Monday, July 26, 2010

positive adoption language

A few weeks ago, I decided to stay home and work on my kitchen (because the sooner we get the kitchen done, the sooner we can start on the baby's room!). I turned the TV to TLC and ran a series of "baby day" stories in the background as I prepped and painted cabinets. The narration was plenty loud and it never failed to overstate the obvious, so it was sort of like a book on tape. I listened to three simultaneous "Special Delivery" stories about high risk pregnancies in Florida (they all turned out fine) trying to imagine what "Terry and Phil" really looked like. I powered through an episode of "Bringing Home Baby" where Bethany and Sean gave us a peak in to the first 48 hours of life at home with baby Madison (named after the mermaid in Splash). Bethany was stressed because Madison wasn't breastfeeding and Sean was stressed because Madison was jaundiced, but if you ask me, the most stressful part about their entire scenario was the PET BIRD that Sean's mother (logically) decided to bring with her while she slept on an air mattress in their living room for TWO WEEKS!!  Because nothing says "I'm here to help" like the squawk of nana's parakeet!

Then I listened to (what I thought would be) an inspirational "Adoption Story" about a couple in Michigan adopting a little boy from India. I love adoption stories and I've recently been to India, so...bonus! I listened as the couple explained the adoption process - the paperwork, the home study, the classes, the background checks, the stress, and the waiting. Then I stopped dead in my tracks when the voiceover explained that the couple was adopting a child instead of trying for "a baby of their own".  (record scratch) Excuse me?  "A baby of their own"?  Just because Jackie didn't grow that little boy inside her belly did not make him any less "her own".  I wanted to pick up the phone and call TLC to explain exactly why "a baby of their own" was negative adoption language.

Then it got me thinking. If not for the class Ryan and I took (where our instructor broke down the absolute worst case scenario of every single adoption she's ever conducted), there's no way I would have tuned in to the nuances of adoption language. It's not like I'm "super-PC-girl" and I want everyone around me to use generic, non-offensive language all the time, but certain words evoke negative feelings. "Giving up a baby" or "putting it up for adoption" has the potential to make my child feel abandoned and unwanted. And obviously, we want our child to feel like he or she belongs in our family. So I decided to create a blog-entry to share the differences between Positive Adoption Language (words and phrases that evoke the joy of growing a family through adoption) and Negative Adoption Language (words and phrases that have the potential to make me or my child sit in a corner and cry).

This is not a "lesson", it's just a tool. Possibly the only helpful information we got out of the "fear-tactic" adoption class Ryan and I sat through on a cold night in February:

Positive Adoption Language:
  • Birthparent                                 
  • Biological parent                         
  • Biological child                           
  • My child                                      
  • Born to unmarried parents       
  • Terminate parental rights         
  • Decided not to parent                
  • Waiting child                              
  • Making contact with                  
  • Parents                                        
  • International adoption               
  • Search                                         
  • Placed a child for adoption         
  • Court termination                     

Negative Adoption Language:
  • Real Parent
  • Natural Parent
  • Your own child
  • My adopted child or My own child
  • Illegitimate
  • Gave up
  • Gave away
  • Adoptable child or Available child
  • Reunited
  • Adopted parents
  • Foreign adoption
  • Track down your real parents 
  • Put up a baby or Gave up a baby
  • Child taken away

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