Adoption Terms

Adoption: “to take into one’s family through legal means and raise as one’s own child” — American Heritage Dictionary. Adoption is process that gives a child a chance at life and love that was no available before. Adoption is a very special way of building permanent families.

Attachment: A psychological tie between two people, that allows them to have affection for and importance to each other. It becomes the basis for development of basic trust and shapes how the child will relate to the world, learn, and form relationships throughout life.

Apostille: The legalization of a document for international use under the terms of the 1961 Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents. After a document for international adoption is notarized, the Secretary of State office will apostille it for international use.

Autobiography: This is required as part of the home study process. It is a story of your life, written by you. It should include facts about your life, memories and character building experiences, thoughts and values.

Designated or Identified Adoption: The birth parents and adoptive parents select one another w/out a liason such as an adoption agency or attorney. After identifying one another, they birth parent(s) and adopting parents then request an adoption agency or attorney to oversee the adoption process.

Dossier: A collection of papers giving detailed information about a particular person or subject. French term often used in international adoptions.

Finalization: The legal court action which often occurs six months after placement that makes your adopted child a legal member of your family.

Foster Care: Temporary care for children by families and singles who are licensed by their county department of social services of private agencies.

Hague Convention on International Adoptions: an international agreement that includes over 35 countries, including the US, that set standards and procedures to protect children involved in inter-country adoptions. It is also set up to protect the interests of their birth and adoptive parents in the participating countries. The agreement is designed to discourage “black markets” and to ensure that inter-country adoptions are completed with the best interests of the children in mind.

Home Study: A written description of your family, your strengths and weaknesses, dreams and fears, hopes and expectations. It is written by your case worker after interviews with you and a visit to your home. Your worker evaluates such considerations as: is there adequate space in your home for a child, can you financially support a child, and how strong are your parenting skills? The study includes photos of you, medical reports by your physician, criminal background checks, and autobiographies written by you. The home study is a valuable learning process for adoptive applicants and their worker.

Independent or Private Adoption: When a birth parent places a child directly with the adopting parents, a private or independent adoption is said to occur. A private adoption is one arranged between the adoptive and birth parents without the assistance of an agency.

International Adoption Specialist: A pediatrician specializing in internationally adopted children. They often review the medical history of a child to determine any areas of concern before the prospective parents agree to the adoption.

Legal-Risk or Foster Adopt Program: A family is reviewed and approved as adoptive parents and certified as county social services foster parents. This is with the understanding that the child who will be placed with you will be the one you are interested in adopting. The child is not yet legally available for adoption. If the child becomes available for adoption, you will begin the legal process of adoption of that child.

Life Book: Collection of photos, stories, etc. that tell the story of the life of a child. Helping a child assemble his book results in a better sense of self and identity for that child, including birth history (if known), adoption, information and family life.

Open Adoption: The openness of an adoption refers to how much identifying information, such as names, addresses, work place, specific personal history, etc., is exchanged between adopting parents and birth parents. Semi-open and closed adoptions are varying degrees.

Placement: The day your child is placed in your home as a member of your family; affectionately referred to as “gotcha day.”

Post-Placement: The period of time between placement of the child in the adoptive home and finalization of the adoption in court.

Relinquishment: When birth parents decide they are not able to parent a child and make a plan to transfer their legal parental rights to an adoptive family through an intermediary such as an adoption agency or lawyer and the court system.

Sending Country: In international adoption, this refers to the country from which a family adopts their child.

Special Needs or Waiting Children: These are the children who may be older, who may have experienced physical and/or sexual abuse, who may be from a minority ethnic group, who may be a member of a sibling group and/or have a developmental disability.