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What is Positive Adoption Language?

Words and how we use them can greatly affect others – especially children. Adoption can be a very sensitive topic and it’s important to use positive adoption language (PAL). Once you announce your plans to adopt a child, you’ll most likely hear many outdated terms used by people who don’t realize that phrases like ‘real or natural parents’ are offensive. In fact, society in general, really doesn’t understand adoption and many people have misconceptions about it.

By using positive adoption language, we educate others about adoption and hopefully the misconceptions surrounding adoption can become a thing of the past.

Positive Language

Negative Language

  • Biological Parent or Birth Parent(s)
  • Parent
  • Birth child
  • My child
  • Child with special needs
  • Was adopted
  • Make an adoption plan, choose adoption
  • Terminate parental rights
  • To parent
  • Born to unmarried parents
  • Waiting child
  • International adoption
  • Adoption triad
  • Permission to sign a release
  • Making contact with birth family
  • Search, locate
  • Court termination
  • Real parent(s), natural parent(s)
  • Adoptive Parent
  • Own child or natural child
  • My adopted child, a child of my own
  • Damaged child, hard to place child
  • Is adopted
  • Give up child, give child away
  • Give up your child
  • To keep the child
  • Illegitimate child
  • Adoptable child, free child, orphan
  • Foreign adoption
  • Adoption triangle
  • Disclosure
  • Reunion / to reunite with parents
  • Track down parents
  • Child taken away


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