Positive Adoption Language

The language of adoption has changed significantly throughout the decades. In efforts to change perceptions about adoption and the adoption process, many have strived for language that doesn’t include unintentional insults or negative views. Language is an incredibly important tool, and the connotations of certain phrases used when talking about adoption can be demeaning and objectifying when used by people who have not experienced the adoption process.

What is considered the “right” language will always be an evolving concept, and not everyone is going to agree. It’s important to talk about the impact of these words and phrases respectfully and understand the potential harm to parents and children involved in the adoption process.

What Is Positive Adoption Language?

Language surrounding adoption can be used to feed into stigmatizing and negative concepts around the process. Positive adoption language aims to correct the words and phrases that may carry insulting or demeaning meanings – even when used with no malice. Although there is much less negative stigma around adoption at this point in time, positive adoption language is still important for encouraging compassion and empathy.

The use of phrases like “real parents” and “given up for adoption” is very common, but unfortunately, it comes with very negative and hurtful meanings. These phrases suggest that an adoptive family is somehow lesser than a child’s biological parents or suggest that a child’s birth parents did not make a deliberate and difficult choice to place a child for adoption and simply “gave up.”

Positive adoption language places the focus on adoption as a choice made by birth parents who are not able or not ready to be parents. It shifts that language to be respectful to birth parents, children, and adoptive parents.

What Phrases Can Benefit From Positive Adoption Language?

Several terms and phrases have been commonly updated under positive adoption language. You may want to swap such phrases as:

  • Birth parents instead of real parents
  • Biological mother, father, or parent, instead of natural mother, father, or parent
  • Mother, father, or parent, rather than adoptive parent
  • Making an adoption plan, placing a child for adoption, or terminating parental rights, instead of giving up a child for adoption, putting them up for adoption, or abandoning a child
  • Unintended pregnancy instead of unwanted pregnancy
  • A child was adopted rather than a child is adopted (it is a process that has ended)
  • Birth child or biological child instead of natural child
  • Your child rather than your adopted child

Not every individual involved in the adoption process will agree with these phrases. Language is always evolving, as are opinions on language. Because of this, it is important to be respectful of the wishes of those who are impacted most by the language.

Opting for positive adoption language destigmatizes adoption and helps people see it as the loving process it can be. While these changes may seem overly particular, keep in mind that language has significant power; phrases with negative connotations can convey harmful thoughts even if you did not intend them.

Why Does Positive Adoption Language Matter?

Language informs our perspectives, and negative language can do a lot to devalue and disrespect the families involved in the adoption process. When you are not involved in the process, it may not feel important. However, the language used in common culture can disrespect the struggle, joy, and individual experiences of both parents and children in adoptions. It can also lead outsiders to have negative notions about adoption.

Birth parents make the choice to offer their child a different opportunity when placing them up for adoption. Positive adoption language exists to respect the decisions of birth parents, the identity of adopted children, and the importance of an adoptive family.


Q: What Is Honest Adoption Language?

A: Honest adoption language is the term used for the language that evolved from positive adoption language. Some individuals who have been involved in the adoption process feel that positive adoption language does not address the loss that can result from the process. Honest adoption language attempts to avoid the negative stigma of old language while recognizing the real identity of adopted individuals.

Q: What Is a Better Way to Say “Given Up for Adoption”?

A: There are less harmful ways to say that a child was “given up for adoption,” including that the parent “made an adoption plan,” “placed their child up for adoption,” or “terminated their parental rights.” Positive adoption language emphasizes the difficult but necessary choice that a parent makes when placing a child for adoption.

Q: Why Shouldn’t You Say, “Put Up for Adoption”?

A: Phrases like “putting a child up for adoption” or “giving up a child” objectify a child and demean the deliberate and significant choice a parent makes when deciding to place a child up for adoption. Negative phrases emphasize a stigma around adoption that suggests birth parents suddenly decided to give up a child with no thought or planning. Positive language makes it clear that birth parents took the time with their choice and is less objectifying of the children being adopted.

Q: What Are the Benefits of Positive Adoption Language?

A: Positive adoption language emphasizes the value of an adoptive family and doesn’t diminish their importance in their adopted child’s life.

The use of positive language can help children who were adopted. Many children who were placed up for adoption may struggle with uncertainty in their sense of self and their self-worth. Positive language can help combat those feelings. For some children, negative language can alienate them from their families.

Positive adoption language also keeps a family’s information private. For many families, adoption is an incredibly personal decision and process. Positive language can help maintain the family’s privacy.

Family Ever After Provides Support for Biological Parents

Positive adoption language aims to benefit all individuals in the adoption process by respecting them and the choices they make. Birth mothers looking to place their child up for adoption are often making a difficult but essential choice.

If you are a birth mother making this decision, Family Ever After wants to give you the support, care, compassion, and knowledge you need along every part of the adoption process. We can help you explore your options and determine what is right for your future and the future of your child. We know how difficult this can be for parents and want to provide you with the respect and understanding you deserve. Contact our team today.