A Thoughtful Process
The first step in exploring adoption with Ampersand Families is a one-on-one orientation, usually over a cup of coffee, with one of our staff. If you decide to move forward to adoption, you will have our unconditional commitment to walk beside you and help you find whatever supports you need to be successful.
The adoption process can seem slow to families anxious to bring a youth into their home. Ampersand Families works as efficiently as possible, and often families set the pace themselves as they work through the home study process including training, lots of paperwork and deep self-reflection.
What’s a home study?
The term “home study” is both a verb and a noun. It’s a process and a document. Once you complete the background check and pre-adoption training, you’ll be asked to complete a bunch of self-reflection questions as the beginning of your home study process. The questions give you a chance to think about how you were raised and the things you hope to repeat as a parent (or have already repeated if you currently have children) and those things you have let go. The questions ask you to think deeply about your motivations for adopting, and help you clarify your hopes and fears about the experience.
We will discuss your responses with you and in so doing will get to know you, your strengths and the areas that might be challenges for you as you look at adoption. Together we will think about the “type” of youth you are best equipped to parent and we will explore your support network. After all the discussion your Ampersand worker will write the Home Study Summary (generally simply referred to as the “home study”), which is a quite thorough description of you and your family, household routine, values, interests and personality. The home study is given to the social workers representing waiting youth. It is the workers first opportunity to learn about you and to envision whether you might be a good match for their youth.
Once your home study is completed, you and Ampersand Families begin a proactive search for the youth that your family is best equipped to parent. Always conscious of the urgent need of older youth for families, we strive to complete the match within 12 months. But Ampersand Families cannot guarantee prospective parents that they will be matched with a youth within that time frame, or even that they will be matched at all.
All types of families pursue adoption from the child welfare system and all types of youth await families. Many factors inform the matching process, but above all, the capacity of a prospective family to meet the needs of the youth always steers the process. We are looking for families for youth, as opposed to youth for families (which means you might be matched quickly or it might take awhile) – you are the perfect family for some youth…we just need to figure out who that youth is.
What Goes Into The Decision?
Ten placement factors, defined by the Minnesota Department of Human Services for all adoption agencies, are taken into account when exploring a prospective match. The team, including workers who know the youth very well and workers who know the prospective parent very well consider the strengths and challenges a prospective family seems to have in relation to the needs and interests of the particular youth. We look at the family’s structure, skills, interests, strengths and the particular youth’s:
- Current functioning and behaviors;
- Medical needs;
- Educational needs;
- Developmental needs;
- History and past experiences;
- Religious and cultural needs;
- Connection with a community, school and faith community;
- Interests and talents;
- Relationship to current caretakers, parents, siblings, relatives; and
- Reasonable preferences.
When Do I Meet The Youth?
Most people are surprised to hear about this part of the process. Because youth are often terribly anxious as they await a family, and because many older youth have waited a very long time, workers generally do not tell youth about specific potential families until the family has gone all the way through the matching process. Prospective adoptive parents learn an incredible amount about a youth before they meet the youth and before the youth even hears about the family. You will have read many documents and will have met many people, such as foster parents, therapists, teachers and other important people who know the youth well. These sessions are referred to as “collateral meetings” and you will have the chance to learn about the youth and his personality, strengths, interests and needs from the people who currently spend the most time with him. Through the collateral process you will receive “full disclosure”, which means that you will know everything any of the workers or others know about the youth and his needs. Together with your Ampersand Families worker, you will decide whether you want to invite the youth to be part of your family.
If you decide to move forward, you will create a photo book and letter, or other means of introducing your family to the youth. Our families have done all sorts of creative things to introduce themselves to the youth, from Shutterfly books to computer apps to PowerPoint to video to beautifully scrap-booked albums.
The first meeting usually happens pretty quickly after the youth receives your information – remember, they are anxious and have been waiting a long time. The team will develop a transition calendar that includes day visits and weekend visits en route to the actual move-in day. During the transition period the adults will all be working together to make sure school, doctors, therapists and other resources are all set up before your teen moves home.
All Types of Families Are Needed . . . and Welcomed
We prepare and support families by encouraging them to be as clear as possible about their hopes, fears and expectations for adoption. Self-knowledge is crucial when it comes to figuring out which youth your family is best equipped to parent.
Ampersand Families is proud to work with all types of people and places youth in families of all types. Married, single, straight, gay or lesbian, cis or transgendered persons and people of all races and cultures are invited to share the table at our trainings and events. Ampersand Families is not a faith-based organization; believers and non-believers are welcome.