Quick Primer on Positive Adoption Language

Most comments are made without the intent to harm. Here's a quick guide to the two most misused phrases.

Kacey Bailey April 02, 2015
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It seems every time the news is on that somebody is offended by something that someone said, somewhere. Most comments are made nonchalant, either without intended offense or out of plain ignorance. As a personal preference, I use my best judgement on whether or not it’s appropriate to correct, to educate. Other people I know will always correct, which works for their personalities. Then, there are some who just get upset, expecting everybody to know what is polite and what is not. There are some terms that are commonly misused in the adoption community. These are barring the ones that are made to be hurtful, stinging comments but rather made out of not knowing how to use the proper terms. The main points I would like to emphasize are this:

–Birth parents and adoptive parents are all real parents. Just in different ways. Yes, birth parents are parents biologically. There are roots there that are accepted differently by each person who is adopted. Adoptive parents are the child’s parents. They are the ones who worry about school supplies, making sure the child eats a healthy meal, baseball games, and lectures about staying out past curfew. If you need to clarify for a question or statement, it’s usually best to refer to the birth parents as “birth parents” and adoptive parents as “parents.”

–Birth parents do not give up a child like they give up Oreos when starting a new diet. They place a child into a home full of love, support, and stability. This is not a decision made lightly. Some birth parents don’t bother with differentiating, but most of the birth parents I know find it insulting to insinuate that they gave away their child. It sounds harsh and impersonal, like there was no thought or care put into the decision when, in fact, it was the exact opposite. Placing a child is different than giving up a child.

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Kacey Bailey

Kacey is a birth mom of five years. She placed when she was 21 and has since received her bachelor's degree from Utah Valley University and married her college sweetheart. After years of building her career, she moved into writing and found a love in adoption advocacy. Working from home where she can raise her family is her favorite way to spend her time. Since adoption has created such defining moments in her life, she spends her time advocating its benefits and helping other birth mothers in their journeys.


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