Picture this, the most important job interview of your life, instead of a couple of CEOs you have 13, and your future of a family depends on it. This is approval panel. For us this was the most nerve-wracking part of the adoption process, our hearts were literally in our arses from the moment we got in our car, to the moment we found out the verdict.
Obviously, we were very well prepared, the entire 2 stages of the adoption process help ready you for approval panel. However, despite all the prep Sally put us through, we couldn’t help but feel nervous as to what we were about to embark on!
But first, I want to rewind a few weeks.
Unexpected Offers and Unexpected Circumstances
It was my birthday a few weeks before our panel date. We had a music concert booked for the evening and had planned a day of shopping, food and drinks. Mark had booked us in at this swanky restaurant in Manchester and it was amazing! Midway through our steak (sans the nasty mushrooms), we got an unexpected phone call from Sally.
‘I’ve matched you with 2 little boys, an 18-month-old and his 3-year-old brother’ upon hearing this we were gobsmacked, excited, panicked and just in a state of shock. I joked, telling her that the news was one hell of a birthday gift. She’d sent through the boys’ profiles and wanted us to contact her the following day with our decision.
To elaborate, she knew about these boys way back when we had our family and friends meeting towards the end of stage two. She actually dropped a couple of hints to Marks mum, who then asked us after the meeting if there was a plan to have children anytime soon. We honestly didn’t have a clue. Behind the scenes, Sally had been to matching meetings for these brothers and we were the top pick.
In our heads, Mark and I had only ever pictured adopting one child at a time, and we wanted them from as young as possible. So when Sally called with this offer we didn’t have an answer for her. So that’s why she gave us the rest of the day to look at the initial profiles and decide if we wanted to receive the rest of the information packs. Sally did make it clear that we needed to act on this pretty speedily as she wanted to make our approval panel date an approval to become potential adoptive parents AND approval to adopt these boys!
After we hung up, we looked at each other in shock, but with huge smiles. This was exciting! We spent the rest of the meal talking about how these two little boys would fit into our lives. Sally sent through their profiles which included pictures of them. We knew that if we saw their faces we would instantly say yes. So we both agreed that we would enjoy the rest of my birthday and take a look at the profiles that evening after we had been to our concert.
Unfortunately, events occurred later that evening at our music concert, which meant that we were unable to look at the boys profiles. It wasn’t until a week or so later that we decided to look. This time to think realistically about the two boys brought us to the conclusion that we weren’t ready to take on two young children. Which was a huge shame. We looked at their profiles, which made turning them down so heartbreaking. We informed Sally and she too was disappointed but understood our reasoning behind why we had to say no.
I do wonder what happened to those boys, I hope they are happy.
A Panel Short of Simon
June 7th arrived so fast. The time between commencing stage 2 and our panel date flew by so speedily! We arrived at the council buildings to be greeted by Sally, she seemed nervous too… which made us even more nervous. When reading up about approval panel it’s advised that you go through practice questions to ready yourself for what you are going to be asked by the panel members. Mark and I totally ignored this tip and arrived brilliantly unprepared.
We signed in at reception and were taken up to a small meeting room. In here a nervous Sally reassured us, telling us she was the most confident with us two out of all her families she had worked with, yada yada… we were still shitting it. On the center of the table was a file. This contained pictures and profiles of each of the panel members. In total, we had 13 panel members which ranged from healthcare workers to adult adoptees. After reading through each profile the nerve-o-meter was literally at the highest it could be.
A short while later a little elderly woman entered our holding room, she introduced herself as the head chair of the panel. It was her first time taking the head position and reassured us it will be fine. She informed us that someone would be in soon to collect us for the panel, we would be asked between 5 – 10 questions, then leave the room whilst they deliberate.
The time had arrived, one of the panel members came to collect us for questioning. We entered the room and was greeted by a large oval table. The panel members sat around looking stern in their faces. They rustled their papers and waited for the chair to start the proceedings. It was all very formal to start with. The chair lady, let’s call her Maggie, introduced herself again then everyone around their table introduced themselves. I introduced Mark and myself…. Then the questions started. They were all quite generic really: Who will be the stay at home dad? How do you think your life will change? … yada yada. I mentioned that Alfie (our dog) will probably feel the most put out as he gets all the attention at the moment. One member clung to this and asked us ‘would you give Alfie away if we found you a child that was scared of dogs’ this was obviously a test and I thought oh fuck… I need to answer this one carefully, then a blurted out ‘NO! We couldn’t part with Alfie, he’s our firstborn.’ The person that asked the question smiled ‘Good answer’ he replied.
And that was it! After what felt like no time, Maggie asked us to leave the panel room whilst they came to a decision. We arrived back to our holding room and Sally (our social worker) congratulated us, she said we did her extremely proud, answered all the questions brilliantly and she was sure we were going to get an approval. Whilst we waited we joked about how my mouth ran wild and that the panel members didn’t need to ask many questions as I seemed to answer so many other questions in one answer. Time seemed to go by so slow but just 5 minutes after Maggie was at the door, they had finished discussing whether we were going to make the grade to become parents.
‘Boys, you had a unanimous yes from all panel members, I am so happy that you were my first case as panel chair, as you were the easiest yes I have ever given.’ I teared up, Mark teared up and Sally was full-blown crying! We did it! We were going to be dads! We thanked Maggie, again and again, we were over the moon. She commented on how we both looked at each other throughout the questioning and the panel members picked up on this. They could see that we were in love and that we would make great parents, which was lovely and a bit cringy to hear; but it was perfect.
Sally then sat us down and discussed the formalities of the next steps, she explained that we could be waiting a while for us to be matched with a child, which we were totally ok with; we imagined we would be matched 6-12 months later. We thanked Sally again for all the hard work she had put into us and reminded her that she was now a friend for life. Then we left! It felt so surreal getting home after such a huge hurdle in our lives. We didn’t quite know what to do with ourselves so we went to Homesense (a home furnishing store that I am obsessed with!)
That evening we called our mums and let them know the news and they were both ecstatic. We posted a status on facebook to let our friends know, we hadn’t really told many people that we were going through the adoption process; so there was a lot of surprised comments! We were on cloud nine, we didn’t quite know what to do with ourselves now though as we were venturing into the unknown. We discussed how long we would be waiting until we were matched with a child, and decided that we would try and put it to the back of our minds as it could be weeks, months, years.
One Month Later
‘Morning it’s Sally, Just wanted to call and give you some exciting news. I’ve matched you with a 6 month old boy.’ Eeek.
To be continued…
May 22nd is my birthday. When I found out Ariana Grande was performing in Manchester on my birthday I knew we HAD to go. However, May 22nd 2017 changed the lives of many. 22 innocent people lost their lives that day in a vile act of terrorism which completely changed my outlook on life, I am so grateful to be in the position I am in right now. After May 22nd we began to grow our family, however, other families lost members.
Therefore, I write this post with a heavy heart.
Our thoughts are with you Martyn, Courtney, Philip, Elaine, Wendy, Eilidh, Chloe, Liam, Michelle, Sorrell, Saffie, Olivia, Nell, Alison, Lisa, Jane, Angelika, Marcin, Kelly, John, Georgina and Megan x