Many terms that people used decades ago are considered inappropriate and insensitive today. While some people bemoan the rise of “political correctness,” others point out that it’s just a heightened awareness and avoidance of words that people find hurtful and even insulting.
People who don’t have first-hand experience with adoption may not realize that it’s discussed in very different terms than it used to be. These terms are generally much more positive about the process and the parties involved — birth parents, adoptive parents and of course children. Let’s look at just two examples.
“Giving up a child for adoption”
That’s how people used to describe what is often a heart-wrenching decision by a child’s birth parents (generally the mother). The preferred language now is “choosing an adoptive family” for their child. Not only is that a kinder, more positive way to describe it, but it’s more accurate. Today, birth mothers often choose the people who will adopt their child – sometimes before they’re even born.
The “real” parents
Too often, people will still ask a child or their adoptive parents who the “real” parents are or if they have any contact with them. That can be confusing to a child and deeply hurtful to adoptive parents. Both sets of parents are in fact a child’s “real” parents. However, children (especially as they get older) often refer to their birth parents as just that and consider their adoptive parents their parents. Indeed, they may be the only parents they’ve ever known.
Whether you’re an adoptive parent or birth parent, you have the right to use whatever terms you prefer for your own family (or those your child prefers, when they’re old enough to have an opinion on it). You and your child also have a right to correct and educate people when they say things you find offensive or inaccurate.
Even if everyone around you (including friends and relatives) isn’t using this positive adoption language, by “adopting” it yourself, you can help remain positive through what can be a long and sometimes frustrating process. Having experienced legal guidance can help things go more smoothly.