membership is designed to reflect the community so members are from different backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities, faiths, and sexuality.
Panel members want to get the best out of applicants, so work hard to make the experience as comfortable as possible. Applicants will therefore be provided with panel members profiles before panel so they can learn a little about panel members before meeting them.
Applicants will be introduced to the five panel members, the panel adviser and panel administrator at the start of the panel. The Chair will then outline the purpose of the meeting and summarise the applicant’s strengths, including the age and number of children they feel able to care for. Panel members will then ask the applicant questions to establish their views and expectations of the role. The applicant’s assessing social worker will also be there to support them throughout the meeting.
Applicants will then be invited to ask any questions they may have at the end. The panel will discuss and make their recommendation, which the Chair will confirm with the applicant and their assessing social worker. Applicants can expect to be with panel for about 45 minutes.
Applicants will be asked some general questions such as why they want to become foster carers, what they learned from the Skills to Foster training and why they have chosen a particular age range. Although the majority of information the panel needs will be contained in the assessment report, panel members may ask applicants specific questions to clarify some of this information. Applicants might also be asked how they would manage certain situations and how they will ensure they make time for themselves as fostering can at times be intense, though also very rewarding and there will be support.
The overall objective for the panel is to identify people who can provide a child with a safe and nurturing family home, and a secure base for a child who may not have experienced this. Most importantly someone who will be committed and not give up on a child if their behaviour is a little challenging, usually as a result of difficult past experiences.
Thank you to Shirley Walker for sharing her knowledge and expertise on what a fostering panel is.
If you have any questions regarding the fostering panel or would like to find out more about becoming a foster carer, please feel free to contact us on 020 8489 3754, or via our dedicated e-form if you prefer:
We are here to get you on the path to a truly rewarding career as a foster carer.
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