OCH Social Worker Shares Tips for Speaking About Adoption

Chances are, many people you know have been impacted by adoption in one way or another; yet it still remains a complex and sensitive topic. As we round out November and ease into the holidays to reunite with our family and friends, remember these conversation tips for speaking about adoption provided by OCH social worker Regina Smith, LMSW.

Many people have been personally and directly touched by adoption. Others have a loose connection with it. The topic of adoption is found in our literature, music, movies and television shows. Popular media has opened this topic for discussion, however many people may be misguided by the media on how to accurately and respectfully communicate with others about this subject. Language is a powerful tool that is used open or close lines of communication. It is important for us to understand how our language may appear to be uninformed, insensitive. Below are some tips on how to discuss adoption in an accurate, respectful manner: 

  • Avoid Saying: Real parent or natural parent. For example: “Who are her real parents?”
  • Proper Term: Biological parent or birth parent

Reason: The term “real” can be confusing. All parents are “real” people. There is no such thing as an “artificial” or “unnatural” parent. Biological or birth parent is a more accurate description of a person who has genetic ties to the child. 

  • Avoid Saying: “Gave up or given away… for adoption.” For example: “She gave up her baby for adoption.”
  • Proper Term: Made an adoption plan or chose adoption

Reason: The former suggests that there was little or no planning, or that the child was a possession which was tossed out, and never thought of again. The latter more accurately conveys the forethought and planning that was considered by birth parents for their child’s future.

  • Avoid Saying: “Kept or keep… my/your baby.” For example: “Is she going to keep her baby?”
  • Proper Term: Chose to parent or is parenting

Reason: Parenting is an active choice that is a lifelong decision. The former suggests that the child, again, is likened to a possession. I would keep a pair of shoes, but not a child. And, certainly the child doesn’t remain a baby for the rest of their lives. The later is more accurate way of describing parenting.

For more information about adoption:

www.nacac.org, www.jcics.org, www.adoptuskids.org

Regina Smith, LMSW is a social worker for the OCH Resolutions unit. Prior to working at OCH, she worked at a private, non-profit adoption agency, both with adoptive families as well as birth families.


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