Adoption is a beautiful thing that has touched the lives of many people in a very positive way. How we talk about adoption is important. The language we use can have a significant effect on how others think and feel about adoption. The words we choose to use when talking about adoption can paint adoption as either a positive or negative thing.

Often, we may not even realize that the terms we use when talking about adoption are negative or inappropriate.  Just by making a few simple changes in our adoption vocabulary, we can paint a more positive view of adoption and the people involved in it. We can also help to dispel common adoption myths by using appropriate adoption language, thus creating a more positive view of adoption in general. Here are some ideas to help you replace negative adoption language with positive adoption language.

A common myth is that expectant parents who choose an adoption plan for their child do so because they “don’t want” the child. This is far from the truth. Expectant parents who chose adoption love their child and put a lot of thought into the decision. Using phrases such as “made an adoption plan”, “chose adoption”, and “placed their child for adoption” convey the message that the decision was made thoughtfully and lovingly. Saying things like “gave up”, “put up for adoption”, or “adopted out” imply that no thought or love were involved in the decision.
Terms to avoid: gave up, gave away, put up, abandoned, adopted out
Use these terms instead:
placed, made an adoption plan, chose adoption

Another common mistake in adoption language is to refer to the biological or birth parents as the “real parents.” This implies that adoptive parents are not “real parents.” Adoptive parents assume all responsibilities for adopted children just as they would if the child had been physically born to them. Can you imagine being asked about your child, “So do you know who their real parents are? Do you have contact with their real parents?”  Adoptive parents are just as much a “real parent” as anyone else is. It is more appropriate to use the terms birth parents or biological parents instead of real parents or natural parents.
Terms to avoid:
real parents, natural parents, real mom, real dad
Use these terms instead: 
birth parents, biological parents, birth mom, birth father, first parents

Along those same lines, it is inappropriate to refer to a biological child as someone’s “own child” in an attempt to differentiate children who were adopted from biological children. This implies that a child who was adopted is not truly that family’s child.  If you must differentiate, use the terms biological child and child who was adopted.  But keep in mind that any child in the family, no matter how they came to the family, is that family’s child and the same terms should apply to each child in the family. For example, there is no need to say, “He’s my adopted son.” “He is my son” applies just as much to a son who was adopted as it does to a son who was biologically born to the parents.
Terms to avoid: own child, adopted child
Use these terms instead: biological child, my child