Glossary

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Adoption.com has compiled the Internet's most comprehensive glossary of adoption-related terms. The following are examples of some of the defined terms:


Adoption Agency:
An organization that is licensed in the state or states where it transacts its business, which is to assist in placing children needing parents with adoptive parents that are looking for children. Agencies exist in a wide variety of organizational forms, including non-profit, not-for-profit, for-profit, and governmental agency. Although the legal impact of the organizational or business structure of an adoption agency may be different, the services that they are licensed to provide are generally very similar.


Adoption Attorney:
An attorney who is licensed to practice law in one or more states, who has the expertise and experience that is necessary to properly understand and apply the State and Federal laws pertaining to adoption matters, who is proficient in the filing, processing, and finalization of adoption matters in courts having appropriate jurisdiction, and in dealing effectively with birth parents, adoptive parents, and when necessary, members of their extended families, in matters relating directly and indirectly to adoption.

Adoption Certification:
Sometimes referred to as "Pre-Adoption Certification." As a precaution to protect birthparents and adoptable children from potential damage from dealings with unqualified or unscrupulous adoptive parents, many states require prospective adopters in their state to become certified to adopt in advance of being able to obtain physical custody of a child for the purpose of adoption. This advance certification involves a homestudy of the adoptive parents, including an investigation of their health, finances, criminal background and possible history of child abuse or domestic violence. Most certifications take an average of 4-5 months and are good for one year, with expedited renewals.

Black Market Adoptions:
Adoptions that do not conform to the established laws that regulate adoption, and which usually involve the payment of large sums of money to an adoption attorney, an adoption facilitator, or an adoption agency, in order to avoid the law. In many cases, all participants in a black market adoption may be subject to criminal prosecution, as well as the child being taken away and placed for adoption with other adoptive parents.

Decree of Adoption:
The document that a judge signs to finalize an adoption. It formally creates the parent-child relationship between the adoptive parents and the adopted child, as though the child were born as the biological child of its new parents. It places full responsibility for the child on its new parents and changes the name of the child to the name selected by its new parents, and orders a new birth certificate to be prepared and issued for the child. If the parental rights of the biological parents of the child are being terminated by way of their voluntary consents as part of the adoption action, the Decree will also formally terminate those parental rights.

Homestudy:
A homestudy is sometimes called a "family assessment," and is a written report containing the findings of a social worker who has met on several occasions with the prospective adoptive parents, has visited their home, and who has investigated the health, medical, criminal, family and home background of the adoptive parents. If there are other individuals that are also living in the home of the adoptive parents, they will be interviewed and investigated, if necessary, by the social worker and included as part of the homestudy. The purpose of the homestudy is to help the court determine whether the adoptive parents are qualified to adopt a child, based on the criteria that have been established by state law.

United States Citizenship & Immigration Service (USCIS):
This federal agency is operated under the United States Department of Justice, and has the responsibility of overseeing the immigration of all foreign-born individuals into the United States, whether they are adults or children. Before an intercountry adoption can take place, permission must first be obtained from the USCIS for the foreign-born child to be able to lawfully enter the United States. After this approval has been given and the child has been adopted and brought to the United States under a visa and/or a green card issued by the USCIS, citizenship proceedings follow.

Independent Adoptions:
These adoptions are arranged by an intermediary other than an adoption agency, such as a lawyer or a physician. The intermediary may find the birthmother for the adoptive parents, or may help the birthmother locate adoptive parents that would be interested in adopting her child. Independent adoptions are not legally permitted in all states.

Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC):
An interstate compact, or agreement, that has been enacted into law by all 50 states in the United States, and the District of Columbia, which controls the lawful movement of children from one state to another for the purposes of adoption. Both the originating state, where the child is born, and the receiving state, where the adoptive parents live and where the adoption of the child will take place, must approve the child's movement in writing before the child can legally leave the originating state. This Compact regulates the interstate movement of both foster children and adoptive children.

Irrevocable Consent:
A term used to describe a Consent to Adoption that has been signed by the biological parent of a child that is being placed for adoption, which under state law cannot be revoked after it is signed, unless the court specifically finds that the Consent to Adoption was obtained by fraud or misrepresentation, or by the use force or undue duress on the birth parent.

To find definitions for many more adoption-related terms, visit the Adoption.com Glossary.

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