Adoption USA. A Chartbook Based on the 2007 National Survey of Adoptive Parents. Glossary


Agency adoption: Adoptions in which agencies work with both prospective adoptive and birth families, and often facilitate matches between them. Adoption agencies may be licensed (adhering to licensing and approval standards established by the state), or unlicensed.

Adoption: A process that establishes a legal parent-child relationship between a child and one or two adults who are not the child’s biological parents.

Birth parents: A child’s biological, rather than adoptive, parents. The term “birth family” is also used to refer to members of a child’s biological family.

Congregate care settings: Congregate care settings are a type of placement in which children may live when they are no longer living with their birth families, but before placement with adoptive families. They can include residential group foster homes, residential group treatment facilities, or other settings such as juvenile detention centers or hospitals. In some other countries, many infants and young children available for adoption live in orphanages, whereas these children in the United States tend to live with foster families.

Disruption: An adoption that is terminated after the child has been placed with a family, but before the adoption has been legally finalized.

Dissolution: An adoption that has been reversed; that is, an adoption that is terminated after the child has been placed with the family and after the adoption has been legally finalized.

Finalization: The legal act of establishing an adoption.

Foster care: Children under the legal guardianship of a public child welfare agency following maltreatment or abandonment by their birth parents are in foster care. Typically, they are cared for either by foster families who may or may not be related to them, or in congregate care settings.

Home study: An assessment of prospective adoptive parents intended to identify families’ appropriateness and readiness for adoption. The specific legal requirements for home studies vary across jurisdictions and depend upon the type of adoption.

Independent adoption: Prospective adoptive parents and birth parents identify each other independently of an agency, for example, through relatives or mutual acquaintances, word of mouth, or through advertisements. Attorneys may facilitate such adoptions.

Match: A match occurs when an agency identifies and approves a plan for specific adults to adopt a specific child or children. In international adoption, this is sometimes called a “referral,” from the adoptive parents’ point of view.

Permanency: Permanency refers to a living arrangement that is intended to be permanent, rather than temporary, for example, adoption and reunification. Because foster care is intended to be temporary, caseworkers establish and work toward “permanency goals” for children in foster care.

Placement: The setting in which a foster child or adopted child lives. When the Chartbook refers to the placement of adopted children with their parents, it refers to the time at which children began living with their adoptive parents, which often occurs before the legal finalization of the adoption.

Pre-adoptive placement: A child who has moved in with adults who plan to adopt that child is said to be in a “pre-adoptive placement” until the adoption is finalized.

Reunification: The return of a foster child to live with the parent(s) from whom he or she was removed.

Transracial adoption: In this Chartbook, we define transracial adoptions as those in which parents reported that they (including both parents, for children living with two parents) are of a different race, culture, or ethnicity than their child.

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