Glossary of Adoption Terms

Adoption - A legally recognized process in which all parental rights and responsibilities are transferred to an individual or couple who has agreed to assume them. Adoption is permanent and grants a child full membership into the new family. Adoption terminates all rights and responsibilities of the biological parents.

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

Adoption assistance - Monthly subsidies payments from the State or federal government that help adoptive parents raise children with special needs.

Adoption benefits - Compensation to workers through employer-sponsored programs. Examples of such benefits are financial assistance for the adoption expenses or provisions for “parental” leave.

Adoption disruption - When a child placed for adoption is removed from the prospective adoptive home and returned to the birthparents before the adoption is finalized.

Adoption plan - Birthparents’ decisions regarding the placement of their child for adoption.

Adoption triad - the three major parties in an adoption: birthparents, adoptive parents, and adopted child. Also called “adoption triangle”.

Adoption facilitator - An individual whose business involves connecting birthparents and prospective adoptive parents for a fee (only allowed in a few states)

Adoptive parent - The mother or father of an adopted child.

Birthparent - A child’s biological mother or father.

Birthfamily - The extended family of the birthparents. (may or may not be biologically related)

Confidential adoption or closed adoption - An adoption in which the birthparent(s) and the adoptive parent(s) do not meet, do not exchange identifying information with each other, and do not maintain contact with each other.

Custody - The legal responsibility for the care and supervision of a child.

Domestic adoption - The adoption of a child born in the United States.

Family study - (often referred to as home study or family profile) The process of educating prospective adoptive families about adoption, ensuring that their home would be a safe and appropriate place for a child. Pennsylvania adoption law requires all prospective adoptive families to obtain family studies conducted by a licensed agency or or independent licensed adoption social worker.

Family study group education - A series of meetings to educate adoptive families about adoption issues such as: legalities, openness, risks, talking to your child about adoption, and how to create a Dear Birthparent letter.

ICPC (Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children) - This is an agreement between states to coordinate the placement of children for adoption across state lines. The compact guarantees that each state’s adoption laws and procedures regarding the child’s adoption is properly managed and finalized.

International adoption - The adoption of a child who is a citizen of one country by adoptive parents who are citizens of a different country.

Legal risk placement - The placement of a child with an adoptive family before the parental rights have been terminated.

Matching - The process of connecting birthparents considering adoption or infants available for adoption with waiting adoptive parents.

Non-identifying information - Information that allows the birth and adoptive families to learn pertinent facts about each other without revealing who they are or how they can be contacted.

Open adoption - An adoption where there is an established relationship between the birthfamily, adoptive family, and the adopted child. Generally, the adoptive family and the birthfamily agree to a level and style of communication that is comfortable for both parties. In an agency adoption, social workers may outline the agreement in writing and may be involved in the facilitation of the on-going open adoption relationship.

Orientation meeting - An initial group meeting for prospective adoptive parents where general adoption information is shared and policies and procedures are explained. At The Children’s Home’s meetings, application packets are distributed for families wishing to proceed with adoption through The Children’s Home.

Post-permanency services - A variety of services provided after the adoption is finalized, including counseling, support groups, and respite care. The State Wide Adoption Network in Pennsylvania supports these services which make them free of charge to adoptive families, whether the adoption is private, domestic, or international.

Post-Placement Reports - Visits conducted by a Social Worker and summarized in a document that is submitted to the court for finalization of the adoption. Many adoptions, both international and domestic, require post-placement reports.

Private or independent adoption - An adoption that takes place without the involvement of a public or private agency. The adoption is handled by an adoption attorney.

Placement - The day the adoptive parents take their child home.

Reunion - A meeting between an adopted person and their biological birthparent or other biological relative.

Search - An attempt to locate the birthparents of an adopted child or adult.

Termination of parental rights - The legal process which relinquishes a parent’s rights and legal responsibilities to their child.


The Children's Home of Pittsburgh & Lemieux Family Center 5324 Penn Avenue Pittsburgh, PA 15224 Phone: 412-441-4884 Fax: 412-441-0167