Accurate Adoption Language

Words Convey Important Messages! 

Words not only convey facts, they also evoke feelings. For example, when a TV show or movie contains language about a "custody battle" between "real parents" and "other parents", this reinforces the inaccurate notion that only birthparents are real parents and that adoptive parents aren't real parents. Members of society may also wrongly conclude that all adoptions are "battles". 

Accurate adoption language can stop the spread of misconceptions such as these. By using accurate language, we educate others about adoption. We choose emotionally "correct" words over emotionally laden words. We speak and write using appropriate adoption language in the hope of influencing others so that this language will someday become the norm. 

ACCURATE LANGUAGE LESS-ACCURATE LANGUAGE
Birthparent/biological parent Real parent, natural parent
Birth child Own child, real child, natural child
My child Adopted child, own child
Person/Individual who was adopted Adopted child, own child
Born to unmarried parents Illegitimate
Make an adoption plan, choose adoption Give away, adopt out, give up, put up
To parent the baby/child To keep the baby
Child in need of a family Adoptable child/unwanted child
Parent Adoptive parent
Child who has special needs Handicapped child, hard to place
Was adopted Is adopted
Choosing an adoption plan Giving away your child
Finding a family to parent your child Putting your child up for adoption
Parenting the baby/child Keeping your baby
Confidential adoption Closed adoption
Unintended pregnancy Unwanted/problem pregnancy
Fully-disclosed adoption Open adoption
Semi-open adoption Open adoption 

National Council for Adoption 2007