contributed by Elly Gerhardt, Program Intern
I am pleased to announce that I have officially made it through my first two match events! A "match event" is designed to provide the vehicle for our network of social workers, perspective adoptive families and our youths to meet and greet! Shortly after becoming NAC’s intern, I was met with a few obstacles while navigating through the match event planning season. Not only were there hundreds of envelopes to be labeled and stuffed, but workers and families had to be contacted in other ways too. Nonetheless I wouldn’t trade the experience, I’ve learned so much. I have been afforded the opportunity to become familiar with the case management network in the Tri-state area as well as learn all about our youth and their current situations. It has been particularly interesting to learn about SWAN (Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network) and its function within the foster care system of Pennsylvania. I am proud to have played an integral part in developing systematic and computerized ways of sharing information and keeping it all up-to-date. It amazes me to realize that so much actually goes into planning a match event. It’s almost equivalent to planning a Bat-Mitzvah twice a year! Not only do you have to set the venue, find a caterer, and plan activities. You have to trust (and reminders help) that people will show up to the event your team has put so much effort planning day! Luckily we had an unbelievable turn out; some would call this a record-breaking event. We had twenty families and sixteen youth registered.
NAC and SWAN work so hard together to make this event absolutely flawless. Match events have been happening for over twenty years, many matches have been successfully made and many placements have resulted. So this year we wanted to have the event at The National Helicopter Museum in West Chester, Pennsylvania. I went into the match event season thinking that matches and finalization were the ultimate goals; however, I learned that it’s not only about that, but it’s the day full of connections with people that really make a difference. Our team did a lot to make those connections happen. We were fortunate enough to have a pilot from a local flying school give the youth (and staff) a once in a lifetime chance to be co-pilots in a helicopter. Riding high above the city was a thrilling adventure for all. In addition, to challenge our sharpest guests, we played rousing game of trivia. I was surprised that not everyone knows Mr. Spock’s famous words, “live long and prosper.” Thanks to Kathleen, our facilitator, the youth and families loved searching for hidden treasure in our creatively designed Scavenger Hunt.
It goes without saying that the most touching moment of the day was our “Everyone has a Voice” programming. “Everyone has a Voice” encourages the youth to discuss how it feels to be in the system. Each youth got to share his or her own personal thoughts and feelings about this time in his/her young lives. This activity gives the teens an opportunity to discuss topics that are on their mind in a small, intimate group, with acceptance and no pressure. It is impossible to not feel a pull on your heartstrings when our youth shared their mutual hopes and dreams for a forever family! The entire event was spectacular as well as scrumptious, as we all enjoyed a feast of favorites including chicken fingers, salads, pasta and other delicious treats. NAC along with SWAN again delivered an amazing day for our youth and families. I want to thank the National Adoption Center for allowing me to “help” with such an amazing event. Though, majority of the time I was making intern-ishly silly mistakes. My mentors allowed me to learn from my mistakes and continue on in our important mission to make an unforgettable match event for the youth and families!
photos by Chris Jacobs, Program Director