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Addressing Oppression by Amplifying Youth Voices in Adoption

Addressing Oppression by Amplifying Youth Voices in Adoption

The child welfare system, as with many other structures in society (juvenile justice, housing, education, employment, mental health), is built upon structures of oppression.

Differences in class, gender, race, sexual orientation and expression, age, and physical or mental abilities result in good outcomes for some, and bad outcomes for others based on who these systems inherently favor. These systems of oppression are interlocking and play a decisive role in the events experienced by children and youth in foster care who need permanent homes.

One dimension of oppression impacting the youth that MARE serves is adultism.

What is Adultism?

Adultism refers to “behaviors and attitudes of adults toward youth based on the assumption that adults know better than young people and are entitled to act upon them without their agreement.” Adultism affects youth in foster care every time their voices, experiences, opinions, and aspirations are not respected.

The opinions of adults involved in the life of a young person -child welfare professionals, foster caregivers, and adoptive parents should not be the only nor the most decisive voice when making decisions about their future or about what is in their “best interest”. The youth we work with are the experts when it comes to their stories and what they have experienced.

Amplifying Youth Voices

At MARE we are committed to incorporating youth voices in our work. Based on the feedback received from youth, we have changed the language we use to describe our matching events - instead of Adoption Parties we now call them Adoption Meet & Greets. We stopped using color-coded name tags at our events to distinguish children and youth whose parental rights are terminated. We are reviewing all our materials and website to eliminate the designation legal risk/legally freed, as well as other oppressive labels related to race and ability.

Our specialized recruitment programs, Weekend Family Connections and Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, put an intentional effort on including the voices of the youth when considerations of placement and permanency planning are being made.  Finally, our Fostering Creativity campaign seeks to empower youth who have experienced foster care to share through artistic expressions their stories, perspectives, and aspirations with wider audiences to shape public perceptions about foster care.

To learn more about Youth Voices in Adoption you can visit the National Adoption Month website.



Ricardo L. Franco, LSW