The foster/ adoption world is swarming with what I would like to call "Word Police". I have to admit that I am guilty of nit-picking terminology when I'm in a particularly self-righteous mood. All in all, I feel like it's smart to be knowledgeable about commonly used terms and to take some care as to not isolate or offend entire parts of our community. However, I do not feel like one out-dated word should cause you lose your fost/adopt membership. Walking on egg-shells for the sake of political correct-ness doesn't help children, so I don't do it. Anyone reading who is not familiar with the word-wars of foster-care/adoption- be ready, get educated- or the word police might be coming for you!
The first warrant out for me concerns "bio-parents". I use the term bio-parents because I feel like it addresses the permanent connection between parent and child without the formal feeling of other terms. It's also accurate since the difference between the parents in the triad is the biological connection to the child. The term "birthparents" is generally considered offensive as it diminishes the parents' role to one act. Especially in foster care, where the parent still has rights to the child, and is involved with the child. It's also pretty inaccurate as "birthfamily", "Birthfather", "birthsiblings" do not actually give birth. The most accepted term is "firstparent" which addresses chronological order of the adults in the triad. I just feel like "firstparents" sounds like it's trying too hard. It's formal and requires an explanation when used in front of people who are new to the foster/ adopt scene. "Natural Parent" is also a trendy term that I don't use because it too closely resembles "real parent" and kind of pits the adults in the triad against each other. My relationship with my kids, which is based on trust and love that has grown over time through my consistently meeting their needs is just as "natural" and "real" as the relationship between a mother who has birthed her baby. So I say "bio", and I'm sticking to it.
Warrant #2 from the word police: "Black". I make a point to not specify race when describing a person in real life. When I talk about foster care and my family, though, race comes up quite a bit and I use the "black", "white", "Asian", and "Latino" to differentiate race. I do not say "African American" because I've actually never talked about someone who was from Africa and now is American, therefore, it's not an accurate term. Also, when talking about race, I am usually specifying skin color as opposed to heritage. Charlize Theron is African-American. She is originally from South Africa, but she is white. I am white, my kids are black, and I'm not even a little sorry about that.
My own citizens arrest:
"Foster kids"- labeling children like this is often unintentional, and I've even slipped up before. Kids aren't separated into foster and non-foster. Kids aren't born to be in either of those categories and coming into foster care doesn't change their identities. The term that I use to correct people is "Kids in care". My children are not my "foster children", they are just my children, and I will call the word police if you specify that they came to me through foster care.
"Real Mom"- Ask me about my children's real mom, and I will personally detain you until the word police come with their batons and pepper spray. This is, again, a term that I think people say without even thinking about what it implies. I would just like to say that although I didn't give birth to my children, but I am still very real.