Birth and adoptive families

Birth Parents, Adoptees and Adoptive Parents are known as the adoption triad. For journalists, it is often difficult to know how to describe the members of that so called “The adoption triad”
An adopted person’s parents (those who are raising the child) are simply their father, mother or parents. Using terms such as “real” or “natural” parents, suggests that the adoptive parents or their parental status are somehow unreal or unnatural. Stories should not portray adoptive parents as unusually selfless or saintly. People adopt because they simply want to have a family.
There is much debate over what families of origin should be called. The man and woman who conceived the child can be referred to as the birth, genetic or biological parents. Those considering an adoption plan should never be referred to as birth parents until they have relinquished their parental rights. They should be called simply parents or expectant parents. Some birth parents reject the term birth parent completely in favor of biological parent. Others prefer “original” or “first” mother. Legal language frequently describes birth parents as the “natural” parents, but that is a holdover from a bygone era and is best left to legal venues.
Language is also colored by the experience of the speaker. For instance, birth parents use “surrender,” because that is how they feel about what happened to them. On the other hand many triad members continue to use outdated adoption language when being interviewed. For instance, a story in The New York Times in May 2003 about a man who met his birth family, referred to them as his natural parents. While the references were part of a quote and, therefore could not be changed, it remains important to use constructive language.

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