Adoptee. A person who is adopted. Some people prefer the terms “adopted child” or “adopted person.”
Adoption. The complete transfer of parental rights and responsibilities from one parent or set of parents to another. A legal adoption requires a court action.
Adoption agency. An organization, usually licensed by the state, that provides services to birth parents, adoptive parents, and children who need families. Agencies may be public or private, secular or religious, for-profit or non-profit.
Adoption agreement. The agreement in which the adoptive parent(s) and birth parent(s) put into writing their understanding of the terms of an adoption, including the degree of communication and contact they will have with each other and with the adopted child.
Adoption assistance. Monthly federal or state subsidy payments to help adoptive parents raise children with special needs and sometimes sibling groups.
Adoption attorney. A lawyer who files, processes, and finalizes adoptions in court. In some states attorneys may also arrange adoptive placements.
Adoption consultant. An individual who helps prospective adoptive parents decide on an adoption path and assists in choosing an appropriate agency or attorney.
Adoption plan. The birth parent(s)' decision to allow a biological child to be adopted into an adoptive family.
Adoption Tax Credit. A non-refundable credit that reduces taxes owed by adoptive parents who claim their adoption expenses on their federal individual income tax return (and, in some states, on their state individual income tax return). The credit calculation can include adoption expenses, agency fees, court fees, attorney fees, and travel expenses.
Adoption "triangle" (or adoption "triad" or “circle”). An expression used to describe the three-sided inter-relationships among adopted children, their birth parents, and their adoptive parents.
Adoptive parent. The mother or father of an adopted child.
At-risk placement. The placement of a child with the prospective adoptive family before the birth parents' rights have been legally terminated.
Birth parent. A mother or father who is genetically related to the child.
Certified copy. A copy of an official document, like a birth certificate, marriage certificate, or divorce decree, that has been certified by a court official to be authentic and bears an original seal or embossed design.
Confidential adoption or closed adoption. An adoption in which the birth parent(s) and the adoptive parent(s) do not meet, do not exchange identifying information, and do not maintain contact with each other. Court records are usually sealed as well.
Confidentiality. The legally required process of keeping identifying or other significant information secret. Also, the ethical obligation that requires social workers, attorneys, and other professionals not to disclose information about a client without the client’s consent.
Consent to adopt or consent to adoption. A birth parent’s legal permission for the adoption to proceed.
Designated adoption or identified adoption. An adoption in which the birth parent(s) choose(s) the adoptive parent(s) for the child.
Decree of adoption. A legal order that finalizes an adoption.
Disruption. An adoption process that is halted after the prospective adoptive parents have taken custody but before legal finalization (versus a dissolution, see below).
Dissolution. An adoption in which the parent-child legal relationship is severed after finalization (versus a disruption, see above).
Domestic adoption. The adoption of a child born in the United States by adoptive parents who are U.S. citizens.
Dossier. A package of legal documents about the prospective adoptive parents used in international adoption to process a child’s adoption or assignment of guardianship in a foreign court.
Emergency placement. An adoption match that is made after the child has already been born. Also referred to as a "baby-born situation," "hospital match," or "stork-drop."
Employer benefits. Compensation to workers through employer-sponsored programs, e.g., financial assistance, reimbursement of adoption expenses, and/or provision of parental or family leave.
Expectant mother. A woman who is pregnant and considering adoption for her child after she gives birth.
Facilitator. An individual (usually unlicensed by the state) whose business involves connecting birth parents and prospective adoptive parents for a fee (allowed in only a few states).
Finalization. The final legal step in the adoption process. It involves a court hearing by which the adoption becomes permanent and binding and during which a judge orders that the adoptive parents become the child’s legal parents.
Foster parents. State- or county-licensed adults who provide a temporary home for children whose birth parents are unable to care for them.
Hague Adoption Convention. The Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-Operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption is an international treaty to improve accountability, transparency, safeguards, and cooperation in intercountry adoption. Its terms govern adoption among almost 80 countries, including the United States.
Home study. A study of the prospective adoptive family and their home, life experiences, health, lifestyle, extended family, attitudes, support system, values, beliefs, and other factors relating to the prospective adoption. This information is summarized in an adoption study or home study report. The contents and requirements of home studies vary state-to-state.
Hard-to-place. Children whom agencies consider difficult to place because of emotional or physical disorders, age, race, membership in a sibling group, history of abuse, or other factors.
Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC). The ICPC is a law that establishes uniform legal and administrative procedures governing the adoption of children between states within the United States.
Identifying information. Information on birth parents or adoptive parents that discloses their identities.
Independent adoption. An adoption arranged privately between the birth family and the adoptive family, without an adoption agency.
Intercountry or international adoption. The adoption of a child not born in the United States by adoptive parents who reside in the United States.
Kinship adoption. Adoption by a biological relative of the child.
Legal guardian. A person who has legal responsibility for the care and management of a person (such as a minor child) who is incapable of administering his or her own affairs.
Legal risk placement (or at-risk placement). Placement of a child in a prospective adoptive family when the child is not yet legally free for adoption, i.e., the rights of the birth parents have not been terminated yet.
Open adoption. An adoption that involves some amount of initial and/or ongoing contact between birth and adoptive families, ranging from sending letters through the agency to exchanging names and/or scheduling visits.
Photo listings. Photos and descriptions of children who are available for adoption.
Placement. The point at which a child begins to live with prospective adoptive parents; the period before the adoption is finalized.
Post-placement supervision. The range of counseling and agency services provided to the adoptive family after the child’s placement and before the adoption is finalized in court.
Private adoption. See independent adoption.
Private agencies. Non-governmental adoption agencies licensed by the state.
Public agencies. Social service agencies run by state or county governments that deal mainly with children in foster care.
Re-adoption. For a foreign-born child adopted in another country, a second adoption in a state court in the United States where the adoptive family resides.
Referral: The document that identifies a child available for adoption.
Relative adoption. See kinship adoption.
Relinquishment. A voluntary termination of parental rights of a birth parent. Some prefer the phrase “making an adoption plan.”
Reunion. A meeting between an adopted person and birth parents or other birth relatives.
Revocation. The legally specified period in which a birth parent who has consented to adoption may revoke that consent and regain custody of their child. The revocation period varies from state-to-state. In some states, parental rights are terminated upon relinquishment and there is no revocation period; in others, the revocation period is 30 days.
Non-identifying information. Information that allows the birth and adoptive families to learn pertinent facts about each other without revealing who they are or how they can be contacted.
Open adoption or cooperative adoption. An adoption in which the birth parents and adoptive parents have contact with each other before and/or after the placement of the adopted child.
Post-placement services. A variety of services provided after the adoption is finalized, including counseling, social services, and adoptive family events and outings.
Search. An attempt to locate and/or make a connection with a birth parent or a biological child.
Semi-open adoption. An adoption in which a child’s birth parents and adoptive parents may meet once or twice, but exchange only nonidentifying information.
Special needs children. A child with medical, mental, emotional, behavioral, or educational needs that could require extra ongoing attention, whom agencies may consider difficult to place.
Transracial adoption. An adoption in which the child and the adoptive parent(s) are not of the same race.
Waiting children. Children in the public child welfare system who cannot return to their birth homes and need permanent, loving families to help them grow up safe and secure.