ADOPTION: Positive Adoption Language Strengthens Family Relationships

The words we use convey a great deal about what we think and value. When we use positive adoption language, we are saying that adoption, like birth, is a way to build a family. Choosing positive adoption language helps to dispel the myths and misconceptions about adoption. Adoption may be a second choice, but it is never second best.

Positive Language Negative Language Explanation
Birth Parent Real or natural parent The use of negative terms implies that the adoption is not a reality or is unnatural. The term birthparent(s) describes the life-giving role these persons play in the child’s life.
My or our child My or our adopted child Adoption is a process, not an adjective. When the process is completed, the adopted person becomes just another child in the family. The term “my adopted child” implies a qualified relationship.
Make an adoption plan Put up for adoption, give up, give away, surrender for adoption, relinquish These are emotionally charged term, which do not reflect the fact that the birth parent(s) made a loving adoption plan that was well though out, challenging and in the child’s best interest.
We wanted and chose to be parents, and your birthparent(s) chose us We chose you A child may rationalize that if they were special enough to be chosen, then they must continue to be special in order to receive ongoing love and acceptance.
Decision to parent a child Keep a child The word implies that the child is an object and something which may be kept or not kept. The phrase “decision to parent the child” better reflects that parenting role and the decision making process in a respectful way to the child.
Child born to unmarried parents Illegitimate child The word “illegitimate” implied a negative situation for which the child is responsible and which also give a demeaning image to the child. The words “unmarried parents” indicated that there may be many situations which may leave parents unmarried (rape, death, divorce, too young to marry, etc).
Adoption participants Adoption triad, triangle The terms “triad” or “triangle” imply an opposing or adversarial relationship
Locate, making contact with birth relatives Search, track down parents, reunite, reunion The negative terms imply enforced separation, and convey a sense of desperation with regard to the experience of adoption. The term locate more accurately describes the act of contacting and meeting birth relatives.
Waiting children, children with special needs Special needs children, hard to place children The negative imply that the children are undesirable and less than normal.
Child placed for adoption Child taken away Placing for adoption conveys the positive and respectful way in which this plan is made for the child’s future.