The big day finally arrived. We had an appointment with the Adoption Panel at 9.30am of an unusually warm day at the beginning of April 2014. My husband Diego and I woke up early that day. We sat at the kitchen table, and we looked at each other silently while we reviewed in our minds the events of the previous day. We met our social worker Dominique for the first time, and we had a general bad feeling about her, which didn’t help to calm our nerves down.

We drove to the location where Panel was held, the whole journey there we played “guess the question”, trying to predict which questions Panel would ask. No long after we arrived, Dominique walked in and sat at our table for a quick catch up. We noticed she had a scruffy piece of paper in her hands. To our surprise, she intended to read it out in front of Panel: she explained she phoned our previous social worker who told her, almost word by word, what to say about us. I glanced at Diego, my eyes were telling it all: she didn’t read our file, she doesn’t know anything about us, she doesn’t know what to say, what now?

If that wasn’t enough to make us feel worried and uncomfortable, Panel was late. They were discussing a difficult match before us, and we had to delay our slot of about one hour. Eventually they were ready for us.

First the Panel was going to call our social worker in the room, and ask her to present our case (again, we only met her the afternoon before!!). Then they were going to call us in, introduce themselves, and ask us few questions. We were then to leave the room while Panel decided an outcome. The outcome, called Panel Recommendation, had to be communicated to the Decision Maker, normally head of adoption agency, who is in charge to take the final decision, which takes about 10 working days… it seemed such a complicated way to take a decision, and there was more waiting for us to do!

We were reassured that our assessment was very detailed, and therefore the Panel would not ask us many questions, but believe me when I tell you I thought they were many, too many!

Diego and I waited in a small room for about 25 minutes, and then it was our turn to step in front of Panel. We got into the room, and I had flashback of my university exams: someone asked us to sit down in front of all the 9 members of the Panel, a round of introductions, and we were on.

The first question, the icebreaker, was aimed at our social worker: our strengths and weakness. Good, I thought, it’s one of those questions that I hate to answer to. Unfortunately our new Social Worker was also the least qualified to reply to that question, and she visibly struggled.

Then it was our turn to answer to some questions. If I think about it now, it’s all a bit fuzzy like in a dream, but some of the questions stuck in my mind.

They asked me about being overweight. I’m round and soft, a “healthy” size 18, and this question made me feel a bit uncomfortable. I generally don’t talk about my weight with strangers if I can help it!
They asked me some questions about my experience as a teacher, and my job as a support teacher for disabled children… Who would have thought that a couple of years of job experience when I was 18/20 years old was going to be so important in deciding my future!

The Panel asked a few questions to Diego, mostly about his job and how he planned to form a relationship with a child while he was out of the house working for most of the day.

Another sensitive subject for the Panel was related to the fact that we are Italian, and all our relatives and families are still living there. They wanted to know who could help us in case of emergency, and what we would have done if we could not teach to the child both English and Italian. First thought was: I give him back to the Local Authority! Only joking of course…

Then the question we were sure they were going to ask arrived: “dogs are dangerous, how do you plan to manage and minimise contact between dogs and the child?”. We were ready for this question, and it was easy to talk them through our plans.

But that wasn’t the end of the interrogation yet. There was one last question: “what did you learn at the preparation training?”. Diego gave this answer, although we discussed beforehand what to say. He told the Panel that the most important thing we took from the training was that we shifted the focus from us as potential parents, to the child and his needs.

The reaction of the Panel took us by surprise, their faces were stunned and satisfied, as if 10 years of hard work was finally repaid with one single answer! Surely enough many other adopters have given the same answer to Panel before! One of the social worker, I think the one who worked with disabled children, even had tears in her eyes! It was an amazing and awkward moment!

And then it was all over.

They asked us to wait for the decision in the waiting room. The chairman returned after what it seems to be forever, but was probably less than 10 minutes, and she told us that their decision was an unanimous yes, and their recommendation was for one child under the age of 3.

I wondered if Panel always give an unanimous decision… anyhow it felt good to have 9 people saying we were going to be parents at some point in the future. It was a relief!

I enjoyed that moment in full, in the knowledge that the rest of our life was about to start: finding our little baby, and build our Forever Family.

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