Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Adoption: Then & Now and The Power of Words

Disclaimer: we did not originally write this; it came from material distributed by our agency, Bethany Christian Services. That said, we thought it was worth re-publishing.

ADOPTION in the PAST
Birth parents were not involved in adoption plan.

ADOPTION TODAY
Birth parents can:
-select a couple from written profiles
-meet adoptive parents before/after birth
-negotiate the amount of ongoing contact after placement (photos, letters, e-mails, videos and/or visits)

**

ADOPTION in the PAST
Closed – no information was shared

ADOPTION TODAY
Open/Individualized – contact issues are discussed and decided between
birth parents and adoptive families

**

ADOPTION in the PAST

Adoption records automatically sealed

ADOPTION TODAY
Records are more open, allowing an adult adoptee the opportunity to find birth parent(s), if birth parents are in agreement with this contact.

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ADOPTION in the PAST
Minimum counseling was provided.

ADOPTION TODAY
Free counseling is provided throughout the pregnancy. Follow-up counseling continues for as long as needed. Post-adoption support groups are provided for birth parents.

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ADOPTION in the PAST
Grief and loss not acknowledged

ADOPTION TODAY
Loss is central theme in adoption for all parties. Counseling is available to process this loss.

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ADOPTION in the PAST
Lack of contact with the baby in the hospital

ADOPTION TODAY
Amount of hospital contact is determined by birth parents.
Birth parents can care for the baby during the hospital stay.

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ADOPTION in the PAST
Emphasis was on the adoptive family’s desire for a baby

ADOPTION TODAY
Emphasis is child focused, adoptive families are resource families for children and birthfamilies in need.

**

Additionally, our words reflect our values. They wound or heal, alienate or educate.

The words we use reveal as much about us and our values as they do about the situations that we are trying to describe. Our views, experiences, biases, and assumptions are intrinsically woven into the words we use to communicate every day.

The language of adoption is full of expressions we have "always heard" and all too easily use. These expressions shape the perceptions of both the people who use them and the people who hear them. They convey our values and biases and can encourage or stop communication.

The importance of being aware of the values that our words convey is not confined to the language of adoption. It can be as simple as deciding whether to use the word "problem" or "challenge" when it comes to describing a child’s behavior. A disagreement can be a "difference of opinion" or an "argument." The subtle nuances between the words we choose and those we do not can elicit profoundly different responses from the listener. Listeners hear through the filter of their own experience and emotion.

So it is with adoption. A simple choice of words can reveal our views and communicate a great deal to a listener. We encourage social workers, adoptive parents, birthparents, board members, volunteers and supporters to use language that accurately reflects the reality of adoption. This list is not exhaustive but it reflects some of the more common words that are encountered when discussing adoption.

Rather than…....................We suggest

Real Parent(s)…...................Birthparent(s), Birthmother, Birthfather
Natural parent(s) …............Biological parent(s)
Unwed mother…................Single parent
Real child…........................Birth child
Illegitimate child…..............Child of unmarried parents
Put up for Adoption….........Make an adoption plan
Give up for adoption …......Choose adoption
Is adopted….......................Was adopted
Keep a child…...................Parent a child
Hard to place child…..........Child with special placement needs
Unwanted pregnancy…......Unplanned, unintended or untimely pregnancy
Find parents…...................Search for birthparents
Foreign adoption …...........Intercountry adoption