I attended a matching event last Friday and I was not really certain what to expect.
What is a ‘Matching Event’?
This was an event hosted by the Ministry in partnership with Choices (a private adoption agency) where the professionals in adoption and the parents hoping to adopt come together in one room and present some of the children they are wanting to place (adoption professionals), or present themselves as potential parents. It’s a day of back-to-back presentations and an opportunity to network.
My social worker had let me know what she had experienced in the past with matching events she had attended. Her advice: “put your assertive pants on and talk with all of the social workers.”
She did let me know that we would have to hand out a one-page profile on ourselves (I, and a few sneaky others, used both sides of the paper to get two pages out of it), and she told me that I would likely have to stand up and introduce myself.
Her recommendation for this was to “make sure you tell them about all of the courses you have completed, the group you have started, and the books you’ve read in preparation for adoption.”
She has told me that not many people are as willing to learn and be as prepared as I have been so far. I’m always learning as much as I can even though it’s been a year since I started and even though I have now been approved. Sure, I could just rest on my laurels and take a breather, but I am constantly learning not to impress anyone, but to be as prepared as I can be for this humongous life change that I am making in becoming a parent! I’m learning for me, so I can be the best mom I can be.
However, I’m told this is rare – and I did receive a few comments from other parents at the event that they were impressed with my dossier because they had not attended any courses outside of the AEP adoption requirements, and had not read any books either.
I’m impressed that they feel able to go into parenting without doing those things to be honest! But we all know our levels of comfort, mine is found when I am as prepared as I can be, while others rock the unknown with ease. Kudos to us all!
I’m going to give you all a bit of a rundown of the entire event from start to finish so that if you are about to attend one and, like me, would like to know exactly what to expect then maybe this will help you.
The event was located at a golf club in their downstairs meeting room, overlooking the driving range. I was told that this particular event is held in the same place each year.
There was a sign in sheet and desk at the doorway.
I was not on the list, however, everyone was really helpful and asked me to add myself to the list while they rearranged the agenda to include me.
The process on arrival was:
- to be checked off the attendee list by one of the staff at the check in desk,
- you were shown a copy of the agenda so you could find out when you would be presenting yourself (speaking),
- write yourself a name tag,
- take a seat at one of the tables.
The room set-up:
There were 8 round tables in a relatively small room (when everyone was seated there was only room to move sideways between chairs), with each table holding 8-10 people.
Around the outside walls of the room were coffee (including decaf J), assorted teas, and hot water, with mugs provided. On each table were glasses and a jug of iced-water.
Another table was set up to hold the lunch that was provided, which I didn’t realise would be provided and had already scouted out some options close by the golf club before I arrived! Lunch was salad, soup, olives, and sandwiches, followed by some well-received chocolates on each table.
I was first to arrive, and offered to help set up. But there was nothing left to do. So I took a seat in the middle table because this was the only table so far that was occupied (by a social worker and her intern) and I felt rude starting another one.
Our personal profiles that we as expectant-parents had brought with us were put on one window ledge to the right of the (huge) Christmas tree in the room (which many people commented should have been left out of the room until after the event to give us some more space), and the children’s profiles were placed (after presentation) on the window sill to the left of the tree.
My social worker had let me know that there “might” be children’s profiles on boards around the room and to get in early and have a look at those before the presentations. She also said that the social workers would likely be standing with the boards so I could talk with them and get to show them who I am in person.
This was not the case, but she did tell me too that each event is run a little differently.
Guardianship Workers, Social Workers, Choices & AFABC:
There were child GW’s, SW’s, and other child workers from Choices (a private adoption agency) and Child Specific Recruiters from AFABC all of whom presented child profiles throughout the day.
I have to admit I’m a little confused about the qualification titles and who does what in the adoption world. When I mentioned to one of the SW’s in the room that I wanted to talk with the child GW’s she said, “you should try to talk with the kids’ SW’s too.”
I need to understand this better. Does every child have a GW and an SW? I thought a GW was an SW, but this was just child-specific title? So I felt a little ignorant about the way it actually works and who does what… and came away wanting to understand it better.
Also, many parents – including myself – noticed that it was hard to tell who was a GW (or SW or Child Specific Recruiter) in the room and who was an expectant parent. There were many suggestions amongst the parents on how it might have been helpful to use some form of identification of the professionals in the room, such as a different coloured name tag.
The day started off with an introduction from the two organisers, both with the same first name… which made things nice and simple!
The agenda was set out to showcase several children’s profiles, then several parent profiles, and so on and so forth.
There was a break at around 10:30am (might have been later), then 12-1pm was lunch, another break around 2:30, and finish around 3:30pm (ish).
On this day, 33 children were being profiled, and there were 29 families in the room. I am not certain how many SW’s (etc…) were in the room, but I would guess about 10-12. I would guess there were about 70-75 people in total.
The majority of parents in the room were from Vancouver Island (where the event was being held) and had their SW’s with them. There were a few of us from the mainland, attending on our own behalf.
Most of the parents who presented in the morning mentioned their age range for adoption was between 0-4 years old, with limited to no exposure to alcohol/drugs as their preferred options. However, as the day progressed and more children were showcased outside of those parameters, many parents said they were now considering opening their criteria, some even changed theirs on the spot saying things in their presentations like “we did want 0-4 years old but now we would consider 0-10” or “we did want a single child, but we see now we would consider a sibling group.”
A friend of mine who had attended one of these sessions a few years ago told me how sometimes the parents end up in competition on the day trying to “one-up” the family that presented before them. I didn’t experience this, or at least I didn’t notice it happening, although everyone in the room claimed to be “outdoorsy”. It seems no one ever sits on their couch watching a movie or reading a great book. 🙂
I have to admit that hearing some of the other stories in the room, especially from two-parent families, who have been “at this” for 4 or more years, I wondered what on earth I have to offer as a single parent. As the day wore on and these amazing people stood up to talk, I found myself wondering who would choose me over them when we were all hoping for the same kids? Would I have to wait until they had received their placements before I would be considered? Would more of these perfect family units crop up and continue to take precedence over a single parent seeking the same children?
My SW I’m pretty sure would say… yes, that is the case. And is why she suggests I keep my options wide open both in age-range and the levels of exposure I will consider.
There were about 7 (or 8) single parents in the room. This was a welcomed surprise. We had three singles at my table and each of us was unique. Another single in the room was someone I have met on our single online forum, and it was awesome to meet her in person. There was another single that I spoke to during the course of the day. We all shared similar concerns about being chosen as a parent after two-parent families had been considered first.
The exception to this was one awesome young parent who is part-aboriginal and told me that she had several SW’s approach her immediately after she made her presentation, to talk with her about children they wanted to place with her. She will likely have four children to choose from by Monday. An ideal situation that I am certain every parent in the room was hoping to experience.
I understand though, and it was reinforced during the day, that it is difficult to place Aboriginal children with non-Aboriginal families unless they get what is called an exception from the Aboriginal community. And that makes anyone with an Aboriginal heritage extremely appealing as a parent, regardless of their marital status.
Sadly, the numbers of Aboriginal children in care tip the scales of all other ethnicities.
Everyone was asked what level of “exposure” they would accept (exposure to alcohol and drugs), and if they would consider children with a diagnosis of FASD.
What surprised me (and others) was that one of the parent groups who stood up had one partner who is a GW for kids in care, and they said that they would not consider a child with FASD or any exposure. The murmur in the room from other parents who had been saying yes all day was one of surprise. I heard several parents talk about it at the end of the day and wonder if they should reconsider too.
There were three questions that parents were to answer when they presented themselves to the group.
- Who is in your family?
- What do you like to do?
- Who is the child (or children) you imagine joining your family?
These questions may not be the same at each and every event, but they will have the same gist.
I won’t provide the notes that I took on the children for obvious reasons, but I will say that there was a sample of sibling groups (between 2 – 4 children), single children, and a good sample of ages too from 3 years old to 15 years old.
Each child was presented with photos in a PowerPoint presentation, and some were presented with video presentations usually showing the children at play or answering questions that their GW/SW asked.
Several of the children were kids listed on the Ministry’s Adoption Bulletin online, and it was interesting to see photos and hear more about those kids whose online mini-profiles I had read before.
I have to admit I was hoping to see more children as I find the limitations in the ability to search for my own children very frustrating. As someone who is very self-sufficient, relying on others to find a match for me is counterintuitive. I was hoping there would be binders filled with all of the profiles (that I have heard from people who adopted many years ago used to be available) that I could flip through myself and read the profiles and take a look at the photos to see if I connected with anyone.
Out of the 33 children shown on the day, I felt a connection with only one child – and because of my current “parameters” she may not have been someone that my social worker would have found on my behalf. But some of the other children would have been within my original scope, and I didn’t feel drawn to them at all.
This day reinforced for me that I would like to have more access to search myself, so I can use my own instinct and intuition to find the children that feel right to join with me as a family.
Who could possibly know my heart better than me?
And don’t get me wrong, I have an exceptional SW who is actively seeking a positive and compatible match for me… I have every faith that within the system we have, she is the best person on my case and I am very fortunate to be one of her families.
Even still, it was very clear during this day that being actively involved in the process – viewing different child profiles, seeing video footage, and viewing photos – does create growth, expansion, and new understandings within all of us about the children we hope will join our families. Perhaps people would reconsider their selection criteria more often, or set it more broadly, if they could be hands-on involved in the selection process.
Online searches complete with photos and video footage are available in other provinces in Canada, and in the US, but this is not the way in BC, so I will have to trust that the kids who are meant to join me in family will find their way to my SW’s inbox when the time is right. I just hope I don’t jump ahead with a match that is not right in the meantime out of fear of waiting forever.
The End of the Day:
The end of the day came quickly, and no one seemed to linger… the room emptied like the plug had been pulled from the bathtub…steadily and quickly until just a few ‘drops’ remained.
Don’t save your questions for the end. Take every opportunity you can to talk with SW’s during the day!
So there is my rundown of the matching event and how it worked, with a few personal tidbits in there. I will post my personal experience and feelings on Thursday.
Please let me know if you have any questions about a Matching Event and I’d be happy to answer them as best I can.
Warm smiles and Love,
Ali Jayne 🙂