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Stop Using These 5 Negative Adoption Terms

Is she adopted?
What are your real parents like?
Are you going to give the baby up?

For anyone touched by adoption, insensitive questions and comments like these are all too common.

While certain words and phrases may seem innocent to those who are unfamiliar with and curious about adoption, this negative adoption language can be harmful for all members of the adoption triad.
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Here are five of the most common negative adoption terms, along with alternatives that you can use to promote a more positive and accepting view of adoption.

1. Instead of “real parents,” say “birth parents.”

The role of adoptive parents and the love they have for their children is very “real,” and the term “real parents” dismisses that. Instead, use the term “birth parents” or “birth family” when referring to a child’s biological parents — this is more respectful of both families and the important role each plays in the creation of the family.

2. Instead of “adoptive parents,” just say “parents.”

Qualifying a family as being “adoptive” implies that they are not a true family or that they are somehow second best. Instead, just say “family,” “child,” or “parents.” There’s no need to qualify it with the adjective “adoptive.”

3. Instead of “give up” or “give away,” birth mothers “choose adoption,” “place a child for adoption” or “make an adoption plan.”

Women are not “giving up” by choosing adoption. In fact, birth mothers are making a proactive, positive and selfless decision when they place their children for adoption.

4. Instead of “keeping the baby,” expectant mothers may “choose to parent.”

The term “keeping” objectifies the child and diminishes the difficult choice a woman makes when deciding between adoption and parenting. “Choosing to parent” is more respectful of women considering adoption, as well as their children.

5. Instead of “is adopted,” a person “was adopted.”

Adoption can be a very positive experience for all members of the adoption triad, and it’s something to be celebrated — but it also does not define a person’s identity. Saying a person “is adopted” suggests that adoption is their sole defining characteristic.

Instead, a person “was adopted” into a family, and now that person is a part of that family.

By using the correct vocabulary when talking about adoption, you can help spread adoption awareness and encourage others to view adoption in a more positive light.