Positive, Negative


Below is a list of some commonly used negative adoption language and the positive phrases that should be used in their place:

Negative: Real parent
Positive: Birth parent, birth mother, birth father

Negative: Give up/give away child for adoption
Positive: Place child for adoption, make an adoption plan

Negative: To keep
Positive: To parent

Negative: Unwanted child
Positive: Child placed for adoption

Negative: Is adopted
Positive: Was adopted

Negative: Adoptive parent
Positive: Parent

Negative: Handicapped
Positive: Child with special needs

Negative: Illegitimate
Positive: Born to unmarried parents

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  1. Mary

    I’ve seen this list and in general think it’s great. “Real” parent is just so awful, isn’t it? But there are two items I wonder about. One is “adoptive parent” as a negative. I’m an AP and fine with it; it doesn’t mean I’m not a parent to *both* my kiddos! But really it’s “birth parent” that worries me. Maybe it’s because I had Mags? I don’t know. But “birth parent” sounds as if Mickey’s Vietnamese mom was some sort of incubator. I think I prefer “first parent.” Mickey’s other mom didn’t just give birth to him, she loved and cared for him, as best she was able, including bringing him to an orphanage. That sounds a lot like parenting to me, not just giving birth!

    Getting off my soap box now…

  2. Rhonda

    I love the list too but I will say that I too take great pride in being able to be an adoptive parent and wonder why that would be in a negative category? We haven’t gotten into real specifics yet with our girls as they are so young yet so not sure how we will explain birth mom, birth parent, birth family as right now we say a special prayer for our “special family in Guatemala”!

    Thanks for sharing the information. It does give all of us alot to think about as we go along the road of explaining to our very special and much loved children.

  3. I understand why “adoptive parent” is considered negative – to many, usually outside the adoptive community, it connotes a difference and imo a “lesser” form of parent. I mean, I remember when George Burns died, they listed him as the adoptive father to his kids. the man was what? 100 when he died? At what point do we drop “adoptive” and just go with parent?

    Anyhooo…I’m also not a big fan of birth parent. I tend to use bio-parent.


    Hi! 🙂

  4. Mary

    George Burns adopted his kids? How cool is that! I had no idea. I have a bunch of first cousins who were adopted (into three different families). I’m 40, so the process was SOOO different for my aunts and uncles than for us. Imagine what is was like for the Burns all those many years ago.

    Screw the media says I — and yay to George and Gracie for being proud of their family!

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