A simple listing of adoption related terms

There are 102 entries in this glossary.
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Term Definition
Abandoned Child

a child that has been abandoned or relinquished by their birth parent(s) to the social services/adoption authorities within any given country.


by both parents means that the parents have willfully forsaken all parental rights, obligations and claims to the child, as well as all control over and possession of the child, without intending to transfer, or without transferring, these rights to any specific person(s). Abandonment must include not only the intention to surrender all parental rights, obligations and claims to the child, and control over and possession of the child, but also the actual act of surrendering such rights, obligations, claims, control and possession. A relinquishment or release by the parents to the prospective adoptive parents or for a specific adoption does not constitute abandonment. Similarly, the relinquishment or release of the child by the parents to a third party for custodial care in anticipation of, or preparation for, adoption does not constitute abandonment unless the third party (such as a governmental agency, a court of competent jurisdiction, an adoption agency or an orphanage) is authorized under the child welfare laws of the foreign-sending country to act in such a capacity. A child who is placed temporarily in a orphanage shall not be considered to be abandoned if the parents express an intention to retrieve the child, are contributing or attempting to contribute to the support of the child, or otherwise exhibit ongoing parental interest in the child. A child who has been given unconditionally to an orphanage shall be considered to be abandoned.

Adopted Child

is defined in section 101(b)(1)(E) of the Act as “a child adopted while under the age of sixteen years who has been in the legal custody of, and has resided with, the adopting parent or parents for at least two years Provided, That no natural parent of any such adopted child shall thereafter, by virtue of such parentage, be accorded any right, privilege, or status under this chapter.”

Public Law 106-139, signed by the President on December 7, 1999, amended section 101(b)(1)(E) of the Act to add that a child who is a natural sibling of an adopted child described above, and who was adopted by the adoptive parent or parents of the sibling while the child was under the age of eighteen, is also a "child" as defined by the Act. The child must otherwise fall under the definition of a child under paragraph (E) except that the child was adopted while under the age of eighteen.


an individual who is placed with an adoptive family.


the legal process where parental rights are transferred from birth parents to adoptive parents.

Adoption Abroad

An international adoption completed and finalized within the child's native country. This decree is legally binding within the US as well.

Adoption Agency

a licensed organization responsible for placing children with families or individuals who are approved for adoption.

Adoption Attorney

a specialist who performs the necessary legal functions enabling the placement of children with families or individuals who are approved for adoption. Some provide additional adoption related services.

Adoption Center

Usually the authority within the foreign country that supervises and regulates adoptive placements within their country. Most active countries have this central authority.

Adoption Facilitator

a person who assists prospective adoptive parents find a child to adopt. Depending upon where they do business they may or may not require a license and may or may not be legal.

Adoptive Parent

The adopting parent (in contrast to a foster parent or guardian) is the full legal parent of a child. His/Her legal rights and responsibilities are the same as would be a biological parent.

Adoptive Pregnancy

Similar to a biological pregnancy, although most symptoms will be emotional and not physical, there is often anxiousness waiting for child information and travel.

Adult member of the prospective adoptive

means an individual, other than the prospective adoptive parent, over the age of 18, whose principal or only residence is the home of the prospective adoptive parents. This definition excludes any child of the prospective adoptive parents, whose principal or only residence is the home of the prospective adoptive parents, who reaches his or her 18th birthday after the prospective adoptive parents have filed the advance processing application (or the advance processing application concurrently with the orphan petition) unless the INS director has an articulable and substantive reason for requiring an evaluation by a home study preparer and/or a fingerprint check.

Age of Parent

The USCIS requires one prospective adoptive parent to be a minimum of 25 years old. There is no maximum, however, most countries will have a maximum age limit.


An authenticating seal placed on a document by the state Sec. of State where the document was issued for international purposes (Dossier). Certain specified countries only will accept these authentications on documents.


is synonymous with advance processing application.

Attachment and Bonding

The relationship between a child and parent where the child goes through the need-arousal-gratification-trust-need cycle and learns to "attach" to its caretaker.


A generic name for getting a document the appropriate authentications by specific authorities for international purposes (Dossier). This includes both certifications and apostilles depending on what the foreign country requires. Always contact the God’s Families office with any questions.

Background Check/State

Most states require a state criminal and child abuse clearance. Usually accomplished by submitting imprinted fingerprint cards or getting electronically fingerprinted.

Background Check/USCIS

The USCIS will conduct their own independent criminal clearance via the FBI. You will get fingerprinted in a USCIS regional office closest to your home via an electronic scanner.

Aliases: USCIS
Birth Certificate/Child

You will receive a birth certificate for your child from the foreign court with your name as their parent and any name you choose for that child. It will be translated into English in country for the US Embassy/US State Dept.

Birth Certificate/Parent

The USCIS will accept a photocopy when you submit your I-600a application.


a man who helped a woman get pregnant, where the woman then gives birth and the baby is then placed for adoption.


a woman who gives birth to a baby and then places him/her for adoption.


The biological parent (mother & father) of a child.

Case Record

The collection of records and documents an adoptive parent submits to an agency to make an assessment for that family. This record is strictly confidential.


A professional social worker that completes the adopting parents' homestudy. The caseworker analyzes the issues surrounding adoption with the adopting parents. The caseworker counsels birthparents, both prior to and after the child's birth, and completes the documents that terminate the birthparent's parental rights. After the child's birth the caseworker visits with the adoptive parents for post-placement supervision.

Citizenship and Immigration Services (CI

The new name for the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Services). Before an international adoption takes place CIS must approve the homestudy.

Aliases: CIS
Closed Adoption

An adoption is closed when the adoptive and birthparents have not met, do not plan to have any contact after the child is placed, and do not share identifying information. The agency handling the legal paperwork is the intermediary that knows both the adoptive and birthparents. Every state has different laws about the release of identifying information. In California the adoptee must be at least 18 years old and the birthparents must have signed a release of information at the time of placement.This term is considered offensive to some people and has been replaced by "Confidential Adoption."

Aliases: Confidential Adoption
Competent authority

a court or governmental agency of a foreign-sending country having jurisdiction and authority to make decisions in matters of child welfare, including adoption.

Consent Form

is the legal document Birthparents sign to terminate their parental rights over their child.

County Recorder or Clerk

The county office that handles authenticating a document before it is sent on to the state Sec. of State for an apostille or certification. This office will usually have certified copies of birth, marriage and death certificates that occurred within its borders. Check with your state as many states will authenticate a notarized document directly.

Cultural Awareness

When you can acknowledge, accept and even appreciate the differences of other cultures. This is a very important element to the success of an international adoption.

Culture Shock

When an adult or child has to quickly adjust to a new culture including food, sound, thought process, language, action process, etc.

Desertion by both parents

the parents have willfully forsaken their child and have refused to carry out their parental rights and obligations and that, as a result, the child has become a ward of a competent authority in accordance with the laws of the foreign-sending country.


The emotional, neurological and psychosocial development of a child.

Disappearance of both parents

both parents have unaccountably or inexplicably passed out of the child’s life, their whereabouts are unknown, there is no reasonable hope of their reappearance and there has been a reasonable effort to locate them as determined by a competent authority in accordance with the laws of the foreign-sending country.

Disrupted Adoption

A disrupted adoption is when something arises to halt the adoption process prior to the adoption being legally finalized. There are many factors that can cause the disruption. It can be initiated by one or both of the birth-parents, the country where the child resides, or the adoptive parent(s) themselves can request a disruption. The statistics available on the number disruptions is varied; anywhere from 10% - 25% of all adoption processes. However as the age of the child increases so do the number of disruptions. http://www.childwelfare.gov


The term dissolution is used to describe an adoption that ends after it is legally finalized, resulting in the child's return to (or entry into) foster care or placement with new adoptive parents. Information regarding the percentages of adoptions that are dissolved is very limited as this information is often considered confidential in nature. However, the number of adoptions that are dissolved is known to increase as the child's age-at the time of adoption-increases. The two most common reasons sited for dissolution are the lack of information of how to obtain needed services to help the adoptive parent(s) to cope with issues that arise following a finalized adoption and the cost of those services. http://www.childwelfare.gov

Domestic Partner Adoption

Also known as Stepparent Adoption. This process secures a second, legal parent for a child and is used when the parents are legally married, or are registered domestic partners. Adoption Connection can assist in this relatively fast and easy process. First, we send the family a few forms to complete (according to the standards of the California county in which they reside), meet with them briefly, and then submit a report to the court. The process provides the adopting parents with an Adoption Order. In most cases an amended birth certificate can be ordered listing the partner as the other/second parent.

Aliases: Stepparent Adoption

A collection of required documents presented in support of a petition to adopt a child overseas. It becomes the foreign country's paper representation of whom the adopting family is, and it is used to "approve" the family adopting a child from their country. The specific paperwork may vary from country to country, but many documents are duplicates from the homestudy or for the CIS.

Dual Citizenship

When a citizen of one country takes on the additional citizenship and it’s privileges from another. What determines this is according to the original country's requirements. Some countries require you to relinquish their status if you take on citizenship in another country, others do not.

Exit Visa/Process

The emigration requirements of a child who has been adopted and now needs the proper travel and immigration documents from both the source country and the US Embassy before leaving the native country and entering the US.


Anything related to your adoption that is not a fee for direct adoption services.

Facilitator (adoption)

A facilitator can serve as the entity between birthparents and adopting parents in assisting the "match." Facilitators do not have specific credentials, but usually have experience or training in working with birthparents.


Any monies paid for adoptive services provided.


The court action that legalizes the adoption. In California this occurs approximately six months after the child's placement in the adoptive family's home (sooner if it is a second adoption). The post-placement supervision and the birthparent's relinquishment paperwork must be completed before the adoption can be finalized.


Required by the state to process your criminal background check or clearance. This goes to a different agency, usually your state Dept. of Justice and not the USCIS which uses the FBI to process their own independent background check.


Required as part of your pre-adoption approval (I-600a). This will allow the USCIS to check your background using the FBI.

Foreign Embassy/USA

Where families will go for your visas (if required). It's also where your documents go to get certified if required by that country.

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