What’s the right way of talking about adoption – adoption terms explained

Before the 27 hour PRIDE course on adoption, I had it all wrong.  I used to say a mother ‘gave up her baby for adoption’ and lots of other terms as I just hadn’t been exposed to the correct terminology.  I thought I would write this little blog to help people with talking about adoption.  If you do get corrected by adoptive or birth parents, don’t be offended, they’re just trying to help educate.



Birth or biological parents Real parents, natural parents
Parents People like Chris and I – we are his parents now
Adoptee – child who was adopted Own child
Birth child Own child
The birth parents made an adoption plan The parents gave their baby up for adoption
The birth parents loved their child so much that they made an adoption plan The birth parents must really not have loved their baby to give it up.  (Side note – we never want our son to hear this – his birth parents loved him sooooo much that they knew making an adoption plan was best for him). Or the birth parents must be really young.  Every adoption has different circumstances and it’s not always that the couple is young.
Open adoption – child has some type of access to birth family (could be in person or through email/phone) – beneficial as the child can understand his/her background more Open adoption being a burden to the adoptive parents.  We love the fact that our son will get to know his birth family and will have all the access he needs to his family history.  It would be hard to not be able to answer our son’s questions in the future if we didn’t know anything about his birth family.
Was adopted Is adopted

When in doubt, just ask!



  1. Shannon, saw this article “liked” on FB and thought I’d check you out. I’d heard that you had been on the path to adopting a child and I’m so happy that it has worked out for you. Also, interesting re-frame with respect to above terminology.

    Congrats; all the best!

    Nick B

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