A Caseworker’s Advice on Finding Your Child

As an adoption worker for the hardest to place kids in foster care, perhaps I’m not the person most families would come to for advice on how to best represent themselves and find their child. After all, my job is to represent the best interest of the children, not the families. However, those families are overlooking my unique perspective as someone who is searching for family matches and reviews many homestudies looking for the right fit for my kids.

In the relatively short time I’ve been an adoption worker (2 years) I’ve gotten to know incredible kids who are waiting for a family – and meet innumerable families waiting to be matched. I read family profiles and get attached, just like you do when you read the kids profiles – I WANT to place one of my kids in a wonderful family like yours.

I see loving, nurturing people and wish that they were seeking to adopt an older child, or one that has spent time in residential, or has a history of sexual abuse or harming animals… I wish that they would consider adopting a 17 year old who has no real behavioral problems, but is going to age out of the system because he’s an African American male with developmental delays. I wish they would consider the child who identifies as bisexual, or wants to stay in touch with their birth mom through letters. I wish that we could make connections more often, but the kids in the greatest need for homes aren’t the most sought after.

The older kids, large sibling groups, kids with moderate to severe impairments (especially emotional/behavioral & developmental) are the ones that wait the longest, often aging out of the system without a family. I wish that I could match every child with a family and every family with a child, but kids are not made to order and neither are families… if they were, I’d be happy to be out of a job.

I know adoptive parents have it hard – the waiting, the uncertainty, feeling a connection with a child only to have them be matched with someone else, workers who discourage them from doing out-of-state adoptions, etc… But the truth of the matter is finding an adoptive match is not about the families, it’s about the kids. That being said, you should have a worker who guides you, supports you, and shows you the respect that you deserve while you wait for a match to be made.

There is a child out there waiting for you. Maybe it’s not the child you thought it would be when you started the process, but they are out there. Read your homestudy and ensure it accurately describes your family. When you are interested in a child, write a letter to their caseworker stating why you think your family will best be able to meet the childs needs (medical, emotional, etc), and why you were drawn to the child(ren). If possible, contact the childs worker by email or phone and tell them more about your family. Build relationships with workers at other agencies (that you have submitted your homestudy to or met through adoption match parties) and let them know what kind of child you feel you would be a match for. Ask your worker about attending Adoption Match parties where you can meet children waiting to be adopted – at our most recent event, a family that came to meet a young sibling group of three met a 13 year old girl and are now pursuing that adoption instead – they felt a connection with her and knew she was their daughter. Sometimes fate brings the unexpected into your life, so be open to all possibilities!

If you’ve been waiting a while and still don’t have a match, talk to your worker. Find out why they think you don’t yet have a match. Is there something in your homestudy that is putting up red or yellow flags? Do you have realistic expectations of the kind of children that are available from foster care? What are the most important things to you about being a parent? Does the childs age really matter, or is personality & common interest really more important? Do you plan on adopting more than one child – if so, would it matter if the first child you adopt is older? Examine these things and decide if you can adopt a slightly older child than you had originally planned to.

If you haven’t had parenting experience perhaps you need to think about foster parenting (or providing weekend respite to foster/adoptive parents), volunteering, or becoming a mentor. This will show workers that you have worked with kids and can understand their issues. Try to work with a child who is similar to the ones you are seeking to adopt. How do you connect with them? Meet with other adoptive parents and discuss their joys and challenges. Talk to families who have adopted transracially and find out what issues have come up for their family and how the community has reacted. Do you know people of the same race as the children you are planning to adopt? Will you feel comfortable asking them questions and coming to them for support?

Also, talk to some families who are parenting children with special needs. Talk to them about what they experience. Most families I know that are parenting special needs kids (whether birth or adopted) are so glad that these children have come into their lives. Yes, they have challenges and things aren’t always easy, but kids with special needs can bring a special joy to your life.

Above all, remember that the commitment it takes to wait for a placement is nothing compared to the commitment it will take to raise that child – determination, patience, and understanding are qualities every parent needs!

Source: Jessie-Mae Secord, Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Recruiter / Family Service & Children’s Aid, Jackson, Michigan.  Reprinted with permission of the author. Contact Jessie at secord@strong-families.org with questions, comments, or to submit your homestudy for older/special needs children.

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