Positive Language

The power of our words also applies to adoption. Our feelings about adoption are often expressed in the words that we use. These words don’t just convey the “facts”, they also convey our values.

Using “Positive Adoption Language” can help stop misconceptions surrounding adoption. These words can express that adoption is a planned, valid choice in making a family. They help us to say that adoption is a way to build a family just as birth is. It allows us to talk about triad members and about adoption plans without emotional connotations.

It is our desire that as we speak and write in positive adoption language, that this language will someday become the norm. We desire to express the true nature of adoption without the innuendos and misconceptions.

Current Positive Language


Outdated Negative Language

Birth Parent Real Parent
Birth Father / Mother   Real Father / Mother
Biological Parent Natural Parent
Biological Father / Mother Sperm Donor / Egg Donor
Birth Child Own Child
My Child / Adopted Child Own Child
Parent Adoptive Parent
Born to Unmarried Parents Illegitimate
Child Placed for Adoption An Unwanted Child
Child in Need of Adoption An Unwanted Child
Waiting Child Adoptable Child, Available Child
Child with Special Needs Handicapped, Disabled, or Hard to Place
Child from Abroad Foreign Child
International/Inter-country adoption Foreign Adoption
Interracial Mixed Race
Was Adopted Is Adopted
Adoption Triad Adoption Triangle
Adoption Agreement Surrender
Terminate Parental Rights Give Up or Give Away
Court Termination Taken Away
Make an Adoption Plan Give Up or Give Away
Permission to Sign a Release Disclosure
To Parent To Keep
To Search / To Locate Track Down Parents
Making Contact With Reunion
Primary Provider Program Agency
Exempt Provider Homestudy Agency