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Adoption: The legal transfer of all parental rights and obligations from one person or couple to another person or couple.

Adoptive Parents:  An individual or couple who have chosen to adopt and have received court approval.

Adoption Attorney: An attorney that specializes in adoption. Some attorneys will process the paperwork required for adoption only. Other attorneys will provide advice on how to locate a birthmother, how to talk to her on the phone, request medical history of the birthparents, get the birthmother legal representation and counseling, and provide in depth adoption related services.

Agency Adoption:  Adoptive parents can work with either public agencies or private agencies that offer a variety of services. There are international, domestic infant and special needs adoption programs. Requirements and services can vary amongst programs within the same agency.

Agency Assisted Adoption: An agency adoption where the agency will help the prospective adoptive parents with locating a birthmother, possibly answering the phone and providing a variety of services to the birthmother and the adoptive parents. Most agencies today provide this type of adoption for domestic infant adoption. If a birthmother approaches an agency, the birthmother can review prospective adoptive parents biographies. The prospective adoptive parents will do networking and advertising in an effort to locate a birthparent will the help of the agency.

Facilitator:  An un-licensed organization or individual acting in behalf of adoptive parents to introduce birthmothers to prospective adoptive parent to create an adoption commitment between the parties. Facilitators usually find a suitable birthmother to agree upon an adoption, and may or may not help complete the adoption.  They do not perform legal services, counseling or home studies.  Laws very state to state about their practice.  In many instances, their own life experience has brought facilitators  into the adoption field and have proven to be a valuable asset.            

Foster Parents:  An individual or couple who has temporary care of a child, but has no legal rights in determining many aspects of a child's life. Sometimes foster parents become adoptive parents. The goal of foster care is to return a child to their birth home unless the courts decide this is no longer in the child's best interest.

Homestudy:  A social investigation where a social worker interviews prospective adoptive parents concerning their background and their ability to raise a child. Often this is done in a series of interviews, with at least one interview in the home. It can also include information to help an individual or couple to prepare for adoption. Homestudies can become "outdated". There is a time period, usually 18 months, before a homestudy needs to be updated.

Identified Adoption: Adoptive parents and birthparents find each other first and then go to an agency or to an attorney to complete the adoption process.

Independent Adoption: An adoption that is not arranged by an agency is an independent adoption. Independent adoption is legal in most states, but not all states. With the advice of an attorney, a prospective adoptive parent becomes pre-certified for adoption, sets up a phone line in their home, does networking and advertising. The birthmother will contact the prospective adoptive parents. An adoption attorney will speak to the birthparent and help the birthparent find their own lawyer, and assist with the legal aspects of the adoption.  International adoptions can also be independent adoptions.

International Adoption:  The adopted child comes from another country. The countries with the most international adoptions are China, Russia, Korea, Romania, Guatemala, India, Vietnam, Colombia, Philippines, and Paraguay. Travel by the adoptive parents may or may not be required. International adoption can be done with an agency or independently. Approval must be obtained from both domestic and foreign governments.

Interstate Compact:  The legal agreement between the states concerning a child living in one state and going to another state to be adopted. Adoption paperwork such as homestudies must be reviewed by the state the child is residing in before the child can leave the state for its new home. An attorney can file the paperwork.

Open Adoption:  An adoption that has identifying information shared. This can be at the time the adoption takes place and/or while the child grows up. It can be any where from minimal information like a photo and letter being exchanged at the time of birth, to regular contact between birthparents and adoptive parents and child. Open adoption occur with Independent and  Agency adoptions.

Pre-certification:  The legal process where prospective adoptive parents(s) submit to the court their: homestudy, references, child abuse clearance, fingerprints, medical status, employment verification and other documents for the court to review. The court then approves the prospective adoptive parents and issues a certificate that the person(s) can adopt a child. The certificate stays with the court. The is done for independent adoption. The paperwork is submitted by the attorney. The same paperwork is usually required by an agency adoption.

Special Needs:  Refers to many categories of children, including those with physical, emotional, and medical disabilities, children over the ages of five, or those in foster care. Special Needs children can also refer to siblings that are trying to be placed together.

Termination of parental rights:  This can be done as a voluntary process when birth parents consent to an adoption. Termination of parental rights can also be done against the will of the parents, if a state determines that it is in the best interest of the child. A termination of parental rights is a legal process and must be done before an adoption can be finalized.

Traditional Agency Adoption:  An agency does all the work in locating a birthmother, counseling her and providing all the necessary help for adoption to take place. The birthmother may or may not pick the prospective adoptive parents from biographical resumes. The adoptive parents may or may not have contact with the birthparents.

Waiting Children:  Another term for children with special needs, especially children who are in need homes to be adopted into. Usually the children are five years old or older.

This list of definitions are limited and only provides the basics for adoption.  If you feel there any important terms missing feel free to contribute the word and its definition. Submit to