I’ve been working on a side project recently with the National Adoption Center in Philadelphia. My work involves helping to plan two “Match Events” for older youth in the foster care system and families interested in adopting teenagers.
Teens in the foster care system face greater odds of being adopted, simply because of their age. They may have been in the system longer, and have a harder time adjusting to life with a new family. Despite these challenges, it’s vital that these teenagers make connections with families so that they have a social support system before they “age out” of the system at 21.
Remember what it felt like to be out on your own in the working world or at school for the first time? It’s exciting and frightening at once. Imagine going out into the world with no one to support you, no one to call when you had questions or needed advice? It’s not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure.
Matching events provide a fun and low key way for teens and prospective families to meet each other. Maybe a family will feel a connection with a certain teenager or vice versa. Even if no potential matches are made, it’s a valuable experience for all involved. Teens get to see that they aren’t alone in their situation, and get to spend the day with other kids who “get it.” Families get a chance to meet these kids and gain a better perspective on what it means to adopt a child, and what some of the challenges might be.
As a mom, this whole situation seems pretty complicated. My heart goes out to the children in foster care who may grow up without a steady support system. I also feel for adoptive parents who face not only the challenge of parenting (!), but earning the trust of a child or teen who’s been through some rough experiences.
I asked my program manager, “Who adopts teens?” She said a study had been done a few years back, and that two common traits of families emerged from the data. Families who had successfully adopted teenagers tended to be part of a religious or spiritual community and had often already raised their own kids. This makes sense since these folks have parenting experience and the support of a larger community.
So what do you think? Are you up for the challenge, or do you know someone else who is?
Let’s keep both the kids and families in our thoughts and wish them well.