Homestudy #2 and using positive adoption language

As of Saturday afternoon we are halfway through our homestudy meetings!

I've received a number of questions about what a homestudy is like, so I thought I'd describe our experience a little bit. I'm sure the process varies a bit, depending on your agency or caseworker, but they are probably fairly similar.

From what I've gathered, the purpose of the homestudy is twofold: 1) to equip the parents for the challenges of the adoption process and parenting and 2) to enable to caseworker to assess whether the person/couple is equipped (emotionally, financially, with a support system) to pursue the adoption.

Our first meeting was mostly about our caseworker getting to know us and our story. She asked a lot of question about why we wanted to adopt and what financial resources we had to pursue the adoption as well as what support systems we had in place. We have been blessed with an incredibly generous community, both financially and emotionally, and she seemed pleased to hear us talk about that.

Between the first and second meetings John and I had to complete a lot of "homework." Our agency uses a training manual which consists mostly of short articles and then 3 or 4 questions to answer. The topics in the training manual deal with issues from handling the long wait and uncertainties of adoption, to embracing your child's culture of origin as a family, to coping with attachment issues. During the second meeting we talked about what we learned from doing our homework.

There's too much content to fully share in a blog post, but if there's one thing I think is worth passing on it's what's referred to as "positive adoption language." So here are some helpful hints for how to talk about adoption with us/our future son/anyone who has adopted or was adopted:

* This is one I didn't know until last week: instead of referring to a child saying "he is adopted" say, "he was adopted." The past tense "was" rather than "is" identifies the adoption as a past event rather than an on-going event. It is true that having been adopted is always a part of a person's identity, but it does not define them nor their status in a forever family. The child was adopted into the family and is now a permanent member, just like a biological child.

* Use the term "biological child" rather than "natural child." I get this one a lot particularly from people in the baby boomer generation or older. I bet it used to be the correct term to use, but just think about it: the opposite of natural is "unnatural," a word which has synonyms like "strange," "odd," or "peculiar." Those aren't labels any child should bear.

* Along the same lines, use "biological child" rather than "one of your own." Our adopted child will absolutely be all our own.

* "Birth parents" is preferred over "real parents." Personally I think both we and his birth parents are "real parents." They (or at least his birth mom) choose life for him even though they were not able to parent. We did not bring him into the world, but he will be our son and we will love and raise him. Both are decisions that "real parents" make.

* Instead of saying the child was "abandoned" or "given up" or "put up for adoption" say, "his parents made an adoption plan" or "placed him for adoption." We don't know our future son's story, nor do we know if we ever will, but we want our son to know that he was not rejected. We will tell him that his birth mom was not able to take care or him or any baby, though she surely wished she was able. Instead she made sure he would be cared for and have a chance to grow up in a family.

Words have a lot of power, especially in the ears of a little one.

If adoption is a part of your life in some way, what are some other positive adoption phrases or language you like to encourage?

I'll end with a quote that is popular in the adoption world and quickly summarizes the beauty of positive adoption language:

"Natural Child: Any child who is not artificial.
Real Parent: Any parent who is not imaginary.
Your Own Child: Any child who is not someone else's child.
Adopted Child: A natural child, with a real parent, who is all my own." - Rita Laws

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