Adoption, Motherhood, Parenting

Understanding Respectful Adoption Language | November is Adoption Awareness Month

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“My son Wyatt (her adopted son) is all mine. Little souls find their way to you whether it’s through your womb or someone else’s.”-singer Cheryl Crow

November is Adoption Awareness Month | Respectful Adoption Language

November is a special month for my (Becky’s) family in many ways. Thanksgiving, deer hunting opener and my birthday are all crammed into an already hectic month.

But another thing I love about the eleventh month of the year is the fact that it is National Adoption Month. Why is this significant? Because I am an adoptive parent!

We adopted our son Jake at birth as a domestic adoption and also as a designated adoption. It’s a pretty magical story and I still remember the car ride home from Abbott Northwest with a tiny preemie tucked into a car seat. I’ll never forget how brave and selfless his birth mom was (and still is) and how I couldn’t believe our long wait to be parents was finally over.

Now Jake is a big, strapping ninth grader with a huge heart and even huger appetite. I love this kid so hard.

National Adoption Month

Misguided Adoption Comments are Hurtful

But I do recall, in the early days when the addition of this fuzz-headed baby boy to our family was new, that people made some less-than-kind comments. Not out of meanness; I would say more like out of not knowing better.

It was such a curious situation that I think people forgot what was truly most important; children are children and they are your children whether they came from your uterus or not.

Questions ranged from “What’s wrong with him” to “do you think you’ll be able to love him like he’s your real child?” Yes, I am serious. 🙁

FYI-adoptive parents do not ever label their child as a “real child” or an “adopted child”. They are our kids, period.

You don’t introduce your child as “my c-section daughter” or “our premature son,” right?

NOPE. Just nope.

So Why Does It Matter? | Respectful Adoption Language

“So, why does it matter?” you may be asking.

As an adoptive Mom, I can promise you it does matter.  It matters for the little humans we are raising. It matters for the parents on either end who made sacrifices so this “raising” could happen.

Maybe that’s why I have so adamant about something known as Respectful Adoption Language (RAL). In simple English, it is about choosing words and speech when talking about adoption, that reflects maximum respect, dignity, responsibility and objectivity about the decisions made by birth parents and adoptive parents.

The original version “R.A.L” (Respectful Adoption Language) was first introduced by Minneapolis social worker Marietta Spencer as a way to help eliminate the emotional and socially held myth that adoption is a second-best or lesser-than normal alternative for parenthood. “Back in the day” there was a serious misconception that adoption was only for those who had somehow missed out on a “real” family experience.

Spencer’s hope was to eliminate the emotionally-charged (and often less than kind) words that people used in conversation and also help to promote understanding among members of the adoption circle. I can gratefully say, thanks to people like Marietta Spencer and other adoptive parents like me, people are much more open-minded and kinder about this subject than they were almost 15 years ago.

Misconceptions and Faux Pas about Adoption | What You Need To Know

#1: Adoption is NOT just a foreign thing:

When people think of adoption, they automatically think of overseas. Domestic adoptions are still alive and well and there are many, many kids in the US Foster Care System that would love a chance to be a part of a family. Jake came to us as a domestic, designated adoption. This means he was born in the U.S. and we made our own connection with his birth mom instead of through an agency.

#2: Don’t ask who’s his/her “Real Mom” is:

I know for a fact that people are not being purposefully disrespectful. But here’s the deal, “real mom” implies that I am a “fake” or “substitute” mom and I can assure you that I am neither.  The more R.A.L. language would define us as Birth Mom and Adoptive Mom.

#3: Don’t ask which one is my “Real Kid”:

I highly encourage you to not walk up to an adoptive family (or our family for example) and ask, “which one’s your real one?”  Our kids, whether they came into our world via the uterus or the beautiful process of adoption, are real children in every way-shape-and-form. They are NOT artificial or rental units. But seriously, I pray that never happens when Jake is old enough to comprehend. Imagine how painful that would be for him?

Adoptive families also treat siblings who join their family by birth or adoption equally. They are loved equally by their parents and experience all of the joys and trials of any sibling relationship.

#4: We don’t “buy” our kids:

I’ve had people ask, “So how much did he cost?” My response is something along the lines of, “Children are not a commodity, but if you are truly interested about the cost of the adoption process, here’s a great website full of info….”

#5: Be aware of the wording – “Give Up for Adoption” -vs- “Place for Adoption”:

This may seem like splitting hairs, but this really is a more kind, gentle and respectful way of talking about one brave birth mother’s choice to let another woman’s motherhood dreams come true because it is not her time to raise a child.

It was always a cringe-worthy moment when someone (not always kids-adults were guilty of this too) blurted out the all-too-common question; “Why didn’t his/her real mom want him/her?” to us when we shared the excitement and beauty of our adoption process.

Let me be clear. It’s not always the case that placing a child for an adoption is for the child’s safety and well-being. Just as many times birth mothers are very young and scared. They are also incredibly brave and unselfish to know that, even though a huge piece of their heart leaves when their child leaves, they know that this is the best thing for him/her in that moment in time.

To this day I look at my gigantic, funny kindhearted man-child and thank his birth mom for giving us the honor of raising him and being his Forever Parents. I am such a better person for having this gift from God in my life.

Respectful Adoption Language | Adoption Resources and Links

I love this entire Pinterest Board dedicated to Positive Adoption thoughts and language!

The Adoption Awareness Group has created a wonderful calendar for the 30 days of Adoption Awareness Month that is full of ideas on how to celebrate adoption each day!  Download your Adoption Month calendar at
Respectful Adoption Language - What you NEED to know! - November is National Adoption Month

Becky Flansburg | Up North Parent | Parenting Website in MinnesotaBecky is an “old-ish” mom of “young-ish” kids who thinks bacon is the world’s most perfect food. She is a veteran blogger, freelance writer, virtual assistant and project manager for the non-profit children’s literacy event, Multicultural Children’s Book Day. She is also a proud mom to her amazing 11 year-old daughter Sara and 14 year-old son Jake. Parenting a tween and a teen is a challenge, but she truly believes that being a mom is the Best.Thing.Ever. When she is not hiking (#plussizehiker), reading, selling on eBay, playing with her  pets or working on a story for the various magazines she writes for, you can find her on her main blog, Franticmommy.   Connect with Becky on social media: Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook!

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