Changing the Language of Adoption

Changing the Language of Adoption

Welcome to the spring edition of our Connecting the Dots newsletter! Twice a year, we solicit a collection of articles and interviews from researchers, practitioners, advocates, and those with lived experience. Each newsletter bridges the gap between research and practice by diving into a specific topic in the field of social work.

This spring, we’re exploring contemporary adoption by asking adoptees, a foster parent and a parent who has adopted for their thoughts on how adoption is discussed and experienced in today’s families. Throughout history, parents have cared for children who are not biologically their children. However, the practice, whether it was kinship care, adoption or fostering, was sometimes informal and often not discussed openly. In the United States, adoptions have slowly become more open as research has shown us how beneficial honesty can be for all those involved in adoptions. As we move past decades of secrecy in adoption, our team sought to explore how people are communicating about adoption. How are parents talking with children? How are children communicating with parents? And what are the best ways for society to talk about adoption and support families? Language can be empowering, transformative, and bring positive change—so how can we can shift terminology in our practice and our day-to-day lives?

In interviews with Joyce Horn, an adoptive caregiver and advocate, and Jaden Williams, a UT Austin student who was adopted by relatives, we explore two sides of the adoption journey. Our collection this year also highlights a foster caregiver and an adoptee’s story and how language played a part in their experiences. And our Heart Galleries of Texas program’s guide to adoption language will give you the tools needed to navigate using inclusive, preferred terms. Take a look at our articles, interviews, and resources informed by first-hand experience below.


Changing the Language of Adoption

“My People”: Fostering and Language
By Garet MacCallon
A foster caregiver shares her experience navigating fostering and language while creating a safe space for the children in her care.

“Real People With Real Stories”: An Interview on the Adoption Experience
By Tymothy Belseth, MA
Jaden Williams, a young adult adopted from foster care by relatives, shares his adoption experience and what most helped during the process.

The Fictive Language of Adoption
By Shannon Quist
Adoptee rights advocate Shannon Quist shares her perspective on using clear and honest language in adoption.

“It’s All About Respect”: An Interview on Open Adoption With Joyce Horn
By Alix Mammina
Adoptive caregiver and advocate Joyce Horn shares her experience with open adoption and the changing language of adoption.

Words Matter: A Guide on Adoption Language
By Erika Settles, LMSW
Inclusive adoption language shifts to using the preferred terms of those with lived experience—whether caregivers or youth in foster care.