Positive Adoption Language
The way we talk - and the words we choose - say a lot about what we think and value. When we use positive adoption language, we say that adoption is a way to build a family just as birth is. Both are important, but one is not more important than the other.

Choose the following positive language instead of the negative language that helps perpetuate the myth that adoption is second best. By using positive adoption language, you'll reflect the true nature of adoption, free of innuendo.

Birthparent Real parent, natural parent 
Biological parent  Natural parent 
Biological father Begetter
Parent Adoptive parent 
Birthchild My own child 
My child My adopted child, my own child, a child of my own
Child with special needs Hard-to-place child, handicapped child
Child from abroad  Foreign child 
Was adopted Is adopted
Make an adoption plan, choose adoption Give up, give away, surrender, relinquish, place the child
Child entrusted to adoptive parents  Child placed for adoption, unwanted child 
To parent  To keep
Born to unmarried parents Illegitimate
Waiting child Adoptable child, free child, available child
International adoption  Foreign adoption 
Adoption triad  Adoption triangle 
Permission to sign a release Disclosure 
Search, locate  Track down parents
Making contact with Reunion
Terminate parental rights Give up 
Court termination  Child taken away 
The adoption The placement
Where is your child from?
Where did you get your child?

Words not only convey facts, they also evoke feelings. When a TV movie talks about a "custody battle" between "real parents" and "other parents", society gets the wrong impression that only expectant parents or birthparents are real parents and that adoptive parents aren't real parents. Members of society may also wrongly conclude that all adoptions are "battles".

Positive adoption language can stop the spread of misconceptions such as these. By using positive adoption language, we educate others about adoption. We choose emotionally "correct" words over emotionally-laden words. We speak and write in positive language with the hopes of impacting others so that this language will someday become the norm.

By Marc Widelock, CA Adoption Attorney
copyright 1989 - 2050

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