No, this isn’t a weird 70s TV game show. It’s real life.
As you know, we completed our home study and have had an active foster care license since early August. (Why do we have a foster care license if we’re adopting? Read the answer to that question here.)
Now we are in “the matching process.” This time consists of a LOT of reading and waiting, emailing and waiting, meeting and waiting. It’s not something you hear a lot about until you’re in it, so I thought I’d explain in detail how it works. Vocab words are shown in italics.
- Read a 3-5 sentence public narrative about a child that highlights their strengths, personality traits, and favorite things.
- Decide to request the private narrative for this child, which contains anywhere from one sentence to ten paragraphs about their personal background, care needs, and ideal family structure.
- Let your worker know whether or not you would like to submit your home study for this child, meaning have your worker send your home study document to the child’s worker. You might not want to, and the process could stop here.
- Wait anywhere from a week to forever to hear back from the child’s worker about whether they would like to set up a match meeting with you about this child. If they do, schedule the match meeting, typically for 1-3 weeks out. Sometimes they also send a longer file about the child. After reading this file, you might determine that you would not be a good fit to parent this child, and the process could stop here.
- Have a match meeting, which is an initial meeting typically in your home, with members of the child’s team, such as their social worker, child-specific recruiter, agency representative, etc. Each child’s team looks different, but they always have a social worker. This meeting lasts approximately 1-2 hours and is an opportunity to hear an overview of the child’s history, current living situation, birth family contact, specific challenges, and more about their personality and future forecast.
- Decide after the match meeting whether or not you would like to move forward into collateral meetings for this child. The child’s team is also deciding which family they would like to have collateral meetings with as well (which means you might say yes, but they might not, and the process could stop here). Here’s the really intimidating part: if you choose to move forward into collaterals for a child, you cannot accept any other match meetings for children until the collateral process has ended, either with a placement or a “no, it’s not the right fit.”
- If everybody likes each other so far, start collateral meetings. These meetings are the potential adoptive parents meeting with the child’s current foster parents, therapist, teachers, school specialists, other workers, etc. in order to determine fit and gather more information about the child. This process could take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. If at any time you or the child’s team decide this is not a good fit, the process could stop here.
- If, at the end of collateral meetings, the family and the child’s team still feel the match is the right fit, say YES and make a transition plan for the child to move into your home. This typically consists of several visits of increasing length, ending in a full move. Depending on the age, distance, and needs of the child, this transition might be put on hold until a break from school or a discharge from a residential treatment center.
- The HOPE is that all of the work that’s been done ahead of time to determine a good match results in a successful placement, concluding with an adoption finalization 3-12 months after the child is placed in the home. However, in very rare instances, something goes wrong and the child is not able to remain with their pre-adoptive family. This situation is called an adoption disruption.
Keep in mind that you could be at various stages of this process with multiple children, or if a child’s team is too overloaded or already further along in the process with a different family, you might never hear back from them. In between every step, there is waiting, discussing, praying, and incessant email checking (maybe that’s just me).
Each time we move forward with a kiddo, we have to make room in our hearts and minds for that child, picture them as a member of our family, assess whether we are prepared to parent them well, all the while knowing that at any stage our journey with them could end. Each narrative, each meeting, each imagining, there is a delicate balance between overflowing with excitement and sandbagging your heart against the flood of feelings.
I am learning lessons (or resisting lessons) about patience and uncertainty. I am grieving a child’s trauma even when in the same moment I am having to say that no, we aren’t able to parent them through it. I am praying, child by child, that even though we weren’t the right family for them, that they will be watched over, loved, cared for, protected, and valued for exactly who they are. I am praying that each “no” gets us one step closer to “yes” for our future child, who is out there, needing us.
Praying that the right family is out there.
Mourning that ours wasn’t the one.
Dusting myself off and getting back in the match game.