A-Z Glossary

Many adoption, foster care and child welfare vocabulary are subject to interpretation. This glossary identifies commonly held definitions for terminology that can be found in the field. It defines common acronyms and provides comprehensive definitions for a broad range of terms. The glossary will be updated as new terminology emerges in the field and as new legislation is enacted.

There are 59 names in this directory beginning with the letter a.
Abandonment
Desertion of a child by a parent or adult primary caregiver with no provisions for continued childcare and without any apparent intention to return to resume care for child.
Abuse and Neglect
Physical, sexual and/or emotional maltreatment. Child abuse and neglect is defined as any recent act or failure to act resulting in imminent risk of serious harm, death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation of a child (a person under the age of 18, unless the child protection law of the state in which the child resides specifies a younger age for cases not involving sexual abuse) by a parent or caretaker (including any employee of a residential facility or any staff person providing out-of-home care) who is responsible for the child’s welfare. Abuse and neglect are defined in both federal and state legislation. The federal CAPTA legislation provides a foundation for states by identifying a minimum set of acts or behaviors that characterize maltreatment. This legislation also defines what acts are considered physical abuse, neglect and sexual abuse (maltreatment).
Accredited Agency
An accredited agency is an adoption service provider who has been accredited by either the Council on Accreditation (COA) to provide adoption services in the United States for cases subject to the regulations set forth by the Hague Adoption Convention. Adoption STAR is a COA Hague Accredited Agency.
Accredited Body
An accredited body is an adoption agency that has been through a process of accreditation including meeting criteria for accreditation imposed by the accrediting country, and can perform certain functions of the Convention in the place of, or in conjunction with, the U.S. Central Authority.
Accrediting Entity
In the field of international adoption this definition is The Council on Accreditation (COA) as it is an organization that have been designated by the U.S. Secretary of State to accredit adoption service providers in the United States for cases subject to the Hague Adoption Convention
Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act
The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 was enacted on July 27, 2006. In addition to establishing a national sex offender registry law, the Act made significant changes to sexual abuse, exploitation, and transportation crimes. The Act created new substantive crimes, expanded federal jurisdiction over existing crimes, and increased statutory minimum and/or maximum sentences. The Adam Walsh Act requires states to check child abuse and neglect registries in all states in which any prospective foster or adoptive parent and any other adult living in the home has lived. Adam John Walsh (November 14, 1974 – c. July 27, 1981) was an American boy who was abducted from a department store in Florida on July 27, 1981, and later found murdered and decapitated. Walsh’s death earned national publicity. His story was made into the 1983 television film Adam. Adam’s father, John Walsh, became an advocate for victims of violent crimes and hosted of the television program America’s Most Wanted.
ADD
Acronym for attention deficit disorder. A lifelong developmental disability (with onset in infancy, childhood or adolescence) that affects a child’s ability to concentrate and control impulses. A child who has ADD is not hyperactive, but often has problems sustaining attention in task or play activities, difficulty in persisting with tasks to completion, and concentrating for longer periods of time
ADHD
Acronym for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. A lifelong developmental disability (with onset in infancy, childhood or adolescence) that involves problems with attention span, impulse control, and activity level at home, at school or at work. Typical behaviors include: fidgeting with hands or squirming in seat; difficulty remaining seated when required; distractibility; difficulty waiting for turns in groups; difficulty staying on task with chores or play activities; difficulty playing quietly; excessive talking; inattention; restlessness; and engaging in physically dangerous activities without considering consequences.
Adjudicatory Hearings
Held by the juvenile and family court to determine whether a child has been maltreated or whether another legal basis exists for the state to intervene to protect the child
Adoptee
Any person who has been adopted.
Adoption
Legal process where parental rights are transferred from birth parents to adoptive parents.
Adoption Agency
Organization placing children in homes, under the jurisdiction of state or licensing laws.
Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA)
Signed into law November 1997 and designed to improve the safety of children, to promote adoption and other permanent homes for children who need them and to support families. The law requires Child Protective Services (CPS) to provide more timely and focused assessment and intervention services to the children and families that are served within the CPS system.
Adoption Assistance
Monthly or one-time only subsidy payments to help adoptive parents raise children with special needs. These payments were initially made possible by the enactment of the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 (P.L. 96-272) that provides federal funding for children eligible under title IV-E of the Social Security Act; States also fund monthly payments for children with special needs who are not eligible for federally funded subsidy payments. "Adoption assistance" can also refer to any help given to adoptive parents.
Adoption Attorney
Lawyers who specialize in the practice of adoption.
Adoption Benefits
Compensation to workers through employer-sponsored programs. Some examples of such benefits are financial assistance or monetary reimbursement for the expenses of adopting a child, or provision of "parental" or "family" leave.
Adoption Consultant
Anyone who helps with the placement of a child, but specifically someone who makes it his or her private business to facilitate adoptions. Facilitators are not legal is many states. Check your state laws before engaging the services of a facilitator.
Adoption Decree
The document issued by the court when an adoption is finalized. The adoption decree states that that the adoptee is the legal child of the adoptive parents.
Adoption Disruption
The interruption of an adoption prior to finalization.
Adoption Dissolution
The interruption or "failure" of an adoption after finalization that requires court action.
Adoption Exchange
An organization which recruits adoptive families for children with special needs using print, radio, television and Internet recruitment, as well as matching parties (which bring together prospective adoptive parents, waiting children and their social workers in a child-focused setting). Adoption exchanges can be local, state, regional, national or international in scope.
Adoption Facilitator
Unlicensed organizations or individuals offering adoption services, which is illegal in at least 20 states.
Adoption Insurance
Insurance that protects against financial loss that can be incurred for example, if a birth mother changes her mind and decides not to place her child for adoption.
Adoption Petition
The legal document through which prospective parents request the court’s permission to adopt a specific child.
Adoption Placement
The point at which a child begins to live with prospective adoptive parents; the period before the adoption is finalized.
Adoption Plan
A plan created between a birth mother and a social worker specifying all aspects and desires with regards to an adoption.
Adoption Professional
Employee of a licensed or authorized adoption agency or a trained and educated adoption authority who has training and experiences in adoption services and authorized by the agency to provide adoption services.
Adoption Service Provider (ASP)
Any entity providing adoption services.
Adoption Services
The definition of adoption services within international adoption translates to six major services provided by adoption service providers: (1) Identifying a child for adoption and arranging an adoption; (2) Securing the necessary consent to termination of parental rights and to adoption; (3) Performing a background study on a child or a home study on a prospective adoptive parent(s), and reporting on such a study; (4) Making non-judicial determinations of the best interests of a child and the appropriateness of an adoptive placement for the child; (5) Monitoring a case after a child has been placed with prospective adoptive parent(s) until final adoption; or (6) When necessary because of a disruption before final adoption, assuming custody and providing (including facilitating the provision of) child care or any other social service pending an alternative placement. The definition of the term within domestic adoption may include any service provided by a licensed/authorized adoption entity.
Adoption Subsidy
Federal or state adoption benefits (also known as adoption assistance) designed to help offset the short- and long-term costs associated with adopting children who need special services. To be eligible for the Federal IV-E subsidy program, children must meet each of the following characteristics: a court has ordered that the child cannot or should not be returned to the birth family; the child has special needs, as determined by the state’s definition of special needs; a "reasonable effort" has been made to place the child without a subsidy; the child also must have been eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) at the time of the adoption, or the child’s birth family must have been receiving - or eligible to receive - Aid for Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). Benefits available through subsidy programs vary by state, but commonly include: monthly cash payments - up to an amount that is $1 less than the foster care payment the state would have made if the child were still in basic family foster care medical assistance - through the federal program (and some state programs), Medicaid benefits social services - post-adoption services such as respite care, counseling, day care, etc.
Adoption Tax Credits
Non-refundable credit which reduces taxes owed by adoptive parents who claim adoption expense reimbursement under P.L. 104-188; may be claimed on federal taxes (and in some states with similar legislation, on state taxes). Tax Credit (Adoption): A tax credit for qualifying expenses paid to adopt an eligible child. The adoption credit is an amount subtracted from the adoptive parents’ tax liability: IRS Information page.
Adoption Tax Exclusions
IRS provisions in the federal tax code that allow adoptive parents to exclude cash or other adoption benefits for qualifying adoption expenses received from a private-sector employer when computing the family’s adjusted gross income for tax purposes.
Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number
An Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number (ATIN) is an issued by the Internal Revenue Service as a temporary taxpayer identification number for the child in a domestic adoption where the adopting taxpayers do not have and/or are unable to obtain the child’s Social Security Number. The ATIN is to be used by the adopting taxpayers on their Federal Income Tax return to identify the child while final domestic adoption is pending: IRS Information page.
Adoption Triad
The three parties involved in an adoption: adoptee, adoptive parents and birth parents.
Adoptive Parent
Person(s) who legally assume parental rights/responsibilities for adopted child.
Adoptive Parent Profile
It is a presentation, often in the form of a photo-album, a life-book or scrap-book that provides a letter, photos and background information about prospective adoptive parents (individuals/couples that desire to adopt a child.) It is provided to the expectant parents (birth parents) to assist them in selecting adoptive parents for their child. Many of the adoptive parent profiles include a description of the adoptive family, statistical information, such as age, educational and employment background, and talents and hobbies, reasons for adopting, etc.
Adult Adoption
The adoption of a person over the age of majority (as defined in state law).
Agency Adoption
Adoption that is facilitated by a State Authorized or Licensed Agency that provides home studies to prospective adoptive parents, counseling services and post-placement programs for triad members.
Agency Assisted Adoptions
Agency adoptions in which contact between birth and adoptive parents occurs prior to agency involvement. In that sense, the adoption situation has already been ’identified’ and the agency ’assists’ with the placement. According to state statutes, the agency may temporarily assume guardianship of the child (this would be required in Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, and Minnesota), or where permitted, the guardianship may be passed directly from the birth family or legal guardian to the adoptive family. Also known as Identified or Designated Adoptions.
Agency Placement
Adoptive placement made by licensed or authorized organization that screens prospective adoptive parents and supervise the placement of children in adoptive homes until the adoption is finalized.
AIDS
AIDS / Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome is a disease affecting the immune system increasing ones susceptibility for infections such as pneumonia, certain cancers and neurological disorders.
Alcohol-Related Birth Defects
Physical or cognitive deficits in a child which result from maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy includes but is not limited to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and Fetal Alcohol Effect (FAE).
Amended Birth Certificate
Legal document after the adoption is finalized, replacing the original birth certificate, as indicated by the court in the adoption decree with the adoptive parents’ names replacing the birth parents’ names.
Anti-Social Behavior
Actions deviating sharply from the social norm. Children with such behaviors commonly skip school, get into fights, run away from home, persistently lie, use drugs or alcohol, steal, vandalize property and violate school and home rules.
Apgar
Apgar score was developed in 1952 by an anesthesiologist named Virginia Apgar, and is now known best for it’s acronym: Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity, and Respiration. The Apgar score is typically given to a newborn twice: once at 1 minute after birth, and again at 5 minutes after birth. If there are concerns about the baby's condition or the score at 5 minutes is very low, a score may be taken for a third time at 10 minutes after birth. Five factors are used to evaluate the baby's condition and each factor is scored on a scale of 0 to 2, with 2 being the best score: Appearance (skin coloration) Pulse (heart rate) Grimace response (medically known as "reflex irritability") Activity and muscle tone Respiration (breathing rate and effort) The Apgar is based on a total score of 1 to 10. The higher the score, the better the baby is doing after birth. A score of 7, 8, or 9 is normal and is a sign that the newborn is in good condition. A score of 10 is not very common, since almost all newborns lose 1 point for coloring. A score lower than 7 maybe a sign that the newborn needs medical attention. The lower the score, the more help the baby may need to adjust to being outside the womb. Most of the time a lower Apgar score is caused a difficult birth or c-section or fluid in the baby's airway. Newborns with low Apgar scores may receive oxygen and aspiration to clear out the airway to assist with breathing, stimulation to get the heart beating at a healthier rate. It is important to know that a low Apgar score does not mean a child will have serious or long-term health problems, though it can be a warning sign. The Apgar score is also not designed to predict the future health of the child.
Apostille
A simplified certification of public (including notarized) documents used in countries that participate in a Hague Convention. This simplified form contains numbered fields (which allow the data to be understood by all participating countries regardless of the official language of the issuing country). The completed apostille form certifies the authenticity of the document’s signature, the capacity in which the person signing the document has acted, and identifies the seal/stamp, which the document bears. Documents needed for intercountry adoptions require the attachment of an apostille (rather than authentication forms) if the foreign country participates in the convention.
Approved Person
Within international adoption, this term could mean an approved person such as a lawyer or retired judge, is an individual that has been approved by an accrediting entity to provide adoption services in the United States for cases subject to the Hague Adoption Convention.
Artificial Insemination
Impregnation of a woman by one of many possible artificial reproductive technologies (ARTs).
ASFA
Acronym for Adoption and Safe Families Act. The Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 (ASFA) is a federal law that was established to promote the safety, permanence, and adoption of children in foster care. ASFA amends the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 by taking further steps to promote the safety and permanence of children who have been abused or neglected. The law limits the amount of time a child may stay in foster care by establishing shorter timelines for determining when children in foster care must have a plan for permanency. The law states that permanency court hearings must be held for children no later than 12 months after they enter foster care. The law also states that termination of parental rights proceedings must be begun for any child who has been in the care of a state agency for 15 out of the most recent 22 months. Exceptions may be made to this requirement if the child is in the care of a relative or for other compelling reasons. ASFA also promotes interstate adoptions by prohibiting state agencies from denying or delaying a child’s adoptive placement when an approved family is available outside of the child’s jurisdiction. All 50 states have passed new legislation to comply with ASFA.
Assessor
Another name for adoption caseworker, counselor, or social worker.
Assignment and Arrival
Assignment is synonymous with referral and denotes to the acceptance of an adoptive placement. Arrival denotes a child’s relocation in the receiving nation.
Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART)
Medical technologies that assist in the impregnation of a female. Technologies include oocyte (or egg) donation, embryo donation, in vitro fertilization, artificial insemination, and sperm donation. Different medical procedures are used within each of these procedures.
Asthma
Asthma is known as an allergic disorder of respiration, which includes bronchospasms and wheezing. Some also feel chest constriction.
ATIN
An ATIN is an Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number issued by the Internal Revenue Service as a temporary taxpayer identification number for the child in a domestic adoption where the adopting taxpayers do not have and/or are unable to obtain the child’s Social Security Number. The ATIN is to be used by the adopting taxpayers on their Federal Income Tax return to identify the child while final domestic adoption is pending: IRS Information page.
Attachment
The ability of a child to form significant and stable emotional connections with other people, beginning in early infancy with one or more primary caretakers. Failure to establish such connections before the age of five may result in difficulties with social relationships as severe as reactive attachment disorder.
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
A lifelong developmental disability (with onset in infancy, childhood or adolescence) that affects a child’s ability to concentrate and control impulses. A child who has ADD is not hyperactive, but often has problems sustaining attention in task or play activities, difficulty in persisting with tasks to completion, and concentrating for longer periods of time.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
A lifelong developmental disability (with onset in infancy, childhood or adolescence) that involves problems with attention span, impulse control, and activity level at home, at school or at work. Typical behaviors include: fidgeting with hands or squirming in seat; difficulty remaining seated when required; distractibility; difficulty waiting for turns in groups; difficulty staying on task with chores or play activities; difficulty playing quietly; excessive talking; inattention; restlessness; and engaging in physically dangerous activities without considering consequences.
Authentications
A generic name for getting the proper seals and or certifications from specific authorities for international adoption purposes (Dossier). This could include includes certifications, notaries, and/or apostilles depending on country requirements.
Autistic Disorder
A pervasive developmental disturbance with onset before age three, characterized by markedly abnormal or impaired development in social interaction and communication and a markedly restricted array of activity and interests. Manifestations of the disorder vary greatly depending on the developmental level and age of the individual. Autistic children can be withdrawn and show little interest in others or in typical childhood activities and instead exhibit repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests and activities.
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