The language we use says a lot about our thoughts and values. Using positive adoption language communicates that adoption is as much a way to build a family as birth is. Both are equally important and valuable.
Sometimes we don’t even realize we’re using language that detracts from the value of adoption. But within one week of a birth an adoptive mom can tell you dozens of times she’s already been offended: Is that your real baby? Which of your children are your own?
And the birth mother? She has stories too where she inwardly rolls her eyes or cries after the comments and questions she gets. Why don’t you want your baby? Why are you giving them up?
The truth is, birth parents make an adoption plan. They are not “giving up” their baby. In fact, the opposite it true. They are making a thoughtful, self-less decision to choose parents for their baby since they are not in a season in their lives to parent themselves.
The term “put up for adoption” is actually from the orphan train era. During a period in America’s history from 1854 to 1929 there was an estimated 200,000 children who were orphaned, abandoned, or abused and neglected. These children, many from New York, were placed on trains and sent to homes throughout the country. They were “put up” on platforms for families needing able-bodied children to work on their farms, etc. This is noted as America’s first attempt at a foster care system. You can see why the term “put up for adoption” has negative connotations, to say the least.
By using the following positive adoption language*, you’ll reflect the true nature of adoption; one that honors the child, the birth parents, and the adoptive family.
|Terms to Avoid||Positive Adoption Language|
|Real/natural parents||expectant mother (before she signs consents), birthmother (after she signs consents),
birth father, birth parents
|Children of your own||Biological children|
|Adopted child/own child||My child|
|Is adopted||Was adopted|
|Illegitimate||Born to unmarried parents|
|Give up or put up for adoption||Place for adoption, made an adoption plan|
|Keep the child||Chose to parent|
|Bi-racial family||Trans-racial family|
|Foreign adoption||International adoption|
|Hard to place/available children||Adoptable/waiting children|
*Adapted from my work with Hannah’s Dream Adoptions
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