Website matches potential parents with adoptable children

- A Florida-based non-profit is taking the same technology behind internet dating websites and applying the match-making process to parenting.

With the help of a former eHarmony senior research scientist, Adoption-Share created a new program called Family Match and partnered with the Selfless Love Foundation to bring it to Florida. It uses algorithms similar to those used on dating websites to pair foster children with couples who want to adopt.

The goal of Family Match is to speed up the adoption process, getting more children out of the foster care system faster.

"What we really had, and what was impeding children from finding their forever families, was a connection problem," explained Dr. Elizabeth Wynter, Executive Director of the Selfless Love Foundation. "That instability impacts [a child's] emotional well being, so if we can move faster and get these kids matched more quickly, it's going to be a better outcome for them.".

Family Match wasn't available when mother Alexeis and her husband expanded their family by adopting siblings Jadie, 4, Isaiah, 6, and Xavier, 7.

The couple had two biological children, however, Alexis said she was unable to have more children once they were born.

"My husband comes from a really big family. I always grew up around all of my cousins, so we always wanted more kids," Alexis said.

By opening their home to all three children, the siblings were able to stay together.

Social workers are hopeful that Family Match will help connect them with more couples across the state of Florida.

"We need families who are able to take the entire sibling group," said Genet Stewart, Executive Director of Eckerd Connects, the leading child welfare agency in Hillsborough County.

According to Stewart, of the 67 children Eckerd Connects is currently trying to place in homes, about half of them are ages 15 to 17.

"We have three sibling groups with at least five children in them," added Stewart.

With Family Match, couples upload a parent profile on the website. For safety, every person undergoes a background check, training and adoption assessments before their profile is posted and visible to social workers.

A social worker reviews their child preferences. Similar to a dating website, potential parents are paired with available children in their community with characteristics matching their preferences.

"At the end of the day, the decision is always left in the social worker's hands," said Wynter.

Family Match recently launched online. More than 200 families are already registered. Officials hope to begin the matchmaking process in June. 

For more information visit the website of Selfless Love Foundation and Family Match.

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