“Family is very important because they’re the main ones you can look to when something goes wrong or you need a helping hand.”
“It would be really great having a home for the holidays, just sitting around and opening presents.”
“I need someone to be there for me.”
These are teens in foster care talking.
To help teens in Pennsylvania find “forever” families, we recently held two teen match parties (one in Philadelphia, the other in Pittsburgh), sponsored by the Pennsylvania Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network (SWAN). The goal was to bring together in a relaxed, fun setting teens waiting for a family and families wanting to adopt an older child. Families who had already completed their home study were invited to participate.
Prior to the parties, two events were held in each city to prepare the teens. A facilitator led them through a series of activities designed to help them feel comfortable and to see both what they had in common and how they differed. They learned that it was okay to be themselves. In addition, the teens felt empowered when they were asked for their input on activities for their match party.
The pre-events helped the teens to relax and enjoy themselves at the match parties as they interacted with potential adoptive families. At the match parties, each youth was presented with a certificate and a t-shirt imprinted with a photo of a person the teen said had influenced him/her.
In Philadelphia, 18 of the 22 teens attending the match party received inquiries from families, Nine of the ten teens attending in Pittsburgh had inquiries. After the parties, teens were asked for their views of the day. Among the responses:
• It was great and wonderful to be around new people, both kids and adults.
• Awesome…there’s somebody who cares for you and wants to help you find a family. .
• You get to meet families and other kids in the same situation.
• It was fun and entertaining.
Families also had a good time. One family said, “We truly enjoyed our day and meeting the kids. Hopefully, we have found a match. It is so much better to meet the children in person, as opposed to a picture on a web site.”