Here are some adoption terms you might want to know about:

  • Adoption Placement: The time when a child starts to live with the prospective adoptive parents before the adoption is finalized.
  • Adoption Plan: Commonly used term in adoption referring to when biological parents or birth parents make a distinct and individual plan for the adoption of their child. Often includes the decision to place their child in an adoptive home, the type of family they wish to adopt the child, who will be at the birth and the amount of contact between the adoptive parents, adoptee and birth parents following the adoption.
  • Adoptive Parent: A person or persons who become the permanent and legal parents through a court approved adoption with all the legal rights and social and moral responsibilities of a biological parent.
  • Birth Parent: A child’s biological parent or genetic parent. The parents who conceived and gave birth to a child.
  • Closed Adoption: An adoption in which the birth parents and adoptive parents do not share any identifying information; in some types of closed adoptions, no information is shared at all. In a true closed adoption, total confidentiality is maintained with sealed records and no contact or ongoing relationship between the triad.
  • Finalization: The adoption final legal step in the adoption process; involves a court hearing during which the judge orders the adoption decree that the adoptive parents become the child’s legal parents, permanently, and legally. In different states, this court hearing will occur after a specific time, according to the laws of the state.
  • Foster Care: Temporary or long-term care, informal or arranged through a social services agency or court, in which persons other than the birth parents care for a child for a period of time.
  • Guardian: A person who is legally responsible for the care and management of a minor child. The court or birth parents may continue to hold some authority over the child. Guardianship is subject to on-going supervision by the court and ends at the child’s majority or by order of the court. Guardians do not have the same shared rights of inheritance as birth or adoptive parents.
  • Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights: A legal procedure in which the legal rights of the birth parents of a child are terminated by the court without the birth parents signed consent. Decisions for such action are based on the best interest of the child and include abandonment, repeated or sever abuse and neglect.
  • Matching: An adoption match is the process of locating and connecting a birth mother and an adoptive family who is interested in completing adoption plan for the birth mother’s child; not to be confused with “placement.”
  • Open Adoption: The adoption plan that allows the birth mother or birth family to have a choice about the family that adopts their child. In open adoption, a wide range of alternatives are available, which may include but are not limited to meeting between families before or after the birth of the child, allowing adoptive parents to attend the birth, and the continuation of relationship between families through various combinations of letters, photos, videos, e-mails or visits.
  • Relinquishment: Legal process by which birth parents voluntarily terminate their parental rights in order to free their child for adoption. In some adoptions, referred to as a surrender or making an adoption plan for their child. Relinquishment is a legally binding, permanent procedure involving the signing of legal documents and court proceedings.
  • Semi-open Adoption: An adoption in which the adoptive parents and birth parents establish some continuing contact that the birth parents will have with the child. The options range from letters and photos, e-mails and anything in between which is mutually agreed upon. Some semi-open adoptions have no contact after placement.
  • Termination of Parental Rights: A court hearing in which a judge enters a decree permanently ending a birth parent’s legal parental rights to a child. This can be voluntary or involuntary and must happen before a child is legally free for adoption.
    Voluntary Termination 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, making the child legally free for an adoption.