Positive and Negative Adoption Language

Adoption, Adoption & Beyond News, Blog, Parenting, Thoughts

Adoption Language is important to know in the process of adoption but can be confusing.

In full transparency, like many others, when I started the adoption journey, I did not know the proper language to use. Even today, it can still be a struggle to know and use all the correct language, and that’s okay! It doesn’t mean that you intend to harm and there is always space to learn and grow.

Have you ever heard the phrase “put up for adoption”?

Did you know that phrase originates from the orphan trains? If you aren’t familiar with these trains, orphan trains were locomotives that brought children from large cities in the east to the midwest. These children were placed on stages and families were able to choose which child they wanted to adopt. Because of this history, the phrase “put up for adoption” is actually considered negative terminology, despite its vastly popular use.

Have you heard of the phrase “expectant mom” and “hopeful adoptive parents”?

Up until very recently, “expectant mom” was commonly used in the adoptive process, but it is actually negative terminology, as well. The term “expectant” means joyful and happy, when many moms may not be joyful or happy that they are experiencing an unplanned pregnancy. “Expecting mom” is the more appropriate term to use in these situations. The negative terminology that goes along with this is calling birth parents the “adoptive parents” before the child is placed for adoption. This is a common mistake that I still make, too! For 25+ years I used the terminology wrong, and it takes time to train yourself on the proper terminology.

The proper terminology to use in adoption is “birth parent”, “first parent”, or “biological parent”.

It is important to avoid terms like “real parent” or “natural parent”, as this assumes that the adopted child is unnatural. Likewise, “placed for adoption” or “made an adoption plan” are proper terminology, whereas “giving up” or “put up for adoption” are improper terminology. “Decided to parent” is preferred terminology to “keeping the baby”, as “Keeping” the baby turns the baby into an item, rather than treating the situation as a decision made by the parent. And finally, “unable to conceive” is proper terminology compared to “being able to have your own children”, like the children you adopt are your own children!

Language can be a tricky thing, and it’s okay to ask questions! If you aren’t sure, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. Trust me, in the long run, you’ll be glad you did!

What did you think of this week’s All About Adoption Episode? Do you have any questions about adoption language? We’d love to hear them!

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Steffany ave

Founder & Director


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Meet Steffany Aye, the heart behind Adoption & Beyond since its inception in 1998. Fueled by a deep passion for supporting both birth and adoptive parents, Steffany's journey as an adoptive parent has continued the foundation for this non-profit adoption agency.

Drawing from more than 25 years of dedicated experience, Steffany and her team are committed to crafting warm, thriving families through child-centered adoptions. Their inclusive services, free from any form of discrimination, reflect Steffany's unwavering dedication to the beautiful tapestry of adoption.

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