Positive Adoption Language Guide

Positive terms you should be using when talking about adoption.

Terra Cooper May 29, 2014

In this slideshow you will learn some positive adoption language that you may not be familiar with.  Share this with your friends and family and let’s keep the positive education about adoption going!

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Positive Adoption Language: Expectant Mother
1. Positive Adoption Language: Expectant Mother

This term also applies to "expectant fathers," and you could also say "expectant parents." Expectant parents are people who are expecting a child and considering an adoption plan. They are not considered "birth parents" until after placement of the child.

Positive Adoption Language: Birth Mother
2. Positive Adoption Language: Birth Mother

This also applies to "birth fathers," "birth parents," and "birth families." Terms that are considered negative, and should not be used, include "real mother," "real mom," "real dad," "real father," "real parents," "natural parents," "natural mother," and "natural father." The words "real" and "natural" imply that the adoptive parents are "fake" or "unnatural."

Positive Adoption Language: Parent, Mom, Dad
3. Positive Adoption Language: Parent, Mom, Dad

When talking about the parents of a child who was adopted, you don't need to call them the "adoptive parents." Just "parents" will do. They are legally that child's parents.

Positive Adoption Language: Child, Son, Daughter
4. Positive Adoption Language: Child, Son, Daughter

A child who was adopted is that family's son or daughter. He or she is their child. Terms that could be negative are "adoptee" or "child who IS adopted." Adoption is only one part of this child's story.

Positive Adoption Language: Choose to Parent
5. Positive Adoption Language: Choose to Parent

Expectant parents have every right to choose to parent over choosing an adoption plan. A negative term associated with this is "choosing to keep the child."

Positive Adoption Language: Placed a Child
6. Positive Adoption Language: Placed a Child

Birth parents choose to place their children for adoption-- they don't "put them up for adoption," "give them up," or "give them away."

Positive Adoption Language: My Child
7. Positive Adoption Language: My Child

A child that was placed for adoption is that family's child. They are their son, daughter, brother, sister, niece, nephew, granddaughter, grandson, cousin, etc. They are not an "adopted child" nor do you need to differentiate them from biological children by using terms such as "your own child."

Positive Adoption Language: International Adoption
9. Positive Adoption Language: International Adoption

When adopting from another country, don't use the term "Foreign Adoption." More positive terms include "Intercountry Adoption" and "International Adoption."

Positive Adoption Language: Child with Special Needs
10. Positive Adoption Language: Child with Special Needs

Avoid the terms "handicapped child" or "special-needs child." The child is a whole person who happens to have special needs. When you look at the definition of a child with special needs, you'll realize it could apply to everyone in the world at one point in their life or another. Celebrate abilities-don't focus on disabilities.

Positive Adoption Language: Failed Placement
11. Positive Adoption Language: Failed Placement

A negative term would be "Failed Adoption." Until that baby is placed, the birth parents have the right to choose to parent. There are no adoption contracts that would force a mother to place her child (as an adoptive mom, I got that question a lot before placement). Adoption isn't easy and making the choice to either parent or place is not an easy decision. After a "failed placement," both the expectant parents and the adoptive couple will both be going through a lot of pain, so be loving and sensitive to everyone involved.

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Terra Cooper

Terra Cooper is a Staff Storyteller at Adoption.com. She is a mother of three-- two boys and one girl who was adopted. She is also a professional wedding photographer, a self-proclaimed foodie, and a TV/movie addict. Visit her website.


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