What is a match event?
CPS workers host match events in each region. Match events serve as an opportunity for children who have not been placed yet and are legally free (biological parental rights have been terminated) to engage and spend time meeting approved adoptive families in the hopes of finding a match between them. The children who attend these events are typically ages six and up. However, they are typically older in age. They are also more often than not apart of a larger sibling group and are often a higher level of care. These children have often times been harder to find a family for and their CPS worker has most likely already attempted other recruitment efforts, such as a broadcast.
Where are they hosted?
Match events look different throughout each region. Churches or event space venues serve as the typical locations of match events. The children in attendance are typically limited to children living in the area/region the event is being held. Meanwhile, the approved families attending travel from all over to expand opportunities for finding a match.
At match events, there are activities and games for the children to participate in. Lunch is usually provided for anyone present. This is a great way for families to interact with children while eating or doing an activity. It takes the pressure off a bit, and you are able to get to know them in a lighthearted way. This also means you will have to step out of your comfort zone and interact with the children… Not just watch them play games and interact with each other.
How do I prepare?
Before attending a match event, think of things you can talk to children about that are not probing or identifying. For example, do not ask specific questions about what school or church they attend. Instead, ask them what their favorite subject in school is or if they have ever been to church camp. Specifics such as what neighborhood they live in, their last names, etc. are not to be discussed.
“Paper” Match Events
In addition to the traditional match events explained above, there are also “paper” match events. This is the same concept with the difference being that the children are not physically present. Instead, their CPS workers will be there to hand out a paper bio for each child. Their workers will be available to speak to any family who may be interested in hearing more. The paper handouts typically have a picture of the child, their name, age, level of care, and a brief paragraph about who they are and some fun facts. Although you do not get to meet the children, this is still a good opportunity for learning details about a child and for introducing yourself to CPS workers.
Is a match event right for me?
Although the above information may have sounded discouraging for some of you, Arms Wide Adoption Services has had much success in finding matches at these events. We encourage every family to attend at least one. Often times, families feel uncomfortable with the idea of match events. We often hear, “It feels like we are shopping for a child.” We understand where those feelings are coming from and acknowledge match events can be uncomfortable and awkward. (It is kind of like speed dating!) Our staff makes it a point to accompany families to match events, so you are supported and encouraged even while you may feel uncomfortable.
You may be wondering why we are still encouraging families to attend these events? Besides the many success stories we have had, by attending these events, you not only get the opportunity to meet available children, but you also get the opportunity to meet their CPS workers, and more importantly, the CPS workers get to meet you! Sometimes, we don’t find matches for our families at a specific event… But because you attended and introduced yourself to workers, they may remember you later on.
Your Arms Wide Adoption Services worker will be handing out your family profile page to CPS workers at the events. This way, they can remember you or pass along your profile when referring you to another worker. The more CPS knows about you, the better your opportunity is to finding a match.
What if I attend and feel a connection with a child?
The great thing about match events is that a child’s CPS worker will most likely be there. They can give us a bit more information about the child on the spot, as opposed to waiting for a reply in an email. Our staff encourages you to listen to the information given to you and the guidance that is provided. Often times, families will feel a connection to a child, will spend time getting to know them and will get their hopes up… Only to find out that the child is a higher level of care or a part of a large sibling group.
This is heartbreaking for most families! Sometimes, we find families don’t want to be realistic about the child’s level of care provided to them because they seem “normal” in-person. We understand this may be confusing, because you did spend time with the child in person. However, the advantages of match events are we get this information about the child quickly. We encourage you to really listen to your worker, trust in the process, and do not focus all of your time on one child – especially if it is not a child that is an appropriate match for you.
The process for selecting a family for a child is the same if you attend the match event and meet the child in person. Following the match event, you will discuss the children you would like to be submitted for our staff. Then, we will submit your home study to the child’s CPS worker to be reviewed. You will still be considered along with any and all other home studies submitted.
You may have a slight advantage if you are chosen for a RAS because you have already met the child and their worker. This is opposed to other families who did not attend the match event. However, you are not guaranteed to be picked just because you attended the match event. The CPS workers make it a point to talk to the children following match events. The children typically have a good understanding of why they are going and enjoy having a say in which families are being selected for them.
What advice should I keep in mind before attending my first match event?
- Walk into match events with an open mind and keep your expectations in check.
- Show up on time and stay the entire time, especially if there is a child who may be a match for you. There are many families who attend these events from other agencies. Staying until the end may give you an opportunity to engage with a child after other families leave.
- Listen to our staff accompanying you. Do not spend all your time with one child, especially if the child is not a realistic match for you. You may not agree with this advice on the day, but remember to trust in the process and in the professionals involved.
- Wear comfortable clothes and shoes to allow you to move around and keep up with any children that you are getting to know. Ladies, dresses and heels look nice but may limit you to certain activities.
- Ask the children about any past traumas or about their biological family. Keep conversations light and just focus on getting to know them for who they are. Feel free to ask them questions like: What do you like to do for fun? What is your favorite color? What grade are you in? Have you seen any movies lately? Some children who attend match events struggle with boundaries. They could overshare without being prompted. This is allowed to happen, but we suggest doing your best to redirect the conversation towards something lighter while not minimizing what they are saying. Our staff should be around should you need more guidance.
- Tell children they are not a match for you. They do not need to know the conversations you are having with your workers. When speaking to the children, the focus should be about getting to know them. That is all. After spending a significant amount of time with a child and not feeling they are a match or learning you are not an eligible family for them, politely end the conversation. Tell them something like: I’m so glad I was able to meet you today and I’ll see you around. Or: Thanks for talking to me and telling me about yourself. Enjoy the rest of your time here today!
- Make any promises to any child. Do not tell a child they will be a part of your family, that you will do whatever it takes to adopt them, or that they will definitely be adopted by someone soon. Unfortunately, this is out of your control and may not be accurate if you are not chosen as a match for this child. Giving them false hope or making a false promise to them can cause more damage – even if it was not intentional. Be mindful when speaking to these children.
- Ask the child what their level of care is. Typically, they do not know, so this is inappropriate to ask. This is a conversation to have with our staff.
- Introduce yourself to CPS workers. They are typically wearing matching shirts and are easy to spot!
- Talk to other parents. Although, the children should be your priority. If it is nearing the end and you feel you have talked to all of the children and workers, you may want to mingle with some other parents. It is refreshing to meet others going through the same wild process as you are. You may receive some additional support.
- Do not be afraid to attend another match event – even if your first one didn’t result in a match.
Just remember to have fun, and enjoy the day!
About The Author
As the Adoption Coordinator, Kimberly Beck, LPC works with South Texas families once they match with a placement of a child. She supports adoptive parents, supervises cases, and develops resources, including the child’s health and psychological records. She has completed her Bachelor’s in Psychology and her Master’s in Mental Health Counseling. You can read more about Kimberly here.