This past weekend we had a Match Party in Houston, Delaware. Sam Yoder's Farm provided a gorgeous setting and while it was windy, the weather held for us. The purpose of a Match Party is to provide a relaxed atmosphere for guided interactions between adoptable youths from foster care and home studied families. We play games or participate in activities which get the adults and youths talking to each other and working together on common goals.
My station was the pumpkin painting table. Here each person got a small pumpkin or two to paint. (Pumpkins graciously donated by Steve fromHurricane Hill Farm in Coatsville, Pennsylvania.) The youths jumped right into this activity. Some designs were abstract, some modern, some pretty, some goofy and some traditional. Each unique as the child.
As they painted the potential parents chatted with the youths. Some offered encouragement and really focused on the child's painting. While other potential parents painted alongside the children while chatting with them about unrelated topics. Most stayed engrossed in the activity for the full time allotted. Whether the enthusiastic participation was as a distraction from the normal concerns at such an event or because of a sense of fun, it doesn't matter. The painting served as the icebreaker it was meant to be. From my vantage point, I could see all the typical family interactions which take place -encouragement, correction, freedom and boundaries. I could see that some adults were comfortable in the role of "parent" while others still needed to find their way.
The reactions of the children also varied. Some were eager to show their talent, some defended their unique visions. Some comfortably chatted to anyone who listened while others depended on adults carefully drawing them out. Between the planned activities and lunch, there was plenty of time for people to get comfortable and chat.
Our hope is that these interactions result in matches that will result in permanent families. We'll have a later post giving out the results of this party. (Although it can take 6 months to a year to know significant outcomes.) From the smiles on kids' faces I know we were successful in making a day for the youths to enjoy. The parents also looked like they had fun. Hopefully all got to see that the potential parents and the children are all just normal people. No one needs to be scared or worried about the other. Some people are shy, some talkative; some happier than others. Regardless all children deserve a permanent home full of love and security.
BTW: we have a Teen Match Party coming up in northern NJ next week. If you're a homestudied family, we'd love to have you come on out. Call us at 215-735-9988 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to register.