On our vacation to Durango, Colorado this summer, we met a pastor and his wife who had a family of 10 or 12 kids, with a majority of them being adopted. I was struck by the way that they talked about adoption, because I have always felt like I did not know how to talk about it, or explain to our family how we would like them to talk about it. The following article was sent to us from our social worker and it may help you know which words to use.

Positive Adoption Language Short List

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 adoption language instead of the negative talk 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.

Positive language                  Negative language

Birthparent                                            Real parent

Biological parent                                  Natural parent

Birth child                                              Own child or Real child

My child                                               Adopted child; Own child

Born to unmarried parents                    Illegitimate

Terminate parental rights                      Give up

Make an adoption plan                       Give away

To parent                                              To keep

Waiting child                                        Adoptable child; Available child

Biological father or Birth Father             Real Father

Making contact with                            Reunion

Parent                                                   Adoptive parent

International adoption                         Foreign adoption

Adoption triad                                      Adoption triangle

Permission lo sign a release                  Disclosure

Search                                                  Track down parents

Child placed for adoption                    An unwanted child

Court termination                                  Child taken away

Child with special needs                      Handicapped child

Child from abroad                                Foreign child

Was adopted                                       Is adopted

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 gels the wrong impression that only birth parents 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 adoption language with the hopes of impacting others so that this language will someday become the norm.

This Article was on several websites and was reprinted from OURS Magazine, May/June 1992