During the Adoption Process the Matching Picnic is One Way to Meet Your Future Child
Our process to be approved for foster-adoption has moved quickly. It took about 7 months from the time we applied until we got the email saying our home study is approved and we’re officially in the matching phase. Two days after that exciting email we received another one inviting us to the upcoming Valley Exchange Matching Picnic. That is where adoption agencies and county social services from all over Northern California provide an opportunity for children needing adoption to meet families with approved home studies in a park setting where all can interact with one another.
The excitement of being in the matching phase quickly gave way to apprehension about what such a picnic would be like and if we could handle the emotions of seeing handfuls of real children in need of parents. Wouldn’t it feel like kid shopping? How would the kids respond knowing the reason they are there and the heartbreak if they weren’t selected? Would we feel competition from other potential adoptive families? Do we even want an older child?
Though we had concerns, we talked with our social worker and agreed to attend. We went through our 7 months of training and certification focusing on foster-adopting a baby but all along have reminded ourselves that what is meant to be will come to pass so we didn’t want to miss an opportunity to potentially find our forever-child. We also considered the exchange picnic a good opportunity to interact with older children and see if we would be open to ages beyond the first few years of life.
The picnic ended up being much less traumatic than I feared. The adoption agencies plan games and order pizza and the adoptive families bring snacks and drinks and rotate manning the games so that interaction with the children is natural. The picnic we attended hosted children 3-13 years old, many of whom were sibling sets. What struck me the most was how much fun the children seemed to have. The amount of smiles and interaction I saw would have been indistinguishable from any other group of kids playing in the park. Despite their traumas, these kids are resilient.
What I will likely remember most from this experience is one of the little boys who was leaving after the picnic. I asked him if he had a good time and he responded, “I wish I could start this day over so I could have this much fun again!” Here’s to hoping he finds a forever family and has a lifetime filled with joyful days.
We walked away from the picnic realizing we are in fact open to older children and even put our names down on a few kids we are interested in learning more about. While I hope we are placed with our forever child by the time the next picnic rolls around, if we’re not, we’ll be right back out at the picnic having fun with them and hoping to find a match.
-Burke Wallace and his husband live in Sacramento County. He is a Director for a charter school organization and oversees three independent study schools throughout the state. This will be their first child (or children!).