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Adoption Language

The way we use words and language to describe adoption conveys certain attitudes and values we may have. It also has an impact on adoptees in our lives who hear us speak about adoption.
The adoption community has a widely agreed-upon set of words and phrases to help us promote positive discussions about adoption within and outside of the adoption community. Below we have some examples of positive adoption language to use in place of common phrases which could feel hurtful to members of the adoption triad.
We educate others about adoption in the way we speak and write about it, with the hopes that this language will someday become the norm. Those of us in the adoption community should use positive adoption language in a way that encourages others to be respectful of those whose lives have been touched by adoption.

Positive LanguageNegative Language
BirthparentReal Parent
Biological ParentNatural Parent
Birth ChildOwn Child
My ChildAdopted Child; Own Child; Real Child
Born to Unmarried ParentsIllegitimate
Relinquish Parental RightsGive Up; Give Away
Make an Adoption PlanGive Away; Give Up
To ParentTo Keep
Making Contact withReunion
ParentAdoptive Parent
International AdoptionForeign Adoption
Permission to Sign a ReleaseDisclosure
SearchTrack Down Parents
Child Placed for AdoptionChild Given Up
Court TerminationChild Taken Away
Child with Special NeedsHandicapped Child
Child from AbroadForeign Child

Adoption Terms and Meanings

Many terms in the adoption community may be unfamiliar to you. Here are a few key terms to help
you in your interactions in the adoption community.

Alleged/Assumed FatherThis term refers to the man who a woman names as the father of her child
Biological FatherThis term refers to a man that has legal status as the child’s natural father, whether he is married to the woman or not.
Birth FamilyAny person who is a member of the child’s biological extended family (including aunts and uncles, grandparents, etc.).
Birth Father/First Fatherhe child’s biological father. This term is used only once relinquishment has been signed. Until then, we use the term “expectant father” or simply “father”
Birth Mother/First MotherThe child’s biological mother. This term is used only once relinquishment has been signed. Until then, we use the term “expectant mother” or simply “mother.”
Birth SiblingThe adoptee’s biological sibling from either birthparent.
ChosenTerm used once an expectant mother selects a family to make an adoption plan for the child.
EntitlementThe feeling of worthiness to be the child’s parents. Contrary to its negative connotation in other instances, the word “entitlement” refers to a positive feeling of confidence for adoptive parents.
Entrustment CeremonyThis is a voluntary, non-mandatory ceremony in which the birthmother “entrusts” the life of her child to the adoptive family. It is often a personal time for the birthmother and adoptive family to visit with one another.
Expectant MotherAny pregnant woman. In the adoption world, this includes a woman who is actively making an adoption plan. She is still considered a child’s mother until she has legally signed relinquishment of parental rights; only then do we use the term “first mother” or “birth mother.”
FinalizationThe adoption is consummated at this time and the adoptive parents become the legal parents of the child in front of a judge. This may occur after the satisfactory completion of the six month post placement supervision period.
Hopeful Adoptive ParentsThis term refers to a couple who has matched with an expectant mother.
Legal FatherThis term refers to a man who is married to the expectant mother. He may or may not be the child’s biological father.
Match MeetingA time where an expectant mother meets with a waiting family who she may be interested in learning more about.
MatchedTerm used once an expectant mother selects a family to make an adoption plan for the child.
Paternity RegistryIn the State of Texas, The Bureau of Vital Statistics provides an opportunity to protect the rights of fathers who believe they may have parented a child. The law states that it is a man’s responsibility to know that a pregnancy could occur from a sexual encounter and to “register” his information if he wishes to preserve his rights as a parent. The form must be filed before or within 30 days of child’s date of birth.
Post Adoption ServicesThis term refers to services provided by the agency following the adoption of a child.
Post Placement SupervisionThe six-month period following placement in which the agency remains the managing conservator of the child and must have monthly contact with the family to supervise the child’s growth, development and integration into the Family.
Service of CitationA legal procedure in which a biological father is personally served with citation. This may occur when a biological father has not responded after having been located and contacted regarding his alleged paternity. If the father does not respond by timely filing an admission of paternity or a counterclaim for paternity his rights may then be terminated.
Termination of Parental RightsIf the court finds by clear and convincing evidence grounds for termination of the parent-child relationship, it shall render an order terminating the parent-child relationship which divests the parent and the child of all legal rights and duties with respect to each other.
Relinquishment of Parental RightsThe document that a parent signs to voluntarily terminate their rights to parent his or her child. This document is permanent and irrevocable. In the state of Texas, a woman may not sign this document until at LEAST 48 hours after the birth of her child. If a child has a legal father, he must also sign a relinquishment document.

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