Over the past decade, the language we use surrounding adoption has developed significantly. In the modern age, we are growing more aware of the needs of each member of the adoption triad. We want each person to have a voice and be heard.

If you’ve just started your adoption journey, you may be unsure of what appropriate terms to use, and that’s okay. You’re not alone. We are all here to help you learn.

For a long time, when people would refer to women who were considering adoption, they would say she was “giving the baby up for adoption” or “putting the baby up for adoption.” Now, because of the freedom of choice that is often offered to expectant mothers, we say she is “making an adoption plan” or “considering adoption.” When the mother has actually signed adoption consent papers, we say she has “placed her baby for adoption.”

Why do we say she placed instead of gave up?

We say “place for adoption” because it signifies intention and careful deliberation. She did not make this choice lightly. This choice was not something that she woke up one day and randomly decided to pursue. She spent time and energy into carefully finding a family for this child and getting to know them, all while facing her own challenging circumstances. She didn’t give up anything. She just made a different choice.

I heard someone using the wrong language, should I politely correct them?

Educating people with kindness is so important. Adoption is widely misunderstood by society and it’s always good to take the time to inform someone, especially in the case that they would come in contact with someone that they could potentially hurt by using the wrong adoption terminology. It’s very common to hear people say “give up for adoption” or “put up for adoption” because they just don’t know! If you are unsure of how to tell them, try just repeating the correct phrase back to them in your response.


Here’s an example:

John: My friend is a birth mom; she gave her baby up for adoption a few years ago.

Jane: Wow, how has your friend been doing since she placed her baby?

Sneaking small, subtle phrases into a conversation is a kind and polite way to educate people. Sometimes, people just aren’t informed! They may even ask you to expand on the phrase, and you will have welcomed a healthy learning experience for all.