The words we use, when speaking about adoption and birth parents, can carry a positive or negative reaction. Choosing our words wisely, and knowing what words to avoid entirely, can help guide society into appropriate adoption lingo.
The most popular one I see is, “you gave your baby away.” The correct way to say this would be, “you placed your baby for adoption.” After eighteen years of being in the adoption community, I can’t believe that we are still educating people not to use this phrase, but then again, change takes time. This commonly misused phrase can bring heavy emotions for any birth parent. I placed my baby for adoption by making a plan for her. I didn’t give up or give her away; I placed her in a situation that I felt was better than what I could offer her, at that time.
The most popular one I see in adoptive parent profiles is, “our child” or “our child’s birth parents.” When you’re creating your profile text, you are speaking directly to the birth parent. Reminding yourself of that one simple fact can make a big difference in what you say and how you phrase your sentences.
“We promise to speak openly to our child about their adoption story and remind him or her how much their birth parents loved them.”
“We promise to speak openly to your child about their adoption story and remind him or her how much you love them.”
Do you see the difference here? The child is, in fact, the birth parents, and you are talking to the birth parent. Writing your profile should be thought of as a conversation at the dinner table, you (and your spouse) sitting down with a birth parent(s). Past tense phrases should be eliminated as well. A birth parent’s love does not stop after placement “…how much you loved them.” Birth parents’ love is unconditional and everlasting.
The best way to ensure you are not setting a negative tone for any adoption related conversation is to educate yourself! Do some research. Start following positive adoption-related websites and social media accounts that are geared to teach. We can all make a difference by educating those around us on the power of our words. Apologizing for misunderstandings or unintended offending is always helpful in building better relationships. Be mindful of the words you use and do so with an open and honest heart. We are all here to learn, grow, and guide each other.