Birth Mother Blog

Positive Adoption Language: Does it Matter Which Phrase I Use?

 By Talia Washington

Can rephrasing a sentence change someone’s life? You may think this a dramatic statement. No way switching a couple of words around could make a significant change to anyone? Positive Adoption Language (PAL) is one of the ways to show respect to people pregnant and considering adoption and everyone involved in the adoption process. PAL is proof that switching negative terminology can change someone’s life. Read for more information about positive adoption language and why the phrases you use matter.

What is Positive Adoption Language?

Positive Adoption Language (PAL) refers to the choice of expressions and terminology concerning adoption. Incorporating positive language requires refraining from phrases like ‘give up’ when referring to the child. Using positive language is vital during the adoption process. The lack of PAL unknowingly projects stigma that causes mothers to move away from considering adoption.


Therefore simply saying place instead of giving up could be the deciding factor when speaking to someone dealing with an unplanned pregnancy.

Incorporating positive adoption language can sound like:

  • Speaking with adoptive parents: “I understand you’re hoping to adopt a child.”
  • Talking to the child: “We chose to take you home with us.”
  • Speaking with the birth mother: “Adoption is one of many options when dealing with an unplanned pregnancy which can be challenging and emotional.

Replacing Negative Adoption Language

Some believe phrases like giving a child up for adoption and considering adoption for my baby are interchangeable. If you mentioned both two phrases, people would know that they meant the same thing.

Using positive language in place of negatively connotated phrasing makes everyone involved in the adoption process feel recognized and acknowledged.

Positive examples when talking about adoption include phrases like place, adoptive parents, birth parents etc. You would not say things like ‘real’ or ‘fake’ parents. As you would avoid referring to an adopted child as an orphan unless completely relevant and could not be rephrased


Negative Adoption Language – “Put up” or Place?

What is the difference between using put up or place? The two phrases mean the same thing in this context. If used in the context of adoption “put up” has a negative connotation that implies the child is being put away. Adoption is a complicated and sensitive subject, so it’s best to try and judge the scenario and context of the sentence.

Here is an example of put-up being used positively vs. negatively:

  • “You’re just putting up/placing the kid?” vs. “You’re thinking of putting/placing your child up for adoption?”

Placing a child for adoption is not the same scenario as putting up or placing a ketchup bottle on the table. Adoption Choices of Missouri understand the importance and how much is at stake. The importance of this decision makes it harmful to use words like “put up” when referring to adoption.

Tips & Tricks –  Help with Positive Adoption Language

  1. The use of the phrases like “give up” insinuates that the woman is giving up something. Do your very best to avoid making the birth mother feel judged. Adoption Choices of Missouri understands that birth mothers are people working through unplanned pregnancies.
  2.  Listen to the phrasing other people use in the conversation. If you’re unsure of what is appropriate, listen to the others. Does the birth mother use phrases like ‘give up’ or ‘adopted parents’ while speaking?
  3. Learn more about positive adoption language and how word choice could affect others. Think about the connotation (how the word/phrase sounds) vs. the denotation (what the word/phrase means).
  4. Think about the stereotypes surrounding adoption in Missouri. Acknowledge the stigma surrounding adoption, are the words you’re using spreading or aligning with negative stereotypes? If so, rethink your choice of words!
  5. Using place or put up instead of ‘give up’ when referring to the adoption process may be the difference between a birth mother deciding to place a child for adoption. Use discretion and empathy when dealing with anyone during the adoption process.
  6. Understand that language is incredibly important and try your best! No one is perfect – become educated on the proper terms and put them to use.
  7. Educating yourself on positive adoption language is a process. It takes time to unlearn harmful or unhelpful lessons. Be patient with yourself and refrain from being rude or disrespectful to birth mothers at all times.
  8. Positive adoption language benefits everyone involved in the adoption process including the adoption agency, adoptive parents, and birth mothers.

Impact of PAL

It is possible to change someone’s life by using PAL. In fact, you may be changing a child’s life by rephrasing your initial thoughts. Making someone feel uncomfortable or disrespected while discussing adoption plans or the adoption process could mean a completely different life for an innocent child.

Adoption Choices of Missouri handles situations without judgment. If you or someone you know is struggling with an unplanned pregnancy, contact us. You and your adoption agency will work to ensure the best adoption plan for you and your baby.