Monday, May 9, 2011

Responding to Match Party Comments

The following was written by Chris Jacobs our Program Director.

I would like to respond with some facts about National Adoption Center match parties. The children and teens who attend do know that they are coming to an event to meet families. The Center believes that not every child or teen is appropriate to attend a match party and no child/teen should be forced to attend. Children are prepared by their social workers to know what to expect, or in the case of our teens-only events, two preparation meetings are held with the teens before the match party to go over the agenda for the day, and address any concerns or questions they have.   

Of course, meeting families face-to-face is exciting and can also be scary---for the youth and for the families!    Center staff also meet with the families before each party to once again go over the agenda for the day and to coach them (because they are also nervous) about being sensitive to the youth, respecting their privacy and using this as an opportunity to interact and share what they have in common. The staff also provides some do’s and don’ts (no pictures taken with their cell phones, no promises made to youth, no discussion of adoption.)

The Center believes that the youth must have a voice in their own recruitment and our parties are planned to be “no pressure,” fun for the youth and always respectful of their feelings and privacy. There will inevitably be youth who attend for whom families do not request additional information. However, a match party is just one strategy their social worker can use to find them a family. The Center encourages the social worker to  discuss with the child, after the party, the child’s reaction to the experience.

It has been the experience of the National Adoption Center and other organizations that have sponsored such parties, that if the events are orchestrated with sensitivity and the children are prepared well before and talk with their social workers afterward, the experience will be a positive one for the child. As one enthusiastic social worker said, “In a perfect world, we would not need adoption parties.” The reality is that nearly 120,000 children around the country are yearning for permanent families. Attending such events increases their chances dramatically.”


Linda said...

It is STILL setting the child up for disappointment and will worsen their self esteem issues. Sure they know the purposes of these parties. They're foster kids- not puppies. Good to know they are not forced, but these "parties" are setting them up for disappointment.

As Von said,what about the kids who get passed over? We're not talking about a gym class where someone is last to be picked for dodge ball. We're talking about the future of a child and the crushing self esteem issues many of them have- because they were not picked.

It sets them up for , "Gee.....why was I not good enough?" And let's face it- the cuter the kid & the better acting skills they have,the better the chances they will be chosen.

It doesn't matter if "match parties" are scary for the paps. What matters is how this affects the CHILDREN. And no matter how much you "prepare" them for the agenda, not being chosen is a huge blow to add to the blows they have already faced.

If you're a pap- you should be capable of loving ANY child.They are supposed to be able to give unconditional love....not just love to the kid who passes the preliminaries at a party.

Chris said...

@Linda We are careful to create an experience for the youth and families where no one feels on display. We have activities that provide guided interactions between the youth and families, while being fun for all of the participants. Youth who have attended our parties affirm this when we ask about their experience coming to a match party. They tell us that it was good to hear from other youth who are also without a permanent family; that they enjoyed meeting new people including the families, but mostly they express that they had a good time and were celebrated. (We have an awards ceremony at each match event where we present certificates of participation and other gifts to each youth.)

We at NAC are sensitive and very aware of all the losses and rejections that most youth have experienced, always through no fault of their own, just by being in the foster care system. If we thought that no good ever came from having families and youth meet one another in person, we would discontinue this practice. However, many youth indicate that they would attend again, and many do attend multiple times before the right family is found for them. Match parties are just one of the many activities we, and over 30 other states, use to connect youth with a permanent family. We at NAC don’t think there are “cute kids” and “kids with better acting skills”—they are all deserving of a family including 18 and 20 year-old youth ready to age out of foster care—it is NAC’s belief “There are no unwanted children, just unfound families.” We will continue to help find as many families as we can with all the skills and resources we have available to us.