How Adoption Works

Why You Shouldn’t Say “Give Up” for Adoption [Positive Adoption Language Guide]


When adoption becomes the topic of conversation, there’s one phrase that almost always gets thrown around: “giving a baby up.”

If you’re a woman who grew up hearing this phrase — whether from friends, family or pop culture — you might be scared if there’s any truth behind it, now that you’re facing an unplanned pregnancy and considering adoption.

While other words for “give a baby up for adoption” do exist, you might still ask yourself:

If I choose adoption, does that really mean that I’m giving up?

Will my child honestly think that I “gave up” on them if I choose adoption?

Will my friends and family really think I just “gave up” if I choose adoption over parenting?

Before we get into our topic, we want to reassure you that “giving up” is not synonymous with adoption. If you are considering this path, the only thing you are giving your child is the best gift of all: a life full of love, joy and opportunities.

To help dispel some of your worries, we’re going to dive into where this misnomer originated from, the importance of positive adoption language and alternative phrases for “giving up for adoption.” You can also speak to an adoption professional at any time by filling out this informational form.

Where the Phrase ‘Give Baby Up for Adoption’ Came From

The adoption process has evolved a lot over the past 50 years — but, sadly, the language we use to talk about adoption hasn’t. The concept of “giving up a baby” is an outdated one that doesn’t reflect the realities of modern adoptions.

Today, adoption is an empowering choice that women can make when faced with an unplanned pregnancy, but that hasn’t always been the case.

The idea of there being other ways to say “give up for adoption” is relatively new. Adoptions in the 19th and early 20th centuries were often shrouded in secrecy and shame. Because of the stigma against unwed mothers and their children, many women felt pressured to hide their pregnancies and place their babies with adoptive families.

Often left with no other choice, these women would “give their babies up” to strangers, never to see or hear from them again. This left birth mothers wondering who their children had become, what their lives were like, and whether they were safe and loved. In most cases, these questions went unanswered. And, as their children grew older, they would have next to no way of finding their birth parents.

Fortunately, this era of adoption history is long gone. But language that emerged from this period has managed to stick around even to this day.

The phrase “giving up a baby for adoption” continues the hurtful myth that women who place their children for adoption are selfish —  that they don’t really care about what happens after they choose adoption. Of course, none of this is true, which is the main reason as to why you really shouldn’t say “give up” for adoption.

What Does Adoption Look Like Today?

Adoption today is better than it has ever been. There are now many advantages for a woman who chooses this unplanned pregnancy option. She is free to choose:

As you can see, a birth mother is not “giving up” at all when she chooses adoption for her baby. She considers each option carefully as she makes her adoption plan. She plays an active role in giving her child the best future she can, which is why it is so important to use the correct terminology for “giving a baby up” for adoption.

Why ‘Give Up’ for Adoption is Bad: The Importance of Positive Adoption Language

Every word matters. When you use phrases that include “giving up” to talk about adoption, it’s not only hurtful, it’s just plain wrong.

We wholeheartedly believe that every birth mother has the right to choose adoption for her baby free from judgement or shame. That’s why it’s always better to find other ways to say “give up” for adoption.

If you’re a pregnant woman considering adoption, we want to reassure you that you are in no way giving up. No woman chooses this path because she wants to “give up” or “give away” her child. This is a decision that takes tremendous courage, love and sacrifice.

When a woman chooses adoption for her baby, she is not defeated and she’s not giving up on herself or her child. Instead, she is taking active steps to give herself and her baby a better future.

What are Some Different Ways of Saying Give “Baby Up” for Adoption?

We’re happy that you asked! Now that you know more about the negative connotations and why you shouldn’t say “give up for adoption,” it’s time to talk about the alternative phrases that adoption professionals encourage everyone to use instead.

When you talk to a professional, you might hear the terms:

This is what we prefer to use as the correct terminology for “give a baby up” for adoption. That’s because each one puts a prospective birth mother front and center.

These phrases say that, by placing her child up for adoption, she took active steps to give her baby the best future she possible.

If I’m Not ‘Giving Up’ My Baby, Why Do Adoption Professionals Use this Term?

When you look for information about adoption, you may see this phrase on an adoption professional’s website. Now that you know the correct terminology, it can be confusing to see anyone else use the term, let alone an experienced professional.

But there’s actually a simple reason for this.

Adoption professionals know that this phrase is what most people are familiar with. In fact, it’s possible that this is the only phrase that you knew before you started reading this article or before you considered adoption as one of your unplanned pregnancy options.

Because this misnomer is so common, many women start their research by searching terms like “How can I give my baby up for adoption?” and “What is the process for giving a baby up for adoption?” — because they really don’t know about the other words for “giving up for adoption” that accurately reflect their situation.

As such, there are no adoption professionals that believe the phrase “give a baby up for adoption” is correct or that it accurately portrays what a woman is thinking when she chooses adoption for her baby. Instead, they include the phrase to so that a woman can easily find the information she needs if she’s considering adoption. It is also used to spread awareness about how adoption really works for anyone who may be curious about this process.

When you talk to an adoption professional, they will always use the correct terminology for “give a baby up” for adoption.

What to Know Moving Forward

So, why is “give up” for adoption bad? Because it doesn’t accurately reflect a woman’s adoption experience.

When you talk about a woman’s adoption decision, always remember that there are different ways of saying give a baby up for adoption. As a prospective birth mother, you can make your adoption experience what you want it to be — including how you view your decision. Using the correct terminology for “give baby up for adoption” can help you feel empowered as you move forward.

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