Words NOT to use in the Adoption World


Words used in adoption talk

 I am a transracial adoptee adopted by white folks and I am from Haiti. As you all know, or should know by now, adoption is very complicated and it is also very complex. The word complicated and complex do not mean the same thing. Complicated usually has a negative vibe associated to it. When things are complex, it just means there is a lot more to it than assumed. There are many layers to the onion. It is like one of those wooden dolls that go into each other until the biggest one has all the little ones in it. When things are complex, they are usually manageable, but one must find the way to do this.

A. For example: Complicated

Hair: Many people will say my hair is complicated to do. I am taught as a child that my hair is “difficult” and complicated. It takes too much brain-power to figure it out.

Relationships: Many times relationships are complicated and it can often lead to separation, anxiety, anger.

B. For example: Complex

Math problem: lots of steps but you reach the answer…its how you get there

Adoption: many layers….different stories, different experiences…one goal-to understand the lived experiences of others.


Any questions?


I want to talk about words and phrases that are difficult and hurtful for adoptees like myself to hear.  These words and phrases also may hurt birth parents.


I want to separate the phrases and words by topics/scenarios. Family, Friends, Acquaintances/strangers. Beliefs.


Adoptees like myself struggle to hear certain words and phrases associated with


  1. For SRA: oh, they look just like you. No, they don’t. This is a way to diminish the child’s individuality, and remove any semblance of the birth parents.
  2. International or transracials: Oh, we don’t see him/her as ______(name the race) we see him/her as one of us. This is similar to the SRA phrase above. But this goes deeper, it eliminates the beauty and desire to celebrate the differences. This is a color blind approach and it is dangerous. Children know they are different so why are they being told they are not different. This is toxic and if you use this on your children you will regret it. This is saying they are just like you…..and they are not. You are lying to them.
  3. We love them like our own: Another dangerous phrase. They are not your own, they are borrowed children. You have been blessed to raise them, but they did not come from you and it is very possibly they may want to leave you and never return. It is also possible they will want to stay. The truth is, biological there is a connection that is missing. There is an instinctical connection that is made with a biological child that is inherently different from that of an adopted child. To tell the world this is to pretend that there is no difference between raising your child and your adopted child. For me personally, i have refrained from birthing children while I raise our adopted daughter. She has clearly stated the competition is too risky. It does not mean it CAN’T work. I am just asking you to not pretend it will be easy.
  4. Our Child feels….or they are…..or they have….: This is very common in adoptive families. Parents want to speak for their kids. They hope that the amount of love and care, and guidance they have provided will = the child viewing the situation as they do. This is NOT the case most of the time. When you speak for your child, you silence them….PERIOD.

Any questions about Family??? There is a lot more I could say but for the sake of time, we need to move on.


Adoptees like myself struggle to hear certain words and phrases associated with


  1. I have a ________ friend so therefore I’m not.. This is why I know how to raise my child: Having a friend, or being married to someone of a different race does not make you not racist. In fact, sometimes it can make you more racist because you become a fake ally.
  2. I have friends who is _______ and teaches me to do_______: This is problematic because you never needed to learn to do x y z before you adopted. DO YOUR HOMEWORK APS. Learn this shit BEFORE taking in kids of a different race than you. Learn it because YOU CARE not because NOW YOU HAVE TO.
  3. Our child is happy: Many APs speak for their kids…..tell friends their child is happy. Just because we smile…does not mean we are happy.
  4. Our child fit right in, they adjusted: Really? Did your child fit right in, or did you fit your child right in? Think about it….when you put your child in a car seat, do you buy a once size fits all seat, or do you observe your child, and purchase a seat that conforms to your child.
  5. We moved to this neighborhood for racial/social mirrors for our child: The problem with this statement is that you didn’t move because you wanted to get to know people of a different race or social class. You moved because your child needed it. If you can’t appreciate being around people who are different from yourself, what makes you think your child will? I grew up in a “black’ country but I was not the right kind of black. To top it off, my APs were the saviors for the blacks, handing out free this and free that….it didn’t empower them, it caused them to be dependent. And then, behind their backs, they would say horrible things about my people. I great up struggling with befriending people of my own race because my APs didn’t appreciate them.

Any questions about friends? There are a lot more I could mention but time is a factor.


Adoptees like myself struggle to hear certain words and phrases associated with

Acquaintances/stranger:People you don’t even know.

  1. He/She is adopted: Believe it or not, some adopteees struggle with hearing they are adopted when a stranger asks. It is most obvious when the adoption is not same race. We already feel marginalized and ostracized, but when our APs make an extra effort to further separate us, it is hurtful. I know strangers can be fuckers….and ask questions…and feel entitled to answers. But it is our job as APs to not engage with them.
  2. Biological mom/Birth mom/First mom/Tummy mommy: These are all words that reduce the mother to a baby making machine. IMO, these should just be turned into “mom”. When our daughter and I speak with her mom, we tell her that she is speaking with her mom, and she refers to her mom as “mom”. I am not biologically a mom to a child, but I can imagine those words piercing me hard. Why are APs afraid for just saying “here’s your mom”. Because think about it, adoptive parents who are same-sex couples find a way to make sure both parents are valued. In our house I am ‘Mom’ and my wife is “Mah” and her biological mom is Mammita. When we talk to her though, we say “so, shall we call your mom?” The misconception is that the kids will get confused. I can assure you, if you treat it beautifully, they do not get confused.
  3. It’s None of your business: Now you are probably saying….but wait…i thought you said…don’t…there is a fine line. There has to be a balance when it comes to THEIR story. When they are newborn babies, there is a different sort of freedom that comes with answering to a stranger. But by the time they are 2 (yes, 2 years old) they can feel and sense it in your voice when you choose to ignore a question from a stranger. Some may actually want you to tell them they are adopted and that they have a mom and dad who are x y and z. There is pride in being proud. Some may learn that “none of your business” actually means none of THEIR business and they may harbor that inside for a very long time. Fine the balance. Whatever story you tell, be consistent. For my APs, their story changed over and over again…this is how I learned that they didn’t really know my story but were making it up as they went….whatever garnered more attention.


Any questions about Acquaintances/ strangers? There are a lot more I could mention but time is a factor.

Adoptees like myself struggle to hear certain words and phrases associated with

Beliefs: This is the reason for adoption.


  1. God called us/We were called: many adoptees have expressed the idea of an invisible force treating adoptive parents as robots. We don’t believe there is no invisible force, we just don’t want it being the reason we joined the family. I apparently opened my a-mom’s spiritual womb. This puts a lot of responsibility on me and removes all responsibility from my APS. Using God as an excuse for you taking a child from an institution, a mother, a family is cowardly and I don’t believe Go is a coward. Even if you were called, you DO NOT verbalize this to your adopted kids. Because they may want you to change your phone number.
  2. Infertility: How can your adopted child be the result of infertility? Maybe, just maybe you were not supposed to parent. I don’t know. But you can’t use infertility to justify the fact that you wanted a child. Imagine here “we tried to have our own….but we couldn’t so we took you instead”. What a trade in….was it worth it? Is it worth telling your adopted child that they are plan C?
  3. To help our other child(ren): I’ve heard this one before and it was actually used with me too. Adopting to keep children from being lonely is a myth. I think parents adopt more than one to remove the guilt of their child being lonely. There are ways for your child to NOT be lonely. You don’t need to remove another child from their comfort and what they know in order to make your child not lonely. Personally, i was having major issues after moving to the DR. Instead of my parents thinking hmmm…maybe we should not live in a country where our daughter is hated because she is not the right black, let’s just go and adopt a child…who is not the same color black so that she is not lonely. I was not lonely, i had 2 white siblings with me. I was hurt…and no amount of adopted or foster kids could fix that.
  4. Poverty: Poverty is not a disease. You don’t adopt because a family is poor. I learned that the hard way. If you are worried about them growing up in poverty, you use that money to help them out of it. Put the birth parents through school, help them get the right health care, education, food. You don’t remove a child. My a-mother use to say “you were born in the mud of haiti’s soil, and you would have died in the mud of Haiti’s soil”. That phrase haunts me. It haunts me because who died and made her God? What does she know about what my future would have been. If she were really worried about poverty, she would have found a way to make sure I was healthy but raised by my birth family. Poverty should not equal abandonment and it should not equal death.
  5. God had a purpose/Plan-it was God’s plan: This is another one I hear a lot. I don’t believe God’s purpose and plan was ever to remove a child from their family…create that loss and separation, and join them with a family they will struggle to attach to. If this is God’s purpose/plan, this is not the God I choose to serve. God’s plan should not include removing a family…This is what Kathryn Joyce calls orphan theology. Not only will they be “saved” physically, but they will also be saved spiritually.
  6. I just wanted a child: This phrase is extremely selfish but it is the realist and truest answer that should be given to a child, or told to a stranger. You wanted a child. No one forced you to take the child..no one held a knife to your throat and made you take the child. No one did this. You, wanted a child..PERIOD. Now, the why you wanted a child will be full of layers but the important thing to note is that it was a desire coming from you. Do not put blame on anything or anyone else. We adoptees will struggle with the selfishness, and the reasoning behind why you wanted a child…but eventually, for those parents who were good parents, we will rest assured that we were wanted and not a result of robotic actions, an invisible entity, or a lost child/inability to conceive.  


Any questions about Beliefs? There are a lot more I could mention but time is a factor.

Tune in to my podcast to hear this topic discussed.

Also, feel free to visit my Lifting Taboos website.