I was recently asked by BAAF to write a piece for their website about being matched through an activity day – so I thought it would be a good idea to share our experience here too.
The first thing I want to say really is that people should consider adoption activity days with an open mind – I have heard a number of people be quite negative about the idea of activity days – suggesting they are like cattle markets, but we found our family at an activity day, we were matched with children that we wouldn’t have considered on paper in normal reports and we just couldn’t be happier.
The best and most important thing about activity days is that prospective adopters and kids get to meet each other in real life, adopters get to really see a prospective child and understand a bit about their personality, talk to them and their foster carer – this is unlike any other way of being matched!
The following is a slightly edited version of the article I wrote for BAAF:
We attended an Adoption Activity Day in Spring 2014, with some trepidation and exhaustion from an arduous matching process. It turned out that fate was on our side this time – as we met our kids, put the wheels in motion and so our family was formed.
As readers of this blog will know we had a previous match fall through early in 2014 – which was devastating. We were approved as parents in August 2013 and had spent a long and lonely winter trawling through reports from the regional and national adoption register and via Be My Parent. After the match fell through, we considered throwing in the towel, but instead decided to book a holiday, recharge the batteries and pick things up again on our return.
We had two ideas for our holiday: Two weeks in sunny Thailand, or five nights in snowy New York. By choosing New York we’d be home in time for attending the activity day – so that’s what we did.
We prepared ourself for the Activity day, reading all the advice and guidance notes, our social worker was kind enough to come along to the event with us (even though it was on a Sunday!) – which was great moral support.
As we arrived at the venue there was a cue of prospective parents snaking around the building. We felt nervous and excited; it was such an alien environment to be in.
To start the day we were given a book of one page profiles with photos of all the children that would be attending. We focussed on the sibling groups included in the book and highlighted the children we wanted to try and meet.
Downstairs, in a large and noisy room, all the children were playing on various pieces of equipment, a bouncy castle, soft play area, craft table… It was like a giant fun day and all the children were dressed up ‘jungle theme’ outfits. Walking in to the room was probably the most daunting bit of the day – as much for us as for the kids.
We felt so awkward to begin with – it was like going on a first date but not knowing who your date was in a room full of strangers. We tried to look around the room and find the sibling groups that we had identified in the book. We managed to meet three or four sets of children during the afternoon, playing with them and chatting to their foster carers and social workers. Breaking the ice with each one was the biggest hurdle to get over.
One sibling group in particular really stood out to us, not least because they were both wearing the cutest matching Sheep onesies – but because they looked so happy, cheeky and really enjoyed playing with us. We felt like we had an instant connection with them and felt ourselves dangerously falling for them, gravitating back to where they were playing throughout the afternoon and spending lots of time talking with their lovely foster carer and social worker.
These children were older than we had been previously considering and also weren’t the same gender match that we’d got in our mind. I had wrongly discounted them from our initial look through the profiles in the book – but they really did seem like they could be the perfect match.
At the end of the afternoon we registered interest in the siblings in the sheep onesies… 3 days later we had a meeting in the diary for their social worker to come and meet with us. 10 days after the activity day we had been identified as the preferred match. We had to wait a while for a matching panel date, but three months after the Activity Day we were approved as their parents (the longest three months of my life) and two weeks after that Introductions started, 8 days after that they moved in with us.
My partner and I are 100% pro Adoption Activity Days. For us it was the perfect way to find our match. We are both visual thinkers and found it really difficult to read the paper reports and get beyond that to easily identify a match.
Having the opportunity to meet the children in the flesh changed everything for us. Not only did our gender preferences get thrown out of the window, so too did our age preferences. The children we have ended up starting our family with are as far removed from what we imagined when registering interest in adoption 20 months ago – but we couldn’t be happier or feel more contented and fulfilled!