Writing tips for improving child narratives

A well-written public narrative makes the best impression possible while including only accurate information. Remember: public profiles are a place for truth, but not the whole truth.

Below are some strategies and tips to help you write great narratives.

Learn from others

One of the best ways to improve your skills is to seek out good examples and learn from them. Take a look at the narratives on the Michigan Adoption Resource Exchange for examples of creatively written profiles, and see a few examples of well-written narratives we’ve gathered or modified. Spend time on adoptuskids.org and other photolisting sites and identify the narratives you think do the best job of presenting children positively and compellingly.

If you have a colleague who does a good job writing narratives, ask them to review your work and provide feedback. You’ll learn as you see how your narratives are edited, and you’ll keep getting better and better.

Have a game plan

Make a list of the items you like and want to include in your narratives—details, stories, adjectives, quotes—and make a plan for how you can get them. Use and adapt the sample interview questions we provide to gather more information.

Add the details that will make a difference!

One of the best ways to improve a child’s narrative is to add details, adjectives, and quotes that present a strengths-based picture and emphasize the child’s personality and unique qualities.

Our sample interview questions can be a great tool for getting more information that makes a narrative come alive. But even without a detailed interview, you can gather information that really makes a difference with just a few simple questions. For example, if you know a child likes to read, ask them or their caregiver questions about what they are reading now and who their favorite authors are.

Examples:

  • Sammie loves clothes and even makes her own.
  • Sammie is a budding designer whose grandmother taught her to sew. She treasures her sewing machine and takes perfect care of it. Sammie has made several outfits for herself, including a beautiful blue dress she wears to church. All of her foster family members have gotten a handmade item or two, and her three-year-old foster brother loves the fleece blanket Sammie made for him.

Keep it real—but positive

Think about ways you can reframe information to make it more positive and strengths-based. And if you can’t come up with positive reframing, leave it out. The public narrative isn’t the place to list challenges, even if you’ve tried to make them sound positive. When in doubt, ask a colleague if they see anything that could be taken the wrong way.

Quick tip: Keep an eye out for the word “but”—it’s often a sign that something negative has or will be introduced. Rewriting with a positive spin and using the word “and” can make a powerful difference.

Examples:

  • Less effective—He has some friends, but not very many.
  • Better—He has two very close friends and loves to spend time with them.

Mix it up!

Vary the structure and length of your sentences.

Play around with ways to change your sentences so that each one doesn’t start with the child’s name.

Examples:

  • Nora loves to read and watch TV.
  • Reading and watching TV are two of Nora’s favorite things to do.
  • What really makes Nora happy is reading books by John Green (especially Paper Towns) and watching any TV show on Nickelodeon.

Keep some sentences short and simple and have others with more detail and complexity.

Example:

Bennie is a cool kid! In his spare time, Bennie enjoys reading books about the moon and stars, and he’d love to be an astronomer one day. At school, he’s interested in all of his subjects.

Proofread and review

Whenever possible, have at least one person read the narrative to make sure everything is clear, communicates what you wanted it to say, and follows your guidelines.

Try to view the narrative through the eyes of the featured child. Is it something they would be proud of? Would they feel it gives a sense of who they are and what’s important to them? Is there anything in the profile that a schoolmate might make fun of? Does it have enough detail to be interesting and generate emotion?