Being matched with a child
Information to help adoptive parents understand how the process works and make a successful match
Now that you have finished all the prerequisite adoption paperwork and training, you’re on your way to having a child or sibling group matched with you. It’s important to remain patient during this step in the process and not get discouraged while you wait. It’s also important to continue a strong partnership with your caseworker during this time to ensure you find the right match for your family.
On this page:
- Understanding how the matching process works
- Staying in contact with your caseworker
- Use the AdoptUSKids and state photolistings
- Getting enough information about children to make an informed decision
- Understanding and avoiding personal biases
- Asking to review a copy of your home study
- Writing a cover letter and creating a family photo book or video
- Networking while you wait
- Finding other ways to help children in foster care
Policies regarding being matched with a child and receiving an adoptive placement vary depending on where you live and the jurisdiction responsible for the child. As a result, the timelines and specific processes agencies use in matching children with families may vary widely.
Here is a general outline of how the matching process should work:
- Once your home study has been approved, you or your caseworker can register your family with AdoptUSKids so that caseworkers of waiting children can find you. If you are unsure or have questions about doing this, contact us.
- You see a child or sibling group you want to adopt and inquire about them either through a photolisting service such AdoptUSKids or through your caseworker. During this time, your caseworker is also actively searching using these same sources for children who may be a good fit for your family.
- The child’s caseworker receives the inquiry and reviews a shortened version of your home study, either online in the form of a family profile or on a cover sheet sent by your family caseworker.
- If your family information indicates you closely meet the needs and wishes of the child or sibling group, their caseworker may request a copy of your full home study and confirm your interest in adopting the child. Please note that child caseworkers receive dozens of inquiries for very young children and those with relatively few special needs. In these instances, it's unlikely a caseworker will request full home studies for all families who inquire.
- Either while your home study is being reviewed or after it’s reviewed, you’ll be sent more information about the child or sibling group and given a period of time to ask questions and confirm or withdraw your interest in adopting them.
- After a full review of your home study, the child’s caseworker will work with a team of people, which sometimes includes the child or sibling group you’re interested in adopting, to decide if your family is the best match. It’s important to remember your family may not be the only family interested in adopting this child or sibling group, and that the decision about which family is the most suitable match is based solely on the needs of the child and not on other factors, such as which family’s home study was submitted first.
A match occurs if your family is selected as the adoptive placement for a child or sibling group. At this point, you will be provided additional information about the child or sibling group so that your decision to proceed with meeting them is a well informed one. Once you have had an opportunity to review all of the available information about the child, and are satisfied that the match is a good one for you and for the child, the process of introducing your family to the child or sibling group begins.
If your family is not selected as the adoptive placement for a child or sibling group, you might be asked if you’re willing to be considered for other children available for adoption through that agency or to be a backup family for the child should the selected family decide not to proceed with adopting them.
Your family caseworker plays an important role in helping you through the matching process. They serve as your advocate, and the better your relationship is with them, the better they can do their job in advocating for you. Child caseworkers will often prefer to communicate with your family caseworker instead of directly with you during the initial phases of the matching process. This is to ensure an accurate exchange of information about you and the child or sibling group you’re interested in adopting.
One of the best ways to develop a great working partnership with your caseworker is to establish communication lines up front. Does your worker prefer phone calls or emails? How soon can you expect a reply? How heavy is their caseload, and how does this affect their availability to you?
If you have questions about developing a better working relationship with your caseworker, read our publication Finding a Fit that Will Last a Lifetime: A Guide to Connecting Adoptive Families With Waiting Children (402 KB PDF)/en español (280 KB PDF), developed for child welfare professionals on the most effective ways of bringing waiting children and families together. You can also contact us.
Make use of AdoptUSKids’ free national photolisting and state photolists as part of your adoption search. These resources are available to all families.
If you are home studied or foster-care licensed and approved to adopt, you can register on our site to access additional tools:
- Search for children who are available to be adopted, create lists of children and share them with your caseworker, and contact children’s caseworkers.
- Create a profile of your family that will appear in searches by caseworkers who are looking for families for children.
When using our national and state photolistings, be sure your worker knows you are looking at these websites and making inquiries. This will help them be prepared to respond in a timely fashion to any follow-up requests for information from the child’s caseworker.
After you have made an inquiry on a child, the follow-up process may take some time, so remember to be patient. At the same time, you should feel comfortable enough with your caseworker to call if too much time has gone by and see if the follow-up contact has been made.
Try to get the most information you can about a child when you have been informed you are being considered as a possible match. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Try to gather your questions ahead of time so you don’t have to call too often, and keep notes. If a child has special needs or conditions you’re not familiar with, ask the child’s worker to explain them or provide you with resources to learn more.
If you’re being seriously considered for a child, share with other children in your family about what you’re doing and what you know about the child you hope to adopt. Have a family meeting to discuss how you would make accommodations to welcome this child into your home. Such accommodations could include:
- Assuring religious training appropriate to the child’s denomination is respected
- Meeting the emotional, medical, dental, and educational needs of the child
- Cooperating with your agency in treatment planning for the child
- Respecting the child’s feelings for their birth family
- Supporting visitation plans with their birth family or others when applicable
Preparation on both your part and the child’s part is important in making an informed decision. You can have a degree of control and ownership in the matching process if you identify upfront what you want, what you can accept, and what is not acceptable. The more invested you and the child are, the more likely it will be a successful match.
Personal biases and value judgments can easily find their way into the decision-making process as caseworkers and others match children and families. It’s essential everyone involved in making these decisions, including you, is aware of their personal biases and understands how these biases may influence matching decisions. For example, biases about gender, sexual orientation, or race can impact decisions about who is an appropriate adoptive family for a child.
Criteria that can be used to consider if you’re the appropriate family for a specific child includes your capacity and ability to:
- Understand and be responsive to the child’s safety needs that may have been compromised in their past
- Meet the current, not future, expenses of caring for a particular child or sibling group (this assessment should not include your ability to cover expenses beyond childhood, such as whether you have resources to send a child to college)
- Raise the child to adulthood and have back-up plans for who could assume responsibility for the child’s care if necessary
- Meet the preferences and needs of the child in regard to the ages of other children in your family
- Adopt all members of a sibling group
- Have a strong support system outside of the agency
If a long period of time between completing your home study and being matched with a child has passed, you will want to ensure your home study is up to date and accurately reflects your family. Many times, caseworkers involved in the matching process are making “paper matches.” That is, they don’t know you or the child personally, and they’re making matching decisions based on the written materials before them, such as your home study.
There should be no surprises in your written home study. If there are concerns about you or your ability to parent a child you’re hoping to adopt, those concerns should have been discussed with you previous to the writing of your home study.
Outside of the home study, another way to help personalize your introduction to a child caseworker is to write a cover letter and create a family photo book. See the section below for more information about this.
Whether you’re inquiring about a child online or offline, you can personalize your inquiry by writing a short cover letter introducing yourself and your family.
On a photolisting website such AdoptUSKids, think of the narrative on your profile as this cover letter. If you have the ability to write a more specific cover letter when inquiring about a child, say how you heard about them and why you feel your family might be a good choice for them. Talk about how your family could meet this child’s specific needs and what resources you have in your community to help you. Include how you and your worker can be reached.
Having a collection of pictures in the form of a family photo book or video can also go a long way in helping a caseworker get a more personalized introduction to you. On photolisting websites such as AdoptUSKids, make sure you have photos of your family included in your online profile that include your home, other children, and pets.
It’s important to note that any information about your family included in your family profile on a photolisting website, or in a cover letter, photo book, or video should accurately reflect the contents of your home study.
While waiting to be matched with a child, you may have a hard time understanding why the process takes so long.
Now is a good time to find your local foster care and adoption support group or network through AdoptUSKids’ Facebook community with other foster and adoptive parents. These are great sources of support and encouragement, and can help you pass the time while you wait.
While you wait to be matched with a child, please consider other ways to help children in foster care. You have valuable abilities that can be put to work for children, such as being a community volunteer, respite worker, office assistant, tutor or mentor to teens, babysitter, or assistant recruiter. Discuss these options and others with your caseworker.