Adoption Terms to Know

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Adoption Terms to Know






Adoption agency

An organization, usually licensed by the State, that provides services to birth parents, adoptive parents, and children who need families. Agencies may be public or private, secular or religious, for profit or nonprofit.

Adoption attorney

A legal professional who has experience with filing, processing, and finalizing adoptions in a court having jurisdiction.

For an adoption attorney referral in your state, you can look in your phone book under "American Bar Association" or contact:

American Academy of Adoption Attorneys
(Quad A)
P.O. Box 33053
Washington, DC 20033-0053
World Wide Web:
Phone Number (202) 832-2222

Adoption consultant

Anyone who helps with the placement of a child, but specifically someone who makes it his or her private business to facilitate adoptions.

Adoption facilitator

Individual whose business involves connecting birth parents and prospective adoptive parents for a fee (only allowed in a few States).

Adoption placement

The point at which a child begins to live with prospective adoptive parents; the period before the adoption is finalized.

Adoption triad

The three major parties in an adoption: birth parents, adoptive parents, and adopted child. Also called "adoption triangle" or "adoption circle."

Birth parent

A child's biological parent.

Closed adoption

An adoption that involves total confidentiality and sealed records.

Consent to adopt (or consent to adoption)

Legal permission given by the birthparent for the adoption to proceed.


Voluntary termination of parental rights; sometimes referred to as a surrender or as making an adoption plan for one's child.

Decree of adoption

A legal order that finalizes an adoption.


The final legal step in the adoption process; involves a court hearing during which the judge orders that the adoptive parents become the child's legal parents.


A feeling of emotional deprivation or loss. Grief may be experienced by each member of the adoption triad at some point.

Independent adoption

An adoption facilitated by those other than caseworkers associated with an agency. Facilitators may be attorneys, physicians, or other intermediaries. In some States independent adoptions are illegal.


A feeling of emotional deprivation that is experienced at some point in time. For a birth parent the initial loss will usually be felt at or subsequent to the placement of the child. Adoptive parents who are infertile feel a loss in their inability to bear a child. An adopted child may feel a sense of loss at various points in time; the first time the child realizes he is adopted may invoke a strong sense of loss for his birth family.

Maternity home

Residences for pregnant women. The number of homes has decreased over the past three decades, and existing homes often have a waiting list of women. The women who live in a maternity home may pay a small fee or no fee to live in the home and they often apply for public assistance and Medicaid payments.

Open Adoption

An adoption that involves some amount of initial and/or ongoing contact between birth and adoptive families, ranging from sending letters through the agency, to exchanging names and/or scheduling visits.

Paternity testing

Genetic testing that can determine the identity of the biological father. Paternity testing can be done with or without access to the biological mother.

Post-legal adoption services

Services provided subsequent to legal finalization of the adoption. There are primarily four types of post-legal service providers: social service agencies, private therapists, mental health clinics and self-help groups.


Generally regarded to be true.

Putative Father

Legal term for the alleged or supposed father of a child.

Putative father registries

Registry system that serves to ensure that a birthfathers' rights are protected. Some states require that birthfathers register at these facilities, while other states presume that he does not wish to pursue paternity rights if he doesn't initiate any legal action. We can provide you with a list of states that have putative father registries.

This material has been reproduced from the National Adoption Information Clearinghouse.



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