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 30 names in this directory beginning with the letter P.
Acronym for Post Adoption Contact Agreement. Post Adoption Contact Agreements are arrangements that allow for some kind of contact between a child’s adoptive family and members of the child’s birth family or other persons with whom the child has an established relationship, such as a foster parent. These arrangements, sometimes referred to as open adoption agreements, can range from informal, mutual understandings between the birth and adoptive families to written, formal contracts.
Parens Patriae Doctrine
Originating in feudal England, a doctrine that vests in the state a right of guardianship of minors. This concept has gradually evolved into the principle that the community, in addition to the parent, has a strong interest in the care and nurturing of children. Schools, juvenile courts and social service agencies all derive their authority from the state’s power to ensure the protection and rights of children as a unique class.
Person responsible for the care of the child. Also called caretaker.
An identification document/booklet, issued by the US State Department. It is needed in order to travel to a foreign country. Passport applications can be obtained and processed through specific post offices, federal buildings, and BCIS facilities. A child will be issued a passport before exiting the foreign country, allowing him or her to begin the exit process at the US Embassy and subsequently leave the country/enter the United States.
Permanency Planning
Permanency planning is a social work practice philosophy that promotes a permanent living situation for every child entering the foster care system with an adult; with whom the child has a continuous, reciprocal relationship; and within a minimum amount of time. For children and youth in the custody and placement responsibility of the county department of social services, permanence occurs when he/she has a lasting, nurturing legally secure relationship with at least one adult that is characterized by mutual commitment.
Permanent placement
When a child’s adoption is finalized and the adoptive family is now the child’s forever family.
Written request to the court for legal custody, guardianship or adoption of a child.
Photolisting book (Exchange book)
A photo book of children and families listed with an adoption exchange. It will usually include a brief description of the child’s background and what type of family is being sought, as well as a brief description of the family and the type of child being sought. Many state’s photolisting books are now obsolete as they now are posted via specified websites
Physical Abuse
The inflicting of a non-accidental physical injury upon a child. This may include burning, hitting, punching, shaking, kicking, beating or otherwise harming a child. It may, however, have been the result of over-discipline or physical punishment that is inappropriate to the child’s age.
Physical Therapy
The treatment of physical delay, dysfunction or injury by the use of therapeutic exercise and the application of modalities, intended to restore or facilitate healthy function or development. Also called physiotherapy.
A placement occurs when a child is brought to live in a home other than his or her birth family home. The placement of the child may be temporary or long-term in out-of-home care or foster care, or it may be permanent such as in an adoptive home.
Police Clearance
A criminal clearance issued by your local Police or Sheriff’s Dept. This clearance may be required for the home study and/or included in the Dossier. This check/clearance will be in addition to the state clearances/background checks and the BCIS background check through the FBI.
Post Adoption Contact Agreements (PACA)
Are arrangements that allow for some kind of contact between a child’s adoptive family and members of the child’s birth family or other persons with whom the child has an established relationship, such as a foster parent. These arrangements, sometimes referred to as open adoption agreements, can range from informal, mutual understandings between the birth and adoptive families to written, formal contracts.
Post Adoption Support Services
Any assistance provided to the adoptive family, the adoptee, and birth parents after finalization of the adoption.
Post Placement Reports
After the child is placed with an adoptive family, a social worker must visit the family and submit a report to the courts, or in the case of an international adoption, to the country from which the child came. The number of visits and reports varies from state to state and by country.
Post Placement Support Services
Any assistance provided to the adoptive family, the adoptee, and birth parents after placement and before finalization
Power of Attorney
A written, notarized permission for someone other than oneself to represent you. A Power of Attorney is sometimes used to allow someone in your child’s country to represent you at your child’s adoption hearing/court date.
A birth is considered “premature” or “preterm” when a child is born before 37 weeks gestation. Premature births are common when multiples are being expected or when the pregnancy is at risk for any reason.
Prescription Drug Abuse
Prescription drug abuse is the use of a medication other than how it was prescribed or used without a prescription. According to several national surveys, prescription medications, such as those used to treat pain, attention deficit disorders, and anxiety, are being abused at a rate second only to marijuana among illicit drug users. The consequences of this abuse have been steadily worsening, reflected in increased treatment admissions, emergency room visits, and overdose deaths.
Primary Prevention
Activities geared to a sample of the general population to prevent child abuse and neglect from occurring. Also referred to as "universal prevention."
Primary Service Provider (PSP)
A PSP is a Hague Accredited Agency with international placement programs and develops and implements all six adoption services required by the Hague for Convention country adoptions. Those six adoption services include:identifying a child for adoption and arranging an adoptionRedefining What Makes a Parentsecuring the necessary consent to termination of parental rights and to adoptionperforming a background study on a child or a home study on prospective adoptive parents and reporting on such a studymaking non-judicial determinations of the best interest of a child and the appropriateness of an adoptive placement of the childmonitoring a case after a child has been placed with the prospective adoptive parents until finalization of the adoptionwhen necessary because of a disruption before finalization of the adoption, assuming custody and providing facilitation of child care or any other special service pending an alternative placement.
Private Adoption Agencies
Non-governmental agencies licensed by the state to provide adoption services, primarily dealing with infant adoptions.
Also referred to as an "adoptive parent profile," an "adoption profile" or in its simplest form it is a document that gives background and current information about a parent that desires to adopt a child. It is intended to contain information that will be provided to birth parents to assist them in selecting adoptive parents to adopt their child. Although every adoption agency will have its own preferred format for parent profiles, if left to their own devices, the parent profiles that would be created by adoptive parents would be just as original, creative and different as the individuals that prepare them. Most commonly, a profile will include a narrative description of the adoptive parent or adoptive family, statistical information, such as age, educational and employment background, and talents and hobbies, plus a "Dear Birth Mother Letter," addressed to the potential birth mother and containing information about the adoptive parents’ reasons for adoption, their parenting philosophy, details about their relationship and perhaps even a discussion of their religious and spiritual philosophy on life. The parent profile may even be presented in the form of a Photo Profile or even a notebook or scrapbook.
Prospective Adoptive Parent
The parent that is registering with an agency to adopt or petitioning to adopt.
An inter-agency agreement that delineates joint roles and responsibilities by establishing criteria and procedures for working together on behalf of children.
Psychological Maltreatment
A pattern of caregiver behavior or extreme incidents that convey to children that they are worthless, flawed, unloved, unwanted, endangered or only of value to meeting another’s needs. This can include parents or caretakers using extreme or bizarre forms of punishment or threatening or terrorizing a child. The term "psychological maltreatment" is also known as emotional abuse or neglect, verbal abuse or mental abuse.
Psychotropic Medication
From the Greek psycho (the mind) and trop (a turning) = Capable of turning the mind. Psychotropic medication or psychodynamic medication is capable of affecting a person’s mind, emotion, and behavior. One common psychotropic medication is Lithium, which may be used to treat mental illnesses
Public Adoption Agencies
Governmental adoption agency or social services department providing adoption services, primarily dealing with older children in foster care.
Purchase of service
A contract between two agencies whereby the agency having custody of the child pays the agency working on behalf of the adoptive family for recruitment, placement and/or post-placement services.
Putative Father Registry
Also known as Birth Father Registry is state registry where alleged paternity can be listed and birth fathers have the opportunity to protest the birth mother’s adoption plans. Approximately one-half of the states have a putative registry.

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