Adoption Terms

Adjustment time: The period between placement of the child with a family and adoption finalization. The adjustment time offers child and family an opportunity to stabilize and prepare for a permanent family arrangement. This time frame is determined by the professionals and family. It is included in the Adoption Placement Agreement.

Adoption: A court action in which an adult assumes legal and other responsibilities for another person, usually a minor.

Adoption agency: An organization, licensed by the state, that provides services to birth parents, adoptive parents, and children who need families. Agencies may be public or private, secular or religious, for-profit or nonprofit.

Adoption attorney: A legal professional who has experience filing, processing, and finalizing adoptions in court.

Adoption certificate/decree: . It’s also known as the Certificate of Adoption. This is the document that is signed by the presiding judge upon finalization of the adoption.

Adoption Exchange: An organization that recruits adoptive families for children with special needs. Recruitment is accomplished using print, radio, television and internet recruitment, as well as matching services. Adopt Kansas Kids is the Adoption Exchange for the state of Kansas. It is administered by FosterAdopt Connect.

Adoption petition: The legal document through which prospective parents request the court’s permission to adopt a specific child. It is completed by an adoption attorney.

Adoption Placement Agreement (APA): A written agreement to place a child who is in the state’s care in an adoptive home. It is signed by the family, the child’s case manager, and the Department for Children and Families (DCF). This is the step prior to finalization. The child remains in the state’s legal custody until finalization.

Adoption subsidies: Adoption benefits (also known as adoption assistance) designed to offset the short- and long-term costs associated with adopting children who need special services. In Kansas, the subsidy is agreed to prior to APA signing. The subsidy may include a monthly stipend, continued medical coverage for the child through Medicaid, and/or one-time reimbursement for expenses related to the adoption. The subsidy is based on the special needs of the child.  This may be renegotiated with DCF as the needs of the child change.

Adoption tax credits: Non-refundable credit which reduces taxes owed by adoptive parents who claim adoption expense reimbursement under P.L 104-188. It may be claimed on federal taxes. In some states with similar legislation (including Kansas), it may be claimed on state taxes.

Aftercare: Services provided following adoption finalization. An aftercare plan is developed with the family to identify services necessary to support the new family unit.

Attachment: The ability of a child to form significant and stable emotional connections with other people, beginning in early infancy with one or more primary caregivers. Failure to establish such connections before the age of 5 may result in difficulties with social relationships.

Best Interest Staffing (BIS): A team meeting that includes the professionals involved with a child to select an adoptive family which best meets that child’s needs.

Birth father: Any man that is the biological father of a child available for adoption.

Birth mother: Any woman that is the biological mother of a child available for adoption.

Birth parent: A child’s biological parent.

Case management: Case management involves working with children and families to establish goals and plans to achieve the goals. It includes providing services to meet needs identified in assessments and monitoring progress toward achievement of the goals. Cases are closed when goals have been achieved.

Case Management Provider (also referred to as Contractor): In Kansas, the private agencies the Department for Children and Families contracts with to provide case management services to children and families who are involved in the child welfare system.

Case plan: Service delivery plan required for all children in foster care. It is updated at least every six months.

Child welfare system: A group of governmental and non-governmental organizations offering services designed to promote the well-being of children by ensuring safety, achieving permanency, and strengthening families to successfully care for their children.

CINC (Child in Need of Care): A person younger than 18 years of age who meets standards as outlined in Kansas law number 38-2202. Children in foster care are designated as CINC.

Concurrent case planning: A process used in foster care case management by which child welfare staff work toward biological family reunification and, at the same time, develop an alternative permanency plan for the child (such as permanent placement with a relative or adoption) should family reunification efforts fail. Concurrent planning is intended to reduce the time a child spends in foster care before being placed with a permanent family.

Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA): A community volunteer appointed by the court to advocate for the child. The volunteers receive training and professional supervision and provide reports and recommendations to the court.

Custody: The care, control, and maintenance of a child which can be legally awarded by the court to an agency (in abuse and neglect cases) or to parents (in divorce, separation, and adoption proceedings). Child welfare departments retain legal custody and control of major decisions for a child in foster care. Foster parents do not have legal custody of the children in their homes.

Dependent child: A child who is in the custody of the county or state child welfare system.

Disruption: A child’s return to a foster home prior to the finalization of the adoption with the adoptive parents selected in the Best Interest Staffing.

Dissolution: An adoption which ends after it is legally finalized, resulting in the child’s return to (or entry into) the custody of the state and thereby foster care.

Family preservation: A program of supportive social services designed to keep families together by providing services to children and families in their home.

Finalization: The final legal step in the adoption process. Finalization involves a court hearing during which the judge orders that the adoptive parents become the child’s legal parents.

Foster care adoption: This is a term utilized for children whose legal custodian at the time of adoption was the state.

Foster children: Children who have been placed in the state’s or county’s legal custody because their birth parents were deemed abusive, neglectful, or otherwise unable to care for them.

Foster parents: State-licensed adults who provide a temporary home for children whose birth parents are unable to care for them. In Kansas foster parent licenses are through the Kansas Department for Children and Families.  Foster parents must be at least 21 years of age in Kansas in order to be eligible. They also must successfully complete all background checks.

Group home: A home-like setting in which a number of unrelated children live for varying time periods. Group homes may have one set of house parents or may have a rotating staff. Some therapeutic or treatment group homes have specially trained staff to assist children with emotional and behavioral challenges.

Guardian: Person who fulfills some of the responsibilities of the legal parent role, although the courts or birth parents may continue to hold some jurisdiction of the child. Guardians do not have the same reciprocal rights of inheritance as birth or adoptive parents. Guardianship is subject to ongoing supervision by the court. It ends at the child’s majority or by order of the court.

Guardian ad litem (GAL): A person, often an attorney, appointed by the court to represent the interests of a child, a ward, or an unborn infant in a particular court case. The status of guardian ad litem exists only within the confines of the particular court case in which the appointment occurs.

Home assessment: An in-depth review prospective adoptive parents must go through to be able to legally adopt. A home assessment typically includes evaluations of the adoptive parents’ relationship, inspections of their residence, parenting ideals, medical history, employment verification, financial status, and criminal background checks.

Independent living: A type of placement that provides life-skills training to youth or assists them in acquiring the skills they will need to live independently as adults. The program is designed for youth who are “aging out” of foster care and for whom there is no other permanency plan.

ICPC (Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children): An agreement between states detailing specific requirements for children who are in foster care to be placed with relatives or an adoptive family in a state other than their own.

ICWA (Indian Child Welfare Act): A federal law which protects the cultural heritage of Native American children in foster care. It dictates how and with whom these children are placed for adoption.

IEP (Individualized Educational Plan): A plan for educational support services and outcomes developed for students enrolled in special education programs.

IR (Identified Resource): A family with a previous or current established relationship with a child who has expressed interest in adoption. This is most often a relative or foster parent.

Kinship care: The full-time nurturing of a child by someone related to the child by family ties or prior relationship connection.

Legal risk adoption: Placement of a child in a prospective adoptive family when the child is not yet legally free for adoption. Before a child can be legally adopted, parental rights of his or her birth parents must be terminated. In a legal risk adoption placement, either this termination of parental rights has not occurred or it is being contested/appealed. In some cases, termination of parental rights is delayed until a specific adoptive family has been identified.

Legally free: A child whose birth parents’ rights have been relinquished or legally terminated so that the child is “free” to be adopted by another family.

Life book: A pictorial and written representation of the child’s life designed to help the child make sense of his unique background and history. The life book includes birth parents, other relatives, other caregivers, birthplace and date, etc. It can be put together by social workers and foster and/or adoptive parents working with the child.

Mandated reporter: Persons required to report if they have reason to suspect that a child has been harmed as a result of physical, mental or emotional abuse or neglect or sexual abuse. Examples of mandated reporters include medical professionals, law enforcement, teachers and social workers.

Matching: The process of finding prospective families specifically suited to meet the needs of a waiting child.

MEPA (Multi-Ethnic Placement Act): A federal law enacted in 1994 and implemented through state policy. MEPA prohibits the delay or denial of any adoption or placement in foster care due to the race, color, or national origin of the child or of the foster or adoptive parents. It requires states to provide for diligent recruitment of potential foster and adoptive families who reflect the ethnic and racial diversity of children for whom homes are needed.

Non-identifying information: Secondary information that is made available to adoption-related parties that does not include identifying information.

Open adoption: Birth parents and adoptive parents in the process of an adoption are given information which could be used to identify them.

Out of home placement: Refers to the act of placing children in environments other than their biological home such as a foster home, group home, or residential treatment facility.

Permanency planning: The systematic process of carrying out (within a time-limited period) a set of goal-directed activities designed to help children live in permanent families. The goal is to provide the child continuity of relationships with nurturing parents or caretakers and the opportunity to establish lifetime family relationships.

Placement: Describes the point in time when the child goes to live with his/her adoptive parents.

Post-adoption services: Services provided subsequent to the legal finalization of the adoption. There are primarily four types of post-adoption service providers: social service agencies, private therapists, mental health clinics, and self-help groups.

Post-placement supervision: Upon placement, a caseworker will be assigned to complete post-placement supervision of the adoptive family. The caseworker will visit the home several times during a set period of time (according to state requirements) to determine if adoption of the child remains in the “best interests of the child.”

Pre-placement period: Activities between BIS and APA that are designed to help the child and family prepare for living together. This may include visits, meeting with school personnel, and therapy.

Relinquishment: When a birth parent voluntarily forfeits his or her parental rights to a child. This is sometimes referred to as a surrender, PRT (Parental Rights Terminated) or TPR (Terminated Parental Rights). The parental rights are typically transferred to an agency, rather than directly to the adoptive parents.

Residential care facility: A structured, 24-hour care facility with staff that provide psychological services to help severely troubled children overcome behavioral, emotional, mental, or psychological problems that adversely affect family interaction, school achievement, and peer relationships.

Residential treatment: Therapeutic intervention processes for individuals who cannot or do not function satisfactorily in their own homes. For children and adolescents, residential treatment tends to be the last resort when a child is in danger of hurting himself or others.

Respite care: Temporary or short-term home care of a child provided for pay or on a voluntary basis by adults other than the parents (birth, foster, or adoptive parents).

Reunification: The returning of foster children to the custody of their parent(s) after placement outside the home.

Special needs children: Children whose emotional or physical disorders, age, race, membership in a sibling group, a history of abuse, or other factors contribute to a lengthy stay in foster care. Guidelines for classifying a child as special needs vary by state. Common special needs conditions and diagnoses include: serious medical conditions; emotional and behavioral disorders; history of abuse or neglect; medical or genetic risk due to familial mental illness or parental substance abuse. (See risk factors.)

Termination of Parental Rights (TRP) or Parental Rights Terminated (PRT): The legal process which involuntarily severs a parent’s rights to a child.

Therapeutic (or treatment) foster home: A foster home in which the foster parents have received special training to care for a wide variety of children and adolescents, usually those with significant emotional or behavioral problems.

Waiting children: Children in the public child welfare system who cannot return to their birth homes and need permanent, loving families to help them grow up safe and secure.