ADOPTION TERMS, page 2
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- A process through which prospective adoptive parents are
educated about adoption and evaluated to determine their suitability
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
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
- 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
- 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
- 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