Why I Hate the Phrase “Put Up for Adoption”

This guest post is by Kristen, a waiting adoptive parent.

“Hate” is a strong word, I know.

There are many myths surrounding domestic adoption, but one of the biggest is that the birthmother doesn’t care about her child.

We need to put that myth to rest, right now.  Birthmothers love their babies.

They want what is best for their child, even if it means placing that child into the arms of another loving family.

A birthmother puts her baby at the forefront of her life as an act of love. It’s a decision that is not made without considerable difficulty, turmoil and grief.

But as difficult as it is, it’s what she feels is the best decision for her child.

This is why I struggle with the phrases “put up a baby for adoption ” and “give up a child for adoption”.


The phrase “put up for adoption” is actually from the time of the orphan trains.

Orphans were placed on these trains and sent out to rural areas, where they were literally “put up” on a stage or platform for townspeople to inspect.

Some of these children were formally or informally adopted, some were used as labour or servants on farms. But things have changed since then.

Adoption is a different process today. It’s more loving, more humane, and more transparent.

This is why the phrase “put up a baby for adoption” or “give up a child for adoption” are inaccurate and need to be permanently retired from use.

Instead, I prefer to use the term “placed” as in “she placed her baby for adoption.”

Why “placed” instead of “put up” or “gave up”?

A birth family doesn’t give up on the child.

To “put up” or “give up” sounds almost careless, as if the child will be forgotten or handed over without foresight.

It unintentionally downplays the magnitude of the decision.  The child is a part of the birth family forever.

They are the child’s roots. Their child is not unwanted.

The mother (and possibly partner) decide on the family they want their child to be raised by.

They may go through endless profiles before finding the right family for their baby.

Their criteria could include specific region, degree of openness, religion, education, background, or even just something imperceptible that clicks.

They meet the family, exchange emails, texts, phone calls and possibly invite them to doctor appointments and even the birth.

Their baby is placed, physically and emotionally, into the new family, and with openness the two families become forever intertwined.

With open adoption there are no secrets. The birth family won’t be left wondering how their child is growing up, or the child wondering who their birth family is, because they’ll know.

This is why keeping promises is so important, and why we’ve chosen to build our family through open adoption. In open adoption, the child is always at the centre.

So next time you hear someone say “I could never put up my child for adoption” or “how could a mother give her baby up for adoption?” keep in mind that open adoption isn’t about putting up or giving up.

It’s about giving more—more love for everyone and, above all, the child.

Kristen lives in Ontario, Canada with her husband, James, and black cat, Harley. They are currently waiting to adopt their first child through open adoption. A version is this post originally appeared on The H In Home.

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