Positive Adoption Language Do’s and Don’ts
Just like most things in our world, language evolves over time. Phrases and terms that might have been acceptable when we were growing up may no longer be considered appropriate.
At Adoption Choices of Missouri, we view each birth mother’s adoption journey as unique and special. We want to make sure that we are using positive adoption language to reflect these positive journeys! If you’re not sure what language to use, that’s fine! We are here to answer any questions you may have.
Do Use the Terms Birth Parent or Birth Mother
If you are referring to the biological parent of an adoptee, feel free to use the terms birth parents or birth mother. These terms are free of underlying judgements or negative connotations. They simply describe the biological parent as they are—a birth parent.
Stay away from phrases like real parents. These kinds of phrases imply that adoptive parents are somehow less “real” or important than biological parents. Adoptive families’ love and support for their children is no less than that of a family who has not been through the adoption process. In love, as well as in legal-terms, an adoptive family’s child is equal to any child.
Do Use the Phrase Placed for Adoption
Using the phrase placed for adoption implies that an adoptive family was purposefully selected for an adopted child…which is true! Each birth mother’s adoption journey is a choice that she makes, and part of that journey is selecting an adoptive family to place her child with. There is so much intention and thought that goes into matching a child with his or her adoptive family.
A phrase that is still common to hear is giving up a baby for adoption. Do not use this term. “Giving up” something often implies that there is no other choice, or is otherwise associated with loss. Birth mothers choose to place their children for adoption based on any number of factors, all of which differ between cases.
Do Say Made an Adoption Plan
An adoption plan is a carefully thought-through plan that a birth mother comes up with alongside her adoption caseworker. This plan details many aspects of the adoption journey in order to eliminate any surprises and create safety and comfort for the birth mother. When describing the transition of a child into their adoptive family, feel free to use this phrasing.
Try to stay away from words like relinquished or phrases like gave up when referring to the transition of a child into their new adoptive family. Again, these phrases imply that a child is more similar to an object rather than a person. They also imply that the birth mother is doing something negative, as opposed to making the choice that is best for her and her baby.
Why Positive Adoption Language Matters
Why is it so important to use positive language when discussing adoption? The ways in which we speak about a topic reflect our own thoughts or innate beliefs about it. Because adoption is a positive event in so many people’s lives, we want to be intentional with the way we speak about it. Using negative phrases or words can convey to someone that you look down on them for being adopted or for choosing adoption. Making these small changes in the way we speak can create a more welcoming world!
If you are ever unsure if a phrase is a positive or negative one, just ask! There is nothing wrong with being unsure. Our staff at Adoption Choices of Missouri is happy to answer all your questions. There are also lots of resources online that can help, too! Remember, our goal is to be welcoming and inclusive of all different types of families. Being intentional with your word choices brings us one step closer towards this goal.
Meet the Author: Molly Doyle is a native San Franciscan, Molly is an experienced educator and a dedicated writer. She holds her multiple subject teaching credential as well as her Masters of Arts in Teaching. When not teaching children or creating new written pieces, Molly can be found kicking around a soccer ball, going for urban hikes or whipping up a fruit pie.
She currently lives in Seattle, her first home outside of California.