Saturday, April 1, 2017


There have been many debates over the years regarding language and words used in the adoption process. After a recent conversation with a colleague, it appears another seems to be brewing about the labeling of biological and adoptive parents.

The last controversy concerned the legal definition of "natural parent" to indicate the person who had a biological connection or who gave birth to the child. Adoption advocates preferred words such as "birthparent" or "biological parent". Now the term "expectant parent" is arising as the precursor to "birthparent", meaning until they give birth, they are not "birthparents".   In that case, I wondered, wouldn't adoptive parents be "expectant parents"?

Actually, they are called "prospective adoptive parents", prior to adopting. Once an adoption is finalized, they are the child's legal parent. The legal process never identifies them as adoptive parents except on documents used to request a finalization of the adoption in the court. When the adoption is finalized, they are the child’s parents, although some insist on labeling them the “legal” or “adoptive” parent. 

As a child grows, there are terms you may use to identify biological (birth, first mommy, lady whose belly you were in or by a first name, etc.) and adoptive parents (mommy and/or daddy, etc.). Hopefully, the child has been given some options as they gain more understanding of their birth and early life narrative.

While we can add more definitions to the type of parent - expectant, birth, foster, adoptive, natural   and while some parents will have more influence on the daily life of a child,  I think , whether giving birth or becoming a mom or dad through adoption,  or whether living with or apart from a child - all are the child's parents.

Kathy Ann Brodsky, LCSW is a New York and New Jersey licensed social worker, adoptive mom and advocate for ethical adoption practice. She has prepared thousands of adoption homestudies, counseled adoptive parents and parents-to-be, and has trained professionals to work with adoptive families. She was Director of the Ametz Adoption Program of JCCA (March 1992 to March 2015), Head Writer for and a member of the Advisory Board for POV’s Adoption Series. She is currently a member of the Adoption Advisory Board of Path2Parenthood and active in the Adoptive Parents Committee in New York (including being the 2016 Conference Keynote). She lives in New York City where she has a private practice specializing in adoption and adoptive parenting. She was named an “Angel in Adoption” by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption in 2001. Follow or reach her at ADOPTION MAVEN BLOG or EMAIL