We all know how long certain things can stay in our mind, with negative usually hanging out longer than positive. I firmly believe that not everyone who uses "negative" adoption language is doing it in a mean, hurtful way. Honestly, I've used some of these myself!
I feel like the topic of "positive adoption language" has come up a lot recently. I do think we should be using words that help situations rather than hurt them, but being politically correct all the time is hard. Because at some point, someone is going to get offended, and keeping everyone happy is unachievable.
That said, I want to talk about adoption language, the words deemed positive and negative. I am going to give my personal opinion on how I feel about them, if I have used them myself, and how those words have effected me throughout my journey.
Disclaimer: You may not agree with what I have to say, which I respect. But, please respect my personal opinion in return. Other adoptees may have their own thoughts about these same words, so I am not speaking for all adoptees either.
Here are the top seven phrases I have come across over the topic of "adoption language."
Honestly, I only encountered this phrase with peers, kids who weren't familiar with adoption and obviously didn't mean any harm by it. Especially when I would explain that I had "two sets of parents without divorce" (definitely not the best way to put it, but I've matured a little since middle school 🙄). I would then explain I was adopted, so talking about my parents and bio-parents would get confusing for them.
As an adoptee, I understand that people are talking about my biological parents when they say this. Even when I was younger. I would just correct them saying, "Well, my parents are my real parents." And usually, the other person would agree, and realize they just didn't know what to call my first parents.
Personally, I was never hurt by this phrase.
And for others unsure of a more "PC" term, you can use biological parents, first parents, or bios.
Just like the phrase "real parents," I assume people are just trying to keep the separate couples apart while they talk. Yes, my parents are my adoptive parents, but I have never seen them as anything other than parents. They don't need the extra word in front.
Personally, I was never hurt by this phrase either.
A more "PC" term is parents, that's it.
Sometimes it's very easy to see that a child is adopted. So I've never completely understood why they need to be pointed out specifically. Others, like my sister and I, physically look "fit in," so it's not brought up.
We were never introduced as "Lyndy and her sister, the adopted ones, and the youngest one is theirs/ours."
Once a child is placed, well really once a child is in their home, that child is theirs. You do not need to distinguish between adopted or foster child. So, your "PC" term is child, no other description necessary.
Each of these are families. It doesn't really matter HOW they became a family, or if they chose to share why they became a family. All that matters, is that God brought them together in His time.
GAVE UP/GIVE AWAY
Full disclosure: I am guilty of describing my adoption my saying "they gave me up for adoption." Mainly because I didn't know how else to say it.
I do remember correcting some peers in middle school when they would say "why did they give you up," but I don't remember being offended by the phrase "giving up for adoption." Not sure why they were so different?
So, your "PC" term for this is "placed for adoption."
Again, I'm guilty of using this term to describe my own adoption as well. Maybe it's because there wasn't PC terms before, maybe it was my way of coping with having full younger brothers who weren't placed. Whatever the reason, I have used this term.
I don't remember if I have ever been offended by someone else using this term. But I do remember justifying the reason I wasn't "kept," I also remember being asked "why didn't they keep you?" All of these I justified with: "they were young," "they knew they weren't ready to raise a child," "it was for the best." All phrases I have used in my own story.
I don't want to say others won't get offended, so your "PC" term is "to parent" or "make an adoption plan." I actually like this phrase, because I think it gives a better picture of what is happening in adoption. Birthparents are choosing whether or not they are going to parent, not whether or not they love their child.
This is a touchy subject for most adoptees. The feeling of being unwanted and unloved because of their adoption. I know I struggled with this. I remember being asked why I wasn't wanted, just like above, I would respond the same ways. But the different between "unwanted" and "not kept" is huge and can have crazy impacts.
So, please don't use this phrase. I personally think it is the most hurtful. Instead, you can say "place for adoption."
So this is a weird word to me with adoption. Because to me, the word means to get back together. This isn't the case in adoptions. When there is contact between families, it's not for the child to leave their parents. It's more of a "meet up."
The "PC" term is "making contact," which makes more sense, at least to me. Especially since some adoptees and birth families only have one meet up. They don't all result in continuous contact.
Here's a handy little graphic to help, should you need it.
I feel like all the "PC" terms we have now, weren't around five or ten years ago. I'm proud of the adoption-foster community for being proactive in creating more appropriate terms. But I do not think they are the only way to be positive. True, some people say things in a backhanded way. Others, sincerely didn't mean to hurt anyone's feelings, they just haven't been exposed to the "right" way to say things.
We should be more proactive and encouraging should we need to educate others. Not condemning and hurtful.
Anyways, I hope this helped you see an adoptees point of view on these words a little better.
Jesus lover, wife, momma, teacher, and hopeful writer.