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.