For families seeking to adopt a child from foster care through our program, Project Wait No Longer (PWNL), the process can feel very arduous and intense but I promise you that it is all worth it in the end! Ensuring that our families are as prepared as possible and feeling a sense of competence and confidence is vital to the success of the eventual placement. We recognize that it takes a long time to navigate through the home study paperwork, so we are equally excited when a family’s home study has been approved and they can begin searching. After a family is approved, they begin their work the Child Matching & Family Support Specialist (me!) to find their child from the US foster care system. The best advice I can give to parents during the Search and Match phase is to dig deep, be honest and upfront, be flexible and continue educating yourselves.
We estimate for our PWNL families that the Search and Match phase will take about 8-12 months. For some families, given their openness and/or family constellation it might take longer than 12 months to get matched. We consider a match to occur when the caseworker, the child (as appropriate), Barker, and the selected family all agree on the goodness of fit and express a desire to move forward. During this phase, we thoroughly explore and revisit a family’s openness to specific needs, behaviors, and history in order to be well-informed on what a family might be open to. We also emphasize the value of educating oneself on common issues often seen or found with children in foster care.
Each month, I utilize the information gathered from families in order to effectively search on their behalf. This process is very individualized and tailored to the capacity of the family, such that the children that I inquire about are within the realm of expressed openness of the family. Occasionally, there may be children that fall outside that range, but in these cases, families are generally willing to still explore and if anything, it teaches them about their ability to stretch and expand. Other times, it may solidify what characteristics ultimately do not feel like a good fit. The process of inquiring involves sending the family’s home study to the child’s caseworker, adoption recruiter, or another designated staff. These professionals will then do an initial screening and allow eligible families to move forward to the next step. One important note for families to remember is that these professionals often receive several home studies at one time, so the response time on an inquiry can sometimes take up to a few months. Don’t lose heart! They might not have seen your home study yet.
Each case will look and operate differently- even if it is in the same state or county where we have previously worked. In most cases, if the worker feels like the family could be a good fit for the child and their needs, they will allow us to review a profile or flyer that is more in-depth than their public profile. During my review of this information, I can make a clinical assessment on whether it is an appropriate match based on what I know of the family’s openness or the level for which they have been approved. If aligned, I will have the family also review the information to make their own determination on learning more and moving forward to possibly be considered by the child’s worker. Sometimes, we are able to ask preliminary questions to further assess if it could be a good fit and sometimes we only have the initial information available in that document, flyer, or notes from a phone call. It is in a family’s best interest to not become attached to a child this early in the process. At this stage, there are many families being explored, and the child’s team is making the final decision about which family is the most suitable.
Part of my advocacy and work on behalf of families involves participating in conference calls with the professional team to share why you might be a good fit for a child. This includes answering questions about your community and local school system, your experience with children, your hobbies and interest, etc. The relationship that I am able to build with families during this process becomes quite pivotal because it is the anecdotal information that you might casually (or intentionally) share that I am then able present to caseworkers on your behalf. This can make all the difference in being selected as a good match for a child.
Our goal is to gather as much information as possible for our families so that you can make the most informed decision about your ability to meet the known (and unknown) needs of the child. This information gathering comes from speaking with the child’s worker, therapist, foster parent, and other important service providers and reviewing pertinent documentation on the child’s needs, diagnoses and history. In most cases there is a formal meeting- often called a staffing selection or committee meeting - where the child’s team will select the family that they feel is most suitable. Sometimes, I am included in these meetings where I can specifically speak to your abilities to meet those needs and provide additional information on your family and community, outside of the home study information. Families being considered can include local foster/adoptive families, as well as out of state families. While the feeling of not being selected can be crushing, it is important to keep in mind that the child/ren’s team is making a decision on the best interest of the child and weighing multiple variables, and naturally, they know the child best.
Following this meeting, a decision is ultimately made, and it is always our hope that your family has been selected. We continue our efforts to gather even more information, aiding in the preparation for this child. The amount of information given to a family at every stage will vary tremendously depending on the state, their confidentiality laws, and the specific items that the workers are able to release. After the caseworker has made their selection, you will be given an opportunity to review more information and make a decision on your ability to meet the needs of the child and ultimately moving forward to adopt. If you accept the match, we consider this to be a full match which means you are no longer searching- we know who you are adopting! You now get to let your creative juices flow as you work on preparing your photo book for the child, and we commence with visit planning and coordination. We’re now one step closer to your child, and we stay in stride with you every single step of the way!
Adoptuskids.com shares excellent resources on how to identify if you are a good match for a child and knowing whether you have the ability to meet the child’s needs.
Have a family meeting to discuss how you would make accommodations to welcome this child into your home. Such accommodations could include:
- Assuring religious training appropriate to the child’s denomination is respected
- Meeting the emotional, medical, dental, and educational needs of the child
- Cooperating with your agency in treatment planning for the child
- Respecting the child’s feelings for their birth family
- Supporting visitation plans with their birth family or others when applicable
Criteria that can be used to consider if you’re the appropriate family for a specific child includes your capacity and ability to:
- Understand and be responsive to the child’s safety needs that may have been compromised in their past
- Meet the current, not future, expenses of caring for a particular child or sibling group (this assessment should not include your ability to cover expenses beyond childhood, such as whether you have resources to send a child to college)
- Raise the child to adulthood and have back-up plans for who could assume responsibility for the child’s care if necessary
- Meet the preferences and needs of the child in regard to the ages of other children in your family
- Adopt all members of a sibling group
- Have a strong support system outside of the agency
- ‹ The Matching Process for Domestic Infant Adoption
- Project Wait No Longer 150th Foster Care Adoption Placement ›