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Positive Adoption Language

Positive Adoption Language

The concept of positive adoption language was first introduced in 1979 by Minneapolis social worker Marietta Spencer. Its purpose was to convey respect, dignity, responsibility, and objectivity about the decisions made by expectant parents and adoptive parents during the adoption process.

Why is positive adoption language important?

By using positive adoption language, we help abolish the myth society has perpetuated that adoption is a second-best or lesser alternative.

If you stop and think about what you’re saying, positive adoption language is really just common sense. For example, consider the terms, “real parent” and “real family.” These terms imply that an adopted child is not a “real” part of their adoptive family.

When talking about adoption, “give up” or “give away” can slip out of our mouths almost unnoticed, but do these phrases truly describe the act of a mother placing her baby for adoption? Of course not. An extensive amount of difficult consideration and soul searching goes into an expectant mother’s decision to choose adoption for her baby. While birthparents might legally give up their parental rights, they certainly do not give up on their child or give up loving them. In fact, it’s just the opposite. In choosing adoption, the birthparents made a strong and selfless choice by putting the needs of their child ahead of themselves.

There are Better Ways to Say What You Mean

Instead of contributing to the use of outdated and hurtful terms, those touched by adoption can change the world for the better by using positive adoption language. You may have to go through a period of retraining your minds and hearts while you carefully choose the words you use to describe adoption. It’s very likely you will need to gently educate and correct your family, friends, and coworkers.

Instead of... Say...
Real Parent or Natural Parent Birth Parent, First Parent, or Biological Parent
My Adopted Child My Child
Adoptive Parent Parent
Give Up for Adoption Place for Adoption, Create an Adoption Plan, Choose Adoption, Choose an Adoptive Family
Relinquish, Surrender, Abandon Transfer of or Terminate Parental Rights
Child Is Adopted Child Was Adopted
Unwanted Child Child Placed for Adoption, Unplanned Child, Unexpected Child
Illegitimate Child Child Born to Unmarried Parents
Biracial Child Mixed-Race Child
Handicapped Child Child with Special Needs
To Keep a Child To Parent a Child
Track Down Birthparents Search for Birthparents
Reunion with Birthparents Making Contact with Birthparents

What we say and the words we use communicate a lot about our values. When we use positive adoption language, we educate others about adoption and we also say that, like birth, adoption is just another way to build a family. Both ways are important, but one is not necessarily better than the other. By using positive adoption language, you'll reflect the true, positive nature of adoption!

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