I decided that Linking and Matching required a whole blog post of their own for, at least to me, it was a strange, difficult, edge of the seat, challenging time.
However, now I’ve started I’ve found out I have so much to say I’d better turn it into two posts! So below I talk about the what – what matching is, what might happen, etc. If on the other hand you want to know more about how it felt for me, get a taste of one lived experience: well you probably want to go straight to Linking and Matching Part 2: getting personal.
You’re still here? Excellent: let’s get down to practicalities then: what does linking and matching involve?
For a few people hoping for a specific match may prompt the whole process. On my first training course there were a couple who had set out with the sole aim of seeing if they could adopt a child currently attending the school that one of them worked in. However, that sort of scenario is an unusual situation in my (limited) experience. Perhaps a more common example involves new siblings born to the birth parents of previously adopted children. If that’s you though you’re probably far more knowledgeable about the process below than I am anyway!
More commonly, then, matching begins around the time of approval. I was encouraged to look at profiles while my Social Worker was compiling my Prospective Adopter Report (PAR), largely to assist us in our mutual discussions around criteria. Others don’t see any real profiles until after matching. One couple, friends of friends, were matched because the panel they attended for approval was also the panel at which the child’s placement plan was decided and the panel suggested the match to the Social Workers!
For most of us linking and matching don’t really start until after Approval Panel. Some Local Authority agencies ask you to wait for three months to see whether there is a child you can be matched with among those currently seeking homes in their own area. Others, and most Voluntary Agencies, get you signed up to the national register straight away and encourage you to look actively yourself.
Either way, unless the match happens very quickly you basically have two choices: you can rely on your Social Worker and their colleagues to “find” you a match that they can see will work; or you can go out looking and seeking for yourself. Waiting can feel right to some; others feel nothing but frustration. I have heard tales of very proactive Social Workers who send through profiles pretty well every day; other prospective adopters report a depressing silence and feel as if their Social Worker has disappeared entirely.
It’s worth noting your criteria matter here. If you are looking for a small baby, say a little girl under one with no health problems: it is likely there will be much competition and there will be few “potential matches” anyway. On the other hand, if you feel it is right for you to have wide criteria, or say you are open to older children and/or children who have more challenging circumstances, then you may find there are more potential matches out there.
If you do want to be proactive you can sign up to Adoption Link, subscribe to the BAAF publication Be My Parent, or register with Adoption UK’s Children Who Wait. All of these are different lists/directories of children currently awaiting adoption (or sometimes long term foster care or similar). Registration will require you to be able to prove your status as a prospective adopter due to the obvious need for confidentiality – which usually means your agency will need to be involved. Most adopters, apart from those with a very specific child in mind, are likely to see at least one magazine or register on at least one site in their time.
Your Social Worker can get you signed up onto the national register. And your agency is also likely to be part of a local group or consortium who work together (who may well have their own register, and/or arrange Exchange Days and similar events). You might attend an Activity Day if that feels right to you.
So: so far so good. What next though?
Well you look at profiles as above – you might get them from your Social Worker, or via one of the sites/magazines, or through an event. (If you’re anything like me you’ll spend some time wondering quite how it is possible to make them so different in format and content, and thinking that the process if hard enough comparing apples with apples, let alone chocolate with cake.) You might discuss with your Social Worker first, or you might go right ahead and ask for more information depending. At this stage you could also find out that you aren’t felt to be suitable full stop. Just as an example: I have enquired about sibling pairs more than once, to be told that they are felt to need a two-parent family. So as a singly that was me out straight away.
Some people are linked and matched very quickly; for many it takes quite a long time. If you are in the latter group you may find yourself sharing stories of despondency on the Adoption UK site, or speculating on Twitter on the apparent gap between the thousands of children you are told are awaiting adoption and the reality as it may fell to you that there are hardly any. (I have no idea what you do if you aren’t an “online person” – I can only imagine it could feel even more lonely as few at this stage seem to be involved in their local adoption communities unless they are adopting for a second or third time.)
Eventually however you start to move (yes, it does happen). If you jump the “initial chat” hoop successfully,and you’re both still interested then it starts to get interesting. You will probably get a Child Permanence Report (CPR) to look at. (This is generally a long document and might be hard reading. Perhaps more on this another day.) You and your Social Worker usually both read these, and if you feel you want to go ahead then your Social Worker will usually around now also send your own profile and your Prospective Adopter Report (PAR) to the child’s Social Worker or Family Finder.
At some point along the way – just to warn you – you will probably pause. Wait. Possibly wait a bit more. Nag gently via email. Phone someone to politely enquire on progress. Wait.
Eventually you and they will both decide: maybe or no (rarely a yes so early). No leads you back to looking at profiles and reading CPRs.
Maybe means you start exchanging more and more information. Sometimes you become involved at this point in Competitive Matching – when a Social Worker or Family Finder (a specialist Social Worker or other colleague who focuses especially on the matching process) compares multiple possible matches. You are likely to be visited, at home, to be assessed and questioned: a mixture of “why this child” and anything they’re concerned over (if you’re a single adopter (or same sex couple) expect that to be male/female role model for example, delete as applicable). You may have questions yourself too. Possibly many of them.
Often there will be more waiting.
Eventually however – and yes, it does happen lovely people, it really does – you will get a yes. You have been chosen, your child or children have been identified.
At this point it is often said that you are linked. It begins to feel very real suddenly.
At this point you might visit the child’s doctor, school or nursery and meet their Foster Carers. You will carry on, if you are anything like me, asking more questions. You will sometimes wait. You will hopefully get regular input. Eventually you will get a date for Matching Panel… and thus will begin a whole new story!
Should you not yet be desperate for coffee but would like a bit more on what you might actually end up doing during this time, and how it feels, then read on here with Linking and Matching Part 2: getting personal.