In recent years, people have generally become more sensitive to using words and phrases that can be hurtful to others. That includes the language around adoption.
The way it was discussed decades ago is nothing like it is now. Today, professionals who deal with adoption are much more conscientious of the feelings of all of those involved in an adoption, including the child. Let’s look at a few examples of outdated language and more adoption-positive alternatives.
“Giving a baby up for adoption”
This is often how people used to refer to the decision made by birth parents (typically the mother). Not only is it more positive but more accurate to say that a birth parent is “choosing an adoptive family” for their child. Today, birth parents have a greater say in who adopts their child than they used to. They may meet with numerous prospective parents before the baby is born to choose the one(s) they believe will give their child the best life.
The “real” parents
It used to be common for kids and even their adoptive parents to be asked if they knew who the “real” parents were (meaning the birth parents). Certainly, that can be hurtful to adoptive parents and confusing to children who may not even remember their birth parents.
In fact, adoption professionals note that both birth and adoptive parents are a child’s real parents. It’s also more common now to have open adoptions and for birth parents – particularly birth mothers – to continue to be in their children’s lives.
Even terms that became popular just a couple of decades ago, like “gotcha day,” have grown to be considered negative by some people. That’s how adoptive parents often used to describe the day an adoption was finalized or the day they first met their child (especially if they didn’t know the child’s birthday). Some adoptive parents still wish their kids a “Happy Gotcha Day,” while others think “Happy Adoption Day” sounds less possessive.
Whether you’re a birth parent or adoptive parent, only you can determine what terms you find acceptable or not. You have every right to correct people (gently, if possible) and educate them in the process.
While you can’t protect your child (or you) from ever being hurt by insensitive and intrusive questions and thoughtless comments, by having experienced legal guidance throughout the adoption process, you can help it go as smoothly as possible.