Because I read a lot of blogs about foster care and adoption, I have come upon this discussion in a number of places. For example, just within that last week or so:
Issycat wrote that she hates when people use the term "our birthmother".
Dawn just wrote a post entitled, "What's in a name?" about the subject.
I found this heartfelt essay recently by someone who believes that "Lifemother" is the term that best describes her role in her child's life.
The Family Preservation Advocate wrote about it recently as well.
And last week I got this comment on my blog,
why do u call the parents bio parents or birth parents? this terminology is negative and implies these parents are merely breeders.just call them what they are, for better or worse, parents! they may not be great parents, they may even be flawed and deficient parents, but they are forever connected to their children and their children to them. this type of language serves to distance children from their natural families. get educated and stop using these terms. they're damaging to both parents and child.ask any child when something hurtful is said about their family,they will tell you it hurts them too.children don't see their family as birth parents. they see them as mom and dad. some parents raise their children, others require support and still others are abusive. but none of them are BIRTH PARENTS. they are not incubators. they are families.I've thought a lot about these names - which are really more like "labels" - and why we use them. Some people use them to distinguish themselves or someone else - the term "mother" seems to be so coveted that it is almost sacred in some circles. In movies, you often see a man's mother wince when she hears him call his new mother-in-law "Mom". In the adoption world, you see everyone fighting over who a child's "REAL" parent is and what makes them worthy of the title. And once we've decided who the "real" parent is, we have to decide what to call everyone else - adoptive mom, first mom, foster mom, birth parent, foster caregiver, forever parent...
I've given it quite a bit of thought and here is where I currently stand. Consider it my response to the comment above - and my current policy regarding names and labels here on my blog:
I use the terms "foster parent", "birth parents", "first parents"and "biological parents" when I deem it necessary in order to clarify when writing. It is easy for things to become confusing for the reader when there are many different "parents" and caregivers in a child's life - as is the case with foster and adopted children. I use the terms "biological parent/family", "first mom" and "birth mom" most often. I use them somewhat randomly and interchangeably depending on what type of relationship I am writing about. I'm more likely to use 'biological mom" and "foster mom" in a post about a foster child. I use "first mom" or "birth mom" more in reference to infant adoption - usually depending on how that family refers to the parents. I use the terms "mom", "dad" and "parent" for ALL parents regardless of blood or legal ties if the post won't be confusing without the identifier in front.
As you will notice in my post, I call the biological parent, "parent" for the rest of the post because I clarified it in the first paragraph. I think I made it obvious from the topic, which revolves around how to help a child have a healthy transition back to their biological family, that I have respect for all parents and believe that biological family is hugely important. However, in writing about children in foster care it is necessary at times I find it necessary to use qualifying terms in order for the reader to understand.
In general the topic is tricky and its easy to offend someone - which is something I try to avoid here if at all possible. But in truth, I also feel that this issue is sometimes just semantics that get in the way of us discussing the real issues in foster care and adoption. But I've long since learned that it is exactly these seemingly minor issues that can make the difference between being able to have an open, honest conversation with someone and having them completely shut down. So, I will endeavor to be sensitive to other people's feelings and open to suggestions about how I can write clearly without stepping on toes.
Anything that keeps the conversation flowing!