Monday, January 30, 2012

Adoption Vocab. 101

Like most special interest groups, adoption has its own vocabulary.  And, unless you have adopted or have had your lives significantly touched by adoption, there is little reason that you would be familiar with these terms. 

Recently, we hosted an adoption event highlighting special needs, domestic adoption, and (of course) our international adoption.  One of my handouts was simply a brief vocabulary sheet, which I would like to share with you.  Some of it seems rather silly, I confess.  However, there is a potential to send negative messages and land yourself in hot water with the "mama grizzly."  Or, if not to send the wrong message, simply to be at a loss for words when trying to ask a mama-at-heart about the next phase of her process!  
So, "bear" with me as I share share some politically correct terminology, then leave me a message and give me your input!  

Birth mom (dad)/ birth mother (father)/ biological parent Real parents, natural parents (opposed to "fake" and "unnatural" parents?)
Place (a child), choose adoption Give up (a child)
Choose to parent Keep a child
Birth child Child of their own
Our child Adopted child
Placed for adoption Unwanted child
Parent Adoptive parent
International adoption Foreign adoption
Court termination Child taken away
Child from abroad Foreign child
Interracial Mixed race
Special needs Handicapped
Born to unmarried parents Illegitimate
Waiting child Adoptable/available child

  • Home Study: A social worker's report on the prospective adoptive parents' home, health, medical, criminal, family and home background. The purpose is to help the court determine whether the adoptive parents are qualified to adopt a child.  Basically, to make sure the parents are not growing pot in their back yard or have bare electrical wires strewn around their home.
  • Dossier: When used in the context of adoption, this term refers to a set of legal documents that satisfy the international government's requirements for adoptive families.  Ethiopia wanted to make sure that we had electricity and running water in our home.  No joke.
  • Referral: A match between prospective parents and a waiting child. Some adoption referrals may include the following: photos, videos, medical information, how the child is growing and developing physically, background information, etc.  **THIS IS WHAT WE ARE WAITING FOR**
  • Reactive Attachment Disorder (or RAD): This term is used to describe a condition that generally appears in children before age five, and is thought to result from a lack of consistent care and nurturing in early years. The disorder is characterized by the inability of a child or infant to establish age-appropriate social contact and relationships with others.
  • Bonding: The process that a child goes through in developing lasting emotional ties with it's immediate caregivers.  It is central to that person's ability to relate properly to others throughout its life.
  • Attachment: The formation by a child of significant and stable emotional connections with the significant people in its life.
  • Photolisting: A published listing, either online or in print, containing a photo and description of a waiting child or sibling group, used by agencies to recruit prospective adoptive parents.   My favorite site for photolostings is  Check it out.  You'll want to adopt, too!
  • Placement: The move of a waiting child, teen or sibling group into the home of the family who plans to adopt them.  

What are your thoughts?  What terms would you add to the list?

1 comment:

  1. Great post Anna! You could add to the list "open adoption" and "closed adoption." I agree that this is a helpful list for people who are curious and want to ask questions but aren't sure the right terminology to use. I guess it also depends on the parents-to-be as to what terminology bothers/offends them and what doesn't. But this list is a good place to open up a conversation if people have no idea where to begin.
    I would say that in our adoption experience the correct term referring to biomom's (term our social worker uses)choice really is "give up the child." Sadly there was not much maternal-ness (did I just make up a new word? lol,)if at all, on biomom's part, it was just really awkward to see her trying to act like a mom,(and to her credit she really did try, and I know she loves Addy). I know that for Addy's sake the better term is indeed "chose adoption" or "placed for adoption" so she doesn't feel like she is unwanted or unloved (though I've been told that she will question that love at some point in her life). As hard as it will be, I would love for Addy to know her birth mom one day and to have a good relationship with her and not harbor any ill feelings toward her. I think its a beautiful thing when I see people who love both their mom and their birth mom and have a good relationship with both. But right now it gets very discouraging and it seems hopeless that it will ever be possible. I certainly don't want to be a hindrance if that's what Addy chooses to get to know biomom in the future. But the Lord knows what He is doing, and despite all the trickiness of open adoption relationships, I need to trust that our Heavenly Father is in control and He knows what is really best, even if from my human perspective biomom "gave her up".