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Why it is problematic

This sends a clear message to children who have been adopted that they were (are?) unwanted and disposed of like an object. This may lead children to believe this was their fault—that it is because of who they are that their birthparents “didn’t want” them. It also can lead children to believe that their birthparents didn’t care about or love them. It does not reflect the reality that making an adoption plan is a very loving action.

Why it is problematic

The child has birthparents and adoptive parents and all are real live people and we are all real family. Calling one set of parents “real” sends the message that there is something not real about the other set of parents. Calling birthparents the “natural” parents sends the message to children that there is something unnatural or even wrong with their family and adoption.

Why it is problematic

Historically, this phrase comes from the era in which children from the big East Coast cities were put on trains to the Midwest where they were “put up” on the train platform to be selected for adoption. If this process sounds a little like the sale of slaves or the way we pick out animals or food, then you can understand why this is not a positive phrase to use.

Why it is problematic

These phrases indicate that being adopted is the primary basis for the identity of the child, that adoption is who they are. Yes, a child was adopted—it is an action that happened in their past, but it is not the primary thing that defines who they are as a person. First, consider if the fact that the child was adopted is even relevant to what is being said. If adoption has nothing to do with it, then child or daughter/son will suffice. We don’t specify other details of children’s births or histories when not relevant (e.g. we don’t say “your c-section daughter” when not talking about c-sections or we don’t say “your near-sighted son” if not specifically talking about glasses).

Why it is problematic

These may sound like compliments, but they have a lot of unintended consequences and are based off of unhealthy assumptions. First, we as adoptive parents are the grateful/lucky/blessed ones to get the chance to parent these amazing children. Adoption also involves a loss though. Children grieve the loss of what could have been—the loss of their birth family raising them, the loss of a sense of connectedness, the loss of important medical and social history. It doesn’t matter how difficult the situation of their adoption was—it is still a loss. As adoptive parents we walk through that loss with our children, acknowledging that pain and grieving with them. Focusing on how “lucky” they are denies children the right and space to grieve the real loss they have experienced. It also glorifies us as adoptive parents when in reality we are no different than any other parents. We wanted to be parents, so we became parents through adoption and we love our children. There is nothing heroic about that. Implying that there is sends the message to our children that it takes special people to love them, that somehow the love their parents have for them is charity. Or “I’m happy for you and your family” will suffice.