'We met our daughter at adoption party'

A trial scheme which uses adoption activity days - or adoption parties - to help match children with prospective parents is about to end in Scotland.

The pilot has been viewed as a success, with nine out of 36 children finding a match, and campaigners hope further days can be held if the Scottish government gives its approval.

BBC Scotland reporter Suzanne Allan met one couple who adopted a child through the scheme.

Angela and Andy Coyle and their seven-year-old son Andrew were a happy family.

But they also felt strongly about wanting to adopt a child - so they decided to give an adoption party a go.

The parties are where potential mums and dads come along to meet about 20 children of all ages in an informal atmosphere.

They dress up and play games. The aim is to find chemistry and hopefully a potential match.

Image caption Angela and Andy Coyle met the two-year-old girl they later adopted at one of the adoption events

"We were nervous going to the day because we carried, I think, the stress of the little kids going... We wondered how might they be prepared," said Ms Coyle.

"As soon as we arrived, though, we felt immediately at ease because the team there were very professional, they had managed the event really well."

Mr Coyle said the day included lots of activities for the children, with the adults encouraged to get involved as much as possible.

"There was a lot of play. There was a lot of focus on the kids having fun - and about adults who were there as adopters just getting down, playing, interacting," he said.

"That I think was the key thing - we did a lot of that."

Image caption The Coyles' son Andrew was also able to met Rey at the event

The event was the first time the Coyle family met two-year-old Rey, who they later adopted.

"We didn't know that Rey would be our daughter when we met her," Mrs Coyle said.

"We just met this child and we were very interested in getting to know her better. Our son played a lot with her and that was really lovely to see.

"We knew it would be a long process even after the day when we took things further, but it was lovely to meet her."

Forty would-be parents have attended adoption activity days in Scotland over the last year. Nine of the 36 children that took part have found a match.

It follows on from a similar scheme in England where the success rate has been 26%.

According to the Adoption Register, which runs the scheme, no other family-finding method has achieved such a high level of matches.

'Magical thinking'

Adoption parties are not a new idea. Events like this used to take place in the 1970s and 80s all over the UK as a way of getting children out of the care system.

But they fell out of favour and 30 years on, charities are hoping they'll help over 100 children in Scotland find a permanent, loving home.

There are some concerns. Many social workers believe the adoption days are a good idea - but some worry children might feel let down if they're not chosen.

Trisha Hall, manager at the Scottish Association of Social Workers, said: "It is a way to find a solution. I think the difficulty is the magical thinking - children who think 'I might be able to find my family there and everything will be wonderful immediately,' and that of course is not always the case."

Ms Hall said the events needed to be organised with the priority placed on the needs of the children, who should be "really, really well-prepared".

"There is the potential for people to see it as a kind of child market," she added.

Robin Duncan, manager of Scotland's Adoption Register, said the events helped create connections for children that almost certainly would not be found in any other way.

"Some of the children who seem very difficult on paper can really shine in these events and people can respond to them," he said.

"We have adopters saying that they've met children at the events and felt really drawn to them and had a strong connection with them.

"And yet they wouldn't have been children that they would have expected to have taken into their house."

The third adoption activity day in the trial is due to be held on 5 November.

The Adoption Register hope there will be more activity days in Scotland next year following approval from the Scottish government, in the hope children can find a home as welcoming as the Coyles.

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites