Thursday, 10 August 2017

Words & Meanings

Reading a few adoption blogs, as well as a few other places, I've been struck by the language that's been used. Not the language of family and home but the language of process and fostering. On a fundamental level it's none of my business the language that people choose to use. On a personal level it really got under my skin.

Language and words matter, I say that as someone who has consistently says the wrong thing at the wrong moment. The terms that we use when we describe ourselves is important and I don't like hearing language that pulls our children back into a world of care that we promised that they would never return to.
Perhaps, it's my sensitivity and that I've got a over developed sense of correctness from my left wing social work training. Perhaps not.

As adoptive parents and adopted children we are manufactured family but we are not a social care 'placement' we are a family and I want to be considered in those terms. Yes, at the point of placement that was what it was but the minute the door shut behind the social worker as they left we became a family. A green shoot of a family but one no less. My memory is very clear of our wobbly start and tricky first few months but that we were a 'struggling family' not an 'unstable placement' feels like a important distinction.

While I'm on I feel I must speak of how I feel about respite, I simply hate the phrase. Yes, it may be wholly accurate in describing a break from something that is difficult but its a pointy, cold, ugly phrase that I'd happily see killed off.

I never want respite from my children but I'm more than happy for them to have a sleepover at a family member or friend's house. I need my children to go and have a holiday and be spoilt a little bit by their grandmother, or taken to the pictures for the afternoon by their big sister. Do I need a break from a difficult thing? Oh yes, but language matters.

Many adoptive families need breaks and many don't have family and friends that can help for a host of reasons. However, the work of The Open Nest is a great example of offering a break that is as removed from the word respite and all that it evoked when it's used.

It's like 'contact' I'm pretty sure that I've never had contact with any of my relatives I usually just go and visit them. There are lots of words.

Of course, it's all semantics but reading the words I can't help but feel that the words highlight and focus our mind on the difference, I know that they are woven into the system but I think we should try to unpick them.


  1. Wholeheartedly agree! And exactly why when NCC called me about their data breach and asked me to confirm the "adopted child's name", I immediately corrected her and said "My daughters name is X", and subsequently made a formal complaint! Words do matter! We are families, parents and children, not adopters and adoptees!

  2. It feels like they remain part of that social care world which they tried so hard to get her out of. I'd be interested to see what they say.

  3. I completely agree with this post. Words do focus on minds and highlight the differences.

    1. Thanks, I could read comments like this all day ;-)