Using Positive Adoption Language

The way you speak about your adoption matters--especially to your child. Stay positive.

Jessie Lundell June 01, 2014
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The way we speak and the words we use when talking about adoption will directly influence the language our neighbors, friends, and family use when they talk about adoption. It will also have a powerful effect on the way our children feel about their adoption story. If we are constantly sharing that they were “given up” by their “real parents,” how will they feel about their adoption stories? Rather, we should say that they were placed into our homes by their birth parents. Adoption is all about love and we need to share that love, and our love for adoption.

Birth Parents

People who conceive give birth to and place their child for adoption. They do not become a birth parent until after placement. Before placement they are still an “expectant parent.”

real mom = birth mom

real dad = birth father

real family = birth family

Using the term “real” implies that adoptive parent relationships are somehow fake and not as important as biological relationships. Birth parents and adoptive parents are both real and important to a child. Both can have meaningful relationships with a child.

Adoptive Parents

adoptive dad = dad

adoptive mom = mom

adoptive family = family

You do not need to address that you are an adoptive family unless it is specific to the conversation.

Placement & Adoption

going to adopt out = making an adoption plan

“Making an adoption plan” implies that birth parents thought about their options, created an adoption plan, and were responsible for their decision to place their child.

gave up = placed

adopted out = placed

abandoned = placed

put up for adoption = placed

“Gave up,” “adopted out,” “abandoned,” and “put up for adoption” all imply that no thought or love went into an adoption plan. Birth parents lovingly place their child into a family.

keep the child = parenting

Not all expectant parents who make an adoption plan end up placing their child. Rather than saying “they kept it,” we should acknowledge that they are parenting their child.

In Conclusion

The light we shed on adoption will directly influence those around us. Our children’s self-image and self-esteem will be affected by the positive language we use when describing our adoption journeys. It is our responsibility to politely correct people when they use negative language and educate them on the correct terms. By educating our neighbors, friends, and family on the love that comes from adoption, we will show our kids that adoption is something to celebrate and to be proud of.

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Jessie Lundell

Jessie loves CrossFit, competitive waterskiing, cooking, and eating dinner as a family every night. She is the mother, through adoption, of one very active 2-year-old and a new baby boy! Jessie and her husband are the chairs over a local adoption group, United for Adoption, and enjoy advocating for open adoption and educating the community about adoption.


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