Sunday, February 11, 2007

Step Two: Networking

Once you are confident that you have the best agency and the most accurate homestudy that you can acquire, then, in the midst of preparing yourselves and your family, it's time to start networking.

Of course, you aren't going to blame me for recommending that you register, if you haven't already, with Adopt America. But once that is done you can start to do your own networking.

One main point to remember is that there are a lot of agencies and social workers who will only have "worker to worker contact." That means that families are not able to talk to workers directly. For this reason, it is more important to build your network of people who already know social workers who have children available than it is to build a network of social workers who may never talk to you in the first place.

The first rule is to never throw away a piece of contact information. Invest in a good contact manager for the computer or a nice notebook and then NEVER throw ANY phone number, email address, regular address, or name away.

Start by talking to any family that you can find that has adopted from the foster care system and let them know that your homestudy is done. Ask them if they would be willing to talk to the social worker who had their kids on their caseload. Have them help you get the word out that you are waiting.

Next, you can subscribe to several email support groups that have waiting families. You can find them at yahoo groups or other groups and join. Ask questions and make connections there.

Photolistings are a great starting point but I haven't had great success with using photolistings alone. What I used to do, when matching our family, was to follow up persistently once I got ahold of the contact information. For example, if a worker had my study and called me to tell me that the child I was interested in was no longer available, I would respond, "Are there any other children on your caseload that might be a good match for my family?" Or, I might ask, "Are there other workers in your unit that might be interested in our family." I always took things one step further, and then another step after that.

The bottom line is that you need to continue to make as many connections as possible with as many folks as possible. Finding the right child or children for your family is a time consuming process. Don't give up easily -- keep building your network and making yourself available.

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