Glossary of Adoption Terms

day-plannerYou say “Real mother”, I say “Birth mother.” You say “Give up a baby for adoption”, I say “Place a baby for adoption”.

Before you can walk the walk, you have to know how to talk the talk. Here’s a quick guide to a few of adoption’s more commonly used terms, what they mean and the importance of using postive adoption language in Canada.

  • Adoptee: person who has been adopted.
  • Adoption: legal process involving the transfer of parental rights from birth parents to adoptive parents.
  • Adoption Agency: provincially licensed organization responsible for placing children with prospective adoptive individuals or families. Can be privately or publicly run.
  • Adoption Agreement: document in which birth parents and adoptive parents agree to a plan that lays out the parametres of their relationship and the degree of communication between them.
  • Adoption Decree: document issued by the court once an adoption is finalized that states the adoptee is the legal child of the adoptive parents.
  • Adoption Exchange: event that facilitates the matching of waiting children with prospective adoptive parents.
  • Adoption Facilitator: individuals who assist prospective adoptive parents in their quest to find a child. Can be licensed or unlicensed. Illegal in some parts of Canada and the US.
  • Adoption Licensee: individual or agency that arranges placement of adoptive children.
  • Adoption Plan: refers to the legally non-binding arrangement between the birth parents and the adoptive parents regarding the placement and rearing of their child.
  • Adoption Practitioner: also known as social worker, it refers to the provincially-licensed professional who counsels birth parents and waiting parents about adoption.
  • Adoption Records: refers to formal and informal documents pertaining to an adoption.
  • Adoptive Parent: person who legally assumes responsibilities and obligations of parenting an adopted child. In some cases, may be related to the child.
  • Adoption Professional: individual authorized to provide adoption services.
  • Adoption Triad: three parties involved in an adoption — adoptive parents, birth parents and adoptees.
  • Affidavit: a legal document in which the person who makes it swears that the information contained in the document is true to the best of his/her knowledge.
  • Algar: scoring system used to evaluate newborns at one minute and five minutes of life.
  • Attachment: degree of bonding established between child and his/her parent or caregiver during infancy and early childhood.
  • Amended Birth Certificate: birth certificate issues after the adoption is finalized.
  • Biracial: person whose parents are of different races.
  • Birth Parents: biological or genetic parents of the child placed for adoption.
  • Bonding: process by which a baby develops strong, lasting ties with his/her parent or caregiver.
  • Child Profile:comprehensive review of a child’s family and medical history.
  • Closed Adoption: adoption in which the adoptive parents and the birth parents have no identifying information about each other.
  • Congenital: condition present since birth.
  • Consent Form: legal document signed by the birth parents to voluntarily relinquish the legal guardianship of their child.
  • Criminal Clearances: process used by police or RCMP to determine whether the applicant has a criminal record.
  • Custody: legal responsibility of guarding and protecting a child.
  • Disrupted Adoption: adoption that fails before finalization.
  • Early Intervention: process that allows medical specialists to determine physical and mental problems in infants so as to provide short/long-term treatment.
  • Facilitator: private or public agency, or individual (licensed or unlicensed) who helps arrange an adoption.
  • Family Profile: see home study.
  • Fetal Alcohol Effect: cognitive and behavioural birth defects shown in children born to mothers who used alcohol during pregnancy.
  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: physical and behavioural birth defects shown in children born to mothers who abused alcohol during pregnancy.
  • Finalization: legal procedure giving adoptive individual or couple permission to adopt.
  • Fine Motor Skills: refers to area of development pertaining to the use of a child’s hands and eyes.
  • Foster Care: temporary placement of a child.
  • Gross Motor Skills: refers to an area of development pertaining to how a child controls his/her more important body movements.
  • Home Study: process that assesses and prepares prospective adoptive parents for the responsibilities of adoption.
  • Identifying Information: information about birth parents, adoptive parents or adoptee such as full names and addresses.
  • Independent Adoption: any adoption not undertaken by an agency.
  • Infertility: inability to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term.
  • International Adoption: also known as intercountry adoption, refers to any adoption from another country, including the US.
  • Involuntary Termination of Parent Rights: legal procedure where the legal rights of birth parents to a child are terminated by the court without their signed consent.
  • Legal Guardian: individual who makes legal decisions for a child; their signed consent.
  • Legal Risk Adoption: adoption where a child is placed with prospective adoptive parents prior to the termination of the birth parents’ rights.
  • Life Book: a scrapbook or photo album chronicling a child’s history done by his/her adoptive parent or parents.
  • Matching: process of finding prospective parents or a parent suitable for a waiting child.
  • Networking: efforts made by waiting parents to make birth parents aware of their desire to adopt.
  • Open Adoption: adoption where birthparents and adoptive parents know of each other and exchange information.
  • Non-identifying information: the medical and social history exchanged between the birth parents and adoptive parents that omits any reference to names or addresses or any other identifying information.
  • Open Records: accessibility to adoption records by each member of the triad.
  • Placement: refers to the physical relocation of a child into a foster or prospective adoptive home.
  • Post-natal: occuring after birth, as opposed to prenatal, which occurs before it.
  • Private Adoption: any adoption arranged through a privately-funded licensed agency or licensee.
  • Private Adoption Agency: any non-government agency licensed by the province that arrange adoptions.
  • Public Adoption: any adoption arranged through a publicly funded ministry or agency.
  • Public Adoption Agency: government agency that arranges adoptions.
  • Sibling Groups: two or more family members who are available for adoption together.
  • Special Needs Child: child who may be physically, mentally and emotionally challenged. Also refers to older children, sibling groups, children of a different race or who may have been exposed to drugs or alcohol.
  • Waiting Children: children in foster care or who are available for adoption.

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