Words Matter. Choose Positive Adoption Language
Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.
A well meaning childhood mantra aimed at helping the bullied. But the reality is that words DO hurt. And beyond hurting, they unconsciously shape our expectations and ideas. The field of adoption is forever growing and changing. But it is still plagued with negative stereotypes about ALL members of the triad. Frequently, those stereotypes are perpetuated by the language we use when speaking about adoption. A quick google search for “positive adoption language” will show you a nice chart of “bad” versus “good” language. I found this one quickly from http://www.itsaboutlove.org.
|Negative Terms||Preferred Terms|
|Gave up her child for adoption||Placed her child for adoption|
|Real parent; natural parent||Birth parent, biological parent|
|His adopted child||His child|
|Illegitimate||Born to unmarried parents|
|Adoptee||Child who was adopted|
|To keep||To parent|
|Adoptable child; available child||Waiting child|
|Foreign adoption||International adoption|
|Track down parents||Search|
|Unwanted child||Child placed for adoption|
|Is adopted||Was adopted|
**I am not endorsing this table except to illustrate that there is a surplus of positive adoption language resources available on the internet and it is extremely easy to find**
Most of these are pretty self explanatory, but I’d like to talk a little further about “birthparent.”
A pregnant woman is not a birthmother. She is a pregnant woman. An expectant mother. Until she gives birth and subsequently places her child with an adoptive family she is not a birthmother. It is reasonable to consider that a woman may be subtle-y coerced to follow through with an adoption plan when she has already been labeled “birthmother” and not simply “mother.” Psychological research has long determined that humans are likely to behave in a way that supports how they are labeled. An ethical adoption depends on a woman choosing to make an adoption plan free of coercion. This is, without dispute, in the best interest of the child.
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