Adoption Terms, Definitions and Language

There are three major parties in an adoption: birth parents, adoptive parents and adopted child. Listed below are Adoption terms and definitions and “positive” adoption language.  It’s important for all members of the adoption circle to use these terms to reinforce adoption as a positive choice and acceptable way for adoptive parents to create their family.

A person who joins a family via adoption.

Adoption Agency
An organization that is licensed to prepare families to adopt children and to do all the necessary legal, administrative and social work to insure that adoptions are efficiently handled and are in the best interests of the children.

Adoption Assistance Programs (AAP)
Federally funded state administered subsidy program for special needs children who might otherwise remain in long term foster care.

Adoption Service Provider (ASP)
A licensed agency or individual who is State certified to assist birth parents and adoptive parents with the placement of a child in an Independent Adoption.

Adoptive Parent
A person or persons who become the permanent parents with all the social, legal rights and responsibilities incumbent upon any parent.

Agency Adoption
Adoption that is facilitated by a State Licensed Agency that provides counseling to birthparents, home studies to prospective adoptive parents, relinquishment services and post-placement programs for triad members. These Agencies may also provide Intercountry and Special Needs adoption services.

Birth Parent
The parents who gave birth to a child, made an adoption plan for the child and subsequently relinquished the child for adoption.

Closed Adoption
An adoption where there is no contact between birth parents and adoptive parents. Also called traditional adoption.

Legal process through which a birth parent voluntarily agrees to make an adoption plan for their child with a specific family through an Independent Adoption.

Designated/ldentified Adoptions
Process in which birthparents choose the individual or couple who will adopt their child and designates the placement of the child while still having the benefits of an agency assisted adoption.

Hague Convention
An abbreviation of Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, a multilateral treaty concluded on May 29, 1993 in The Hague, Netherlands. The Hague Convention strengthens protections for children, birthparents, and prospective adoptive parents in the adoption process. It provides a framework for Convention countries to work together to ensure that adoptions take place in the best interests of children.

Home Study
A process whereby an individual or couple undergo a study by a licensed public or private agency to assure the well-being of the child in the home and the readiness of the family to adopt.

Interstate Compact for Placement of Children which monitors the movement of foster and adoptive children from state to state.

Independent Adoption
An adoption that is arranged by the birth parent with an identified family; frequently facilitated by an attorney.

International Adoption
Any adoption occurring when the child and the adoptive parents are from two different countries. Extra legal work through immigration services must be done to authorize an international adoption.

Open Adoption
An adoption which allows for some form of association between the birth parents, adoptees, and adoptive parents. This can range from picture and letter sharing, to phone calls, to contact through an intermediary, to open contact between the parties themselves. Also known as “cooperative adoption.”

Open Records
Accessibility to own adoption records by each member of the triad. This includes access to identifying information.

Private Agency Adoption
An adoption handled by a private, licensed agency. A private agency is not government-sponsored, but must meet state requirements to obtain and keep its licensed status. The agency will provide services to birth families, adoptive families and children.

Legal process by which birth parents voluntarily terminate their parental rights in order to free their child for adoption through a licensed agency.

Special Needs Child
Refers to children who are physically, developmentally or emotional disabled, a sibling group and all others who might remain in foster care should no adoptive family be available.

Surrender of Parental Rights
The birth parents of a child voluntarily (of their own desire and choice) make an adoption plan for a child and relinquish their legal rights to the child.