How to Speak Adoption Like a Pro: A Primer on Positive Adoption Language

Your words are so important. Here are a few things to consider when speaking about adoption.

Kristin Anderson January 23, 2018
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Words are powerful. Adoptive families are used to hearing negative comments, but as awareness improves about the adoption process we are hoping to hear fewer of them. Here are some ways to speak more positively and, frankly, more realistically, about adoption:

1. A birth mother and/or father make an adoption plan or place a child – they do NOT “give up” a child or “put them up” for adoption.

Especially in open adoptions, the biological mother and/or father are giving the child a chance at a better life, a better home, and situation where they do not give up on him or her at all. They have said yes to life. They’ve said yes to contact. They’ve said yes to wanting to know their child.

2. An adopted child has visits or letters or FaceTime with the birth mother - NOT “the real mother.”

A particularly painful term for adoptive moms is when they’re referred to as somehow not real. We’ve been changing that baby’s diaper for 2.5 year now; trust me, things are very real around here. Adoptive moms are the parents. Birth mothers are mothers, but not parents.

3. A family member once told me I should cut down on visits with birth family because she just wanted my child to be all ours.

I honestly didn’t know where to start with that comment at the time, but looking back it’s clear- he is ours. He is also theirs. He is also his own person that belongs to no one, because he is a free person in the USA. Him being in our family will never take away the fact that he came from another family. I don’t want to change that; it’s simple facts. But if someone somehow thinks that my stay-at-home mom efforts are somehow going to be totally forgotten by him because he sees his birth family once in a while, they are mistaken. My son and I spend most of our time together. An hour here or there with birth relatives isn’t going to erase all that time. I have to think a comment like that came out of jealousy – which there needn’t be any of.

4. Birth mothers make an extremely tough decision to place children for adoption, but it’s not because they didn’t want the child.

Don’t ask me why my son’s birth mom “didn’t want him.” She did. Most birth moms want their children. I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m assuming it’d be less than 1% who actually just flat-out don’t care. If that even exists. Birth moms do care, do love, and that’s why they think adoption would be the best plan. You could instead ask why she placed the child for adoption, or just avoid that topic altogether.

5. I’ve been asked how often we let the birth mother see our boy.

Personally, I find this very demeaning to his birth mom – like we’re doing her some grand favor. Without her, he would not be here. She chose us. We all chose open adoption. We GET to see her.

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Kristin Anderson

Kristin Anderson is an adoptive mother who lives with her son, husband, and two crazy dogs. She loves open adoption and is always looking for ways to help in the adoption community. You can find her blog at Looking for Little One.


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