As an adoptive parent of children who are now 40+ years, and as a social worker/educational psychologist, I had always been a little hesitant about the efficacy and value of adoption parties. However, subsequent to being involved in MARE’s recent gaming party, I retain only a small bit of that trepidation.
I think from the point of view of prospective parents, it is a useful way to get a sense of what children might be available and what it might be like to start to parent an older child. Although it was just a brief period of togetherness, it definitely would have been possible to have made an initial connection with a child, or at least to have had a sense of what any given child might be like. As several of the children were siblings and were to be adopted together, it offered the prospective parents a beginning insight as to the children’s interactions with one another as well as to the personalities of each of them – not something one can read or be told about.
The children, being children, appeared to have cared less about the adults around them. They seemed to be more interested in playing the games on offer than in seeking new parents. Nevertheless, a couple of children engaged only in individual computer games while several were genuinely wanting to interact with an adult in games such as air hockey and pool. One girl and one potential dad had great fun dancing together on a computerized video screen. Another boy interacted sparsely with one of the potential dads, but followed him around the entire morning.
I am sure that all of the children “surveyed” these adults much more closely and intuitively than was apparent. Many of them had been to several adoption parties previously, which strikes me as an act of extreme bravery – and maybe even a bit of desperation. Some of the children told me it was just something different to do and they liked parties. On the other hand, it is not the creation of a new family, but the worry about the feeling of rejection for those children who don’t find a family that continues to cause me some concern about adoption parties.
It is true that the children and the prospective parents are “on show” to a certain extent, but I changed my attitude about the parties because I felt that it also provided an opportunity for both children and adults to assess whether or not they felt there could be the possibility of a good fit.
Moreover, if even one new family gets created, the party must be worth it.
Randy Lee Comfort is a retired social worker and educational psychologist who is the mother of two biological and two adopted children. We adopted in the 1970s, which was quite a different time in the adoption process. For the last 20 years, I was living in the UK, where I started and ran a small organization (a charity) as a support center for families who foster and adopt. Since returning to the States last summer, I have begun volunteering as a counselor in various schools, working with children who are struggling with emotional- behavioral issues.
Interested in reading more perspectives on adoption parties? Check out this post from a girl who found her forever family at a party and now volunteers to help other kids do the same.