Positive Adoption Language

By incorporating positive adoption language into conversations, you can help combat common adoption stereotypes while educating others. Let this list be your guide.

Positive Adoption Language When Talking with Others

The way we talk — and the words we choose — say a lot about what we think and value. When we use positive adoption language, we say that adoption is a way to build a family — just as birth is. Both are important, and neither is more important than the other.

Choose the following, positive adoption language instead of the negative talk that helps perpetuate the myth that adoption is second best. By using positive adoption language, you will reflect the true nature of adoption, free of innuendo.

Positive Language

Birth Parent

Biological Parent

Birth Child

My Child

Born to Unmarried Parents

Terminate Parental Rights

Make an Adoption Plan

To Parent

Waiting Child

Birth Father; Biological Father

Making Contact With


International Adoption

Adoption Triad

Permission to Sign a Release


Child Placed for Adoption

Court Termination

Child with Special Needs

Child from Abroad

Was Adopted

Negative Language

Real Parent

Natural Parent

Own Child

Adopted Child; Own Child


Give Up

Take Away

To Keep

Adoptable Child; Available Child



Adoptive Parent

Foreign Adoption

Adoption Triangle


Track Down Parents

An Unwanted Child

Child Taken Away

Handicapped Child

Foreign Child

Is Adopted

Words not only convey facts, they also evoke feelings. When a TV show or movie talks about a “custody battle” between “real parents” and “other parents,” society gets the wrong impression that only birth parents are real parents and that adoptive parent’s aren’t real parents. Members of society may also wrongly concluded that all adoptions are “battles.”

Positive adoption language can stop the spread of misconceptions such as these. By using adoption language, we educate others about adoption. We choose emotionally “correct” words over emotionally-laden words. We speak and write in positive adoption language with the hopes of impacting others so that this language will someday become the norm.


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