The language of adoption has changed as the practice of adoption has evolved. One rarely hears terms such as illegitimate child anymore. But it is still common to hear other words and phrases that are no longer accurate or neutral. Certain terms have the effect of closing doors and serving as barriers to having an open discussion about adoption; such as “give away” one’s baby. Words can also be hurtful and stigmatizing to the individuals in the adoption circle; namely the parents who make an adoption plan, the parents who adopt and the child. If you are an adoptive parent and someone asks about your child’s “real” parent – that can be hurtful. Or if you are a parent who made an adoption plan for your child; being asked why you “gave away” your child discredits the thought, time and selflessness it took to make that plan!
There are at least 6 million people in the U.S. who were adopted into their families, and the number of Americans touched by adoption exceeds 100 million. Therefore when speaking about adoption, it is imperative to use accurate and adoption neutral language. One should consider describing adoption as a process, not a label. Also one should think about the words he/she uses so as to become more sensitive to underlying prejudices and stereotypes.
Below are some examples of negative words and phrases along with the accurate and appropriate adoption language to use.
Adopt out, give away Make an adoption plan
Keep the baby Make a parenting plan
Real parent Biological or birth parent
Own child, Adopted child My child
Unwanted child Child released for adoption
Foreign adoption International adoption
Illegitimate child Born to unmarried parents
Adoption Triangle Adoption triad, circle or