Thursday, March 22, 2012

Adopt a... a highway, a road, an idea, a pet, a family, a school, a block, a park or a classroom

Language is a funny thing.  We have words that can only mean one thing, like a circle.  A circle in all of its various forms, is either called a circle or it has a different, more descriptive name.  We call things that are in the shape of a circle, the name of the thing - ie. a ball, a hull-a-hoop, a face, a wheel - not simply circle.  Its simply not descriptive enough.

But for some of our most meaningful concept words, we apply them to all sorts of things.  Take love for example.  I love my daughter yes, but I also love coffee, walks, my wrap, sleeping in and meaningful conversations.  I love all those things - to lesser or greater degrees.

Adopt (and Adoption) is another one of those words, that we use in all sorts of ways.  I never thought of it before I adopted myself.  Oh wait, I should be more clear, until I adopted a child.  A human being.  Not a highway, a road, an idea, a pet, a family, a school, a block, a park or a classroom.  Before I adopted a child.  Of course those who have been a part of the journey know that there is a human being involved, but looking at google, you might wonder.

Here are the top -55 or so results when I goggled, "Adopt a..."

As far as I can tell, 3 out of the top 55 are about adopting a child.  And this bothers me.

I know what a powerful, life altering, not-to-be-taken-lightly thing adoption is.  For ALL involved, and to see it literally in the same category as "Adopt A Hottie"  and "Adopt a Hydrant" is surprising.

So, in my little corner of the world, I am asking people to choose a different word if they are talking about anything other than the most serious process of giving a home to a child who literally doesn't have one.  You can support your school, clean up your highways, be the best darn owner of a pet out there, but I feel like the word adoption should mean something deeper.

So, I for one am taking the word back.

Has anyone else felt this way?  What have you done about it?  Does it make a difference what word people use?  Am I being silly?


  1. Amen and amen! I feel as you do. You're not silly at all!! In fact, I try to point out my "problems" with the misuse of the word to the son that I adopted. I don't want him to see the "adopt a highway" sign and feel like his life experience is like that of a roadway.

    I also would like to add, my child IS adopted (not was adopted). And as he grows he will become an adopted teen, young adult, adult, etc. He will not continue to be an "adopted child".

    Thank you for posting about positive adoptive language. If we can change the little things that will help smooth the way for greater change.

  2. As someone who was adopted, whose brother was adopted, and who is adopting, I do think this is pretty silly. Without knowing the etymology of the word, it seems like something that applies to all of those things in different ways - you used the word love as an analogy and this is a fair one. I love my family but I do also love coffee. At different levels and with different meanings.

    As an animal lover, there is a distinction between buying a pet and adopting one from the shelter - a distinction that, quite honestly, I'm not willing to lose.

  3. What would some alternative words and phrases be? It would be hard to use a different word for adopting a pet from a shelter. "Take responsibility for"? "Make a home for"? "Select" seems crude. For highways...protect, endorse, maintain, sponsor. The word adopt existed long before formal child adoption, and is used in a myriad of ways, so maybe child adoption needs its own specialized word? "Embraced"? "Integrated"? It's a complicated idea!

  4. Not long after we adopted our children, we "adopted" a kitten. We didn't change the terminology, but we did explain to our children the differences. It's something I considered: should we really use the same word? But in the end, this is a global word, and whether we use it or not, my kids are going to face it throughout their lives. I definitely agree with what you're saying, but at the same time, I feel that it's up to the parents of a child who is adopted to let them know the significance of "adoption" in all of its contexts.

    As for the google search, it's rather disheartening to see so few posts about children, and in my experience it's rarely foster-adoption.

  5. Oh, I love your blog so much that I hate to disagree! However, as a writer, I know that the word "adopt" simply means to take on as your own. A state can adopt a law and a person can adopt new behaviours and values. It's a word that can apply to many situations. But, as with many other words, it's the context that gives it meaning. "Adoption" is truly an ordinary word until it's associated with a "child." It's the child that makes adoption special.

  6. I understand your frustration. I was searching online for (human) adoption information. 9 out of 10 articles I found were about pretty adoption!


It'll be a pleasure hearing your thoughts. Alisa