Language is a funny thing. You can use words that mean one thing to you but something entirely different to someone else. Without realizing it, when we talk about adoption, it can be easy to create misconceptions or even be hurtful.

One example is using the term “birth parent” or “birth family” instead of “real parent.” After all, a parent who adopts a child is just as much a “real” parent. Being aware of the language you use offers all parties the respect and dignity they deserve.

Another example is using positive phrases that reflect the thoughtful decision birth parents make out of love for their child. Instead of phrases like “give up a child” or “give a child away,” notice the difference when you say a child was “placed for adoption” or a birth parent “made an adoption plan.”

To someone new to the adoption community, these may seem like subtle differences. But when you enter a new world, there are often experiences and emotions you haven’t encountered and have no way of understanding until you walk in those shoes.

This is more than being picky about words or about what is correct. By being aware of adoption language — terms that put people first rather than labels — you can help create positive understandings and mindsets and a greater appreciation for adoption and everyone involved.

At the center of all this, and the conversation, are children. From a young age, they are listening, and they understand more than we realize. Even if they don’t understand the full definition or meaning of a term, they hear the tone it’s said in. And through language and interaction, children begin to identify themselves and develop self-awareness and self-esteem.

Adoption is becoming more and more celebrated in today’s world. It’s a great time to live in when we can witness and be part of new understandings and adoption practices that align with, honor and value the needs of birth parents, parents and children.

… people will never forget how you made them feel.Maya Angelou


Author: Destiny Adoption Services

Destiny Adoption Services is proud to support and guide birth parents and adoptive families on the journey of adoption. We’re a state licensed nonprofit adoption agency with four decades of adoption experience, and our professional team of experts includes moms, adoptive moms and birth mothers who provide compassion combined with trusted resources and skills.