Glossary – Family Building via Adoption & Foster Care

The following is an A-Z of terms commonly used in the process of forming a family via adoption and foster care.

Adoptee: A person who joins a family via adoption.

Adoption: The creation, by a court, of parental rights and responsibilities between a child and an adult or adult couple.

Adoptive Parent: A person or persons who become the permanent parents with all the social, legal rights and responsibilities incumbent upon any parent.

Agency Adoption: An adoption handled by a private, licensed agency often for the purpose of adopting an infant outside of the foster care system. A private agency is not government-sponsored, but must meet state requirements to obtain and keep its licensed status.

Birth parent: Also called “biological parent.” The term used for the two persons who genetically created a child.

Closed Adoption: An adoption where there is no contact between birth parents and adoptive parents. Also called traditional adoption.

Emergency Foster Care (EFC): Short-term substitute care for children in the custody of Child Welfare.

Family placement: Situation in which a child has been removed by Child Welfare and is placed with relatives. Relatives can, in some situations, receive priority during placement if they are qualified as foster parents or if the legal parents consent to the relatives taking temporary physical custody of the child/ren.

Foster-Adopt placement: Definition varies somewhat from community to community but, in general, this term is used to describe the adoption by foster parents of a child, currently placed in their home, whose initial plan was reunification with birth parents, but after diligent attempts at reunification failed, has been changed to the goal of adoption. In this case, the child is in foster care status upon entering the caregiver’s home. The caregiver is a licensed foster parent who has completed or is in the process of completing an approved adoption homestudy.

Foster Care: An essential temporary Child Welfare (CW) service when the child’s safety cannot be ensured in his or her own home due to the risk of child abuse, neglect, or special circumstances necessitating out-of-home care on a temporary basis. Licensed foster care is made up of individuals or families who have requested to take dependent children into their home. Foster homes are licensed and inspected regularly, and foster parents go through a rigorous interview process before being approved.

Foster child: A foster child is a dependent child who is has been removed from their parent or guardian and is living in a licensed foster home.

Foster parent: A foster parent has been through a rigorous interview process to determine if they can safely care for abused and neglected children in their home. Foster parents are paid a monthly stipend to help cover the costs of the needs of the child, but this funding will generally not pay for everything a foster child needs.

Home Study: A process whereby an individual or couple undergo a study by a licensed public or private agency to assure the well-being of the child in the home and the readiness of the family to adopt

International Adoption: Any adoption occurring when the child and the adoptive parents are from two different countries. Extra legal work through immigration services must be done to authorize an international adoption.

Interstate Adoption: The adoptive placement of a child who is a resident of one state with an adoptive parent (or parents) who is a legal resident of a different state.

Kinship Care (also known as “Relative Placement”): Continuous care provided for a child requiring out-of-home placement by a relative, stepparent, or other responsible adult who has a bond or tie with the child or a family relationship role with the child’s parent(s) or the child prior to the child’s entry into foster care.

Legalization (also known as “Finalization”): The legal act that establishes a family connection between the adopting person and the adopted person. Usually done in a courtroom setting, this act grants rights and responsibilities to the adoptive parent and child equal to those rights and responsibilities granted to families created by birth.

Legally Free for Adoption: A child is legally free when the parental rights of both birth parents have been terminated, and the time period for the birth parents to appeal the decision is over.

Multi-Ethnic Placement Act (MEPA): Sometimes now called “Removal of Barriers to Interethnic Placement,” this is a federal law enacted in 1994 and amended in 1996, which prohibits an adoption agency from delaying or denying the placement of any child on the basis of race, color or national origin.

Open Adoption: An adoption which allows for some form of association between the birth parents, adoptees, and adoptive parents. This can range from picture and letter sharing, to phone calls, to contact through an intermediary, to open contact between the parties themselves.

Out-of-Home Care: This term includes all children who have been removed from their home and are living with a relative, non-relative, or in foster care.

Permanent guardianship: Children will be placed in permanent guardianship, usually with appropriate relatives, if the parents’ rights have not been terminated but the child cannot safely return home.

Private Adoption (also known as “Independent Adoption”): Refers to a type of adoption whereby the adopting parent works directly with an attorney throughout the adoption process instead of with an adoption agency.

Reunification: The process of returning a child who has been removed from the home to the parents or guardians and ensuring that the child will remain safe. The majority of children who are removed from their home have reunification as their case plan goal.

Second Parent Adoption: A second-parent adoption allows a second parent to adopt a child without the “first parent” losing any parental rights.

Step-parent Adoption: A step parent adoption is a situation in which a step parent adopts the child of his current spouse.

Surrender of Parental Rights (also known as “Relinquishment”): The birth parents of a child voluntarily (of their own desire and choice) make an adoption plan for a child and relinquish their legal rights to the child.

Termination of Parental Rights: The legal severing of ties between a birth parent and a child. These parental rights and responsibilities may be voluntary surrendered by the birth parent or, if the birth parent is proven unable to meet the child’s long-term needs, may by severed involuntarily through the court system.

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Glossary: Family Building Via Adoption And Foster Care

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