As you enter the world of adoption, it can be difficult to navigate through all of the legal terms and jargon. In addition to learning a positive adoption language, it is important to learn a legal adoption language. Here is a list of some of the most important terms you will need to know.

Home Study: The process completed to ensure adoptive parents are appropriate to adopt a child. This process can include a background check, home evaluation, social work visits, education, health status, references, and financial statements.

Open Adoption: Contact information is exchanged between birth parents and adoptive parents for potential contact after placement. The frequency or amount of openness is determined by the adoptive parents or may be established in an adoption agreement. It can include a combination of exchanging letters and pictures, electronic communication, phone calls, visits, etc.

Closed Adoption/Confidential Adoption: No contact information is exchanged between the birth parents and the adoptive parents.

Private Adoption/Direct Placement/Identified Adoption: An adoption that occurs independently between the biological mother (and sometimes the biological father) and the adoptive parents without the involvement of an agency.

Adoption Facilitator: A person who assists prospective adoptive parents in finding a child to adopt.

Termination of Parental Rights (TPR): The legally binding action which ends the rights and responsibilities of the birth parents for the child.

Placement: A legal contract in which adoptive parents take physical custody of the child.

At-risk placement/Legal risk: Adoptive parents are allowed to become foster parents for a child until the child is legally available for adoption.

Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children (ICPC): A contract that ensures laws are followed in both states when a child is placed outside of state boundaries. This is obtained before the child crosses state lines.

Special Needs Adoption: The adoption of a child who is otherwise difficult to place. May include non-infant children, sibling groups, or children with physical, mental, or social disabilities.

Special Needs Child: A child with physical, mental, or social disabilities. Can also include a child who has been exposed to drugs or alcohol in utero.

Revoke Consent: A biological parent revokes the consent they had signed to adoption and requests that the child be returned to his or her custody

Adoption Order: A document issued by the court at the time of finalization, stating the adoptee is now the legal child of the adoptive parents.

Finalization: All rights and responsibilities for the child are transferred to the adoptive parents. There is no legal difference between a biological child and a child who was adopted.

Any other legal adoption terms you have learned on your journey?




Do you feel there is a hole in your heart that can only be filled by a child? We’ve helped complete 32,000+ adoptions. We would love to help you through your adoption journey. Visit or call 1-800-ADOPT-98.