As if it isn’t daunting enough to navigate the adoption process, prospective adoptive parents face an onslaught of acronyms during that journey. Attorneys, social workers, and agencies are not speaking Greek, but for those unfamiliar with adoption and its mysterious stream of jumbled letters, they might as well be.

An acronym is a word formed from the initial letters of a name or phrase. Think SWAKsealed with a kiss. It is a shorthand way of conveying information. Adoption professionals are busy, so why say the full word when one letter will do?

Don’t be offended if you are seeking to adopt and you overhear an adoption professional refer to you as a PAP. That’s not name-calling; it is an acronym. A PAP is a prospective adoptive parent. And if the wife is a homemaker, she will be a SAHM when a bundle of joy is placed in the adoptive home. That’s a stay-at-home mom/mother.

Just where will a PAP’s bouncing bundle of joy come from? No, not the cabbage patch. The baby is a product of MOB and FOB. Those acronyms stand for mother of baby and father of the baby.

If a PAP does not already know, he will soon learn that adoption is a paper-intensive process. He may feel that the stack of paperwork he has completed weighs more than a typical newborn. Most of the paperwork completed by a PAP is in connection with an HS or home study, the required background investigation that every PAP of a non-related child must undergo. Home studies are often conducted by an LCSW (licensed clinical social worker) or an LMHC (licensed mental health counselor).

Once matched with a birth mother, PAPs focus on the health of mother and baby. Information will be desired about the mother’s PNC (prenatal care). An adoption attorney or an adoption agency often requests copies of PNC records from a birth mother’s obstetrician and will then utilize a medical release signed by the birth mother that complies with federal law, i.e., HIPAA (Health Information Portability and Accountability Act).

PNC records contain results of various tests run on the birth mother. She would typically be tested for STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) and may undergo a UDS (urine drug screen). Ultrasound results provide an EDD (estimated date of delivery) sometimes referred to as EDC (estimated date of completion). Medications taken during pregnancy would be listed such as PNV’s (prenatal vitamins) and OTC (over-the-counter) drugs like allergy medications or antacids.

Hospitals strive to be sterile environments, but these facilities are also infected with acronyms. And the use of acronyms starts immediately upon delivery. A notation will be made in the hospital chart as to the method of delivery. An SVD is a spontaneous vaginal delivery, i.e., the labor was not induced. Following birth, an assessment is made as to whether the baby is SGA, AGA, or LGA. These acronyms address the baby’s size as relates to his gestational age—small, appropriate (for), or large (for). This information will be provided to the PAPs who should not think the medical staff member is choking if she describes the newborn as AGA.

Upon discharge from the hospital, the baby does not always go directly home with the PAPs. If the PAPs are residents of another state, ICPC processing will be required. The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children makes it illegal for a child to be taken across state lines back to the PAP’s home state until both the sending state (where the baby is from) and the receiving state (where the baby will be living with the PAPs) have reviewed a packet of paperwork relating to the placement and given clearance. Upon receipt of clearance, PAPs may go home, go directly home, and will pay considerably more than $200 to the attorney or agency handling the ICPC process.

The actual court proceedings are another source of adoption acronyms. Documentation must be filed to show that there has been compliance with federal law, ICWA (the Indian Child Welfare Act). If an “Indian child” (as defined by federal law) is being placed, ICWA mandates special paperwork and procedures be utilized. To make any child (Indian or not) legally available for adoption, the rights of the birth/legal parents of the child must be terminated so that the adoptive parents may be substituted in their place as the legal parents. Termination is accomplished through a TPR (termination of parental rights) proceeding. Some states require a PFR (putative father registry) check to determine if any paternity claims have been filed by a UBF (unmarried biological father) so that his claim may be addressed in the TPR proceeding.

What a happy day when an FJA (final judgment of adoption) is entered at last. An ABC (amended birth certificate) will then be requested from OVS (office of vital statistics) so that the APs (adoptive parents) will have a BC (birth certificate) listing them as the child’s parents and showing the child’s name as given through the adoption.

While adoption is a daunting process, PAPs who have a handle on the acronyms bandied about while going through it will feel more comfortable. Knowledge is power, so knowledge of adoption acronyms will empower PAPs to navigate the adoption process with more understanding and confidence. Reading this article is a good first step for PAPs to get up to speed PDQ on acronyms they may hear. Unfortunately, PDQ is not an adoption acronym; the wheels of justice grind slowly, and adoptions take time.


Are you and your partner ready to start the adoption process? Visit or call 1-800-ADOPT-98 to begin your adoption journey. We have 130+ years of adoption experience and would love to help you.