Learning to Speak the Adoption Language

Learning to Speak the Adoption Language

Kevin Kenney has dedicated his career to helping everyone in the adoption trio — the birth parents, the adoptive family, and, of course, the child being adopted. He has helped with hundreds of adoptions in the Kansas City area, which means he’s well-versed in the legal jargon that accompanies the process.

However, it’s likely that newbies to adoption — whether you’re a pregnant woman considering placing your baby or a prospective adoptive family — will be confronted with some new vocabulary. To help you out as much as possible in your research process, we’ve compiled a glossary of some terms you may come across.

If something on the list confuses you, or if you’re interested in learning more about how to pursue adoption in Kansas City, contact Kevin Kenney online or at 913-671-8008.

Adoption Agency: An organization that facilitates adoption.

Adoption Assistance: Subsidies provided at either the federal or state levels to adoptive families to help them with the costs of adoption, particularly when there is a special needs child involved.

Adoption Attorney: An attorney that works with birth parents and/or adoptive parents to arrange adoptions.

Adoption Petition: A legal document provided to the court by prospective parents to request permission to adopt a child.

Adoption Tax Credits: Non-refundable tax credits that are available to adoptive parents who claim adoption expense reimbursements.

Birth Certificate (Amended): After an adoption is finalized, an amended birth certificate is issued that lists the adoptive parents’ names and replaces the original birth certificate.

Birth Certificate (Original): When a baby is born, a birth certificate is issued as a legal document that includes the child’s biological history as well as the identity of the biological mother and possibly the biological father. If the child is adopted, the original birth certificate will later be replaced with an amended birth certificate.

CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocates): Advocates who work (usually on a volunteer basis) to ensure that the children involved in child protection judicial proceedings are having their interests and needs fully protected.

Certification: The process by which adoptive or foster parents are deemed suitable to adopt or foster a child.

Child Protective Services: An agency that receives reports and investigates child maltreatment and provides intervention and treatment when necessary.

Closed Adoption: An adoption in which all information about both the adoptive parents and birth parents is kept confidential and all records are legally sealed.

Confidential Intermediary: An individual who is hired by an inquiring party to search for an adopted adult, birth parents or other relatives. This intermediary has access to sealed adoption files to search for the person the inquiring party is looking for, make contact, and obtain either permission or denial to release that person’s information.

Confidentiality: The practice of keeping information a secret. Social workers and other adoption professionals are ethically required to keep client information confidential unless the client allows for it to be shared.

Consent Form: When biological parents consent to adoption, they must sign a legal document that’s referred to as a consent form. If a biological parent is unavailable, the court may still validate the consent.

Custody: The protective care or guardianship of a child.

De Facto Adoption: A legal agreement that allows adoptive families to circumvent adoption procedures for limited purposes. The family must commit to go through the legal adoption process to adopt the child, and when a petition for adoption is properly presented, the de facto adoption will then become a de jure, or a standard, adoption.

Decree of Adoption: A legal order that finalizes an adoption.

Dissolution: When an adoption fails after finalization and the child’s legal custody goes back to the agency or court that placed the child. He or she then goes into foster care or is adopted by another family.

Dossier: The collection of properly authenticated and translated paperwork used in an international adoption.

Equitable Adoption: In some states, equitable adoption is a legal process that establishes inheritance rights of a child when his or her adoptive parents orally commit to the adoption. This allows the child to have inheritance rights in the event that the adoptive parent dies before the adoption is finalized but after the child has been placed with the family.

Fictive Kin: People who have an emotionally significant relationship with a child despite not being related biologically or by marriage.

Finalization: The process by which a court grants legal custody to the adoptive parents.

Home Study: All parents hoping to grow their family though adoption must have an adoption professional conduct a study on their home to validate their suitability to adopt.

ICPC (Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children): A legal compact between states that allows for adoption to occur across state lines. Each state has different ICPC regulations.

ICWA (Indian/Native American Child Welfare Act of 1978): A federal act that protects the interests of Native American children and tribes as well as promotes the stability and security of those tribes.

Independent Adoption: A privately arranged adoption by either a third party, such as a lawyer, or between the birth family and adoptive parents on their own.

International Adoption: The adoption of a child from a different country.

Legal Custody: The legal responsibility for a minor.

Legal Father: The legal husband of a mother pursuing adoption. The legal father may or may not be the biological father. Also referred to as the presumed father.

Legal Guardian: A person who possesses legal custody of a minor and makes decisions concerning him or her.

Legal Risk Adoption: An adoption process that’s been started despite the prospective adoptive family knowing that the child may not be eligible for adoption yet. This could be because someone is contesting the validity of the involuntarily terminated parental rights, or because the birth parents still desire to parent. A legal risk adoption may also occur when there is an unknown birth father.

Legal Risk Placement: The placement of a child with a prospective adoptive family before the child is legally free to be adopted. This means that either the birth parents’ rights haven’t been terminated yet or that termination is being contested.

Multi-Ethnic Placement Act: Enacted in 1994 to forbid anyone from denying or delaying adoption based on the race, color, or national origin of the adoptive parents or the child.

Open Adoption: An adoption in which the adoptive parents and birth parents have met and possibly exchanged identifying information. Communication will continue indefinitely after placement, although the exact amount and method of that communication varies on a case-by-case basis.

Petition: A written request presented by prospective adoptive parents to the court for the adoption, legal custody or guardianship of a child.

Putative Father Registry: A stage registry that gives birth fathers the opportunity to list alleged paternity to protest the birth mother’s adoption plan. Around half of the states in the U.S. have a putative father registry, including Missouri. Kansas has similar forms that can be filed when a man wishes to voluntarily acknowledge paternity.

Re-Adoption: When adoptive parents who have adopted a child from another country adopt him or her a second time in front of a U.S. judge.

Relinquishment: Also referred to as consent or surrender, relinquishment refers to the process of the birth parents giving up their rights to a child.

Revoke: Depending on what state a birth mother lives in, she may have a certain amount of time in which she can take back, or revoke, her consent to an adoption and regain her parental rights.

Search and Consent Procedures: A procedure that authorizes an agency to help locate another party in an adoption to determine if they’re willing to release information to or meet the party who requested the search.

Semi-open Adoption: An adoption in which the birth parents and adoptive family communicate throughout the child’s life through the agency or attorney who helped with the adoption. No identifying information is exchanged.

Termination of Parental Rights (TPR): The voluntary or involuntary termination of a parent’s rights to a child by the court.

Transracial Adoption: When adoptive parents adopt a child of a different race.

Transfer of Custody: When the legal custody of a child transfers from one party to another.

Voluntary Adoption Registry: A registry system that allows adoptees, biological siblings and birth parents to voluntarily register and find each other.

Waiting Period: The amount of time, which varies on a state-by-state basis, that must occur after the birth of a baby before the mother can give her consent for adoption. In Missouri, this is 48 hours. In Kansas, this period is 12 hours after the child is born.