Saturday, November 27, 2010

Positive Adoption Language

As we wait for the time when we can bring our sweet Ethan home, I would like to share a great article I read on positive adoption language. I wanted to share this with you all because if you're reading this blog you are either related to Ethan or you are a friend of the family which means you will have many interactions with him. Hope you enjoy the information and if you see any other articles online worth reading, feel free to share on a comment.


Positive Adoption Language
Politically Correct Words Depicting Adoptive and Birth Families

By using positive adoption language when speaking to people, adoptive and birth families encourage others to use appropriate adoption words as well.

Sometimes people feel uncomfortable talking to an adoptive parent or an adoptee about their adoption situation for fear of using politically incorrect terms. Much has changed in the world of adoption over the past thirty years and efforts are being made to shed a positive light onto adoption issues. One way to effect positive change is to update the words and phrases used to describe adoption.

Positive Language in Reference to Birth Families
Many terms referring to birthparents have gained a negative connotation over the decades due to media portrayals and unfair stereotyping. As perspectives on adoption have evolved from keeping a family secret to full contact between birth and adoptive family members, the vocabulary of adoption has changed as well.

Birthmother, birthfather and birthparents are the generally accepted terms when talking about the parents who created a child. Some birthparent organizations such as feel that the terms natural mother, first mother and life mother are more accurate than the words birthparents or biological parents. The term real parent is sometimes used to refer to birthparents, but is not appropriate as both birth and adoptive parents are real, not artificial.

Family of origin, birth family and biological family are appropriate terms that are used interchangeable to refer to the first parents of adoptees as well as siblings, grandparents and extended family that are genetically connected to the adopted person.
The context in which birthparents are mentioned also affects the meaning of such words. If adoptive parents and adoptees talk about birth parents in positive ways rather than perpetuating stereotypes others will learn to do so as well.

Correct Terms for Describing an Adoptive Family
Many adoptive parents cringe at how other people and the media describe their families, so it becomes the job of adoptive families to educate others on positive adoption language. It is also important to use politically correct adoption vocabulary with adopted children so they can speak about their adoption status with ease.

Unless it is necessary to indicate that the parents have adopted a child, it is politically correct to refer to the people raising the child as the parents and to not refer to them as adoptive parents. In addition, reference to a child’s adoption by labeling him the adopted child in any situation is not appropriate unless it is relevant to an issue being discussed.
When mentioning birthparents, adoptive parents and adoptees as a group, they were traditionally referred to as the adoption triad. With the prevalence of open adoption, the triad has expanded to include other birth and adoptive family members as well as foster families. As a result, adoption professionals are beginning to use the terms adoption constellation or adoption circle when describing the relationships and people involved with an adopted child.

Sometimes the words used to describe family relationships are charged with negativity and do not accurately describe the nature of the relationships. Unfortunately, this is what has happened with adoption language. However, if the adoption community educates the general public with a view towards changing stereotypes, adoption language can become more positive one conversation at a time.

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