Positive or Negative Stories in Adoption

08 Sep

I want to see a concerted shift in how the adoption community talks about adoptee stories, specifically, the labelling adoptee stories as positive or negative. Stay with me a minute while I explain.

Whenever someone (from any position) brings up an adoptee’s positive adoption story to highlight, or holds up their adoption story as positive one, I lose faith that we can ever accept adoption and the stories of people adopted as just as their story.

Yes, just their story, regardless if it is good or bad.

When was the last time a non-adopted person offered a positive story of growing up? I’ve never heard a non-adopted person tell their positive story of growing up, although I’ve heard many tell their story.

I’m challenging all of you, regardless of the position you hold in adoption to stop using the descriptors positive or negative in regards to an adoptee’s story. Just don’t do it, instead, let adoptees simply tell their stories. Honor their stories, don’t label them, don’t #notall them, just hear them. Figure out the takeaways from their story that applies to your story, learn from them, just don’t label them positive or negative, ever.

Let them just be stories of a family, that like all families, have normal ups and downs, good times and really hard times. A family with members that will also have many added challenges due to being adopted and feelings to navigate, struggle with, and hopefully, adjust to and find some level of acceptance or peace across a lifetime, whatever that looks like to them.

When you label an adoptee’s story as positive or negative, you don’t see that adoptee. You don’t recognize their humanity, their realness, the value they bring to the world around them, to you, especially if you are willing to grasp the message and knowledge being offered within their story.

Instead, by your labeling them (which is judging by the way) you see them as a impediment to adoption. To how people perceive adoption, how damaging her voice is to your cause. Stop and read that again, stop and really think what that means, that they don’t matter to you, the only thing that matters to you is that adoption is seen as good.

And that is the crux of the problem; because we are the adoptees in adoption, real people, not pawns to be used to promote the institution of adoption. What if, instead of ignoring someone who doesn’t have that “positive adoption story” you crave to hear and promote, you welcomed that voice into the discussion, you listen to the pain and loss they feel, you hear what they went through, and then together you started a journey to make adoption better, more ethical, more proactive in ensuring family preservation is the first option honestly explored, before even whispering the word adoption as an option. The physician’s mantra of do no harm would be a good goal for everyone to have in the world of adoption, because even if adoption is needed at the end of the day, it always comes with some level of harm to many.

So, can we please agree to stop labelling an adoptee’s story as positive or negative? Maybe add it to the adoption lexicon of PAL and put both the terms positive and negative story under the Negative Adoption Language column.




Posted by on September 8, 2020 in Adoption, adoptive parents


Tags: , , , , , , ,

10 responses to “Positive or Negative Stories in Adoption

  1. Lara/Trace

    September 8, 2020 at 5:12 pm

    I AGREE! And applaud you for reminding us!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. juliemcgue

    September 8, 2020 at 6:24 pm

    A good reminder… to accept all stories as someone’s personal story not brand it with a negative or positive label!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Judith Land

    September 10, 2020 at 5:57 pm

    Negative judgements often result from conscious and unconscious prejudice that affect the valuation of others and perceptions of their stories. When it comes to reviews, and perceptions, this matters greatly. It is important to be able to discern the point of view of the adoptee independent from the reviewer’s personal opinions. Adoption stories told from opposite sides of the adoption triangle often tend to conflict with each other. When the context and criteria for making evaluations are ambiguous, bias is more prevalent.


    • juliemcgue

      September 10, 2020 at 7:06 pm

      Applying the positive/negative label also depends if you agree with an adoptee’s right to own their personal information and launch a search. I was the ideal adoptee until I decided at 48 to find my birth parents, then I was deemed a trouble maker by my birth and adoptive parents.

      Liked by 1 person

      • TAO

        September 10, 2020 at 7:34 pm

        I’m so sorry Julie, that had to be hard, did it get better?

        Liked by 1 person

        • juliemcgue

          September 10, 2020 at 7:40 pm

          Yes, with a lot of hard work and counseling to get through it.

          Liked by 1 person

    • TAO

      September 10, 2020 at 7:34 pm

      Very true, thank you Judith.



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