Using positive adoption language

Lately I’ve seen several blogs dedicated to the language of adoption. How to talk about adoption, birth parents, adoptive parents etc. As our oldest daughter is nearing 4 years old, we realise we need to start talkimg more and more about her adoption and what a positive thing it is in our home.

This piece from also gives good ideas on the terminology to use.

The way we speak and the words we use when talking about adoption will directly influence the language our neighbors, friends, and family use when they talk about adoption. It is important to use positive adoption language when talking because it will effect the way our children feel about their adoption story. If we are constantly sharing that they were “given up” by their “real parents” how is that going to make them feel about their adoption story? Rather, we should say that they were placed into our homes by their birth parents. Adoption is all about love and we need to share that love, and out love for adoption.

Birth Parents

People who conceive give birth to, and place their child for adoption. They do not become a birth parent until after placement. Before placement they are still an expectant parent.

real mom = birth mom

real dad = birth father

real family = birth family

Using the term “real” implies that adoptive parent relationships are somehow fake and not as important as biological relationships. Birth parents and adoptive parents are both real and important to a child. Both can have meaningful relationships with a child.

Adoptive Parents

adoptive dad = dad

adoptive mom = mom

adoptive family = family

You do not need to address that you are an adoptive family unless it is specific to the conversation.

Placement & Adoption

going to adopt out = making an adoption plan

Making an adoption plan implies that birth parents thought about their options and created an adoption plan and were responsible for their decision to place their child.

gave up = placed

adopted out = placed

abandoned = placed

put up for adoption = placed

Gave up, adopted out, abandoned, and put up for adoption all imply that no thought or love went into an adoption plan. Birth parents lovingly place their child into a family.

keep the child = parenting

Not all expectant parents who make an adoption plan end up placing their child. Rather than saying “they kept it,” we should acknowledge that they are parenting their child.


The light that we shed on adoption will directly influence those around us. Our children’s self-image and self-esteem will be effected by the language we use when describing our adoption journeys. It is our responsibility to politely correct people when they use negative language and educate them on the correct terms. By educating our neighbors, friends, and family on the love that comes from adoption, we will show our kids that adoption is something to celebrate and to be proud of.

There are many more good posts on this topic at


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