Wednesday, November 11, 2009


As you are educating yourself on adoption you may run across terms that you are unfamiliar to you. Below is a list of some of those terms along with their definitions.

  • Adoption decree – Legal order that finalizes the adoption to the adoptive parents
  • Birthparents, Birthmother, and Birthfather – Refers to the people who biologically created the child. NOTE: There are also other terms that can be used to refer to a birthmother such as first mom or life mom. Birthmom just happens to be the one most commonly used. Also, you are not a birthmother until you sign relinquishment papers. Until that moment, you are simply an expectant mother considering adoption.
  • Closed adoption – Birth parents do not meet the adoptive parents and no contact is maintained after the birth and placement of the child.
  • Confidential Adoption - A more up-to-date term for closed adoption.
  • Familial adoption – Adoptions in which the adoptive parents and birthparents are related in some way (Also known as kinship adoption, relative adoption, or interfamily adoption.)
  • Home study – Assessment of the adoptive parents’ ability to provide a healthy and happy home. All adoptive parents must complete a home study before adopting. The home study includes background checks, doctors’ reports, financial information, etc.. and is conducted by a licensed social worker.
  • Open adoption – Refers to adoptions where the birth parents and adoptive parents have met and have some level of ongoing contact with each other. Contact can include letters, pictures, visits, etc. NOTE: In most states, open adoptions are NOT legally enforceable.
  • Openness Agreement – Document that states the intended amount of contact in an open adoption between the adoptive parents and the birthparents. NOTE: These are not legally enforceable.
  • Relinquishment papers – A legal document that birth parents must sign terminating their parental rights. NOTE: The laws regarding when a parent can sign relinquishment papers vary in each state.
  • Semi open adoption – Birthparents and adoptive parents may meet prior to the birth of the child, but typically do not know identifying information about each other. Contact can be maintained through a 3rd party.
  • Triad – Term used to describe the 3 parties represented in adoptions: the birthparents, the adoptive parents, and the adopted child.


  1. I love this mini-glossary!!! I especially appreciate the part about you're not a birth mother until you sign over your rights. So true!

  2. Thanks Marilee!! I was hoping someone would find it helpful. :)