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The Difference Between Positive and Negative Adoption Terms

By Megan Kostraba 

There are so many different ways to classify adoption. Different negative and positive adoption terms float all around the internet, differing from one another. One site describes adoption as “giving up your child for adoption,” vs. another which states the act as “placing your child up”. There’s a huge difference between both phrases. At Adoption Choices of Kansas, it’s important to us that birth mothers see adoption as a positive act and feel confident in their choice. A birth mother’s attitude towards adoption can change with the use of just one word. 

PAL, also known as positive adoption language, has a huge impact on how individuals view adoption. The words we use to describe adoption influence our thinking and opinion on adoption. With the change of just a few words, you have the power to either make someone feel positive about adoption, or negative. When women are considering adoption for their child, they are going through one of the hardest choices they’ve had to make. Using PAL terms will help birth mothers face, accept, and understand the decision they are making. 

It’s important to use positive adoption language to respect and honor the families involved in the adoption. This is a top priority for our birth mothers who are placing their child up for adoption. We want all birth mothers to feel comfortable, confident, and secure in their decision. Part of that confidence in adoption stems from utilizing PAL in our everyday language. 

The Power of PAL and Negative Adoption Language Examples

Using positive adoption language in your day-to-day terminology can really help a birth mother set her mind at ease. Adoption is notably stressful, and on top of all that stress is the reality of being pregnant too. A woman’s body is changing constantly, alongside her mindset. She is dealing with persistent worries about her pregnancy and her adoption. She may be regretting her choice, questioning herself, and might overall feel guilty. On top of that, she is trying to understand her body and what it needs. It’s a difficult time for any woman going through an unplanned pregnancy! This is why using terms like “giving a child up for adoption” are negative in a birth mother’s eyes. It reinforces the idea that they are “giving up”. 

At Adoption Choices of Kansas, we do not want our birth mothers to feel like they are “giving up” on their child. This is a misconception about adoption that we want to dispel. Birth mothers choose adoption because it is the best option for the child. Birth mothers are not selfish because they’ve chosen adoption; it is not an “easy way out”. Adoption stems from love for a child, and wanting to give that child opportunities with an adoptive family. A birth mother doesn’t just place her child up for adoption because she doesn’t “want” them; many birth mothers do want children! An unplanned pregnancy can happen to anyone, and will continue to happen as time goes on. Adoption is an option for those circumstances of unpredictability, and we want birth mothers to feel good about their choice. 

Here are some examples of negative adoption language, compared to PAL (positive adoption language): 

Negative Adoption Language:

  • An “unwanted” pregnancy 
  • “Real parents” 
  • Giving up your baby/child for adoption 
  • “Is adopted” (For example, “This is Nathan, he is adopted”)

Positive Adoption Language:

  • An “unplanned” pregnancy 
  • “Birth parents/Biological parents” 
  • Placing your child up for adoption or creating an adoption plan 
  • “Was adopted” (For example, “This is Nathan, he was adopted”)

These distinctions may not seem very different, but these terms are important to use! Creating the distinction between “real parents” and “birth parents” is necessary for the birth family and adoptive family. It also helps birth mothers accept their choice of adoption. Some birth mother’s may find it hard to accept that they are not going to be their child’s “real” mother. We understand! This is why we implement a series of home study interviews with the adoptive family. They have a home study checklist they are required to fulfill in order for the adoption to be approved. The purpose of this interview is to give each party comfort in knowing that the child will grow up in a stable and caring home. Using the term “birth parents” when referring to biological parents helps each party make the distinction, and accept the adoption process fully.  

Tips on How to Use PAL in Your Everyday Vocabulary! 

Changing your terminology about adoption can be difficult—we understand. Change can be hard, but using PAL as part of your daily vocabulary and in conversations is important! We want to set a good mindset for our birthmothers, and help them with their options. And if you know someone who is going through an unplanned pregnancy, you do too! Let’s get on the same page, and go over some tips on how to use PAL regularly. 

  • Think Before You Speak

This may just seem like common sense, but sometimes people get caught up in the moment and lose track of their words! Whether you’re discussing adoption with a birth mother, or discussing your own adoption, using PAL is important! The words we use can always have subtext to them, and can be interpreted differently. Becoming aware of what we’re saying is integral in showing how adoption is positive.

  • Be Confident in Your Choice

We know that choosing adoption is a difficult choice, but we want you to feel confident in your choice! You’ve chosen adoption because you care about your child, and want them to have opportunities in life that you may not be able to give. It’s hard, but you have to accept that, too. Letting yourself heal and go through a stage of acceptance is a part of the adoption plan. When you’re talking about your own adoption, recognize the difficulty of your choice, and understand that you aren’t just “giving up”. Adoption is a challenge, but remember where your decision came from and feel comfortable with it. 

  • Talk to Your Adoption Agency

Adoption agencies are there specifically to help you! If coming to terms with your choice is something you need help with, our adoption specialists are there for you! We can speak with you about any part of the adoption process, and that includes using and accepting PAL. You can reach out to any of our adoption services in Wichita for any questions and help regarding adoption. 

  • Don’t Let Adoption Become Your Identity

This goes for both birth mothers and their adopted child. Becoming adopted or being a birth parent doesn’t mean your identity is surrounded by adoption. Once the child is with the adoptive family, the legal transaction is over. Using the phrase “was adopted” compared to “is adopted” lets both the birth mother and the child heal. Adoption only refers to how someone joins a family, and is a one-time process. Both the child and birth parent can heal, accept, and move on from that part of their life. 

  • Talk to Your Friends and Family

Positive Adoption Language with Adoption Choices of Kansas

Encourage your family and friends to use PAL in their everyday vocab! Hearing people you know refer to adoption in a positive light can influence you to do the same. Spreading the word about PAL and supporting it can help the birth parents in your life, as well as educating the people around you. 

We know that change can be difficult, but utilizing PAL and understanding its significance can help birth mothers on their adoption journey. Using positive language helps change the stereotype around adoption, and encourages birth mothers to be confident in their choice. At Adoption Choices of Kansas, this is one of our goals! Let’s create a positive conversation about adoption, together. 

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