Definitions of Adoptive Terms

Below is a list and explanation of terms commonly used in Adoption:

Abandonment - when a parent refuses to physically, emotionally, or financially support his or her child. (A signed relinquishment or surrender of parental rights legally constitutes abandonment.)

Adoption Assistance Program - federal (Title IV-E) or state payments and other benefits designed to offset the short- and long-term costs of adopting eligible children until they reach the age of 18.

Adoption benefits - benefits - such as financial assistance or monetary reimbursement for the expenses of adopting a child - available to workers through some employer-sponsored programs.

Adoption exchange - a state, regional, or national organization with information about children who are waiting for adoption within the state, region, or nation.

Adoption petition - the legal document through which prospective parents request the court's permission to adopt a specific child.

Adoption tax credit - a tax benefit for adoptive parents. Contact your tax professional for more details.

Agency adoption - an adoption completed with assistance from an organization of licensed, trained adoption professionals.

Birth family - those who share a child's genetic heritage; blood relations; extended family members.

Birth parent - a child's biological mother or father.

Closed adoption - an adoption in which birth and adoptive families have no contact and know only non-identifying information about each other.

Disclosure meeting - During a disclosure meeting the adoption worker for the child available for adoption will meet with the family in order to provide information regarding the child's history. By law, the legal custodian of the child (the County) must disclose information about the child to families pursuing adoption.

Disruption - when an adoption is discontinued or annulled through a decision by the adoptive parents, the child, or a legal authority, before or after finalization.

Finalization - the last legal step in the adoption process, involving a court hearing where an adoptive parent becomes a child's legal parent. Foster children - children placed in the state's legal custody because their birth parents were deemed abusive, neglectful, or otherwise unable to care for them. While under state care, such children often live with foster parents or in group homes.

Foster parents - state-licensed adults who provide a temporary home for children in state custody whose birth parents are unable to care for them.

Home study - a process through which prospective adopters are educated about adoption and evaluated to determine their suitability to adopt.

Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) - a 1978 federal law that protects the rights of Native American children, families, and tribes. ICWA states that when placing a Native American child for adoption, preference should be given to extended family, tribe members, a Native American foster or adoptive family, or a Native American institution. The tribe has the right to make decisions regarding the Native American child's placement, and non-Native American families are considered for placement as a last resort. ICWA adoption provisions do not, however, apply to every Native American child in foster care-especially in cases where the children's Native American birth parents are not registered tribe members, or the tribes have given up their claim to the children.

Legally free - a child whose birth parents' rights have been legally terminated or relinquished so that the child is free to be adopted by another family.

Legal-risk adoption - placement of a child in an adoptive home when birth parents' rights have not yet been voluntarily or involuntarily terminated.

Loss and grief issues - unresolved emotional distress that can result from being removed from one's family, experiencing a parent's death, moving from one placement to another, or having one's parents' parental rights terminated. Because children have a hard time expressing and dealing with feelings about losses and separations, these issues can cause depression and acting-out behaviors.

Open adoption - an adoption that involves some amount of direct contact between the birth and adoptive families, ranging from exchanging names to sending letters and scheduling visits.

Photolisting - a publication or website with photos and descriptions of children who are available for adoption.

Relinquishment (See also Surrender papers.) - the legal process by which birth parents voluntarily surrender rights to parent their children. After relinquishment, birth parents have no legal right to further contact with the children.

Semi-open adoption - an adoption in which a child's birth parents and pre-adoptive parents exchange largely non-identifying information. After the child is placed in the adoptive home, contact with the birth family may involve letters or pictures or other communications sent through an intermediary or the adoption agency.

Surrender papers - legal documents that a child's birth parents, legal guardian, next of kin, or court-appointed friend can voluntarily sign to give up or relinquish their parental rights to the child.

Termination of parental rights (TPR) - the court process through which a birth parent's legal claim to his or her child is permanently removed. TPR actions are brought when birth parents whom the court deems unfit to parent will not voluntarily give up their rights.

Waiting children - children in the public child welfare system (foster children) who cannot return to their birth homes and need permanent, loving families to help them grow up safe and secure. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Children's Bureau estimates that there are approximately 126,000 waiting children in our country.

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