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Information NOT to include when writing a child’s photolisting narrative

We believe that information about children must be shared on a continuum, with positive, descriptive information in the public profile available to all and information about challenges and support needs provided to home-studied families only through private narratives and conversations.

Because public narratives can be viewed by anyone who visits the photolisting website or picks up a printed flyer, it is important to remember that our first obligation is to protect the child. Narratives should encourage prospective parents and be positive, descriptive, and strengths-based.

With these guiding principles in mind, we offer the following list of details that should never be shared in a child’s public narrative.

Read more about writing children’s narrative in our guide Creating Effective Narratives for Children Waiting to Be Adopted.

Identifying information

Protect children’s safety and privacy by not including a child’s last name, date of birth, or names of school, school district, neighborhood, or local organizations.

Details revealing abuse, neglect, and maltreatment

Public narratives should not include information related to sexual abuse, sexual acting out, or to the child as a potential perpetrator or victim.
Also omit birth family history of abuse, neglect, physical or mental illness, domestic violence, criminal history, or substance abuse, reasons for the young person’s entry into care and their trauma history.

Placement information

Avoid current placement type, placement history, how long the child has been in foster care, and references to adoption interruption, disruption, or dissolution

Medical information

Public narratives should not include medical or mental health diagnoses, medication, and treatment, or statements about, a child’s physical impairments or conditions, including current or past pregnancies.

Behavioral challenges

Do not include information about aggressive or sexual behaviors, delinquency or juvenile justice involvement or negative behaviors such as lying, running away, or stealing.

Potentially painful or embarrassing information

Mention of bodily functions, hygiene challenges, sources of fears and anxiety, having been bullied, and other negative details could all be sources of embarrassment to a child. When writing the narrative, ask yourself, would the child want their friends to read this?

Descriptions that limit potential families

We recommend against discussing a child’s reluctance to be adopted or emphasis on their unique need for preparation for adoption or details that appear to limit the types of families who will be considered.

Intellectual ability or education challenges

Any references to school should be general or positive. Do not include intellectual or educational challenges, references to special education status, educational impairment levels or IEPs, or actual grades or scores on assessments, even if they are positive.

Sexual orientation or gender identity

Do not include statements about, or allusions to, the fact that the youth is lesbian, gay, or bisexual unless all three of the following criteria are met: (1) the narrative is for a teen who wants the listing to include their sexual orientation; (2) the youth has had thoughtful conversations with affirming adults about the potential positive and negative consequences; and (3) the youth has been involved in crafting the narrative and approves of how the information is presented.

Given the increased threats transgender individuals face (including higher incidence of assaults and suicide), we recommend against noting that a young person is transgender in a public narrative—even if the young person is comfortable with the listing