“My parents are my parents and that’s it.” – Simone Biles

Whenever the topic of adoption is brought to the attention of the media as it was last week during the Olympics, we feel it is a good time to talk about adoption terminology, and the negative effects using the wrong words can have on adoptees.

The subject of “real” parents was brought up by NBC commentator Al Trautwig. It started with his commentary on-air where he said that Biles “was raised by her grandfather and his wife and she calls them mom and dad.” In response to a viewer’s criticism of his comment he then tweeted, “They may be mom and dad but they are NOT her parents.” He has since apologized and removed his tweet.

I’m sure what he was trying to say was “biological” or “birth” parents. To suggest adoptive parents are not “real” parents can cause a disconnect that leaves adoptees feeling like they don’t belong, or that their family isn’t permanent. Talking with your children about adoption – what it means, who birth parents are, and how families are made – early on and often, gives adoptees the security of knowing they do belong and they can ask questions any time. The topic of adoption should never be off limits.

Maybe Al was reaching for an answer as to why Simone is such a gifted athlete, perhaps implying that such a gift must be inherited biologically. Biological gift or not, it takes nurturing of such a gift to bring it to the surface. And that is where real parenting comes in, especially in Simone’s story.  Her parents took her to gymnastics classes, encouraged her, supported her, and allowed her to become the person she is today. “Parent” isn’t just a noun. It is a verb too, an action word, that means caring, supporting, nurturing, and loving. It is also important to note that birth parents who make an adoption plan for their child aren’t “giving up” or “giving away” their child. They are making a “plan” for their child so that they will have the kind of parenting that they are not able to give.

Perhaps this article from Jenn Morson, also an adoptee, says it best: “So to Mr. Trautwig and all of those who see my family, or more widely, see Simone Biles’s family, and instead of seeing love see only technicalities, look again. Ask yourself, what tethers you to your own parents or to your own children? Is it a shared recessive gene that caused you to both have green eyes? Do you immediately think of the fact that you are both blood type B negative? Rather, isn’t it the time your heart was shattered and your father hugged you tightly and let you cry on his shoulder? Isn’t it the moment you let go of the back of the bicycle and your daughter soared away from you, squealing with delight because you gave her the confidence she needed? That is what makes us parents. What makes us sons and daughters. That is what makes us real.”

To read her full article, click this link:


To find out more about LSS Adoption Services, or to RSVP for a free information meeting, contact Hayley Van Den Brink at 605-221-2418/888-201-5061 or Hayley.VanDenBrink@LssSD.org. The next meetings will be held at 6 pm on Tuesday, September 13 in Rapid City, or Thursday, September 15 in Sioux Falls.


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