Why profiles matter

Author: 
Kirsty Stormer and Julie Horncastle
Source: 
Focus on Adoption Magazine

From time to time, people express concerns over the profiles we circulate of kids in BC who are waiting for adoptive families. In this issue’s Opinion column, a social worker and an adoptive parent explain how they protect kids’ privacy, and why profiles matter. Want to share your opinion on an adoption-related topic?  We’d love to hear from you! Contact us at editor@bcadoption.com.

Why profiles matter: a social worker’s perspective

By Kirsty Stormer

As child welfare professionals, we owe it to children in care to explore every possible opportunity to find families for them. If you ask any child who’s been placed with an adoptive family, I’m quite sure they’d agree. In my job as a child-specific recruiter, I use a variety of specialized strategies to accomplish this goal. We never know which strategy will have the most success, as every child’s situation is unique. Strategies used include identifying and contacting extended biological family, speaking to people like coaches, school staff, and the parents of friends, and consulting with their Indigenous community and those who share a cultural connection.

If none of those options work out, I will also post the child’s profile online on an adoption-specific website, and may show photos and a short video of the child to prospective parents who have already completed the application process and have been approved to adopt. The videos and photos are only viewable at these specific events and are not used online.

Online profiles are tools that have led to many children being successfully placed with Canadian adoptive families. The purpose of online profiles is to simply tell others a little bit about a child, and to hopefully spark some interest in a person who may be considering adoption. We ensure that no identifying information is used in order to respect the child’s right to privacy. For publically available profiles we use made-up names and anonymous stock photos.

The way we use profiles in Canada is actually very conservative when you consider how things are done in the United States. There, recruitment strategies can include adoption parties where children in care and approved waiting parents spend time together at a special event in the hopes that connections will be made. Another common strategy is to post photos publicly on websites that are open to everyone. These strategies have not been approved in Canada. The only time we share videos and photos of actual waiting children is at special invitation-only events we host in secure, restricted settings for thoroughly screened and approved waiting parents. Those prospective parents have always been thoroughly screened, assessed, and educated. If they express interest in a profile, we then begin another process of careful consideration as to whether they are a suitable match for that specific child.   

As we do this work, the importance of protecting each waiting child’s confidentiality is always at the front of our minds. Their opinions are considered, and their consent to share profiles, photos, and videos is required as appropriate, depending on their age and maturity. We don’t want them to feel like an advertisement. We simply want them to have a family.

Why profiles matter: a parent’s perspective

By Julie Horncastle

In all honesty, were it not for a placement event where waiting kids were profiled, my husband and I may have never found our kids.  We had been looking to adopt just one teen girl, but the possible matches never quite worked out. Three years into the waiting phase, I found myself at an area resource exchange (ARE) where social workers profiled kids on their caseload. 

I didn’t have high hopes going in, but I loved what I saw: childcare workers with smiles on their faces, telling stories about wonderful kids who needed families. Yes, there were posters with pictures of the actual kids, and yes, in some cases there were videos, but it wasn’t a cattle call. It was a strategy developed to connect specific kids with approved prospective adoptive families. That’s exactly what the government is supposed to be doing, right?

Now, when people ask me what a placement event is like, I tell them: “It’s a place where social workers become cheerleaders for kids who are harder to match with families. Some are teens, some are in sibling groups, and some have multiple challenges that may look daunting if someone only read about them on paper.”

At matching events, social workers have a chance to bring those “daunting on paper” kids to life. After I saw the poster that profiled my kids, and laughed out loud at their amazing video, I ran home to tell my husband right away. We felt like everything had fallen into place. We realized that our family needed both these kids, something that would never have happened if we’d only read their profile. 

Nearly seven years later, we’re so thankful for not only for matching events, but for all of the people who saw beyond the trauma of our kids’ past and introduced them to us.