Cultural Considerations: Starting the Shift to People-first Language

We at CASA can demonstrate our commitment to helping the children, youth and families we serve rise above their situations and circumstances by striving to use people-first language as much as possible.

“People-first language, also called person-first language, is language that avoids conscious or subconscious marginalization or dehumanization when discussing people. People-first language is best known for referring to people with health issues or disabilities, but applies to any group that is defined by their condition or situation.” [source]

People-first language is a way to model our dedication to, and respect for, the populations we serve by emphasizing that they are first and foremost people. Rather than using language that defines people by their temporary conditions or situations, below are a few examples of ways we could shift our messaging and conversations to be people-first.

Language that Defines People by Their Situation

Examples of People-first Alternative Language

Foster child or youth

A child or youth in foster care

Abused or neglected children

Children who have been abused or neglected

PMC child or youth

A child or youth in PMC/A child or youth in the long-term care of the state/etc.

High-risk youth/At-risk youth

Youth in high-risk situations/Youth at risk of [outcome]


For more examples and a more in-depth explanation of the importance of using people-first language, check out this Generocity article geared towards nonprofits.

Interested in learning more about other ways we can be more mindful with our language? Check out our previous Cultural Considerations article about the importance of inclusive language for both the population we serve and the workplace culture.

Texas CASA is committed to our goal of ensuring the highest quality advocacy possible for all children in the child protection system, regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, expression, or disability status – that’s why we are highlighting resources to support the CASA network’s journey to becoming more inclusive, welcoming, affirming and culturally considerate. Explore more Cultural Considerations articles.