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De facto
A term meaning "in actual fact", "in deed" or "actually", regardless of legal or normative standards. In a legal context, the phrase refers to an action or a state of affairs which must be accepted for all practical purposes, but which has no legal basis. A "de facto family" is a "psychological family" in which members have ties to each other even though they are relatives by birth or marriage and do not have a legal document recognizing their relationship.
De facto adoption
A legal agreement to adopt a child according to the laws of a particular State which will result in a legal adoption process once the adoption petition is filed with the appropriate court; an equitable adoption.
Decree of adoption
A legal order that finalizes an adoption.
Dependent child
A child who is in the custody of the county or State child welfare system.
Developmental disability
A severe, chronic impairment (with onset before age 22 and which is likely to continue indefinitely) which creates substantial functional limitations in three or more of the following areas of major life activity: self care, language, learning, mobility, self-direction, potential for independent living and potential for economic self-sufficiency as an adult. The condition can be attributed to one or more mental or physical impairments which require specific and lifelong or extended care that is individually planned and coordinated.
The release or transmittal of previously hidden or unknown information.
The term disruption is used to describe an adoption that ends before it is legally finalized, resulting in the child's legal custody reverting back to the agency or court that made the original placement and the child returning to foster care and/or to other adoptive parent(s).
The term dissolution is used to describe an adoption that fails after finalization, resulting in the child's legal custody reverting back to the agency or court that made the original placement and the child returning to foster care and/or to other adoptive parent(s).
A set of legal documents which are used in an international adoption to process a child's adoption or assignment of guardianship in the foreign court.
Down syndrome
A genetic disorder (caused by the presence of an extra chromosome), which results in physical and mental abnormalities. Physical characteristics include a flattened face, widely spaced and slanted eyes, smaller head size and lax joints. Mental retardation is also typical, though there are wide variations in mental ability, behavior, and developmental progress. Possible related health problems include poor resistance to infection, hearing loss, gastrointestinal problems, and heart defects.
Emotional disturbance
Severe, pervasive or chronic emotional/affective condition which prevents a child from performing everyday tasks. This condition is characterized by an inability to build or maintain relationships, inappropriate behaviors or feelings under normal circumstances, a pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression, or a tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears related to personal or school problems. Children may require special classrooms and teachers trained to help children with these special needs. School systems may have varying "levels" and processes for educational planning.
Equitable adoption
The legal process used in some States to establish inheritance rights of a child, when the prospective adoptive parent had entered into an oral contract to adopt the child and the child was placed with the parent but the adoption was not finalized before the parent died.
Employer Assistance
Adoption benefits provided to employees by employers which may include direct cash assistance for adoption expenses, reimbursement of approved adoption expenses, paid or unpaid leave (beyond federal leave requirements established through the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993), and resource and referral services. For a list of employers who provide benefits, call the National Adoption Center at (800)-TO-ADOPT.
Extended family
A child's relatives (other than parents) such as aunts, uncles, grandparents, and sometimes even close friends.
Family preservation
A program of supportive social services designed to keep families together by providing services to children and families in their home. It is based on the premise that birth families are the preferred means of providing family life for children.
Fetal alcohol effect (FAE)
A disorder associated with cognitive and behavioral difficulties in children whose birth mothers drank alcohol while pregnant. Symptoms are similar to fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) but less severe or comprehensive.
Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS)
Birth defects, and serious life-long mental and emotional impairments that may result from heavy maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Symptoms of mental and emotional deficits may include significant learning and behavioral disorders (including attention deficits and hyperactivity), diminished cause-and-effect thinking, poor social judgment, and impulsive behaviors.
Fictive kin
People not related by birth or marriage who have an emotionally-significant relationship with an individual.
The final legal step in the adoption process; involves a court hearing during which the judge orders that the adoptive parents become the child's legal parents.
A child placement in which birth parents' rights have not yet been severed by the court or in which birth parents are appealing the court's decision but foster parents agree to adopt the child if/when parental rights are terminated. Social workers place the child with specially-trained foster-adopt parents who will work with the child during family reunification efforts but who will adopt the child if the child becomes available for adoption. The main reason for making such a placement, also called legal-risk adoption, is to spare the child another move.
Foster children
Children who have been placed in the State's or county's legal custody because their birth parents were deemed abusive, neglectful, or otherwise unable to care for them.
Foster parents
State- or county-licensed adults who provide a temporary home for children whose birth parents are unable to care for them.
A family's genetic "line", family tree, or a record of such ancestry.
A feeling of emotional deprivation or loss. Grief may be experienced by each member of the adoption triad at some point.
Group home
A homelike setting in which a number of unrelated children live for varying time periods. Group homes may have one set of house parents or may have a rotating staff and some therapeutic or treatment group homes have specially-trained staff to assist children with emotional and behavioral difficulties.
Person who fulfills some of the responsibilities of the legal parent role, although the courts or birth parents may continue to hold some jurisdiction of the child. Guardians do not have the same reciprocal rights of inheritance as birth or adoptive parents. Guardianship is subject to ongoing supervision by the court and ends at the child's majority or by order of the court.
Guardian ad litem (GAL)
A person, often an attorney, appointed by the court to represent the interests of a child, a ward, or an unborn infant in a particular court case. The status of guardian ad litem exists only within the confines of the particular court case in which the appointment occurs.
A process through which prospective adoptive parents are educated about adoption and evaluated to determine their suitability to adopt.
I-600 and I-600A visa petition
An official request to the US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to classify an orphan as an immediate relative - providing expedited processing and issuance of a visa to allow the child to enter the United States after having been adopted abroad or in order to be adopted in the United States.
Identifying information
Information on birthparents which discloses their identities.
Independent adoption
An adoption facilitated by those other than caseworkers associated with an agency. Facilitators may be attorneys, physicians, or other intermediaries. In some States independent adoptions are illegal.
Independent living
A type of placement that provides life-skills training to youth to assist them to acquire the skills they will need to live independently as adults. The program is designed for children who are "aging out" of foster care and for whom there is no other permanency plan.
Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)
A federal law (Public Law 95-608) regarding the placement of Native-American children which establishes the tribe's sovereignty as a separate nation over the welfare of children who are tribal members of who are eligible for tribal membership.
The inability to bear children.
Abbreviation for Individualized Educational Plan, a plan for educational support services and outcomes developed for students enrolled in special education programs.
Acronym for Interethnic Placement provisions; refers to Section 1808 of P.L. 104-188, Removal of Barriers to Interethnic Adoption, which affirms the prohibition contained in the Multi-Ethnic Placement Act of 1994 against delaying or denying the placement of a child for adoption or foster care on the basis of race, color or national origin of the foster or adoptive parents or of the child involved [42 USC 1996b].
Acronym for U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, a Federal agency under the Justice Department that oversees all visas issued to allow entry into the United States.
The placement of children in hospitals, institutions, or orphanages. Placement in institutions during early critical developmental periods and for lengthy periods is often associated with developmental delays due to environmental deprivation, poor staff-child ratios, or lack of early stimulation.
Intercountry or international adoption
The adoption of a child who is a citizen of one country by adoptive parents who are citizens of a different country.
Interstate compact
A voluntary agreement between two or more States designed to address common problems of the States concerned.
Interstate Compact on Adoption and Medical Assistance (ICAMA)
An agreement between member states that governs the interstate delivery of and payment for medical services and adoption assistance payments/subsidies for adopted children with special needs. The agreements are established by the laws of the States which are parties to the Compact.
Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC)
An agreement regulating the placement of children across state lines. All 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have independently adopted the ICPC as statutory law in their respective jurisdictions.
Kinship care
The full-time nurturing of a child by someone related to the child by family ties or by prior relationship connection (fictive kin).
Learning disabilities (LD)
One or more impairments in reading, mathematics and/or written expression skills which interfere with academic performance in school or in activities of daily living requiring those skills. Performance on standardized tests below that expected for age, schooling and level of intelligence are used as preliminary diagnostic tools to identify areas where children are experiencing problems. Children with learning disabilities may be of average or above average intelligence, but have difficulty learning, sorting, and storing information. Some children find learning in a regular classroom difficult and LD classes may be recommended to help them achieve their potential in school.
Legal custody
Restraint of or responsibility for a person according to law, such as a guardian's authority (conferred by the court) over the person or property (or both) of his ward.
Legal guardian
A person who has legal responsibility for the care and management of a person who is incapable of administering his own affairs. In the case of a minor child, the guardian is charged with the legal responsibility for the care and management of the child and of the minor child's estate.
Legal risk placement
Placement of a child in a prospective adoptive family when a child is not yet legally free for adoption. Before a child can be legally adopted by another family, parental rights of his or her birth parents must be terminated. In a "legal risk" adoptive placement either this termination of parental rights has not yet occurred, or it is being contested. In some cases, termination of parental rights is delayed until a specific adoptive family has been identified.
Legally free
A child whose birth parents' rights have been legally terminated so that the child is "free" to be adopted by another family.
Life book
A pictorial and written representation of the child's life designed to help the child make sense of his unique background and history. The life book includes birthparents, other relatives, birthplace and date, etc and can be put together by social workers, foster and/or adoptive parents working with the child.
Long-term foster care
The intentional and planned placement of a child in foster care for an extended period of time. After the goal of adoption has been explored and not selected, and relative options are not feasible, a goal of planned long-term foster care may be seen as a viable goal. Increasingly some States child welfare systems no longer view long-term foster care as a placement alternative.
A feeling of emotional deprivation that is experienced at some point in time. For a birth parent the initial loss will usually be felt at or subsequent to the placement of the child. Adoptive parents who are infertile feel a loss in their inability to bear a child. An adopted child may feel a sense of loss at various points in time; the first time the child realizes he is adopted may invoke a strong sense of loss for his birth family.
In education, a term that typically refers to the planned and sustained placement of a child with special educational needs into a regular education classroom for part or all of the school day.
Physical abuse, child neglect, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse. Federal CAPTA legislation (P.L. 104-235) provides definitions that identify a minimum set of acts or behaviors that characterize maltreatment. Each State is responsible for providing its own definitions of child abuse and neglect within the State's civil and criminal context.

Child Abuse and Neglect, according to the Federal legislation, is at a minimum:
  • Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation
  • An act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm
  • Child abuse and neglect typically includes physical as well as emotional abuse (which causes psychological or mental injury), in addition to various types of neglect.

Sexual Abuse is defined in the Federal definition as:

  • The employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement, or coercion of any child to engage in, or assist any other person to engage in, any sexually explicit conduct or simulation on such conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of such conduct
  • The rape, and in cases of caretaker or inter-familial relationships, statutory rape, molestation, prostitution, or other form of sexual exploitation of children, or incest with children.
The process of finding prospective families specifically suited to meet the needs of a waiting child, not to be confused with "placement".
Maternity home
Residences for pregnant women. The number of homes has decreased over the past three decades, and existing homes often have a waiting list of women. The women who live in a maternity home may pay a small fee or no fee to live in the home and they often apply for public assistance and Medicaid payments.

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resource: National Adoption Information Clearinghouse.

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