Inspiration from Alberta
For 32 years, Alberta has profiled children in need of adoption on their weekly Wednesday’s Child TV program (see page 10 for more on adoption in Alberta). For 12 years, the province has also successfully profiled “harder to place” children on a public website. These campaigns regularly generate new applications from potential parents who go on to be matched with waiting children. In fact, 70% of children profiled this way are matched with parents. What’s the secret to this success? It seems to come down to one thing Alberta allows and BC doesn’t: the use of photographs and videos of the children.
The BC Ministry for Child and Family Development (MCFD) doesn’t currently use photographs or videos of its more than 1,000 waiting children in any of its materials, though it’s something they are considering according to a recent Global news report.
As an approved adoptive parent, I’m passionate about this subject.
Approved parents like me should be able to search a database of profiles to find the children with whom they would like to form a family. I don’t mean to suggest we take the job of matching children with families away from social workers. Rather, I want to enable parents to become their own driving force in addition to the services that social workers provide. Many hands make light work, after all.
My thoughts on reform
How could we improve this system? I’d like to see MCFD create a database that’s open to all approved families, and that includes ALL children currently waiting for adoption. Profiles should include the child’s name (or pseudonym), some information and history about the child, photographs, and video if available. Approved families could be given a username and password, for security, and the database should be updated weekly so the information is current.
If a family finds a profile that speaks to them and they want more information, have a button that they can click to notify their social worker of their interest in that child. Or allow them to save “favourites” that social workers can also access to see which children approved families are interested in learning more about. Take some of the pressure off overworked social workers, and allow the eager future parents to do some of the groundwork.
Protections for privacy
When I mention this idea to different people, I often hear concerns about the privacy of the children. While I understand the importance of protecting the rights and privacy of children in care, these concerns wouldn’t apply to an internal website available by password only to approved adoptive parents. Approved parents have already been through at least a year of interviews, courses, criminal background checks, questionnaires, a rigorous home study, and sometimes even therapy. They’ve put their time, energy, hearts, and souls into becoming parents through adoption. MCFD has already approved us; the only thing standing in our way is that our hands are tied during the oh-so-slow matching part of the process.
Keep the access “in house,” locked down, and tightly monitored, and most privacy concerns won’t apply. After all, most of us use online banking for all of our financial needs, and if we can protect our entire financial world with a username and password, we can protect the safety of our children with a secured site.
Another secure option would be to allow approved waiting parents to book a time to come into one of the MCFD offices and use a computer set up specifically for this purpose, where usage could be monitored and logged.
Please give us access
I’ve been told there could be hundreds of children in MCFD’s internal database who match my (broad) criteria. Each of these potential matches is just the beginning of a web of information that is not clearly contained in one place, which is partially why the matching process is so very time consuming. Unfortunately, many social workers don’t have enough time in their day, or room on their caseloads, to do this work.
But I have time.
I have time.
And, most importantly, I want to sift through all of those potential matches. I want to view every profile of every one of the 1,000+ children that are currently available. I want to consider children who fall both inside and outside of my pre-defined parameters. I don’t know which child is going to feel right to me; and because of that, I’m pretty open to the possibilities. Maybe it will be a teen or a tween who grabs my attention and my heart. Maybe it will be an infant with needs that I hadn’t considered. Maybe it’s a sibling group of two or more children with a wide age gap. It could be any one (or more) of the children currently waiting. I want to search through the profiles and find the right match. I want to do that.
Work with what we’ve got
While I feel an “open to the public” resource site similar to Alberta’s would be a wonderful way to attract potential parents who may not have already considered adoption, I also believe that resources and funding should first be filtered into creating a database for approved adoptive parents to access. Let’s speed up the matching process for the children who wait and for the families who are ready to adopt them right now.
For the sake of the children waiting for a family, I hope this idea could kickstart a new approach to adoption in B.C. that will allow approved parents to get more involved in the creation of their family.
Ali Jayne is a writer, blogger, editor, and photographer who describes herself as an introverted deep thinker and part-time philosopher with a passion for all that life entails. She is active in her community as a volunteer, pipe band drummer, and yoga enthusiast. Ali lives with her cat, Greyson, in a growing seaside town north of Vancouver, B.C. She is an approved and waiting adoptive parent through MCFD. Please visit Ali at www.alijayne.com.