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Positive Adoption Language

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Words are important.  They are so important that infants as young as 6 months old can understand some words, despite being unable to speak.  Words also convey both facts and feelings. That is why words have a denotation, or literal meaning, and a connotation, or implication. For example, the phrase “bad apple” literally means a rotten apple, but the implication is that the target of that phrase is a bad person. In the context of adoption, different words can lead to a different perception of the adoption process. They can even influence the decision to place a child for adoption. That is why it is so important to use positive adoption language when describing the adoption process.  Here are three quick examples.

1 – The adoption process starts with the decision to place a child for adoption. Placing a child for adoption is a huge decision, but it isn’t a bad one. That is why it is important to use the term “place for adoption” instead of terms like “giving up for adoption.”  Giving up for adoption conveys the notion that adoption is bad, or at the very least worse than raising a biological child, or that the birth mother is giving up on a child by placing it for adoption. The truth is that placing a child for adoption is no worse than raising a biological child. Sometimes placing a child for adoption is the best choice for a child, especially in situations where the birth mother is unable to provide a safe or healthy environment for her child.

The phrase “giving up for adoption” is also harmful to the child, because it implies that the child was unwanted. This isn’t true. Birth parents place their children for adoption for a variety of reasons, and the decision to place a child for adoption requires a lot of courage and responsibility.

2 – After an adoption is finalized, a child has both birth parents and adoptive parents. Neither are a more or less important part of a child’s life. That is why it is important to use the term “birth parent” instead of terms like “real parent”. Birth parent has a neutral connotation that doesn’t denigrate the fact that an adoptive parent has an equally important role in an adoptee’s life. The term “real parent” implies that an adoptive parent is somehow a less important or unreal part of a child’s life. This simply isn’t true. Parents are the people who raise you and make you the person who you are, not simply those with whom you share a genetic link. Both birth parents and adoptive parents play a crucial role in a child’s upbringing, particularly in open adoptions.  They are both a “real” part of that child’s life.

3 – Finally, an adoptive child was adopted, but that doesn’t mean he or she is simply an adopted child. Adopted children are children. The fact that a child was adopted is simply another part of his or her life story, it isn’t the beginning and ending of the story. That is why it is important to acknowledge that a child was adopted when appropriate without referring to him or her as the adopted child. Labeling a child as the adopted child belittles their status as a human being by defining them only by their status as adopted, not by their character traits, hobbies, or interests. This can be detrimental to a child’s self-esteem and can cause them long-term psychological harm. Instead, acknowledge that a child was adopted when appropriate, but simply refer to them as a child in any other circumstance.

It is important to always keep positive adoption language in mind. Simply put, there is a huge difference between positive adoption language and negative adoption language. One conveys the truth about adoption, namely that it is a process where adoptive parents and adoptees form a loving family relationship. The other gives the false impression that an adoptive parent or adoptee is somehow worse than a birth parent or biological child. That being said, the above examples are neither the beginning nor the end of positive adoption language. For more examples of positive adoption language and to find out more about the adoption process, contact Adoption Choices of Missouri or visit us at www.adoptionchoicesofkansasmissouri.com

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