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What we say and the words we use, communicate a lot about our values. The conscious and consistent use of positive adoption language affirms that adoption is as valid a way to build a family as birth.

Positive Language Negative Language
Adoption triad Adoption triangle
Biological parent Natural / real parent
Birth child Own child
Birth father / mother Real / Natural father / mother
Birth parent Real parent
Born to unmarried parents Illegitimate
Child from abroad Foreign child
Child placed for adoption Unwanted child
Child with special needs Handicapped child
Court termination Child taken away
Make an adoption plan /
  choose adoption
Give away / give up
Intercountry adoption Foreign adoption
Interracial Mixed race
Making contact with Reunion
My child Adopted child
Parent Adoptive parent
Search Track down parents
To parent To keep
Waiting child Adoptable child; Available child

Terms of General Significance

Adoption. "Adoption is a legal process which creates the relationship of parent and child between individuals who are not each other's biological parent and child. Upon issuance of a judicial decree of adoption, the legal relationship of the adopted child and its biological parents and other members of its original family is completely severed. Adopted children become, for all legal purposes, the children of the adoptive parents." Joan H. Hollinger, 'Introduction to Adoption Law and Practice,' Adoption Law and Practice ed. Joan H. Hollinger (New York: Matthew Bender, 1989), 1-1.

Adoption: Traditional and Non-Traditional. In conventional usage traditional adoptions denote domestic placements involving children and adoptive parents of the same racial/ethnic background. The term also tends to be restricted to adoptions involving very young or infant children. Non-traditional adoptions include domestic older child and special needs placements, domestic transracial adoptions, and placements from overseas nations.

Adoption Agency. A public or private entity authorized to assume legal guardianship and to facilitate the adoptive placement of children. Licensing of adoption agencies is through state mandate. Hence, qualification requirements and other guidelines vary according to jurisdictional standards.

Contract Social Workers. Social workers employed on a part-time basis by adoption agencies to provide specific services (e.g. home studies and post-placement services), but who are not members of the agency's staff.

Direct and Interagency Adoptions.
Direct placements involve a single agency. Interagency adoptions refer to cooperative efforts between several agencies. This latter form is particularly common in intercountry adoptions.

Disruption. The dissolution of an adoptive placement following the issuance of a final adoption decree.

Home Study. Home studies are designed to meet two functions. They are first used as a method of evaluating the fitness of prospective adoptive families. Second, they function to prepare parents for adoptive placements. The precise content of the home study is determine by several things. Potential issues and challenges frequently involved with particular types adoption (e.g. infant, older child and special needs placements). Second, state licensing guidelines may influence the content of home studies.

Private Social Work Practitioners. In certain states social workers not affiliated with licensed child placement agencies are permitted to provide adoption-related services.

Post-Legal Services. These involve a variety of services provided after the finalization of an adoption petition, including social events, individual, and group counseling.

Post-Placement Services.
Services provided to families after the placement of a child in an adoptive home but prior to the finalization of the petition to adopt. Requirements for such services vary according to state requirements and the policies of individual agencies.

Search. Efforts by adoptees to obtain information concerning birth families or efforts to contact birth relatives. Search activities may also be initiated by birth family members.

Key Terms In Domestic Adoptions

Exchange Books or Photo Listings. Publications in which information is provided on children available to be adopted or who have a plan for adoption and parents seeking adoptive placements. State, regional, and national exchange systems are available and function through either public or private support.

Fost-Adopt Placements. Denotes foster care placements in which the plan is adoption although legal guardianship through the termination of parental rights has not been secured. Synonymous with at-risk and legal-risk placements.

Identified or 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.

Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA). The ICWA provides that legal proceedings involving non-tribal families who wish to adopt an Indian child must be held before a tribal court or, if adjudicated before a civil court, the child's tribe has authority to intervene.

Intermediaries and Facilitators. These terms are synonymous. (Contrast with usage in intercountry adoptions). An individual or group which assists in adoptive placements but are not licensed adoption agencies. Activities by intermediaries and facilitators are prohibited in many states.

The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC). The ICPC is a voluntary agreement authorized by state statutes and administered through public facilities. As of 1990, all states and the District of Columbia are signatories to the ICPC. The purpose of the ICPC is to supervise the transit of children across state boundaries when they are not under the supervision of legal guardians. A variety of out-of-home placements, including inter-state foster care and adoptions, are supervised by ICPC officials.

Open Adoptions. In general this phrase denotes direct or indirect contact or communication between birth parents or legal guardians and adoptive parents either prior to and/or after an adoptive placement. Although some authors tend to limit use of the phrase to post-placement associations, a standard usage has not emerged and the notion of open adoption is used to describe a variety of adoptive situations. The phrase cooperative adoptions is sometimes substituted for open adoptions.

Revocation of Consent Agreements. According to some state statutes, birth parents or legal guardians are permitted to revoke their consent to adoptive placements prior to the finalization of petitions to adopt. The period of revocation varies according to state guidelines, and could extend from a matter of hours to the finalization decree. Some states do not recognize a period of revocation; thus, consent agreements are irrevocable upon acceptance by the courts.

Special Needs Adoptions. Although states establish the criteria according to which children are classified as having special needs and, thus, are eligible for available benefits, the essential elements involved with state guidelines are derived from criteria set forth in the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 (PL 96-266): There must exist a factor, such as minority membership, physical or psychological conditions, or membership in a sibling group, because of which the child could not be placed in an adoptive home without financial assistance. Contrast this broad criteria with the use of special needs in intercountry adoptions.

Termination of Parental Rights (TPR). This phrase denotes the final and irrevocable termination of parental rights and responsibilities. The judicial procedure can be either voluntary or involuntary.

Key Terms In Intercountry Adoptions

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.

Centralized and Decentralized Adoption Administrations.
These terms refer to the degree of authority and involvement overseas nations exercise in the administration of intercountry adoptions. Nations that consolidate adoption activities under government ministries are centralized and typically have two characteristics: 1) Only governmental adoption authorities may initiate adoption procedures; 2) All foreign adoption agencies and indigenous child welfare organizations must be accredited by the government and only such accredited entities are permitted to work in adoptions. With decentralization government ministries are considerably less involved in adoption procedures. Local courts and provincial or state authorities become the primary arbiters of adoption proceedings. The characteristics of decentralized administrations are: 1) The initiation of adoption procedures can originate from non-governmental sources; 2) There is no formal process of accrediting either foreign adoption agencies or indigenous child welfare organizations.

Dossier. Information prepared for officials in overseas nations which describe the circumstances and backgrounds of prospective adopters.

Escort. An individual or group who supervise the transit of children from sending to receiving countries.

Facilitators and Intermediaries. In contrast to domestic adoptions, where these terms are used synonymously, these terms take on different meanings in the field of intercountry adoptions. Facilitators are individuals or groups working in the United States who assist in arranging intercountry adoptions. Facilitators are not licensed by state authorities, but they often make their services available to licensed agencies. Intermediaries are individuals or groups working in overseas nations who assist in arranging intercountry adoptions. They are frequently attorneys. In recent years the roles of facilitator and intermediary are sometimes combined by individuals or groups working this country and in overseas nations.

Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption. A multinational agreement developed at the beginning of this decade designed to promote the development of institutional structures for the supervision of adoption and to open lines of communication between sending and receiving countries. The United States has not ratified this convention.

Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) Documents. The federal agency responsible for processing visa applications for citizens of overseas nations. Federal regulations provide three categories according to which visas can be issued to children entering the United States from overseas nations: special immigrants, aliens subject to numerical limitations, and immediate relatives. Intercountry adoption activities center on the final area, and visas involving immediate relatives involve two distinct circumstances. Parents can petition for visas when they reside overseas with adopted children for two years or more. Visas are also issued when children are classified as orphans. The Petition to Classify an Orphan as an Immediate Relative (I-600) is the most commonly used in intercountry adoptions. Federal guideline offer strict requirements concerning eligibility for orphan status. "Under immigration law, an orphan is an alien child who has no parents because of the death or disappearance of, abandonment or desertion by, or separation or loss from both parents. An orphan is also a child who has only one parent who is capable of taking care of the orphan and has, in writing, irrevocably released the orphan for immigration and adoption." (8USC SS 1101(b)(1)(f)(1986).

Special Needs Adoptions. In intercountry adoptions, the phrase special needs is limited almost entirely to physical disabilities.

Reprinted by permission from The 1997 FACE Adoption Resource Manual, copyright 1997.
Appendix D


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