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Using Accurate Adoption Language

Words matter so much, especially when we’re speaking about something as deeply personal as adoption.

Accurate adoption language can help stop the spread of misconceptions about adoption and reflect a greater respect for everyone involved and their unique experiences. By using accurate language, we educate others about adoption. It allows us to have real, meaningful conversations without inadvertently using judgmental or hurtful phrasing.

Of course, "accurate" language is subjective and always evolving, and you should choose words that are both accurate and feel right to you. For example, a person who is adopted may refer to himself as an "adoptee" and a birth mother may refer to herself as a "first parent." Other people may use completely different terminology—and that's okay. No one's perspective of their own adoption experience is wrong.

Below are some suggestions from across our adoption community.

Instead of This... Consider this...
Real / Natural Parent Birth parent / Biological parent / First parent
Own Child Child
Adoptive Parent Parent
Adopted child Child
Adoptee Person or individual who was adopted
Is adopted Was adopted
Give away / Adopt out / Give up / Put up Make an adoption plan / Choose adoption / Place for adoption
To keep the child To parent the child
Unwanted or problem pregnancy pregnancy
Illegitimate Born to unmarried parents
Adoptable child / Unwanted child Waiting Child
Handicapped child / Hard to place Child with special needs