Adoption parties: how to find a new family

Posted on September 24, 2013

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Some have branded it a beauty parade. Others see it as a great way to find the right chemistry. Are so-called ‘adoption parties’ the way forward for family-less kids in the UK?

Until this morning, I had never heard of this concept. The idea is that a group of pre-approved potential adoptive parents turn up at an informal, play-day-like setting and meet a range of children who need an adoptive family. Otherwise known (informally) as an adoption party. Bouncy castle and everything.

I felt pretty uncomfortable when I first saw this. A party? To choose a child? Surely such things are supposed to be taken far more seriously. With desks and piles of paper and social workers who should know best.

But, on reading this very interesting article from the Independent, I started to change my mind.

So we can throw off the image of a load of anxious kids waiting around to be chosen, according to the paper. After all, it’s just a day out for them – the only nervous ones are the adults, who don’t really know what to expect. After all, usually if you talk to a child you don’t know, you are assumed to be up to no good.

It’s not just one big shin-dig, either. Parties are structured to make both sides feel comfortable. In the example quoted in the Independent, an adult-friendly bouncy castle was chosen to encourage bonding, and a quiet room available for prospective parents to take five minutes or find out more about the children.

Of course, ‘beauty parade’ concerns are all too real. The article references an occasion where numerous adults crowded around one little girl, a situation that is uncomfortable and completely unacceptable.

But there are many positive points, too. What better way to find out if a child is right for you – and if you are right for him or her – than to meet them, spend time with them, have fun with them? You’d get a lot more from that than a list of personality traits in some file.

It also gives the child some of the control. Instead of being allocated to a adult or two, they get the chance to approach the ones they feel comfortable with and drawn to. That’s a much healthier basis for starting a family than matching up arbitrary preferences.

Adoption isn’t a small problem. According to industry stats, there were 67,050 children awaiting adoption at the end of March 2012. There are risks with this type of approach, but you would hope that it would encourage an outcome that works for both parent and child, as long as it’s managed properly.

Image from Doran’s photostream at Flickr.

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