The way we talk and the words we use can say a lot about how we really think. Using positive adoption language means that we choose respectful words for adoptive parents, birth parents, and adoptees. In the 1970s, as adoption organizations developed, since some phrases might have been offensive, there was a need to change the language in common use at the time. Positive adoption language is important since its main premise is that adoption and birth are both completely valid ways of creating a family.
What is Positive Adoption Language?
Positive adoption language means more than just being politically correct. Its purpose is to embrace the true spirit of adoption, to build self-esteem, and to show respect for all involved in an adoption process. Many adoptive families choose the use of positive adoption language to combat all negative and inaccurate language descriptions of adoption.
The Importance of Positive Adoption Language
The fact that a person is adopted should be mentioned only if it is essential to the story. If it is mentioned, the relevance should be clear in the context of the story. This doesn't mean that adoption is something you don't want to talk about, it is just a reminder of how it is one of many events in your life and it shouldn't be considered as anything bigger or of greater importance. The best way to present positive adoption language is by illustrating how it should be used:
- A child who has joined a family through adoption is simply your son or your daughter. It is not necessary to mention adoption or refer to a child as an adopted child since that might mean you don't accept him or her as a true part of your family. If it is necessary to mention adoption, use the phrase, “She/he is adopted,” not “She/he was adopted.”
- Adopted parents are raising a baby and by that, they should be referred to as the father, mother, and parents. The genetic parents of a child can be referred as the birth or biological parents, not as real or natural parents.
- Avoid words like abandoned, given up, or unwanted. In general, this does not accurately describe the actions of the birthparents.
- Infertility often plays a role in the adoption process. If so, avoid language suggestions that the parents couldn't have a baby of their own. That implies that the baby they have adopted is not theirs, although it is by law and by love.
In most cases, people adopt a child simply because they want to parent a child and that doesn't make them different from any other parents. The way we talk and the words we use can say a lot about our values. Those values are something we pass on to our children. By using positive adoption language, we are passing on the true value of adoption as a beautiful and joyous way of creating a family.