Desertion of a child by a parent or adult primary care giver with no provisions for continued childcare nor with any apparent intention to return to resume caregiving.
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).
Access veto systems
Type of reunion registry system. The veto is a document filed by one party to the adoption which registers that person's refusal to be contacted or denial of release of identifying information. In an access veto or nondisclosure request system, an adopted adult may receive identifying information about another party if no veto is on file. Some States may have provisions for a contact veto, permitting a party seeking information access to identifying information, including an original birth certificate, but prohibiting contact between the parties.
Active registries
Reunion registries which do not require that both parties register their consent. Once one party is registered, a designated individual (often an agency or court representative) is assigned to contact those persons being sought and determine their wishes for the release of information.
An adopted person. Some adopted persons object to being called an "adoptee" because: (1) It distinguishes an adopted child from a birth child in the same family. (One does not say, "This is my birth son, Johnny.") (2) It implies adoption is the central fact of that person's life (which, of course, it may be).
A court action in which an adult assumes legal and other responsibilities for another, usually a minor.
Adoption agency
An organization, usually licensed by the State, that provides services to birth parents, adoptive parents, and children who need families. Agencies may be public or private, secular or religious, for profit or nonprofit.
Adoption assistance
Monthly 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) which provided 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
A legal professional who has experience with filing, processing, and finalizing adoptions in a court having jurisdiction.
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.
Adoption disruption
The interruption of an adoption prior to finalization--sometimes called a "failed adoption" or a "failed placement".
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
Individual whose business involves connecting birth parents and prospective adoptive parents for a fee (only allowed in a few States).
Adoption insurance (adoption cancellation insurance)
Insurance which protects against financial loss which can be incurred after a birthmother 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
Birth parents' decisions to allow their child to be placed for adoption.
Adoption reversal
Reclaiming of a child (originally voluntarily placed with adoptive parents) by birth parent(s) who have had a subsequent change of heart. State laws vary in defining time limits and circumstances under which a child may be reclaimed.
Adoption subsidies
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 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.
  • nonrecurring adoption expenses - a one-time reimbursement (depending upon the state, between $400 and $2,000) for costs such as adoption fees, court costs, attorney fees, physical and psychological examinations, and other expenses related to the legal adoption of a child with special needs.

Before adopting a child with special needs, ask your agency about the availability of federal and state subsidies. To request more information about federal and state subsidy programs, call the National Adoption Assistance Training, Resource, and Information Network (NAATRIN) at (800) 470-6665.

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). Through the Federal Internal Revenue Service program, which took effect in tax year 1997, adoptive parents whose annual adjusted gross income is $115,000 or less, can take advantage of up to $5,000 ($6,000 for special needs adoption) in tax credits to offset qualifying adoption expenses. After 2001, the adoption credit applies only to an adoption of a child with special needs and does not apply to an adoption of a foreign child. The credit calculation can include adoption fees, court fees, attorney fees, and travel expenses, incurred during or after 1997.
Adoption tax exclusions
IRS provisions in the Federal tax code which 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 triad
The three major parties in an adoption: birth parents, adoptive parents, and adopted child. Also called "adoption triangle" or "adoption circle."
Adult adoption
The adoption of a person over the age of majority (as defined in State law).
Agency adoption
Adoptive placements made by licensed organizations that screen prospective adoptive parents and supervise the placement of children in adoptive homes until the adoption is finalized.
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).
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.
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.
Artificial insemination
Impregnation of a woman by one of many possible artificial reproductive technologies (ARTs).
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.
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.
Bipolar disorder
A category of mental illnesses in which mood and affect are disturbed--characterized by irregular cycles of mania and/or depression. During manic periods, the individual may be in a very elevated mood and exhibit symptoms of hyperactivity, wakefulness, and distractibility or irritability. In very severe episodes, psychotic symptoms may also be present. Individuals experiencing depressive periods can exhibit sustained symptoms of depressed mood, diminished pleasure or interest in most activities, fatigue, sleep disturbance (either insomnia or hypersomnia), weight loss or weight gain, and slowed thinking.
Birth parent
A child's biological parent.
Black market adoption
An adoption in which one or more parties make a profit from a child placement, as opposed to receiving payment for providing counseling, location, or other services.
Boarder babies
Infants abandoned in hospitals because of the parents' inability to care for them. These babies are usually born HIV-positive or drug addicted.
The process of developing lasting emotional ties with one's immediate caregivers; seen as the first and primary developmental task of a human being and central to the person's ability to relate to others throughout life.
Central auditory processing disorder
A condition in which an individual has difficulty comprehending and integrating information that is heard, although hearing is normal. Central auditory processing disorder occurs when the ear and the brain do not coordinate fully. The causes of this disorder are varied and can include head trauma, lead poisoning, possibly chronic ear infections and other unknown reasons. Because there are many different possibilities or even combinations of causes each child must be individually assessed.
Cerebral palsy
A non-hereditary condition which results from brain damage before, during, or after birth. Children with cerebral palsy lack muscle control in one or more parts of their bodies or may experience speech and language difficulties, depending on the area of the brain damaged. Individuals with cerebral palsy can possess very normal mental functions.
The approval process (detailed in State laws or regulations) that takes place to ensure, insofar as possible, that adoptive or foster parents are suitable, dependable, and responsible. "Certification" of documents involves a seal or apostille required by law or regulation affixed to a public document (such as a birth or marriage certificate or court record) to attest to its authenticity or to a general document to attest that the document. has been notarized by an authorized official.
Closed adoption
An adoption that involves total confidentiality and sealed records.
Concurrent planning
A process used in foster care case management by which child welfare staff work toward family reunification and, at the same time, develop an alternative permanency plan for the child (such as permanent placement with a relative, or adoption) should family reunification efforts fail. Concurrent planning is intended to reduce the time a child spends in foster care before a child is placed with a permanent family.
Conduct disorder
A condition characterized by a repetitive and persistent pattern of behavior which violates the basic rights of others or major age-appropriate societal norms or rules. A child or teen with conduct disorder may:
  • display aggressive conduct (bully or threaten others; initiate fights; use weapons that could cause serious harm; force someone into sexual activity; be physically aggressive or cruel to people or animals);
  • engage in nonaggressive behaviors that result in property loss or damage;
  • engage in deceitfulness or theft (steal; or lie or break promises to obtain goods or to avoid debts or obligations)
  • persistently engage in serious violations of rules that lead to confrontations with parents, school suspensions or expulsion, problems in the workplace, or legal difficulties (staying out after dark without permission; running away from home; truancy; etc.).

Conduct disorder may lead to the development of Antisocial Personality Disorder during adulthood.

Confidential Intermediary
State employee or trained volunteer sanctioned by the courts, who is given access to sealed adoption files for the purpose of conducting a search. A confidential intermediary may be hired by the inquiring party to conduct a searches for an adopted adult or birth parent or other birth relatives (depending on State laws), make contact with each party, and obtain each person's consent or denial for the release of information. Depending on the particular laws of the State, contact may be attempted once, after a specific time period, or the file may be closed permanently if the party being sought cannot be found.
The legally required process of keeping identifying or other significant information secret; the principle of ethical practice which requires social workers and other professional not to disclose information about a client without the client's consent.
Consent to adopt or consent to adoption
Legal permission for the adoption to proceed.
A long-term (formal or informal) agreement to support the needs of children with developmental disabilities by which extra caregivers support parents by providing ongoing respite parenting when needed.
The care, control, and maintenance of a child which can be legally awarded by the court to an agency (in abuse and neglect cases) or to parents (in divorce, separation, or adoption proceedings). Child welfare departments retain legal custody and control of major decisions for a child in foster care; foster parents do not have legal custody of the children they care for.

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resource: National Adoption Information Clearinghouse.

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