Accurate Adoption Language

Inaccurate Adoption Language Accurate Adoption Language Explanations

Real or Natural parent or child


Birth parent; biological parent; genetic parent; family of origin.


The use of "real" implies that the situation is not a reality or that it is unnatural. The term "birth parents" describes the life-giving role these persons play in the child's life.


My adopted child/My own child




My/our child; my/our son/daughter; my/our child whom I/we adopted




Adoption is a process, not an adjective. When the process is completed, the adopted younger becomes a "child" in the family just as any other and should be referred to as such. Saying "my adopted child" implies a second-class or qualified relationship.

Distinguishing between your "own" child and an adopted child reflects a sense of "ownership" of one and not the other. Both children belong equally to the family.


Adoptive Parent


Mother/father; son/daughter


It isn't wrong to say that you're an "adoptive" parent, but extended use by you or others (especially in front of your children), continues to qualify your parental status.


Give up, surrender, relinquish, adopt out, put up for adoption


Make an adoption plan; transfer parental rights; choose a family to parent the child.


Terms such as "give up" or "surrender" are emotionally charged terms that imply coercion rather than a thought-out decision made by birth parents. In the majority of cases, the birth parents actively participate in selecting adoptive parents for their child.


Chosen child




No substitute




The term implies that the adoptive parent did all the choosing when, the majority of times birth parents choose a family for the child. Sets the stage for conflict between adopted children and birth children who weren't "chosen".

A child can rationalize that if he/she was special enough to be "chosen", he/she must continue to be special to receive ongoing love and acceptance from the adoptive parent.


Adoption Triangle/Triad


Adoption circle: parties to the adoption


Triad or triangle can imply ill will between parties. It also identifies only three main characters in an adoption, leaving out the social worker, attorney, judge, grandparents, and other relatives in the adoption circle.


Illegitimate; Unwanted



No substitute



Factors of birth should no longer stigmatize a child. Bury the word "illegitimate" with the past and let the child enjoy respect and full, unqualified rights as a family member.  

Birth parents choose adoption for many reasons -- rarely because the child was unwanted.




Gladney Center for Adoption
6300 John Ryan Drive | Fort Worth, Texas 76132-4122

Headquarters: 817-922-6000   Pregnant?: 1-800-GLADNEY
International Adoptions: 1-800-INT-ADOP
Domestic Adoptions: 1-800-687-3097
Click here for more locations and contact info.