Appropriate terminology to use when discussing adoption

Helping children understand the adoption process is vital. Beth Hall, Director of Pact - An Adoption Alliance, explains the best terminology to use throughout the adoption process
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Appropriate terminology to use when discussing adoption

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So first of all, what we know for children is that words actually matter. And we have to help them understand what they mean in order for them to understand who they are. So in the context of adoption, we want to think about how we talk about people. So the words we like to use are adoptive parent, birth parent and adopted person/child/adoptee. We call that the triad - those are the people directly touched by adoption. Sometimes in the world we hear people use other words, don't we? So who's your real parent? That puts a child in a big dilemma. Hm, who's my real parent? Are you not my real parent? Maybe I don't feel so secure today, because I'm not sure that you think I belong with this person, but I thought I did. You can see how core emotions can get pulled out by the very words we use. Same thing in transracial adoption where people are different races. When we ask questions of children - "is that your real mother?", "Who is that person that's taking care of you? You don't look like them, so that can't be your mother" - we create insecurities in kids because they are no longer sure they are where they are meant to be, and that it's ok to be in the family they are in. So words do matter and it is important how we talk about those things.

Helping children understand the adoption process is vital. Beth Hall, Director of Pact - An Adoption Alliance, explains the best terminology to use throughout the adoption process

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Beth Hall

Director, Pact - An Adoption Alliance

Beth Hall is an adoption educator who co-founded Pact, An Adoption Alliance, which is a multicultural adoption organization dedicated to addressing essential issues affecting adopted children of color. Pact offers lifelong support and placement services for birth and adoptive families with adopted kids of color. A national speaker, she is also the author of numerous articles and a book, Inside Transracial Adoption, which is filled with personal stories, practical suggestions, and theory, and delivers the message that race matters; racism is alive; and families built transracially can develop strong and binding ties. In 2010 she received the Outstanding Practitioner in Adoption Award, from the Adoption Initiative at St. John's University. She currently serves as a contributing author and advisory board member for “Adoption Clubhouse,” a project promoting positive identity in transracially adopted children for the Evan B. Donaldson Institute for Adoption and as an Advisory Board Member for the On Your Feet Foundation, dedicated to supporting birth mothers of adopted children.Commitment to family is a way of life for Beth. She is the white adoptive mom of two young adults: Sofia, a Latina, and James, an African American. Beth grew up a member of an adoptive family—her sister, Barbara, was adopted. She lives in Oakland, California, with her husband and sometimes her adult children, when they are home.

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