Things to consider carefully
On this page, we explore information that should be carefully considered on a case-by-case basis before it is included in a public narrative. If it is included, it should be presented from a strengths-based perspective.
Keep in mind the core question: Does this information enhance the presentation of the child and make it more likely that they will find a family? If you are in doubt, leave it out!
A general statement about long-term needs
For children who will have lifelong or serious ongoing needs, you may want to make reference to that in the public narrative. But don’t disclose that the needs are medical, provide a specific diagnosis, or offer any details. The example below show how it can be done respectfully.
A happy, playful, and social girl, Michelle is often smiling ear to ear. She needs a family who can keep her smiling and meet her significant needs now and in the future.
General information about ongoing support needs
If you feel that you must include information about ongoing support needs, keep it general and positive and don’t disclose diagnoses or specific services.
Rodrigo is doing really well in school this year! He loves his small classroom, and the extra support he receives is helping him get good grades.
Discussion of appearance
In most cases, it’s best to let the child’s picture do the talking. Even very positive references to appearance can be problematic for several reasons—they can come across as marketing or even objectifying a child. For children who are profoundly intellectually disabled, however, descriptions of favorite clothes or hairstyle might give life to a more difficult narrative to write.
Shawna’s favorite outfit is a purple sweat suit that is soft and cozy. She smiles when she sees it and looks very stylish when she has it on!
Detailed discussions of chores or how the young person might be helpful to the family
There’s a fine line between describing a child as cooperative and including language that might harken back to the Orphan Train days. You can convey the same messages with general statements about being helpful.
Better—Jasper is helpful around the house and loves keeping his room tidy.
Less effective—Jasper performs household chores, such as sweeping the floor, washing windows, cleaning the bathroom, doing laundry, and making his bed.
The young person’s expressed preferences on types of families
Including a young person’s wishes for a family can make a profile more appealing. But if you are overly specific or address fixed-family attributes (family structure, race or ethnic background, etc.), you could turn away a good family who doesn’t meet the stated criteria. It’s best to include statements that relate to activities rather than family structure or other, more fixed categories.
If your agency is looking for a particular type of family, be careful not to attribute any of those limitations to the child’s wishes or desires.
Better—Carl wants a family who will allow him to ride horses and take him to the rodeo.
Less effective—Carl would prefer a family who lives on a farm and has lots of horses.
In most cases, we do not recommend including sexual orientation in public profiles. However, if the youth is out, wants the information to be included in their public narrative, has been well-informed about risks, and is engaged in the process of crafting the narrative, then you could consider including it.
When including information on sexual orientation, it typically reads better as an integrated part of the narrative, rather than a simple declarative statement.
Better— A proud founder of the gay/straight alliance at his school, Carlos is active in the LGBT community and went to his first pride parade this year!
Less effective—Carlos, who is gay, is looking for a family who will support him and love him.
Note: We always recommend against disclosing that a child is trangender in public narratives due to the additional discrimination and safety threats they face. Read more in “what not to include.”
The fact that the youth is a parent
Statements about a youth’s being pregnant or that a youth recently gave birth should never be included because they are medical information. We suggest that any discussion of a young person’s being a parent be included only if the youth specifically wants the information in the narrative, understands the potential consequences, and has been involved in writing and reviewing it. If you do decide to include, be sure to keep the narrative focused on the young person, not their child.
Better—Rachel is an avid reader, and is rarely found without a book in her hand. Her favorites are the John Green novels, but she loves classics and mysteries too. Rachel has a nine-month-old son, and she likes reading to him whenever she can. She’s proud to be a good mother, but knows she still needs a parent herself.
Less effective—Rachel has a nine-month-old son named Darren. Darren is a bright, curious child and has just learned to crawl. He’s exploring his home and learning new things every day. Darren also loves to smile and point at his favorite stuffed animals.
Statements about the success of the current placement
Statements about the success of the child’s current placement could lead a prospective adopter to think the current family is better for the child.
Better—Luis gets along very well with his foster family and loves to hang out with his foster mother.
Less effective—Luis is completely happy in his foster home. He and his foster mother have an unbreakable bond.
Race or ethnic background
Checking off boxes in your photolisting that identify race and background is not a problem. But, like generic descriptions of appearance, writing a child’s race into the narrative can fall a little flat. If a child is exploring their heritage, learning a language, or deeply connected to their community, include that information. But be careful not to suggest that only parents of a particular race or ethnic background will be considered, which could be a violation of MEPA, the federal Multiethnic Placement Act. (Read more about MEPA at Child Welfare Information Gateway.)
Better—Fred loves his history classes and is really enjoying learning about the civil rights movement right now. When he watched Parting the Waters, a documentary on the movement, he felt particularly proud to be African American and wondered how his family members may have felt during this time of critical change in the US.
Less effective—Fred is African American. He loves to study history and is learning about the civil rights movement right now.
The applicability of the Indian Child Welfare Act
Without context or explanation, this information is not very informative to prospective parents. It can be helpful to explain that the child’s tribe has the authority to make placement decisions and to include information about the role of the tribe and the importance of maintaining the child’s cultural connections. Do not list the tribe’s name because some may be small enough that members can identify the child.
Better—Darryl wants a family who will love him and care for him now and in the future: “I’d like a family who can help me accomplish my dreams. I know I can go far!” Because the Indian Child Welfare Act applies to him, Darryl’s tribe will be involved in placement decisions. All families are welcome to inquire, although the tribe has a preference for a Native American family.
Less effective—Darryl is looking for a family who will love him and care for him now and in the future. The Indian Child Welfare Act applies.
It’s fine to include a child’s last initial if it might help inquiring parents distinguish between two or more children with the same first name. Please note, though, that in a smaller community, a last initial could be identifying, especially if the first name or last initial is not very common.
Date of photo and profile
The best practice is to keep narratives up to date. If you are able to do regular updates, the date lets readers know the information is current. If you aren’t able, though, a long-past date can suggest a child has been languishing in care, which could be discouraging to prospective parents.
Grade level in school
Only include this if the narrative is updated regularly and the child is performing at grade level for their age. Even if a profile is up to date, if a child is much older than the others in their grade, including the grade level could suggest educational, intellectual, or developmental challenges.
An average photo, in quality or impression
A photo is often the first reason people want to learn more about a child, so including a picture is important. If the image isn’t great, though, make an effort to get a better one. Staff with lots of photolisting experience say updating the photo is one of the best ways to get renewed interest in a child who has been listed for a while.