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Adoption Terms You Must Know!

By Syd Sukalski

Are you a birth mother placing your baby for adoption? You might not know some of the different terminologies we use to discuss the adoption process, but maybe you have heard of something called “PAL,” or Positive Adoption Language. In this day and age, we have to be careful of what we say, and maybe you aren’t sure what things are okay to say concerning the adoption process and which things aren’t. Don’t worry. Today, we’re going to talk through some Positive Adoption Language, why we use these terms and avoid their alternatives. We will also define a few other words you’ll need to know.

But first, let us introduce ourselves. Adoption Choices of Arizona has adoption agencies all across the state. We specialize in pregnant moms and birth family adoption services. We treat you with respect and dignity and ensure you receive the birth mother benefits you need. If you have questions about your adoption plan, check out our adoption agencies in Arizona to get started.

Now, let’s talk about PAL.

If you need adoption help now, please call us at 480-900-5520, text us at 602-922-0408 or visit us at Adoption Choices of Arizona

What Is PAL? Why Is It Important?

Positive Adoption Language (PAL) are terms we use to describe different aspects of the adoption process. It’s integral you use PAL because adoption is a process in which many people come together to create one family. We want to respect everyone involved, including you, the birth parents, the adoptive parents, and the child you placed for adoption.

Placing a Baby for Adoption

When we say you “place your baby for adoption,” you know what we mean, but you might not know that some of the alternatives to this phrase are less positive. Some of these alternatives include “putting your child up for adoption.” The difference may seem minute, but “placing a baby for adoption” does not objectify the child. To say “putting your child up for adoption” implies that your child is an object you can put on a desk or a table. 

Make an Adoption Plan

Similarly, instead of “giving your child up for adoption,” we say, “making an adoption plan.” An adoption plan is the steps and choices you make when you place your baby for adoption. To say that you are “giving up” your child implies that there is some failure on your part, but this is just not true. People place their children for adoption for all sorts of reasons, and they are always in the baby’s best interest. Birth parents who make an adoption plan are doing something noble. They do it with love, care, and attention. Birth parents who choose to make an adoption plan are doing anything but giving up. They create a new life for their child.

Deciding to Parent

Sometimes, rather than placing their child for adoption, a birth parent will decide to parent their child. This term means that, for the moment, the birth parent ceases the adoption process and attempts to raise their child. “Decide to parent” is a PAL term, but an alternative to avoid would be to say, “they decided to keep their child.” Again, this implies that a child is an object or something the parents own.

Birth Parents

The birth mother and father are the biological parents of the child they place for adoption. Birth parents and biological parents are PAL terms, but an alternative you should avoid is “real parents.” Everyone is a “real parent.” There are no false parents. 

Birth Child, Child Placed for Adoption

Similarly, when we talk about the child whose birth parents placed them for adoption, we use the term “birth child.” We certainly do not use the words “real child” or “unwanted child.” Again, everyone is “real.” And just because a baby’s birth parents place them for adoption does not mean the child was unwanted. On the contrary, if you can’t take care of a child, it doesn’t mean you don’t want to. Even if it does, even if you don’t want a child right now, there is always a family waiting to love your child. 

Separated From Parents

Likewise, we might say that a child is “separated from her parents” rather than “abandoned” or “rejected.” Again, someone always wants to love your child and make them a part of their family.


ICPC stands for Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children. This contract means that if your birth child’s adoptive family lives in a different state, both states will work together to ensure that your child goes to a good environment.

Open Adoption

Open adoption allows you to choose the family that adopts your baby. It is a type of adoption in which you and the adoptive parents will communicate openly. This type of adoption also allows you to set up meetings with your child and their family, so you can all work together to give your baby the best life possible.

Closed Adoption

Closed adoption is another type of adoption. Here, the birth and adoptive parents don’t have any contact with each other after the adoption. In these scenarios, neither set of parents knows the identity of the other. These situations arise when the birth parents deem it in the child’s best interest to move forward without further contact with them.

Semi-Open Adoption

Semi-Open Adoption is the final type of adoption. In these adoptions, communication between the birth family and the adoptive family goes through the adoption agency. These adoptions are great for birth parents who want to give their child an opportunity to thrive in their new life without their interference but would still like to have the option to check on them.

Private Adoption vs. Court Termination

Private adoption refers to the type of adoption agency. Adoption Choices of Arizona is a private adoption agency, which means we have a license from the state that allows us to help mothers and birth parents who wish to place their children for adoption. We help you create an adoption plan and connect with an adoptive family for your child. The alternative is called “Court Termination,” another PAL term. Court termination means that, rather than a voluntary adoption sought by the birth parents, the state enforces it. We always say “court termination” rather than “their child was taken away” because of how the latter objectifies the child and implies the failure of the birth parents.

We know adoption in Arizona can be emotional and that sometimes you might feel guilty for placing your child for adoption and not parenting them. You should not have to feel this way. Understand that the adoption process is noble. You help create a family! So, give yourself some credit and use the most accurate and respectful terminology for yourself and everyone else involved.

The adoption journey is unique to each person, and we are always here to help you. For adoption resources or to begin your adoption journey, birth parents can visit us at Adoption Choices of Arizona or call us at or text us at 602-922-0408. If you are a prospective adoptive family hoping to adopt a baby, please, instead, visit us here!

Resources: https://www.cdss.ca.gov/inforesources/foster-care/interstate-compact-on-the-placement-of-children-icpc