Am I giving up my baby for adoption?

If you look closely, you may notice many adoption professionals shudder when someone says things like “give up my baby for adoption” or “put up” for adoption.  These terms are outdated, and generally do not represent the actions or feelings that are in play when a parent or parents choose to place their child for adoption.  

The term “put up” for adoption dates back to the orphan trains of the late 1800s and early 1900s.  At that time, the child welfare system was transporting poor and orphaned children from eastern United States across the country to more rural areas in the Midwest for foster care.  Children were transported by train and then “put up” on stages at auction for new families to choose from.  Obviously, children are no longer put up for adoption, and this language is no longer applicable or descriptive of a private adoption today.

The term “giving up” for adoption is also outdated and inaccurate, and will always get a sideways glance from me.  The idea of giving up a baby or child creates an impression that the child is not loved or cared for by their first family, and that a parent is making an easy decision to simply give up on their child.  This language perpetuates old stigmas surrounding adoption, e.g., that parents just casually choose to give up their child and parental rights.

Thankfully, the stigmas surrounding adoption have faded significantly over time, and we want to see these stigmas continue to fall away as we all work harder to use language and terminology that will 1) support birth parents in making the difficult, loving and selfless decision to place their child with another family; and 2) will support adoptees in understanding the complexities surrounding their adoptive placement without feeling, incorrectly, that they were so easily put up or given up. 

So what is the proper terminology when it comes to adoption?  Placing for adoption, adoptive placement, and making an adoption plan are all accurate and appropriate ways to describe adoption.  A parent makes a loving and proactive decision to place his/her child with a family.  The parent researches and finds the best fit for herself and her child when it comes to selecting an adoption entity, and ultimately an adoptive family for the child.  The parent cares for the child throughout pregnancy.  The parent lovingly places the child into a family and home that the parent believes is best for the child. The parent continues to love the child throughout their lives and may also continue to be involved in the child’s life.  This is “choosing an adoption plan”, “placing for adoption” and/or “making an adoptive placement”; it is far from giving up.


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