Glossary of Common Terms/Words Associated with Adoption

By Julia Diamond
March 23, 2020

As professionals in the field of adoption in Florida, we often throw around terms and acronyms that seem completely foreign to various members of the adoption triad. We thought it may be helpful to break them down and give you a general explanation of some common terms/words/acronyms we use.

Adoption Triad or Adoption Triangle:A term used to describe the three-sided relationship that exists in an adoption between birth parents, adoptive parents and the adoptee, each of which is interrelated and interdependent on the others.

ICPC:The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) is a statutory agreement that governs the placement of children from one state into another state. It sets forth the requirements that must be met before a child can be placed out of state. The Compact ensures prospective placements are safe and suitable before approval, and it ensures that the individual or entity placing the child remains legally and financially responsible for the child following placement. ICPC is initiated in the state in which the child is born. When working with Heart of Adoptions, Inc.we typically see approximately 7-10 business days for ICPC approval to be given, so we advise to plan on average of about two weeks in Florida.

ICWA:The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) is a federal law that seeks to keep American Indian children with American Indian/Alaska Native families. Congress passed ICWA in 1978 in response to the alarmingly high number of Indian children being removed from their homes by both public and private agencies. The intent of Congress under ICWA was to “protect the best interests of Indian children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families” (25 U.S.C. § 1902). ICWA sets federal requirements that apply to state child custody proceedings involving an Indian child who is a member of or eligible for membership in a federally recognized tribe.

ICWA is an integral policy framework on which tribal child welfare programs rely. It provides a structure and requirements for how public and private child welfare agencies and state courts view and conduct their work to serve tribal children and families. It also acknowledges and promotes the role that tribal governments play in supporting tribal families, both on and off tribal lands. However, as is the case with many laws, proper implementation of ICWA requires vigilance, resources, and advocacy.

Finalization:This is the court hearing that completes the adoption and makes everything ‘official.’ After this the amended birth certificate and social security cards can be requested with the name the adoptive family selected. With Heart of Adoptions, Inc., we typically see  final hearings with the court system approximately 90 days to 6 months post-placement but that can vary  depending on factors of the case, court docket, etc.

Match:This is when a birth mother has selected an adoptive familyand the adoptive family accepts the selection – therefore being ‘matched’. This can happen anytime in the birth mother’s pregnancy but typically happens in the second or third trimester.

Placement:Sometimes you’ll hear someone say, they want to “give baby up for adoption.” In the adoption world, we say placed. However, in this case, placement is referring to the action of the birth parent signing the voluntary consent for adoption, and ‘placing’ the child with the adoptive family. The agency is still the legal guardian of the child at this time but the adoptive family is caring for the child and has the child in their custody. Post placement visits occur in the months following placement up until the finalization occurs.

Post Placement Visits/Supervision:Post-placement supervision visits are required follow-ups to the home study after a child is placed in your home. There is typically a minimum of three visits required. At least one must be in the home and the entire family must be present for at least one as well. During the visit, the caseworker will ask questions such as how the child is eating and sleeping, what developmental milestones has the child met, how everyone in the home is adjusting, daily routine, and any medical appointments or concerns that may have occurred, just to name a few.

Home Study:This is what approves a family to adopt. It also approves the family for the type of child that will be adopted ( i.e. age, health, race, legal status of the child/children (at risk placement, foster care) etc.). There are a lot of documents that are submitted for this process including but not limited to: medical/health forms, employment/income verification, tax documents, letters of recommendation from family and friends, birth certificates, marriage certificates, previous divorce decrees, and background checks at the local, state, and federal levels as well as child abuse registry checks. There is an educational component to the home study process as well. Once all of the documentation has been received a home visit is scheduled. This allows us to evaluate the environment but also allows the prospective adoptive parent(s) to ask questions and get clarification on any process of the adoption they may have concerns with.

Education Requirements:Each state has their own requirements when it comes to education that must be completed by the adoptive family for the home study to be approved (in addition to the other requirements of the home study). While one state can not require another state to follow the same rules – there can/will be minimum requirements for finalization to occur. Specifically, there must be documented proof that the prospective adoptive family has obtained education that pertains/relates to the child they intend to adopt. For example, if a family wants to adopt a child of a different race they will need to show transracial adoption education or if the family is interested in adopting an older child they will need to demonstrate/show they are aware of issues such as ways to bond with/attachment for an older child or possible behavioral issues that could be expected if the child has experienced trauma in their life prior to the adoption. Check with your home study provider in Florida to ensure you have the educational opportunities and resources to ensure you can meet the requirements needed to adopt the child you intend to adopt.

Post-Placement Communication:This is the communication the adoptive family and birth family have after placement has occurred. There is not a right or wrong level of post-placement communication, so long as the child’s best interest is taken into consideration. Many birth and adoptive families share pictures and letters at milestones of the child’s life through a program such as ChildConnect. In addition, other families have direct email, text messages, phone calls, and yes, even face to face visits. The level of desired post-placement communication is something the birth mother requests during her pregnancy as well as what the adoptive family have expressed they are open to. The desire of each is taken into consideration when the presentation of a profile is provided to the birth mother. Although some birth mothers change their minds after delivery occurs, it is ultimately something that the adoptive family must feel comfortable with prior to accepting the placement.

Open/Closed/Semi-Open:This refers to the level of personal information available to both the birth and adoptive families, before and after placement of the child.

  • Closedrefers to absolutely no informationbeing shared. This means the adoptive family will have no social/medical information, will not know the birth mother’s name nor will the birth mother know anything about the adoptive family.
  • Semi-Open refers to non-identifying information shared. Adoptive families will receive social/medical history and records all redacted for birth mother’s privacy. Will exchange pictures and/or letters post placement through a secure network or agency/attorney.
  • Openrefers to identifying information and/or direct contact without the assistance or involvement from an agency or attorney being involved. Typically seen situations with fully open are text messages, email updates, phone calls, and face to face visits.

Mis-Match/Failed Match/Disruption:When a family has accepted the match with a birth mother, but the birth mother decides she is going to parent the child – this is considered to be a mis-match/failed/disrupted situation. Different agencies call these different names, but they all refer to the same scenario.

Profile:This is what is presented to a birth parent to help him/her select the adoptive family. Typically, there is not identifying information in a profile but rather general information such as careers, your likes/dislikes or hobbies, extended family, traditions, holidays, travel, pets, other children, etc. It is the information that is important about an adoptive family that a birth family will find helpful when deciding on the family with whom they’d like to place the child.

Consultant:An individual who helps would-be adoptive parents decide on an adoption path, and assists in choosing an appropriate adoption agency in Florida or adoption attorney.

Facilitator:An individual that is not licensed as an adoption agency or licensed as an attorney, and who is engaged in the matching of biological parents with adoptive parents. Many states do not allow the use of a facilitator, so be sure to check with your state before engaging/hiring one.

Revocation Period:The period of time a birth mother has to change her mind and regain custody of her child after she has signed consent. Revocation periods vary from state-to-state. In Florida, for example, if the child is under six months of age, there is no revocation period and the birth mother cannot regain custody of the child unless she can prove fraud or duress.

Transracial Adoption:An adoption in which the child and adoptive family are not of the same race

Identified Adoptions:The refers to a situation in which an adoptive family has already identified a birth mother situation and comes to an agency/attorney to handle the legal and case management aspects of the case.

Termination of Parental Rights (TPR)– The legal process which involuntarily severs a parent’s rights to a child.

Adoption Reunion Registry– A reunion registry system which allows adoptees, birthparents and biological siblings to locate each other if they wish by maintaining a voluntary list of adoptees and birth relatives.

Lifebook: A scrapbook that tells a child’s pre-adoptive story through words, pictures and memorabilia or what is used to update birth parents on how a child is doing post placement- typically completed at agreed upon intervals to be provided, i.e. annually at the child’s birth date until the child reaches 18.

If you hear another word or term and you are not sure of the meaning or if/how it may relate to your adoption journey please let us know!

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