I’m Not “Giving Up” My Baby

The words we use to talk about adoption sometimes carry negative meanings. It’s very important to use positive, accurate language when discussing this subject.

For example, the terms “give up” or “put up for adoption” don’t accurately describe or do justice to the birth parent’s decision-making process and responsible choice. Instead, say “make an adoption plan” or “choose adoption.”

The list below shows commonly misused words and/or phrases, and suggests substitutes.

Don’t use Because Instead, say:
Real, Natural parent Implies that adoptive relationships are artificial, tentative. Birth or Biological parents
Own child Suggests that adoptive relationships are less important than biological relationships. Birth child, child by birth
To keep Children are not possessions, and they need care, love, and commitment. It’s not like “keeping” a thing. To parent
Closed adoption Implies that the experience of adoption, rather than just contact between parents, is over. Confidential adoption
Taken away, given up Denotes that children are stolen or forgotten rather than adopted legally and with forethought. Birth parents always “keep” feelings for their children. Termination of parental rights
Is adopted Adoption is a one-time event, not a definition of a person. Was adopted
Available, unwanted Waiting children are wanted. The right family just has not been found, and they are not available to whoever is interested. In need of a family, waiting
Adopted child, adoptive parents In most contexts, qualifiers are not needed. Adoption creates a full, permanent relationship. Son, daughter; or mom, dad
Illegitimate Children born to unmarried parents should never be labeled or stigmatized. No replacement
Give away, put up Does not accurately describe the birth parent’s decision-making process and responsible choice. Make an adoption plan; choose adoption
Hard to place Labels the child and unfairly places blame on him or her for needing an adoptive family. Child who has special needs, waiting child
Foreign adoption While more acceptable in the past, today “foreign” has negative connotations. International adoption


Watch Christine’s Journey to Adoption, and how the words of her teachers and classmates affected her.