Sunday, November 7, 2010

Positive vs. Negative Adoption Language

It is very important to understand the difference between positive & negative adoption language when speaking with an adoptee and/or adoptive family. Here are some good pointers.

Positive Language                                      

Birthparent
Biological parent
Birth child
My child
Born to unmarried parents
Terminate parental rights
To parent
Waiting child
Biological father
Making contact with
Parent
International adoption
Adoption triad
Permission to sign a release
Search
Child placed for adoption
Court termination
Child with special needs
Child from abroad
Was adopted

Negative Language

Real parent
Natural parent
Own child
Adopted child; Own child
Illegitimate
Give up
Give away
To keep
Adoptable child; Available child
Begetter
Reunion
Adoptive parent
Foreign adoption
Adoption triangle
Disclosure
Track down parents
An unwanted child
Child taken away
Handicapped child
Foreign child
Is adopted

28 comments:

  1. very nice. It is this kind of education that needs to be shared far and wide. So often people don't know or realize that the language they are using is hurtful. Thanks for posting this!

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  2. i need to post this list, too...the "real" mom/dad one bugs me the most!

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  3. As a prospective adopter, you don't get to choose the language. The minority, adoptees and first parents, do. I'm sorry but that positive adoption language is bullshit and does not reflect reality, especially not the emotional reality of the child or adult adoptee. Also, the term "birth" anything is offensive and degrading. It's akin to using the word nigger. Only the person in that minority can use it. The word first appeared during the Baby Scoop Era and is meant to marginalise a group of people.

    Also: There is no "was" adopted. Adoption is life-long. No adoptee will ever be not adopted. We ARE adopted.

    If you plan on adoption, you need to do some serious research. Adoption is not a cure for infertility, nor should it be. It is about finding homes for children who truly need a home (ie children whose parents are not safe and who have no other safe family), not about finding children for needy families. Adoption comes from loss and grief. For an adoption to happen, something tragic has to happen first, and thus adoption will never be a truly positive thing.

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  4. I am an adoptee and I find some of the "positive" adoption language hurtful. I AM adopted, I will always be adopted. I hate it when people say "oh you were adopted?" No, I wasn't. I AM adopted. That will never change.
    I accept that some people describe my first parents as my biological parents. Not my favourite term, but I can handle it.
    Birth parents? Think about it. Did my "birth" dad give birth to me, did my "birth" grandparents give birth to me? What about my "birth" brothers and sisters who weren't even alive when I was born, how are they related to my birth?? These people are my natural family, my first family, or even my biological family. But they are NOT my birth family. Even my "birth" mum (the one who actually did give birth to me) is so much more than some woman who gave birth to me. She was pregnant with me for nearly a year, she went through hell choosing adoption for her first-born child because she thought, at the time, that it was the best choice, years later she contacted that child and she is now a very important part of my life. Even before reunion, she was always more than just some woman who gave birth. You can't "just" give birth, there's so much more involved in that. Don't tell me she's not important and that my adoptive parents are my parents. If she hadn't given birth to me in the first place, they could never have adopted me. People tell adoptees to be grateful when we lost so much. How about telling adoptive parents to be grateful when they gain so much?
    Saying that, I know adoptive parents often go through the hell of infertility and lose the chance of ever having their natural/biological (pick your favoured term) child. That sucks. But adoption's painful for the adoptee too. Just remember that.
    Every adoptee is different because we too are human. We have different preferences. How about instead of "positive" adoption language, you ask an adoptive/adoptive family what they're comfortable with? You can't judge us all the same. We're people too.

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  5. You know, there is never a good reason to use the N-word, Ave. Your manner and language are offensive, as is your comparison of the author to a racist. God forbid anyone have a different opinion that you do, hm? A good way to open dialogue and help people to see your way of thinking is to not be a total asshole in the comment section. Just a little pro-tip for you. Cheers.

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  6. Ava...

    Wow. It sounds like you are truly hurting inside from something. Your post is really coming from a place of bitterness. I have yet to meet someone in the adoption process who shares ANY of your views. Not a single person...and we've been doing this for a while. Not a single person I know comes to adoption from infertility thinking it's a "second choice". It's just another option...a means to the joy of becoming a parent. To accuse anyone of thinking adoption is a "cure for infertility" is downright mean. It also says something about your own state of mind regarding adoption.

    Your post comes off as a personal attack against PCOSChick...yet it sounds like you know nothing about her. You don't know where she is in the process She's not "planning" on adoption...she's freeking homestudy approved for an international adoption...do you know how long that takes?? Do you understand the emotional and financial investment she and her DH have put into getting to the place they are now??

    And finally...if you are going into adoption thinking that "adoption will never be a truly positive thing", then I have about 20 friends who were adopted who would beg to differ with you.

    Parenting an adopted child is different. The love is the same.

    (Also, I just read on your Blogger profile that you're 23. Wait about ten years before you go spouting off about stuff...maturity brings wisdom to life.)

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  7. @ ave powell..

    although each person is entitled to their opinions on subjects like this and certainly has a right to express them, your choice of language is highly offensive. the term "ni****" is degrading by any standard, and although the word birth mother/biological parents may be offensive to some, it is by no means to all. there are ways to constructively criticize or explain your view points about a topic without trashing the subject and author.

    have you taken the time to read the other posts by PCOSChick?

    if so, you would understand that she is simply a mother-in-waiting who is trying to educate others around her on what she has learned on her journey to motherhood thru adoption. she has done her research...she has shared the ups and downs of her struggles with infertility and then her decision to follow the path of adoption.

    adoption was not a "cure" for her infertility. it was a decision made by her and her husband to bring a child into their home following a different path than that of surrogacy/IVF/IUI/etc. of being selfless enough to make a decision to forgo the "normal" means of having a child and follow the path that they were meant to.

    she is by no means trying to say she knows what a mother/father/family who gives up a child for adoption is going thru...she states it from her end.

    PCOSChick fosters understanding, love and compassion in her blogs that are a forum for discussion on topics that affect a lot of us...in both the fertile and infertile world.

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  8. Ah, cheers, to you, too, Miss K.

    Using "birthmother" or "birthfather" ("b-word") is just the same as any other privileged person using marginalised words to describe a minority group. The example still stands. That n-word is used by non-minority members to marginalise African-Americans/Blacks just as "birth"-anything is used by non-minority members to marginalise natural parents.

    Same as bastard is used to marginalise illegitimate children/adults/adoptees. I'm allowed to use it, as I am a member of the minority, you are not.

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  9. I for one am GRATEFUL for all you have taught me about adoption. I have said this before and I will say it a thousand times again because I CAN BECAUSE I KNOW YOU! You will be an amazing parent to ANY child. I know you work so hard to work against the stereotypes and the ignorance. I admire you for that.

    To address the previous nasty comment: I completely understand how SOME cases of adoption can be derived from loss or tragedy. However, EVERY child DESERVES to be in a home with LOVING AND NURTURING PARENTS! Just because someone gave birth to a child, does NOT make them loving and nurturing...so in a way YES, adoption IS a very positive thing. MANY (and I'm not saying ALL) of these children are receiving LOVE that they never would have had and a better life than they would have had. I think it's presumptuous to sit there and JUDGE someone you know NOTHING about (and that is so obvious by your ignorant statements). And using the N word? Seriously?!? STAY CLASSY MY DEAR!

    Back to the positives, keep up the great posts. This is YOUR journey..those that want to share it with you...can....Those who don't...can read other blogs!

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  10. What exactly is wrong with a caring, compassionate person (couple) wanting to love a child? PCOSChick is TRYING to learn the acceptable/unacceptable things pertaining to adoption.
    The thing about it (as with ALL things in life), everyone feels differently. What one person thinks is HORRIBLE, another may brush it off.
    I see you (Ave) wrote N- (didn't spell it out), yet you say it is just as bad as the B word for illegitimate children. So you still spelled that out?
    For some reason you feel the term "Birth" mother is dirty and horrible. I have friends that are adopted and that is the term THEY use. They are okay with the term. Perhaps something with your parents caused you to have such a visceral reaction to the phrase?

    We have to remember what is important is that there are two wonderful people in the world that want to give a child love.

    That is it. The rest will fall where it will, and she is trying her best.
    Lets support her and not tear her down.

    Love is what matters.

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  11. Dear Ave, please go away. You know nothing about PCOSChick and as a social worker who has worked in adoption, her post is spot on.

    PCOSChick, LOVE this blog post and am getting very excited for y'all!

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  12. "Same as bastard is used to marginalise illegitimate children/adults/adoptees. I'm allowed to use it, as I am a member of the minority, you are not."

    No, this does not give you the right to use the N-word. You do not get to use racial slurs because you are a member of a different minority group. That's a cop-out. But I get why you did it. While there were dozens of other ways you could have expressed yourself, you knew this way would illicit more response. And while I admire your use of shock value, please keep in mind that throwing around this grossly inappropriate word does not give your comment any more or less credibility than the next person.

    I feel for you. I do. I'm sorry that you hurt. But it doesn't give you the right to use such a hateful word, nor does it give you the right to place this blogger into some preconceived mold you have in your head of infertile couples pursuing adoption. While you seek to de-marginalize adoptees, remember not to marginalize other groups. Pot, meet Kettle.

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  13. Ave is correct: We adoptive parents do not have the right to choose how to label our children or their parents; those choices belong to them. Additionally, with all due respect, this list is pretty outdated - and anyhow, the best place to learn positive adoption language isn't from a list, it's from those who are living the experiences the labels convey.

    It is true that "birth parent" is often seen in adoption literature, where it has become customary to differentiate between biological and adoptive parents. However, it is not the way all parents who have lost children to adoption choose to name themselves; those decisions are personal and unique, and should be respected.

    In the same way, an adopted person's choice of identifier is up to them, and is not up for debate by adoptive parents. I see this up close and personal in the way my kids (who at 21 and 19 aren't kids anymore) have chosen different approaches to identifying their adoptive status.

    Triad is often being replaced by constellation, which can more accurately reflect the relationship between adopted person, parents, extended family and friends, who are also impacted by adoption. Additionally, it eliminates the erroneous impression that the members of that triad have equal power in the relationship.

    I have never heard it said that "Making contact with" is replacing "Reunion." Search, contact reunion, ongoing relationship all reflect different stages of this important aspect of adoption, and each is used as appropriate.

    "Dear Ave, please go away. You know nothing about PCOSChick and as a social worker who has worked in adoption, her post is spot on."

    Sadly, this post isn't spot on. It's trying hard, and certainly should be commended for that. But no amount of "positive adoption language" can outweigh the kind of disrespect that is being shown to the expert her. That expert, whether the prospective adoptive parents want to believe it or not, is Ave. To tell her to go away it tantamount to sewing your ears shut to the truth.

    Is Ave's truth that of every adopted person? No. But honestly, when APs continue to set themselves up as the experts even before their kids arrive, what do we expect?

    "You don't know where she is in the process She's not "planning" on adoption...she's freeking homestudy approved for an international adoption...do you know how long that takes?? Do you understand the emotional and financial investment she and her DH have put into getting to the place they are now??"

    Pure hogwash. The process of adoption and the dollars spent in pursuing it are nothing - NOTHING - compared to the challenge of parenting that child through the years, helping that child (who if adopted from another country may share no racial or ethnic ties with the adoptive family) develop a strong sense of identity and sense of belonging to his or her community. That is work of a lifetime, and makes going through a homestudy look like a game of checkers.

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  14. I'm surprised that "natural parent" is negative language. That makes no sense to me.

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  15. I AM adopted, just like I AM married. That is my relationship to the family that raised me. I don't share their DNA and no amount of paperwork can change that.

    Another issue I have is with "make an adoption plan". So if someone is too young or too poor or in an abusive relationship - "plan" sounds too much like "choice", which it certainly isn't.

    And then there is "birth mother". I agree with Ave and Margie and would like to add that an expectant mother is just that. She's not a "birth" mother (even using PAL) unless and until she terminates her parental rights. She is certainly NOT "our birth mother", a term I often hear from prospective adoptive parents who have been matched.

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  16. Wow. Just wow. I'll never understand why it's okay to blast someone on THEIR OWN BLOG. It's one thing to disagree with someone and do so in a kind manner, but it's another thing entirely to use hateful language.

    Hang in there PCOSchick. We who take the time to read ALL your posts know exactly what went into your adoption decision and what great parents you will make.

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  17. "EVERY child DESERVES to be in a home with LOVING AND NURTURING PARENTS! Just because someone gave birth to a child, does NOT make them loving and nurturing...so in a way YES, adoption IS a very positive thing. MANY (and I'm not saying ALL) of these children are receiving LOVE that they never would have had and a better life than they would have had"
    What is not understood is that most of the time, the children being adopted HAVE love, have homes, have family. They weren't just dropped on the earth by themselves. A lot of times, mothers lose their children to adoption because they are scared, unsure of themselves, and have no support. Not that they don't have love for their kids! Just because someone pays for a homestudy, does NOT make THEM loving and nurturing. It's really a crap shoot on both ends. Adoptees don't always get a better life, they get a different life.

    "I completely understand how SOME cases of adoption can be derived from loss or tragedy"
    ALL cases of adoption are derived from loss or tragedy! Mothers and children. Birth/first/natural mothers LOSE THEIR CHILD...every time, not sometimes..every time. And adoptees lose their first mom, the only one they knew and depended on for 9 months. They lose their first family, they lose the chance to be with those that are biologically related. They lose their first identity, their original birth certificate, their heritage and in the case of international adoption, they lose their culture and history of origin. And that happens with EVERY adoption...and that is a tragedy.

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  18. Unfortunately, Positive Adoption Language only benefits the adoptive parents...not the adoptee.

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  19. Margie - Thank you for speaking up for those of us who are so frequently marginalized and dismissed for speaking truth to power. This first mother thanks you from the bottom of her (not bitter but honest) heart.

    Melynda

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  20. Seriously? This list of "positive" language is ONLY positive if you are a PAP or an adopter. It is only for those GAINING in the adoption spectrum and is as far from reality as can be.

    Ave is sooo right and yet you are all slamming her because you don't like what she says. Well diddums for you. Suck it up because she is not the only one who knows bs when she sees it.

    This so called "positve" list was created BY adopters FOR adopters, to make you all feel comfortable and happy about adopting someone else's child. I cannot believe that adoptive parent was put in the negative list. This clearly proves my point. Adoptive parent is NOT negative language, it is HONEST language! It merely means a parent who has adopted. Anyone who sees this as being negative really has their head stuck in the sand. As for natural parent, that means a parent who had the child in the way Nature intended so again, nothing untruthful or wrong there. The fact you can condemn Ave so vigourously whislt remaining blind to what she is saying clearly shows all you are only interested in what makes you feel better about yourselves.

    These lists are all skewed and plain wrong. Anyone without blinkers on could see that.

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  21. I commend you on doing what you can to help prepare yourself and partner and educate yourselves. While yes there are preferences on each side, what works you will soon find out. Different cultures/society will have different believes, as will the individual children/families you welcome into your lives. I don't understand such negative outbursts when this is purely someone trying to find their way. I don't believe that the process is easier than raising children, they are both just as difficult, but different. Tell a woman who can not have children that IVF is nothing, raising them is harder...there is no comparison.They are different struggles. Adoption can be a positive thing. How is it not when children are welcomed into a loving household. I am no way saying that if I child had not been adopted it would not have been, I am just purely saying that adopting is a choice. This choice done out of love.
    To be condemned for trying to educate oneself, seems a little crazy.

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  22. I gave my son up for adoption. I did not place him for adoption. He is adopted. He even says he is adopted!

    I am NOT a birthmother. My role is so much more than the act of giving birth. Most first/natural parents do use that term, because it is the most recognized term because the adoption industry has fed it to the general public. I completely agree with Ave, Margie, and Gaye about expectant mothers being called birthmothers. They haven't even given birth yet, and people are taking their parenthood away from them already.

    I guess you could say my first born son is my birth son. But so are the other children I went on to give birth to, but I raised them. So they are all birth children I guess. Stupid term. Everyone on earth is a birth child. So why use the word birth?

    I do not "make contact" with my son. I am in reunion with my son. (That would be my son that I gave up for adoption, I have 3 birth sons, reunion was not necessary with 2 of them.)

    I am very thankful for my son's adoptive parents. They have loved my son as I was not able to. He loves his (adoptive) parents very much.

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  23. As an adoptee, I reserve the right to use any damn language I please. This whole process was supposed to be about ME, remember? I really hate when adopters or social workers think they can speak for me like I was still that little helpless child I haven't been for over 50 years. It's not a loving act to marginalize ADULT adoptees who are trying to educate you as to how it really feels to live it. Why is it you all profess to care so much until we grow up and speak for ourselves? And, no, I'm not bitter, just really annoyed.

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  24. "Tell a woman who can not have children that IVF is nothing, raising them is harder...there is no comparison.They are different struggles."

    I've experienced both.

    IVF, GIFT, and others - probably eight cycles; major surgery; gosh knows what else morer.

    I've raised two adoptees to adulthood.

    There is a definite comparison, and parenting for the long haul is a gazillion times more challenging.

    I want to make this point because I think the mainstream is stuck in the notion that infertility is so bad (yeah, it's bad, been there and have the t-shirt so I understand that), but adoption isn't a part of the infertility experience.

    It's a complex process and set of relationships that needs to be considered on its own. I think PCOSChick is trying to do that, I do, which is why I think this point is important. The sooner anyone who is going through infertility figures out that adoption is far to complex to be thought of as "family building" and a solution to infertility, the better for all involved.

    Especially the kids, who as I know grow up to be adults and deserve a whole lot better than the adoption community is giving them today.

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  25. I think that people over analyze most things losing sight of the bigger picture. Adoption is about kids who need homes, love, nurturing, etc. and parent’s that want and can provide that, regardless if it’s because they aren’t able birth their own children, OR they just feel the need to adopt a child. I think either way is win/win whether you use the terms birth parent, adoptive parent, or whatever. It’s stupid to even debate this.

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  26. Laci, adoption is only win/win if you stand something to gain from it. For at least two parties, loss is involved so it is NOT a win/win situation for them. Only in the eyes of adopters and PAP's is adoption seen so positively. So yes, it is stupid to debate this. If people opened their eyes and saw adoption for what it really is, there would be no need for silly little lists like this.

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  27. Margie said: "The process of adoption and the dollars spent in pursuing it are nothing - NOTHING - compared to the challenge of parenting that child through the years, helping that child (who if adopted from another country may share no racial or ethnic ties with the adoptive family) develop a strong sense of identity and sense of belonging to his or her community. That is work of a lifetime, and makes going through a homestudy look like a game of checkers."

    Amen to that. I've been parenting my daughter for just over five years now. And the learning curve? It was and still is STEEP. It's hard being a first-time parent... it's even harder parenting a child who is adopted, especially one adopted at an older age and/or adopted transracially. When I look back at the things I said and wrote during our first paperchase, I often cringe.

    I didn't know what I didn't know.

    But if I've learned anything these past five years, it's that adoptive parents and prospective adoptive parents need to listen to the hard stuff being said by other members of the adoption constellation, most especially adult adoptees. Yes, sometimes their messages aren't delivered in the gentlest of manners, but you know what? It's not their job to soothe our fears and feelings. It's up to us - adoptive parents - to put on our big people pants and listen with all humility, hoping to grow in understanding.

    Because it will only make us better adoptive parents.

    I applaud you for continuing to strive to educate yourself on all things adoption. And I encourage you to continuing doing so, even when the message is difficult or delivered bluntly.

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  28. I am adopted.

    I have a great relationship with my adoptive parents, who I do not hesitate to call my parents.

    But please do not insist that it is correct or proper to say I was adopted. Whatever anyone might wish to believe, adoption is a lifelong experience, not one buried in the past, and we do not stop being adopted until we stop breathing.

    I am adopted.

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