I've been noodling over a post about this anyway, since we occasionally get a comment that uses negative adoption language. Someone recently said S was "pretty close to being mine" because she came to us at 2 days of age. I assured her that S was well and truly ours, legally and otherwise.
I'll admit I'm not always as consistent as I should be with certain terminology. So here we go. This information is derived in part from information provided early in our adoption by our agency.
The words we choose say a lot about how we really think. Using positive adoption language means choosing words that show respect for all participants in the adoption (birthparents, adoptive parents, and adoptees). Using positive adoption language can help validate adoption as an option to build a family, just as birth is. Both are important, but one is not better than the other.
- Birthparents should be described as such. Using the term real parent or natural parent implies that the adoptive parents are imaginary, or artificial.
- Mom, Dad, or parent are fine, and don't need to be preceeded by "adoptive". There are certain situations where it is germane to conversation, but not usually.
- Birthparents don't abandon, relinquish, or surrender their child, or put their child up for adoption. Birthparents make an adoption plan, just as some biological parents make a birth plan. Birthparents are actively involved in the decision to place a child for adoption, and their involvement should be reflected in the language we use. And you can only imagine how an adoptee feels when someone says their birthparents abandoned or surrendered them.
- My adopted child is my own child, just as much as any biological child would be.
- S was adopted (vs S is adopted). I'm guilty of this every so often. The point of this type of language is to emphasize the fact that, while adoption is a part of her life, it's not the end-all and be-all of her life. She may have been adopted, but she's also tall-ish, has blue eyes, and loves bananas. As I've mentioned before, this is one of the fine lines I struggle with. I want adoption to be part of her life and something to be a positive thing, but I don't want it to define her.