Friday, July 3, 2015

Methods of matching (and allowing for "It just doesn't feel right")

       Something interesting happened this week involving an adoption situation that, on paper, seemed like it would be a good match for us (and us for them). I excitedly told my husband about the email, and we decided to take the morning to think about it and discuss it in a couple of hours. His response wasn't at all what I was expecting: "Something about this just doesn't feel right." That is the type of thing that I would say-- that intangible "I just have a feeling" thing is my line, not my logical, objective, "let's stick with facts" husband's.  With this being such a huge, life changing decision, I respected his discomfort and that was that. Later that day we had a longer conversation, and he was able to put his finger on a couple of the things about the situation that were leading to his discomfort. He had picked up on something that made him question the bioparents' actual desire to place in the interest of the themselves and the child versus feeling like they had to, and had a strong conviction that they would either change their minds or intensely regret their decision. (Update: That was a good call on his part, as we learned last week they did end up changing their minds)
        But, it did get me thinking about one of the ways that we chose our agency: how do they go about matching? There are four primary methods that agencies/lawyers/facilitators will use to match. Two of those methods allow for you to take the liberty to say "It just doesn't feel right, I think I will pass," and the other two do not.

Method #1: Broad call for applicants
        This first method is fairly straight-foward: the agency sends out an email (or some other form of communication) to all of its current PAPs, and you let them know if you want to be presented to the Emom as a potential match. You are responsible for weeding yourself out based on the Emom's desired criteria (marital status, religion, other children, level of openness desired, age, race, etc). There is usually a set limit of the number of profiles that will be shown, but not always. This could be due to the agency/facilitator/lawyer's policy, or the Emom's stated preference for how many she would like to see. The pros of this method are that you have complete control over who you will and won't be shown to, and there is no one-on-one conversation that puts you on the spot for explaining yourself if you decide not to have your profile shown. The reverse is also true: if you thought you had a very specific type of situation that you would be comfortable with, but something comes through that "just feels right" even though it may not be exactly what you thought you wanted, you have the liberty to ask to be presented. If you are in a situation where you are wanting the ability to consider various situations on a case-by-case basis, this method is probably the best fit. The biggest con of this method is that you could miss out on a situation that you might have been interested in if you do not have immediate email notifications throughout the day. This is the method that our agency uses, and it is not uncommon for a follow-up email saying "We now have the number of profiles we need to show to ________" to come through within 30 minutes to an hour of the original email. The norm is for it to be 2-3 days, but those very fast turn arounds do happen. Another downside to this method involves how well you deal with rejection. If you have asked to be presented to seven Emoms and none of them choose you, would you emotionally be able to handle that? With this method, you are very aware of who has seen your profile and how many times you have not been chosen. From reading the message boards, this can be very discouraging to some people.

Method #2: We’ll call you if you might be interested

         This second method also gives you the liberty to say "It just doesn't feel right" (or "no" for some other reason), but there may be more pressure involved. What happens here is that you have stated your preferences for the type of situation that you are open to (race, health status, substance use, gender, level of openness, etc). The Emom states her preferences for the type of family/parent she is looking for. The agency/facilitator/lawyer goes through their files and locates the PAPs who fit her preferences AND that she also fits their preferences. Those PAPs are called and asked if they would like their profile to be shown to her. Usually, they will give you a time frame to think about it and call back (anywhere from an hour to a day). There are two key pros of this method in comparison with Method #1. First, you receive possibilities that are more customized to the type of situation that you would be comfortable with and that you are the type of adoptive parent that the Emom is looking for. You also won't miss out on a situation that could have been a good fit because you were away from your computer for a couple of hours. There are a few cons to this method, though. First, you are pretty much committed to the type of situation that you initially said you wanted, unless you re-evaluate that initial discussion with your agency/facilitator/lawyer. Second, there is that rejection factor mentioned in the first method. Third, you are put on the spot in terms of having to call and tell someone "no, we don't want to be presented, even though this is the type of situation we told you that we wanted." Many agencies who use this method say outright that if you say no to multiple situations that would seem to be a good fit for you, they may have to re-evaluate your commitment and desire to adopt at that time. So, while you do have room for "It just doesn't feel right," it is limited. 

Method #3: Your profile is shown if you would be a good fit

      This method is exactly like #2, except that you as the PAP will not be called and asked if you would like to be shown or not. Any profile that is a good match for both parties is shown, and you will not know how many times you have been shown. The benefit of this is that it eliminates that rejection factor, because you will not have a count of how many people have not chosen you. The downside is that, like Method #2, you are locked in to the preferences you initially stated. You don't really have room for "it doesn't feel right," and the match may come as a surprise since you didn't know that your profile was being shown that day. It eliminates the ups and downs of "maybe this one is it!" and then not being picked, but it also takes away the mental preparation of "my profile is being shown this week, I may be getting life changing news in a couple days." I actually knew someone who went through an agency who used this method and was matched within 2 days of completing their profile and application. When they saw the agency calling, they assumed it was because they had found a problem somewhere in the application or had a follow-up question, and were totally blindsided that the call was actually to tell them that they had been matched. Obviously it was a good blindsided, but that is still quite a surprise!

Method #4: Everyone sees your profile

     The last method is where the Emom sees everyone. This is less common because it can be overwhelming, especially if there are currently 50 PAPs signed with a specific agency or facilitator. Usually, this takes place in the form of electronic profiles rather than hard copies. The Emom is given a link to a website that has electronic profiles of all of the current PAPs, and chooses one. The agency/facilitator/lawyer then calls the PAPs who have been chosen to give them information about the Emom who picked them and sets up a meeting or conference call. The other way that this happens is with smaller agencies. I came across one agency who used this method, so they had a policy that they would only have 20 active PAPs at any one time. Beyond that, you would be put on a waiting list, and then added to the 20 who were active when it was your turn. The benefits of this method are broad exposure: all Emoms who come to your agency/facilitator will see your profile. This can definitely lead to a faster match than the other methods. With that, though, comes the caveat that you really have to be open to any situation. There is also that benefit mentioned in Method #3 about eliminating feelings of rejection if you aren't picked, since you won't know. The downsides are similar to #3, as well: there isn't room for "it doesn't feel right," and the timing of the match may come as a surprise.

     It is worth noting that all of these methods usually allow a final opportunity to say "no" to the potential match after an in-person meeting or conference call. Before the match is finalized, the PAPs and the Emom will have a chance to have a long conversation and make their decisions. If this meeting goes well and everyone is on the same page, the match is considered official (and a large portion of the total anticipated fees are usually due at this point). Of course, either party can change their mind at any point after the match and before TPR, but that is a totally different issue.

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