Accurate Adoption Reporting Recommends Style to Journalists
The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute has joined more than 100 adoption groups, professionals and individuals in supporting Accurate Adoption Reporting, an initiative that is urging journalists throughout the country to use accurate and sensitive language about adoption.
Accurate Adoption Reporting is headed by Mike Feazel, 2115 Ward Court, N.W., Dept. MF, Washington, D.C. 20037.
Following is the journalistic style that Accurate Adoption Reporting recommends:
SUGGESTED ADOPTION STYLE
As in the case of race or gender, the fact that a person was adopted should be mentioned only if it's absolutely essential to the story. If it is mentioned, the relevance must be clear in the context of the story. Mentioning adoption when it's not relevant wrongly implies a separate category of family relationship. A daughter who joined the family through adoption is -- and should be described as -- simply a daughter. If it's necessary to mention adoption, we suggest phrasing such as: "She was adopted in 1997" rather than "she is adopted." Adoption is one of many events in a person's life, not an immutable personal trait.
An adopted person's parents (those who are raising the child) should be referred to simply as father, mother or parents. The man and woman who shared in the child's conception can be referred to as the birth, genetic or biological parents (not "real" or "natural" parents, etc.).
Writers should avoid terms such as "abandoned" or "given up," both for accuracy and sensitivity reasons. It usually is inaccurate to refer to children available for adoption as orphans. Often, the birth parents are alive. These children also shouldn't be referred to as unwanted. Sociological or legal factors often force birth parents to relinquish their parental rights and make a child available for adoption -- which is very different from abandoning them or "giving them up." In the interest of accuracy, birth parents can be said to have placed the child for adoption, made an adoption plan, made them available for adoption, or transferred parental rights.
The reason why people adopt is not usually relevant to a story. Infertility often plays a role, but so do other factors, and many adopt simply because this is a joyful way to make a family. Language suggesting parents "couldn't have a baby of their own" is inaccurate. These children are our own by law and by love. Such language suggests adoption is second best, and that can be hurtful. Also, the phrase "a child of their own" is an inappropriate reference to birth children.
Stories should never imply that adoptive parents are unusually selfless or otherwise saintly. In most cases, they adopted simply because they want to parent children. They are no more saintly or selfless than any other parent.
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