"How often misused words generate misleading thoughts." — Herbert Spencer

Tainted Perspective

It is difficult to understand a situation until you have the perspective that comes with going through it. With adoption, most people haven't experienced it. As a result, most adoption education is informal. We learn about it through negative adoption experiences highlighted in the news, or movies that take dramatic spins in order to engage the audience. As a result, a misleading adoption language has developed. One way to clarify these misconceptions is to look at the way adoption is commonly discussed.

Commonly Used Adoption Terms

Below is a list of words found at AdoptiveFamilies.com that are commonly utilized when discussing adoption. The list shows a positive way to communicate a term that holds negative connotations.

Positive                                              Negative

Birth Parent                                        Real Parent 

Biological Parent                                 Natural Parent

Birth Child                                           Own Child

Terminate Parental Rights                  Give Up

Make an Adoption Plan                       Give Away

To Parent                                            To Keep

Biological or Birth  Father                    Real Father

Parent                                                 Adoptive Parent

Search                                                 Track Down Parents

Child Placed for Adoption                    Unwanted Child

Court Termination                               Child Taken Away/Lost

Child From Abroad                               Foreign Child

Talk With Family and Friends

Another way to improve the way adoption is discussed is to talk with your family and friends about why certain verbiage has a negative impact. It may be difficult with passing acquaintances, but family and friends are usually happy to learn.

Two terms that can ignite the most hurt and confusion are “Real Family” and “Give Up.”

Real Family – Birth Family

When discussing adoption, others around you may be unsure about what to call the birth family. Many times people utilize the term “real parent.” This phrase can be confusing to the child and hurtful to both the birth family and adopting family. A loving term that a good friend uses to describe her son’s birth mom, is tummy mommy. If you are unsure of what to call the biological parents, ask the biological parents or adoptive family what they prefer.

Give Up for Adoption – Place for Adoption

Whatever has led a birth family to decide on an adoption plan, it likely wasn’t an easy process. It is also not a process where a family decides to “give up” their child. This term could not be farther from the truth when it comes to the pain, love, and emotions involved. Whether the birth parents' rights were terminated or they made an independent decision, a birth family doesn’t “give up” their child. They make an adoption plan, placing their child for adoption, and into a home that they believe their child will thrive in. This concept is especially important for the adopted child to be aware of.

Read the extensive list of adoption terms.

When making a change to your adoption language, it is important to think of the child's perspective. For an adopted child, the difference in the words they hear about adoption can change the way they view themselves.  Your change can also be contagious to those around you, correcting adoption misconceptions in a powerful way.