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An Insight Into The Fostering Panel With Independent Panel Member Jackie

Jackie Website Image

As expected, there is a journey to go down when you think about fostering. Those looking to foster must go through an application process. One of the final stages of this fostering process is something known as the ‘Panel’. By this point, you have almost achieved your goal of becoming an approved foster carer ahead of meeting with the Foster Panel.

The outcome of the Panel is a recommendation, that then goes towards a final decision made by the Agency Decision Maker. The Agency Decision Maker will make the determination of whether you are approved as an Olive Branch foster carer.

We talk to Jackie, an Independent Panel Member for Olive Branch Fostering about what’s involved for those at the very start of their fostering journey.


Hi Jackie. Please tell us about yourself. 

My name is Jackie, and I’m an Independent Panel Member for Olive Branch Fostering. I’m a retired ex-teacher, with a background in education and pastoral care. After I retired a few years ago, I knew I wanted to do something, but I wasn’t sure what. That’s when I saw an ad in my local paper about being a Panel Member. I didn’t know much about the role at the time, but I knew I wanted to use my experience and contribute.


I loved my job as a teacher, and I also really enjoy being an Independent Panel Member for Olive Branch. I started on a panel for a different agency before joining Olive Branch, and I currently sit on three panels per month, two fostering and one adoption. Being an Independent Panel Member really suits me, as I can transfer my knowledge and experience of working for many years with young people and families, as a high school teacher and pastoral head, into the Panel Member role.



Tell us about your role with Olive Branch Fostering?


I sit on the fostering Panel with a group of people from different backgrounds. We are given information about an applicant from the social worker, and it’s our job to feedback on whether we think that person is suitable to be a foster carer. We are an extra pair of eyes, if you like, with a different view.




Why is the panel process so important?


We are making a recommendation about somebody’s suitability to look after child, which is really important because the child can’t advocate for themselves. Because we’re independent and from different walks of life, we can offer an independent point of view on a potential foster carer’s suitability. We can look at their paperwork, speak to the individual, and make sure the correct decision has been made.




Do you have any advice for potential foster carers when they come to Panel?


Be yourself. Applicants can be really nervous because Panel is so important. It’s fine to be nervous, but they’ve already done the hard bit, by going through a positive assessment with a social worker. I always say try not to be too nervous because the Panel understands what a big deal it is for you, and we know how important this decision is. Be honest and speak from the heart. We aren’t trying to trick you. We just want to find out about you. It’s okay to be emotional, as can we, because it’s such a big deal. We aren’t trying to catch anyone out. We’re there to get the right outcome.



What do you enjoy most about being on the panel for Olive Branch Fostering?


I love the passion the Olive Branch Fostering team have. It’s like one big family, with a positive ‘can do’ attitude. It is lovely to see the positive effect the work of Olive Branch has on the lives of children. I recently attended their new office opening. As soon as you enter, there’s this feeling that wraps around you. It’s clear that the carers and the children all feel supported. The social workers really know the people they deal with, and they’re passionate about getting the best outcome for carers and children.




Are there any particular stories you’d like to share?


We recently had a year review with a foster carer. Just seeing the impact these two carers had on the children in their care within just one year was amazing. They’d turned the children’s lives around and were so invested in their development, The foster carers found new activities for the two children, they got them to go back into school, and they even kept in touch with the birth families. The children’s birth family were so appreciative for what the foster carers had done that they wanted them to remain in their lives. Getting the family on side had eventually made it possible for the children to go back to their birth family.




What do you get up to when you’re not working?


I have three sons and four grandchildren, but they are all living in different places. One of my son coaches a rugby team, and one of my sons lives in Japan. I’m a big rugby fan and I love travelling, which is just as well. I also enjoy walking on the seafront most mornings, as well as meeting up with friends to socialise. My other hobbies include reading and going to the gym.




If you’d like to chat with the Olive Branch Fostering team about the fostering application process, then we’d love to hear from you.


Call our Fostering Advisor on 01706 558910 or you can schedule a call or complete an enquiry form here.


To find out more about the different types of fostering available, click here.


Fostering insights

Date published

27 July 2023

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