The list of terms on this page is not exhaustive but we hope it helps in beginning the foster care journey.
Adoption – The legal transfer of all parental rights and obligations from one person or couple to another person or couple.
Adoption Medical History Registry – A voluntary, confidential registry for medical history information from parents who gave birth in a State and relinquished a child for adoption. The registry allows birth parents to place and update health information with the court and with the registry. This information can be accessed by adoptees aged 18 or older or by the parents or legal guardians of adoptees.
Adoptive Parent(s) – An individual or couple who have chosen to adopt and have had an adoption finalized in a court.
Birth Parents – The parents to whom a child is born; biological parents.
Child Preparation – This process helps children work through the difficulties that can often become barriers for them in finding a permanent home.
Child Profile – A comprehensive summary of the child’s life history.
Child Specific Recruitment (CSR) – CSR is a unit of service offered by local jurisdictions (i.e. Family Services) which identifies adoptive resources for children in the custody of a county agency.
Closed Adoption – An arrangement in which an adopted child has no contact with and/or no knowledge of the birth family.
Dependent Child – A child who is in the legal custody of a county children and youth agency.
Family Profile (Home Study) – A family who wishes to adopt must undergo a process of information sharing with the adopting agency. This process usually includes visits to the home and talks with family members. It also includes background checks to verify employment, criminal and child abuse history checks and character references. The profile is used to match families with waiting children.
Finalization – The last legal step in the adoption process. Only after finalization do the adoptive parents have legal rights and responsibilities for the child.
Foster Parent(s) – An individual or couple who provide temporary care for a child who is in the legal custody of a children and youth agency. Foster parents can become adoptive parents; in some jurisdictions additional licensing requirements are required.
Goal Change – A formal decision involving the custodial agency and the appropriate court to determine the permanency plan for a child.
Matching – The process of finding prospective families suitable for a waiting child; not to be confused with “placement” (see below).
Open Adoption – An arrangement in which the adopted child maintains contact with and/or has knowledge of the birth family. This provides an option for adoptive parents and birth relatives, specifically parents (inclusive of a teen parent), grandparent, stepparent, sibling, uncle or aunt of the child’s birth family, whether the relationship is by blood, marriage or adoption to enter into a voluntary agreement for ongoing communication or contact. These agreements are referred to as voluntary post adoption contact agreements and are enforceable through the courts.
Placement – The physical relocation of a child into a pre-adoptive living situation. When placement occurs without termination of biological parental rights, it is referred to as a legal risk placement.
Pre-adoptive Family – A family selected by the county agency or court, who intends to adopt a child that has been placed in their home. Adoption finalization is pending.
Post-Permanency Services – Often referred to as post-adoption services used to support the child and family after the adoption has taken place. All adoptive families are eligible for Post-Permanency Services; whether or not they adopted a child from the child welfare system. Families who have adopted privately may also use these services.
Report of Intent to Adopt – A legal document stating a family’s intention to adopt, filed in the Court of Common Pleas by the attorney representing the adoptive family or by the county agency’s attorney handling the adoption.
Special Needs – Refers to many categories of children, including children with physical, emotional or medical disabilities, healthy school-age children, children with siblings who need to be adopted together and minority children.
Stepparent – The spouse of a child’s birth parent. A stepparent may become an adoptive parent by legally adopting the child.
Supervision – The period after a child is placed with a family and before the adoption is finalized. During this period, the supervising agency maintains regular contact with the child and family to provide supportive services, reports on the progress of the adoption and makes recommendations as to whether or not the adoption should be finalized.
Termination of Parental Rights – A court proceeding where all legal rights and responsibilities between parent and child are severed. Termination of parental rights may be voluntary or involuntary. A termination of biological parental rights must occur before an adoption can be finalized.
Waiting Children – Children who have not yet been placed with a pre-adoptive family.