Tag Archives: proper adoption language

The PROPER Language of Adoption

As a nod to National Adoption Month this month I’ve been sharing some of my feelings about being an adoptive parent. One subject I feel very strongly about is proper adoption language, the language used within and typically modeled by the adoption community to express relationships and familial ties. Like it or not, adoptive parents are in the position of constantly having to justify their familial relationships to and educating others, especially if, like us, adoption has happened transracially (across races). I’ve lost track of the number of times someone has sidled up to me to ask, “Is he your son?” “Are they real sisters?” and “Are you her real mom?” These are “real” questions, asking us to quantify our relationships with our children. My kids have also been asked similar questions, like, “Is that your real mom?” (What messages are my kids receiving?)

I have several things to say:

  • Yep, we’re “real”—alive and breathing. 
  • The questions and comments are offensive. They undermine the concept of family.

Adoption language is the language of families. Here’s a primer for you: 

  • Parent, mommy, daddy, sister, brother for describing adoptive family members. 
  • Birth parents, birth father, birth mother for describing the man and woman who conceived and gave birth to a child. 
  • Was adopted instead of is adopted. 
  •  My child instead of adopted child or own child. 
  •  Placed for adoption or made an adoption plan instead of orphaned, given up, unwanted, or abandoned.

Yes, we are conspicuous; we look different. But we’re a family, like any other. Please extend your acknowledgement to us and other adoptive families by using proper adoption launguage.


Filed under Adoption Issues, Adoptive Mom's Perspective, Advocacy, International Adoption, Multicultural Families, The International Mom

To “Have”

P8080027Like many families, we spend a lot of time in the car. It is rarely a quiet trip.

The other day I had the younger three in my car and, yes, the subject of adoption came up – in an interesting way. We were discussing 9-11, the moment of silence and lowering of the flags that the kids experienced at school.

“Was I born?” Greyson asked.

“No, you weren’t honey. We had Holden, Josi and Aubry,” I said.

Josi, always the pragmatist, corrected me. And rightly so. “Mom, you didn’t have us. You only had Holden.”

“You’re right honey. I didn’t have you. What I meant was that you were home, part of our family, my children.”

“Mommy, remember we grew in another lady’s tummy,” said Greyson.

“Yep, you did – your birth mother. Daddy and I adopted you.”

“But, we grew in your heart. Right?” said Greyson

“You sure did!”

It was quiet for a minute or so. Then Aubry launched into the appearance of legs on one of her three remaining tadpoles. An interesting segue…

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Filed under Adoption, Multicultural Families, The International Mom