Language for Adoption

Common words used in the process

There are key words and phrases used in the adoption process. We’ve compiled a list of commonly used language to equip you along the journey.


Adoptee: person who has been adopted.

Adoption: a legal process involving the transfer of parental rights from a child’s birth parents to his adoptive parents.

Adoption Agency: state-licensed organization that facilitates the placing of children with prospective adoptive individuals or families.

Adoption Decree: court document issued to the adoptive parents after an adoption has been finalized.

Adoption Match: process in which adoptive parents connect with prospective parent(s)

Adoption Plan: legally non-binding arrangement between birth parents and adoptive parents regarding the placement and rearing of their child. Adoption Records: legal documents pertaining to an adoption.

Adoptive Parent: person who legally assumes responsibilities of parenting an adopted child

Adoption Profile: autobiographical letter created by hopeful adoptive parents for prospective birthparents.

Adoption Professional: individual providing adoption services.

Adoption Triad: three parties involved in an adoption relationship — birthparents, adoptee and adoptive parents.

Amended Birth Certificate: birth certificate issued to the adoptive parents after an adoption is finalized.


Biracial: person whose parents are of different races. Birthfather: biological father of the child placed for adoption.

Birth mother: biological mother of the child placed for adoption.

Birth father: biological father of the child placed for adoption.


Closed Adoption: adoption in which the adoptive parents and the birth parents do not communicate or communicate through an agency or attorney.

Consent Form: legal document signed by birth parents that terminates their rights over their child and transfer them to the adoptive parents

Cradle Care: both our Executive Director, Jessica, and our Director of Infant Adoption, Tammy, offer to provide cradle care when needed. This is a safe and loving home for your baby to be discharged to if you need extra time to make your decision.

Criminal Clearance: process used by police or FBI to determine whether the waiting parent has a criminal record.


Disrupted Adoption: adoption that fails before termination of parental rights.


Foster Care: temporary placement of a child through a public government office.


Home Study: process carried out by an adoption worker that assesses and prepares prospective adoptive parents for an adoption placement.

Hopeful Adoptive Parents: individual or couple that is approved to adopt but have not yet had a child placed with them.


Identifying Information: detailed information about adoptive parents or birth parents such as full names and addresses.

Independent Adoption: any adoption not overseen 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.


Networking: outreach efforts by waiting parents to spread the word about their desire to adopt.


Open Adoption: adoption where birthparents and adoptive parents exchange identifying information and keep in touch after the adoption.


Profile book:  a book put together by a hopeful adoptive parent which is an introduction into their life, family and home.

Post Adoption Contact: (PACA): document signed by birth parents and adoptive parents that outlines the frequency and level of contact between them after the adoption takes place.

Private Adoption: An adoption arranged between 2 parties without the assistance of an agency.

Private Adoption Agency: a non-government stage-licensed agency that arrange adoptions.


Special Needs Child: child who may be physically, mentally and emotionally challenged.


Relinquishment Papers: legal documents that terminate birth parents legal rights to their child and transfers them to the adoptive parent(s).


Waiting Parent: another term for hopeful adoptive parents.

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