MCFD adoption social workers explain the ABCs of matching families and children.
When you first apply to adopt a child from the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD), and again after the pre-adoption training, you are asked to consider the age range, number of children, and ethnicity of the child or children you would like to adopt. You are also asked to indicate numerous potential concerns such as drug and alcohol exposure, medical conditions, and genetic risks factors that you are willing to consider in a child. MCFD social workers are only looking for homes that will accept children with special placement needs, and if your worker feels that you are not willing to consider enough risk factors, then you may not qualify. In that case, you may be placed on a waitlist for a homestudy, or your worker might also suggest that you approach one of BC’s licensed agencies and consider a domestic newborn adoption.
Once it has been determined that you are interested in adopting a child with special placement needs, your social worker will review your choices to ensure that you understand the ramifications of your selection. She will also want to know of any experience or understanding you have of these risk factors, and she may ask you to undertake some extra research. It is important to truly understand what risks you are willing to consider and where you are willing to stretch and make sure that your social worker understands your limits clearly.
Once your home study is completed, the various risk factors and special needs that you are approved for willl become part of your profile in the computer matching system known as AMS (Adoption Management System). Your social worker will search for children who match your requests, and social workers for waiting children will also look for homes that match their children’s needs; the match can be made by either party.
When your social worker is looking for matches she will be guided by the selections you have made on the Adoption Questionnaire. If your selections are too narrow, the system will not allow her to consider children who might otherwise be a match. If your selections are too broad, too many children will show up as potential matches and be too unwieldy to sort through.
Once a potential match has been made, your worker will put you on “offer” to this child. You may be on offer to any number of children at once and any child may be on offer to any number of adoptive homes. During the “offer” period, your social worker will exchange information with the child’s worker and verbally share details about the child with you. The worker for the child may have a “matching meeting” with other members of her team to discuss the merits of several homes. Matches come down to a variety of factors, not only those that are coded on AMS. Sometimes we consider where you live. We also consider your lifestyle and the activities you enjoy.
If all parties agree that a potential match has been made, we move to the “proposal” stage. Adoptive families may only consider one proposal at a time, and only one family can be on proposal for each child. You will receive a written package of information about the child. This includes background information, birth and medical records, any assessments on the child, school reports, foster parent reports, and any other applicable information. You are encouraged to review this package carefully and speak with other professionals (i.e. physician, therapist, psychologist) about the material so that you can determine if you are going to be able to meet this specific child's needs now and in the future. If you accept the proposal, you will work with your social worker on a plan of care for the child before moving on to pre-placement visits. Should you decline the proposal, you once again become available, and the process starts again.
That’s how the majority of matches occur. More informal matches happen in a number of different ways. Adoption social workers discuss their available homes with guardianship workers (child’s social worker) during team meetings, or at profiling meetings, to see if any matches can be made. Some workers profile their homes or children in an internal email system in the province known as “all adopt.” This is up to your worker, but you might ask her to consider this option.
Another way matches occur is at an Adoption Resource Exchange, where children are profiled with a short video and their workers answer specific questions. Only approved adoptive families are invited. These occur twice a year in the Lower Mainland. Check with your social worker about the next one.
There is also the Adoption Bulletin—a book that is updated four times a year with photos and profiles of children waiting for adoption. There is also a version of the bulletin (without photos) online. Families can look at the bulletin to see if there are any matches there.
Matching takes time, patience and perseverance as well as a regular and open dialogue between parents and social workers. However the match occurs, the bottom line is finding a family who has the skills and resources to support the child for a lifetime.