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Birth Mother, Birth Father, Adoptive Family – Adoption Terms Defined

If you are an expectant mother and considering adoption for your baby or you are an adoptive family, hoping to add a baby to your family, we know all the information and resources can be overwhelming. We try to compile this information, resources, news, and include experience and expertise to help you understand every aspect of your adoption journey. In this article we define some of the most popular terms you will come across while researching adoption.

Adoptee. A person who was adopted. Some people prefer the terms “adopted child” or “adopted person.”

Adoption. The complete transfer of parental rights and obligations from one parent or set of parents to another. A legal adoption requires a court action.

Adoption Agency. An organization, like Adoption Choices of Kansas and Missouri, 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 nonprofit.

Adoption Assistance. Monthly federal or state subsidy payments to help adoptive parents raise children with special needs. Adoption assistance can also refer to the financial assistance that birth mothers may receive during their pregnancy with an adoption plan in place.

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 would-be adoptive parents decide on an adoption path, and assists in choosing an appropriate agency or attorney.

Adoption Facilitator. An individual whose business involves connecting birth parents and prospective adoptive parents for a fee (allowed in only a few states).

Adoption Plan. Birth parents’ decision to allow their child to be placed for adoption.

Adoption Tax Credit. Nonrefundable credit that reduces taxes owed by adoptive parents who claim adoption expense reimbursement on federal taxes (and, in some states with similar legislation, on state taxes). The credit calculation can include adoption expenses, court fees, attorney fees, and travel expenses.

Adoption Triad. The three major parties in an adoption: birth parents, adoptive parents, and adopted child. Also called “adoption triangle” or “adoption circle.”

Agency Adoption. Adoptive placements made by licensed organizations, like Adoption Choices of Kansas and Missouri, that screen prospective adoptive parents and supervise the placement of children in adoptive homes until the adoption is finalized.

Birth Parent. A child’s biological parent who has signed a consent to adoption. Birth parents include a birth mother and birth father, and, birth grandparents.

Closed Adoption. An adoption that involves total confidentiality and sealed records.

Confidentiality. The legally required process of keeping identifying or other significant information secret. Also, the principle of ethical practice that requires social workers 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.

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 legally finalization.

Dissolution. An adoption in which the parent-child legal relationship is severed after finalization.

Domestic Adoption. An adoption that involves adoptive parents and a child that are permanent residents of the United States. (the alternative would be an International Adoption)

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,” “stork-drop”, or “drop-in”.

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.

Finalization. The final legal step in the adoption process; involves a court hearing, during which a judge orders that the adoptive parents become the child’s legal parents.

Home Study. A process through which prospective adoptive parents are educated about adoption and evaluated to determine their suitability to adopt.

ICPC. The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) is statutory law that establishes uniform legal and administrative procedures governing the adoption of children between states within the U.S.

Identifying Information. Information on birth parents or adoptive parents that discloses their identities.

Independent Adoption. An adoption facilitated by other than an adoption agency.

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. Placement of a child in a prospective adoptive family when the child is not yet legally free for adoption.

Match or Matching. The process of bringing together qualified prospective adoptive parents and willing biological parents, who by choice choose to explore the compatibility of each other and who can agree on the terms under which the adoptive parents can adopt the child.

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.

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, like Adoption Choices of Kansas and Missouri,

Public Agencies. Social service agencies run by state or county governments that deal mainly with children in foster care.

Relative Adoption. See Kinship Adoption.

Relinquishment. Voluntary termination of parental rights. 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 mother who has consented to adoption may revoke that consent and regain custody of her child. The revocation period varies from stte to state—in some, parental rights are terminated upon relinquishment and there is no revocation period, in others, the revocation period is 30 days.

Same Sex Adoption. Adoption of children by lesbian, gay, bisexual ,transgender (LGBT+) people. This may be in the form of a joint adoption by a same-sex couple, adoption by one partner of a same-sex couple of the other’s biological child (step-child adoption), or adoption by a single LGBT+ person. Also known as “LGBT Adoption” and “LGBTQ Adoption”.

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.

Single Adoption. An adoption in which the adoptive family is a single individual, male or female.

Special-Needs Children. 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.

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.

Waiting Families. Families who have public profiles available and are waiting to be chosen by an expectant mother/birth parents.

Positive Language in Adoption

Birth Mother, First Mother
Birth parent
Birth child
My child
Born to unmarried parents
Terminate parental rights
Make an adoption plan
To parent
Adoption triad or circle
Child placed for adoption
Child with special needs
Was adopted
Unplanned pregnancy, crisis pregnancy

Negative, Outdated, or Inaccurate Language in Adoption

Real parent
Natural parent
Own child
Adopted child
Give up (for adoption)
Give away
Placed up (for adoption)
To keep
Adoption triangle
An unwanted child
Handicapped child
Is adopted
Unwanted pregnancy

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